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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Hardness of Heart, Part 2: Faith & Trust

AUDIO (parts 1 & 2)

As I continued to ponder Hardness of Heart,028-abraham-sacrifices-isaac I have had some additional thoughts, some of them related to earlier posts.

One of the consequences of hardness of heart is that it makes us deficient in faith and trust.  The object of faith is God Himself.  Faith, the theological virtue infused through the Holy Spirit at baptism, enables us to submit our intellect and will to God. It is only through faith that we are able to approach God.

Mary’s faith is the perfect example and model of faith.  As all of us do, Mary used her understanding to approach God, but did not rely on it, stand on it alone, for it would have failed her.  Her FIAT, “let it be done to me according to your word,”  was based, instead, on faith.  At some point, human understanding, however well developed it may be,  always fails.   Mary entered her Fiat,  Mary entered the Mystery of God through the darkness of faith.  Understanding will carry us only so far.

No transition exists between understanding and faith:  understanding is a human faculty; faith is a divine virtue.  Understanding requires use of the intellect; faith requires abandonment of the will to God along with intellectual consent. We must leap a gulf from understanding to faith.  One does not flow smoothly into the other.

Here is the irony:  our seeing, our human understanding and expectations blind us to Who God Is. It is only when we abandon understanding for naked faith, cleaving to God in the darkness of faith, that we truly see.

When we conceive a vision or understanding or expectation of God, our hearts are bound to that expectation, which is limited.  We cleave to the expectation, to our own vision of God and not to God Who Is.

Jesus Himself said:  “Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God”  [Mt. 5:8].  To be pure of heart is to be emptied, divested of plans, designs, expectations and visions of our own devising—all of which blind us.

The aspect of the Mystery that we understand and perceive can be expected; but the greatest dimension of the Mystery is not understood by the intellect, is unknown, is unexpected, is apprehended only by faith, approached only by abandonment to it.  St. Albert the Great tells us:  “ He cannot be comprehended, but can be loved in his fullness with a pure heart, for he is above all lovable and desirable, and of infinite goodness and perfection.”   He tells us also:  “… simply cleave to God with faith and good will in naked understanding.”

For these reasons abandonment is superior to understanding.  Abandonment is consonant with faith—it is how faith operates in us.  Faith leaps forward into darkness leaving understanding behind in open-mouthed bewilderment.  Faith steps out unseeing, open arms clutching nothing, cleaving naked to the mystery of God.

All of our lives we have read and heard about the faith of Abraham.  God told him to take his only beloved son, Isaac, and to sacrifice him on the mountain.  This YES to God which he willingly gave was full of darkness, for it completely overwhelmed his understanding. It was not rational for him to kill the child of the promise—how then could he be the father of many?  God’s request made no sense—it contradicted events as Abraham saw them—in the natural order.  Yet he assented. In darkness he assented. His Yes was complete though he understood nothing about it at all except that he had to give his complete Yes.

How wonderfully do St. Albert’s words apply to Abraham as also to Mary:  “the devout man should cleave to God with naked understanding and will …for it is his delight to be with the sons of men, that is those who…seek him with a pure and simple mind, empty themselves for him, and cleave to him.”

As I wrote earlier:   “Mary’s FIAT was the unqualified, open response of a heart utterly divested of design, plan, or expectation–a heart free to receive the completely unexpected….”  Doesn’t this also describe the faith of Abraham?  However powerful in the will and sincere the fiat of the heart, it doesn’t eliminate the sorrow, the pain of those who “empty themselves for Him.”  We can only imagine the struggle of Abraham within himself as he forced himself calmly to lead his only son to immolation—facing the destruction of the promise that God Himself had given him—that he would be the father of many. Yet he emptied himself, divested himself of all hope, all expectation, all desire, all plans, and cleaved naked to His God in the darkness of faith.

Not only does Abraham show faith, but also trust.  When we have divested ourselves of every last crutch, every last hope, nothing remains but for us to trust the God whom we cannot understand, but love. As Job 13:15 says,  “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him.”

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Hardness of Heart

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AUDIO (parts 1 & 1)

Today I must speak of wounds and the blindness of many years, and of hardness of heart.  Recent years, especially the last few weeks and days, have brought home the realization that I am a deeply wounded mother, [like so many others], wounded by my broken expectations and by the ingratitude of my children.

After years of struggling to understand and help them to get on their own feet after years of drug addiction, misuse of alcohol and general irresponsibility—you get the picture—I finally accepted this week my complete loss.  Shock and hurt that so much that was valuable to me has so casually been discarded by them.

This has been a cherished, if difficult revelation today.  This wound I have known before as I struggled decades ago with a young son with whom I could do nothing.  But surely, I reasoned with myself, here I was dealing with an adult; here I could make a difference at last.  Yet the wound remains, as it was, yet dredged deeper.

The image is sharp in my mind:  that of Jesus weeping over Jerusalem, “How often have I longed to gather you as a mother hen gathers her chicks, but you would not!” And neither would my children.

This week I had to eject my grown children from my home and take a hard tack against them.  I have entered again that same old wound, but at a deeper lever.  Why?  Why?  What was God trying to teach me?

During Adoration, as I pondered this revelation with a pierced heart, I began to read in THE SIMPLE PATH TO UNION WITH GOD, P. 41:

“Hardness of heart is not the exclusive domain of Christ’s enemies; it is also found in those closest to Jesus, the disciples, who had left everything to follow Him. The gospel tells us that they did not recognize Him when he walked on water because ‘they had not understood the incident of the loaves. On the contrary, their hearts were hardened.’ They must have been amazed at the miracle but failed to grasp its meaning: that Jesus has divine authority over all of creation.

“It is the same with us; our hardness of heart blocks us from understanding fully who Jesus is and what He is doing in our lives. Like the apostles, we all need to live the process of purification and allow God to take us beyond our expectations.

[Our expectations are based on our human understanding and knowledge. Our understanding is always only human–never grasping  MYSTERION, forever missing the mark. Abandonment is superior to understanding. We can never plumb the deep things of God–better to cleave naked, to plunge in faith.]

“A hardened heart is set in its ways. It reduces the work of God to make it fit in its natural logic and experience. It is not open to see beyond what it controls. A pure heart, on the other hand, believes that for God nothing is impossible. It is docile and malleable, willing to be pierced, pruned and made new by God.

            “The soul which receives the gift of self-knowledge and sees the hardness of its heart, arrives at a moment of decision:   accept the gift or remain in darkness.”

I did not want to own hardness of heart.  I’ve always seen this as the sin of the Pharisees, an obstinacy, a culpable unwillingness to see.  I saw myself as longing for God’s will in my life, accepting all from His hands, totally abandoned to Him—so how could I suffer hardness of heart?  But I was convicted here, because wasn’t this the problem?  “…our hardness of heart blocks us from understanding fully who Jesus is and what He is doing in our lives.”

Lo, these many years, and I mean decades—how is it that I have not understood fully who Jesus is and what He is doing in my life?  For I understood now that it is the hardness of my stubborn heart, set in its ways, full of its own expectations, that set me up and sustained in me such a wound.

Expectations, my own expectations, devised of the desires of my mother’s heart, hardened my heart, made it brittle, unable to respond to what Jesus was doing in my life; and I could not see, in my blindness, anything beyond my own expectations and hopes.  It is our own expectations that blind us.

I had failed to see that Jesus has divine authority over creation, over me, my children and all that happens in all of our lives.  My heart, hardened in its limited expectations (which always seem righteous in themselves), is too small.  I have conceived in my own heart a vision of what my children’s salvation would, could, or should be instead of emptying my heart of my own designs, my own petty attempts to control.  God’s own recourse is to break open that brittle heart, so small and inadequate to His Uncreated Love and Light, to HIS vision of salvation for my children.

How ironic. All my life I have been praying,  “Be it done to me according to Your Will.”  But this describes also how we should submit to Plenitude, to the Fullness of His Will as we abandon our limitations and poverty of our own will.  Over the many years the prayer had reached my mind, but evaded my heart.

You see how I describe this reflection as touching on wounds, blindness, and hardness of heart?

All of this reading comes from the section of The Path on KNOWLEDGE OF SELF AND KNOWLEDGE OF GOD.  Finally, I read:   “The soul which receives the gift of self-knowledge and sees the hardness of its heart, arrives at a moment of decision: accept the gift or remain in darkness.”

Our Love Crucified community teaches us that it is in our wounds that Satan plants his lies, the roots of our disordered tendencies.  Here was mine: to use all my love, compassion, and substance to save my children—but what was hidden under this deception [Satan’s deception and my deception of myself]  was the sinful attempt to control what only God may control.

As I continue to reflect on this merciful  revelation which God continues to unfold to me, I can finally begin to pray truly,  “Be it done to me according to Your Will.”  Expectations must be shattered for hope to thrive.  Only when we abandon expectations can we be open to what God gives.

Mary’s FIAT was the unqualified, unconditional, open response of a heart utterly divested of design, plan, or expectation–a heart free to receive the completely unexpected Incarnation, Divine birth in a stable, flight into Egypt, hidden  life, Passion, Crucifixion, Resurrection, Ascension, Pentecost, Soledad.  Fiat does not preclude sorrow.  But Fiat does give peace in sorrow. Wholeness in sorrow.  Let us pray for the humility to enter our mother’s Fiat.

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TREASURY from “On Cleaving to God” – St. Albert the Great

Before St. John of the Cross, St. Teresa of Avila orst-albert-the-great-c-1493 any other number of mystic theologians celebrated by the Catholic Church, St. Albert the Great, c. 1200-1280, blessed us with his mystical theology.  Although the little classic work, “On Cleaving to God,” is attributed to him, modern scholars have discovered implicit references in the work which reveal the thoughts of contemplatives who lived well after him, at least up to the 15th century.  For me, however, it is always St. Albert the Great whom I cherish, especially for this one line to which I return again and again:  “Simplify your heart with all care.”

With gratitude to him, and with the hope that you may also enjoy his wisdom, I have decided to compile this little treasury, especially for those struggling for Union through contemplative prayer.  His entire work, “On Cleaving to God,” only about 28 pages, is easily readable; find it here:  https://www.ccel.org/ccel/albert/cleaving.html

I love the way the paragraphs in the Catechism and in the Diary of St. Faustina are numbered; so for your convenience, I will do the same here.  To begin, a short description.  Born in Bavaria, a contemporary of St. Thomas Aquinas, he is one of the greatest philosophers of the Middle Ages.   Becoming a Dominican 1223-1229, he is honored today as one of the 36 doctors of the Church.

Some general notes about St.Albert’s constant insistence on “nakedness.” From the beginning he is trying to teach us not to rely on any images, fantasies, constructs of the mind or of the imagination—to have nothing between the soul and the Godhead, to put everything behind us.  He would bid us go “naked,” in “full and complete abstraction”—taking ourselves out of the world of the senses and the imagination.

By “images” he is referring primarily to the constructs of the imagination, but also to constructs of the mind:  the words, phrases, and such on which we rely.  Contemplation would take us beyond mental prayer if we would abandon ourselves to it as he recommends.

In his illustration of the Ascent of Mt. Carmel, St. John of the Cross wrote:  “Nothing, nothing, nothing, nothing, nothing on the way; and nothing on the Mountain.”  Rev. M.M. Philipon tells us in his book, The Spiritual Doctrine of Sister Elizabeth:  “Like her master, St. John of the Cross, Sister Elizabeth of the Trinity was ruthless in this respect.  ‘We must extinguish every other light,’ and attain to God by nakedness of spirit, and not by building a learned structure of beautiful thoughts” [Doctrine 40].

TREASURY –  [Note:  Italics and bold print are mine. The reading is generally not continuous, but is comprised of selected passages.]

1 –  Chapter 1

On the highest and supreme perfection of man, in so far as it is possible in this life

I [St. Albert is speaking here] have had the idea of writing something for myself on and about the state of complete  and full abstraction from everything and of cleaving freely, confidently, nakedly and firmly to God alone, so as to describe it fully (in so far as it is possible in this abode of exile and pilgrimage), especially since the goal of Christian perfection is the love by which we cleave to God.

2 – Since indeed the Lord God is Spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth, in other words, by knowledge and love, that is, understanding and desire, stripped of all images. This is what is referred to in Matthew 6.6, ‘When you pray, enter into your inner chamber,’ that is, your inner heart, ‘and having closed the door,’ that is of your senses, and there with a pure heart and a clear conscience, and with faith unfeigned, ‘pray to your Father,’ in spirit and in truth, ‘in secret.’ This can be done best when a man is disengaged and removed from everything else, and completely recollected within himself.

3 – There, in the presence of Jesus Christ, with everything, in general and individually, excluded and wiped out, the mind alone turns in security confidently to the Lord its God with its desire. In this way it pours itself forth into him in full sincerity with its whole heart and the yearning of its love, in the most inward part of all its faculties, and is plunged, enlarged, set on fire and dissolved into him.

4Chapter 2

How one can cling to and seek Christ alone, disdaining everything else

Then he should withdraw himself totally within himself and not pay any attention to any object entering the mind except Jesus Christ, the wounded one, alone, and so he should turn his attention with care and determination through him into him – that is, through the man into God, through the wounds of his humanity into the inmost reality of his divinity. Here he can commit himself and all that he has, individually and as a whole, promptly, securely and without discussion, to God’s unwearying providence, in accordance with the words of Peter, cast all your care upon him (1 Peter 5.7)….

5 – Chapter 3

What the perfection of man consist of in this life

For the true pattern of the soul is God, with whom it must be imprinted, like wax with a seal, and carry the mark of his impress. But this can never be complete until the intellect is perfectly illuminated, according to its capacity, with the knowledge of God, who is perfect truth, until the will is perfectly focused on the love of the perfect good, and until the memory is fully absorbed in turning to and enjoying eternal happiness, and in gladly and contentedly resting in it.

6Chapter 4

How man’s activity should be purely in the intellect and not in the senses

So eliminate from your mind all fantasies, objects, images and shapes of all things other than God, so that, with just naked understanding, intent and will, your practice will be concerned with God himself within you. For this is the end of all spiritual exercises – to turn the mind to the Lord God and rest in him with a completely pure understanding and a completely devoted will, without the entanglements and fantasies of the imagination.

7 – [The Devil] is always trying to draw man’s mind away from the Lord God, now by temptations or passions, now by superfluous worries and pointless cares, now by restlessness and distracting conversation and senseless curiosity, now by the study of subtle books, irrelevant discussion, gossip and news, now by hardships, now by opposition, etc. Such matters may seem trivial enough and hardly sinful, but they are a great hindrance to this holy exercise and practice.

8 – For when constructs of the imagination are not allowed to enter the memory and mind, a man is not hindered, whether he be engaged in prayer, meditation, or reciting psalms, or in any other practice or spiritual exercise, nor will they recur again.

9– So render your imagination bare of the images of all physical things as is appropriate to your state and profession, so that you can cling to him with a bare and undivided mind, as you have so often and so completely vowed to do, without anything whatever being able to come between your soul and him, so that you can pass purely and unwaveringly from the wounds of his humanity into the light of his divinity.

10Chapter 5

On purity of heart which is to be sought above all things

earnestly apply your mind to seek constant purity of heart, clarity of mind and calm of the senses. Gather up your heart’s desire and fix it continually on the Lord God above.

 11 – Grasp every opportunity when you can find the place, time and means to devote yourself to silence and contemplation, and gathering the secret fruits of silence, so that you can escape the shipwreck of this present age and avoid the restless agitation of the noisy world.

12… you should with all care, intelligence and effort free your heart, senses and desires from everything that can hinder their liberty, and above all from everything in the world that could possibly bind and overcome you.

13 – So struggle in this way to draw together all the distractions of your heart and desires of your mind into one true, simple and supreme good, to keep them gathered within yourself in one place, and by this means to remain always joined to things divine and to God in your mind, to abandon the unreliable things of earth, and be able to translate your mind continually to the things above within yourself in Jesus Christ.

14 – simplify and still your heart and mind in the Lord God….

 15 – . So simplify your heart with all care, diligence and effort so that still and at peace from the products of the imagination you can turn round and remain always in the Lord within yourself, as if your mind were  already in the now of eternity, that is of the Godhead.

16 – In this way you will be able to renounce yourself through love of Jesus Christ, with a pure heart, clean conscience and unfeigned faith, and commit yourself completely and fully to God in all difficulties and eventualities, and be willing to submit yourself patiently to his will and good pleasure at all times.

17  – For this to come about you must repeatedly retreat into your heart and remain there, keeping yourself free from everything, so far as is possible. You must always keep the eye of your mind clear and still. You must guard your understanding from daydreams and thoughts of earthly things. You must completely free the inclination of your will from worldly cares and cling with all your being to the supreme true good with fervent love.

18 – … your whole mind gathered up with all its powers and faculties in God, may become one spirit with him….

 19 – Chapter 6

That the devout man should cleave to God with naked understanding and will

…for it is his delight to be with the sons of men, that is those who, at peace from such activities, distractions and passions, seek him with a pure and simple mind, empty themselves for him, and cleave to him.

 20 – …the Holy Spirit withholds itself from thoughts bereft of understanding. So the true lover of Jesus Christ should be so united through good will in his understanding with the divine will and goodness, and be so bare of all imaginations and passions that he does not even notice whether he is being mocked or loved, or something is being done to him. For a good will turns everything to good and is above everything.

21 – …even if the inner man is slow to feel devotion, [he] should simply cleave to God with faith and good will in naked understanding.

 22 – you must strip your heart of all love of things of the senses, not just of certain creatures, so that you can turn to the Lord your God with a simple and whole heart and with all your power, freely and without any double-mindedness, care or anxiety, but with full confidence in his providence alone about everything.

 23 – Chapter 7

How the heart should be gathered within itself

So let us withdraw our hearts from the distractions of this world, and recall them to the inner joys, so that we can establish them to some degree in the light of divine contemplation. For this is the life and peace of our hearts – to be established by intent in the love of God, and to be sweetly remade by his comforting.

24 – …the human mind is so distracted by worries that it cannot bring its memory to turn within, is so clouded by its imaginations that it cannot return to itself with its understanding, and is so drawn away by its desires that it is quite unable to come back to itself by desire for inner sweetness and spiritual joy. Thus it is so prostrate among the sense objects presented to it that it cannot enter into itself as the image of God.

25 – [The soul should say to itself:]

He whom I seek, love, thirst for and desire from everything and more than anything is not a thing of the senses or the imagination, but is above everything that can be experienced by the senses and the intellect. He cannot be experienced by any of the senses, but is completely desirable to my will. He is moreover not discernable, but is perfectly desirable to my inner affections. He cannot be comprehended, but can be loved in his fullness with a pure heart, for he is above all lovable and desirable, and of infinite goodness and perfection. [This section and several others following it echo the thoughts and sentiments of THE CLOUD OF UNKNOWING,a mystical classic dated from the late 143th century.]

 26 – And then a darkness comes over the mind and it is raised up into itself and penetrates even deeper. And the more inward-looking the desire for it, the more powerful this means of ascent to the mysterious contemplation of the holy Trinity in Unity and Unity in Trinity in Jesus Christ is, and the more interior the yearning, the more productive it is.

27 – …never give up, never stop until you have tasted some pledge, as I might say, or foretaste of the future full experience, and until you have obtained the satisfaction of however small a first fruits of the divine joy. And do not give up pursuing it and following its scent until you have seen the God of gods in Sion.

28 – If on the other hand our heart and mind can withdraw itself by its desire and love from the infinite distraction below of the things beneath it, can learn to be with itself, abandoning these lower things and gathering itself within itself into the one unchanging and satisfying good, and can hold to it inseparably with its will, it is correspondingly more and more gathered together in one and strengthened, as it is raised up by knowledge and desire.

29Chapter 8

How a religious man should commit himself to God in all circumstances whatsoever

…be empty for him and cleave to him. So now in this way ignore your body and all created things, present or future, and direct the high point of your mind and spirit directly, as best you can, naked and unencumbered on the uncreated light.

 30 – so when some inner disturbance or boredom or mental confusion come you will not be indignant or dejected because of it, nor run back to vocal prayers or other forms of consolation, but only to lift yourself up in your intellect by a good will to hold on to God with your mind whether the natural inclination of the body wills it or not.

 31 – …accept everything confidently and equally, in general and in particular, from the hand of divine providence, agreeing in everything with the Lord in patience, peace and silence. The thing is that the most important thing of all for a spiritual life is to strip the mind of all imaginations so that one can be united in one’s intellect to God by a good will, and conformed to him. Besides, nothing will then be intermediary between you and God.

32Chapter 9

How much the contemplation of God is to be preferred to all other exercises

…let all our actual contemplation, life and activity take place in him alone, about him, for him and towards him who is able and capable to produce with a single nod of his will things infinitely more perfect than any that exist now.

33 – He [God] is infinitely satisfying both to himself and to all others, who contains within himself in absolute simplicity and from all eternity the perfection of all things….

34 Hence when we approach God by the way of negation, we first deny him everything that can be experienced by the body, the senses and the imagination, secondly even things experienceable by the intellect, and finally even being itself in so far as it is found in created things. This, so far as the nature of the way is concerned, is the best means of union with God, according to Dionysius. And this is the cloud in which God is said to dwell, which Moses entered, and through this came to the inaccessible light.

35 – Chapter 10

That one should not be concerned about feeling  tangible devotion so much as about cleaving to God with one’s will

Furthermore you should not be much concerned about tangible devotion, the experience of sweetness or tears, but rather that you should be mentally united with God within yourself by a good will in your intellect.

36deny yourself so that you can follow Christ, the Lord your God, in nakedness….

37 – You will experience because of it great grace, helping you towards the acquisition of nakedness of mind and simplicity of heart.

38 – Chapter 11

How one should resist temptations and bear trials

The servant of Jesus Christ must see to it that he is not so easily forced to withdraw from the face of the Lord and to be annoyed, murmur and complain over the nuisance of a single fly, that is, a trivial temptation, suspicion, sadness, distraction, need or any such adversity, when they can all be put to flight with no more than the hand of a good will directed up to God.

39 – For if you want what is good, but cannot do it, God will make good the deed. For it is in accordance with this eternal law that God has established with irrevocable firmness that deserts should be a matter of the will, whether in bliss or torment, reward or  punishment. Love itself is a great will to serve God, a sweet desire to please God, and a fervent wish to experience God.

40 – Chapter 12

How powerful the love of God is

Now love is such that it cannot rest except in the beloved, but it does when it wins the beloved in full and peaceful possession. For love, which itself is charity, is the way of God to men and the way of man to God. God cannot house where there is no love. So if we have love, we have God, for God is love.

41 – Furthermore, nothing is sharper than love, nothing is more subtle, nothing more  penetrating. It will not rest until it has by its very nature penetrated the whole power, the depth and the totality of the loved one. It wants to make itself one with the beloved, and itself, if it were possible, to be what the beloved is too. Thus it cannot bear that anything should stand between itself and the beloved object, which is God, but presses eagerly towards him.

 42 – Alternatively, the lover is in the beloved when he is united with him by all his desire and compliance in agreement with the beloved’s willing and not willing, and finds his own pleasure and pain in that of the beloved. For love draws the lover out of himself (since love is strong as death), and establishes him in the beloved, causing him to cleave closely to him.

43 – For the soul is more where it loves than where it lives, since it is in what it loves in accordance with its very nature, understanding and will, while it is in where it lives only with regard to form, which is even true for animals as well.

44Chapter 13

The nature and value of prayer, and how the heart should be recollected within itself

…we should beseech him and lay before him with complete confidence the dangers that are besetting us on all sides, completely grief-stricken in ourselves, in humble prostration of mind, in fear and love, and with recollected, composed, mature, true and naked,  shamefaced affection, with great yearning and determination, and in groaning of heart and sincerity of mind. Thus we commit and offer ourselves up to him freely, securely and nakedly, fully and in everything that is ours, holding nothing back to ourselves, in such a complete and final way, that the same is fulfilled in us as in our blessed father Isaac, who speaks of this very type of prayer, saying, Then we shall be one in God, and the Lord God will be all in all and alone in us when his own perfect love, with which he first loved us, will have become the disposition of our own hearts too.

45 – This will come about when all our love, all our desire, all our concern, all our efforts, in fact everything we think, everything we see, speak and even hope will be God, and that unity which now is of the Father with the Son, and of the Son with the Father, will be poured into our own heart and mind as well, in such a way that just as he loves us with sincere and indissoluble love we too will be joined to him with eternal and inseparable affection. In other words we shall be united with him in such a way that whatever we hope, and whatever we say or pray will be God.

46 – This, as I say, is the goal of all perfection, that his purified mind should be daily raised up from all bodily objects to spiritual things until all his mental activity and all his heart’s desire become one unbroken prayer.

47Chapter 14

That we should seek the verdict of our conscience in every decision

… we should return quietly into the inner secret place of the mind in the face of everything said, thought or done to us.

 48 – Above all one should accept everything, in general and individually, in oneself or in others, agreeable or disagreeable, with a prompt and confident spirit, as coming from the hand of his infallible Providence or the order he has arranged. This attitude will lead to the forgiveness of our sins, the deliverance from bitterness, the enjoyment of joy and security, the outpouring of grace and mercy, introduction and establishment into a close relationship with God, abundant enjoyment of his presence, and firm cleaving and union with him.

49Chapter 15

How contempt of himself can be produced in a man, and how useful it is

 50 – Chapter 16 

How God’s Providence includes everything

For so far as the nature of the order of things is concerned, God provides for everything without intermediary right down to the last detail. So nothing, from the greatest to the smallest things, can escape God’s eternal providence, or fall away from it, whether in matters of the will, of causal events, or even of accidental circumstances outside of one’s control.

51 – That is why Bernard says, “God, the maker of everything is so abounding in mercy that whatever size grace cup of faith we are able to hold out to him, we shall undoubtedly have it filled.”

 52 – We should remember this, that everything is possible with God, and that what he wishes is bound to take place, while what he does not wish cannot possibly happen, and that it is as easy for him to forgive and cancel countless sins, however enormous, as to do it with a single sin.

53 – So let us commit everything with full assurance, in general and in particular, confidently and unhesitatingly to divine providence, by which God permits however much and whatever sort of evil to happen to us. For it is good and will lead to good, since he permits it to exist, and it would not exist unless he permitted it to exist. Nor could it exist otherwise or more than he permits it to, because he knows how to, has the power to, and wills to change and convert it into something better. For just as it is by operation of providence that all good things exist, so it is by its permission that all bad things are changed into good.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Purity of Intention

Tomorrow is Feb. 2—the Fscan0005east of the Purification, and my memory brought me back to Feb. 2, 1965.  I had entered the convent the August before as a postulant.  In July 1965, I would become a novice, receiving the full habit, yet with a white rather than a black veil.  The year of the postulancy was a year of asking, seeking, probing—did I really desire this life?  The Feast of the Purification marked an intensification of this probe, for now I must have purity of intention, having put doubts and other options completely aside.

The occasion would be marked by a little white collar added to the black capes which we wore over our long black dresses and a simple black veil.  (Upon entering, we did not yet wear a veil except for a simple white one when we attended chapel.)  This white collar symbolized purity of intention.

I wonder today what was in my 18 year old mind then.  Sister Lelia began serious teaching about purity of intention at least 2-3 weeks before the feast.  It was for us to apply that teaching to our own hearts to be ready for that day.

The term is well known in the spiritual life.  Father John Nicholas Grou, S.J. , 1731-1803, devotes an entire section to it in his SPIRITUAL MAXIMS, “Seventh Maxim:  Purity of intention, simplicity and uprightness.”

He analyses this “means to devotion” in varied ways:

            “What, then, is purity of intention? Purity of intention is having God alone as our object, free from all self-interest.”

            “Our self-love endeavours studiously to hide our intentions from ourselves. It does so with a view to its own interests, and succeeds only too well. We deceive ourselves in a multitude of things, and although we do so simply because we want to, it is all so subtle that we are hardly aware of it. There are very few persons who are completely honest with themselves, and self should be the very first thing we mistrust. We must always, therefore, be on our guard against the devices of self-love….”

            “If we are to know ourselves really, we must discern the true motive of our actions, and that is not an easy matter, seeing how twisted our nature is, and how blind we are to it. True knowledge of self is very rare.”

            “Simplicity is identical with purity of intention.”  [http://www.catholictreasury.info/books/spiritual_maxims/mx7.php]

            We see that intention is tied to motive, and that in our sinfulness and imperfection, our self-love—to which we are blind—sullies all that we do.  Consequently, purity of intention requires an attitude of humility, vigilance, and a continuous struggle for self-knowledge.

Then I remembered this teaching in THE SIMPLE PATH TO UNION WITH GOD,  # 148:           [Before going into battle with Goliath, David selected five smooth stones.]   “You each must also approach the battle with five stones. First, the stone of humility, possessing the perfect knowledge of your nothingness and My power and majesty. Second, the stone of purity, purity of mind, heart, intention, word, desire… Third, simplicity, detached from all, most especially your ego. Fourth, trust, perfectly abandoned to My will. Fifth, courage, courage rooted in love of Me to be perfectly obedient to My commands.  These stones are your weapons for battle….” The Simple Path, p.406, http://lovecrucified.com/path/simple_path.html ]

In May 2016, Love Crucified community reflected deeply on community prophecies on the Storm, on the battle, and on our weapons, the five stones.  I wrote then:

The weapons are so rich: the stone of humility emerges from the victim’s struggle for knowledge of self and knowledge of God.

            “The stone of purity belongs to the single-hearted, those with purity of intention and desire for God and His Will alone.  Reading St. Albert the Great today, I found:  “Earnestly apply your mind to seek constant purity of heart, clarity of mind, and calm of the senses.  Gather up your heart’s desire and fix it continually on the Lord God above.”

            “The third stone of simplicity is the weapon of being One, in Union with Love Crucified, undivided, with a single, intense focus on God, not on self-will.

            “Fourth, the stone of trust, perfect abandonment to God in the sacrament of every moment.

            “Fifth, the stone of courage comes from the other four stones, in the victim soul’s obedience to the Will of God regardless of consequences.”

            As I followed my memories and reflected more deeply, a saying of my beloved St. Albert the Great, c.1193-1280,  (and I believe I love him solely for this one line!):  “Simplify your heart with all care.” [https://soulfoodministries.wordpress.com/soul-food-talk-6-simplify-your-heart-with-all-care/]

Yes, he is definitely talking about purity of intention.  I wrote two years ago as I reflected on St. Albert:  “WHAT IS SIMPLICITY?  One.  Complexity rules where an item is divided or made up of many parts. The closer to one that we can get, the simpler we are.  One God.  One desire.  A heart focused and centered on God.  One Will.   Simplicity of heart is virtually the same as purity of heart.”

            As the storm rages about us, let us remember that light overcomes darkness.  Confusion will not reign.  Enter the simplicity of your heart, “a heart focused and centered on God.  One Will.”  With purity of intention. In a recent post, Mark Mallet reminded us:  “Our Lady is calling us, right now, to intense prayer… prayer of the heart.”  [http://www.markmallett.com/blog/a-matter-of-the-heart/#more-25834]

Ven. Archbishop Luis Martinez led me a couple of years ago to use his words in this simple prayer:  “O my Jesus, simplify everything in the unity of Your Sacred Heart in order to plunge the whole universe into the bosom of the Trinity that God be All in all.”

[See also St. Albert’s book:  CLEAVING TO GOD, http://www.catholictreasury.info/books/cleaving_to_God/clv7.php

and my first post here, IN THE FIRE:  THIRSTING FOR GOD, https://soulfoodministries.wordpress.com/2015/01/29/258/

Current State of Catholic Prophecy

Today as I was reading Spirit Daily,daniel-oconnor-divine-will-missionary-of-mercy Michael Brown’s website, I came upon a lengthy, but certainly worthwhile article in which the blogger, Daniel O’Connor, a Divine Will Missionary of Mercy, analyses and advises us on the current state of Catholic Prophecy.  He does an excellent job of summarizing the current state of things and offers helpful advice.  I present the link here for you:  https://dsdoconnor.com/2017/01/24/aligning-our-expectations-with-the-prophetic-consensus/

“Ascent of Mt. Carmel” — St. John of the Cross

Today, as I reflected again on an earlier post, “Threads of Attachments” I came again upon this wonderful illustration of St. John of the Cross–it illustrates so well the post, but is so rich, it is worthy of much reflection in itself.  First, let me share the illustration–not so easy to read, but worth the effort:

ascent1

The following verses were written by St. John of the Cross, the Spanish mystic of the Order of Discalced Carmelites, after having spent many months imprisoned in a small cell in Toledo, in 1578. These verses are from his drawing “The Ascent of Mount Carmel,” which contained instructions for climbing to the summit, the high state of union:

To reach satisfaction in all
desire its possession in nothing.

To come to the knowledge of all
desire the knowledge of nothing.

To come to possess all
desire the possession of nothing.

To arrive at being all
desire to be nothing.

To come to the pleasure which you have not
you must go by a way in which you enjoy not.

To come to the knowledge which you have not
you must go by a way in which you know not.

To come to the possession you have not
you must go by a way in which you possess not.

To come to be what you are not
you must go by a way in which you are not.

When you turn toward something
you cease to cast yourself upon the all.

For to go from the all to the all
you must leave yourself in all.

And when you come to the possession of the all
you must possess it without wanting anything.

In this nakedness the spirit finds
its quietude and rest.

For in coveting nothing,
nothing raises it up
and nothing weighs it down,
because it is the center of its humility.

“Become a living holocaust for His glory” — Jesus to Conchita

sdc11091Crypt of Venerable Concepcion Cabrera de Armida (Conchita) – Mexico City, Dec. 8, 2016

The tabernacle is on the left, the crypt on the right.  Above the crypt is the Spanish inscription translated for me by Father Jordi:  “Through the Holy Spirit, He immolated Himself, Immaculate, to God.”  This quotation is central to the Mystical Incarnation of Conchita.

I hardly know where to begin.  I have been more quiet than usual because I have had a couple of viruses and laryngitis for about two months.  But that did not deter an extraordinary spiritual pilgrimage which I was privileged to take from Dec. 7-Dec. 13 for the feasts of the Immaculate Conception on the 8th and the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe (Tepeyac) on Dec. 12th.  I went with my Love Crucified Covenant family, 25 of us, including two priests and two seminarians.

For three days we stayed in Mexico City at the retreat center which  houses Conchita’s crypt.  Then to a cloistered, contemplative convent of “Concepcionistas”—twelve Mexican nuns two blocks from the Basilica.  A week of walking together, praying, pilgrims from holy place to holy place:  the crypt of Conchita, the Cathedral where Venerable Archbishop Luis Martinez’ remains lie in repose, the crypt of Father Felix (co-founder with Conchita of the Works of the Cross), the beautiful church where repose the remains of Priest Martyr Padre Pro.  The magnificent Basilica itself and St. Juan Diego’s precious tilma with the miraculous image of the Virgin herself.  We ascended the hill of apparition, Tepeyac, and the lower level of the first apparition where our community prayed together the Rosary. Hours of adoration in the convent’s beautiful chapel, hours of prayer and reflection in my tiny cell.

So many treasures and graces.

But let me start with Conchita.  In Mexico, at her crypt, on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, in solitude and during Adoration for the last two weeks I have read, reread, and devoured her chapter on “Mystical Incarnation.”   When I first began reading Conchita in 2010 or so,  her spirituality of the Cross so appealed to me, but this chapter mystified me.  Much of it puzzled me.  Today, I can’t get enough of it.  What Christ teaches her and us in this chapter is so rich and powerful.  Today, for example, this sentence leapt off the page for me;  Christ tells her:

Reproduce My life in you with the mark of sacrifice, becoming a living holocaust to His glory” (Diary 160-161).

I thought of St. Elizabeth of the Trinity, her identity as “Praise of Glory”—a phrase she found in St. Paul. In Eph. 1, 5-6, St. Paul tells us “[the Father] destined us for adoption…for the praise of the glory of his grace that he granted us in the beloved.”  Then again, Eph. 1,12:  “so that we might exist for the praise of his glory….”

Through Conchita, Jesus tells us how:  we praise His glory (the Father’s) by becoming a living holocaust.”  The first part, “Reproduce My life in you with the mark of sacrifice,” gave me greater trouble.  Here I had to search long and reflect deeply.  What did Jesus mean by “with the mark of sacrifice”?  I thought I knew what He meant by “Reproduce My life in you.”  The whole point of the mystical incarnation is to reproduce the life of Christ in the soul in such an intense way as to become a “divine substitution” or “living host” according to Blessed Dina Bellanger.  “With the mark of sacrifice” seemed to qualify that divine substitute as victim and holocaust—marked for sacrifice—the person’s primary characteristic now being sacrificial, the person’s now “being made conformable to His death”—a scripture much loved by both Martyr Priest Padre Pro and St. Elizabeth of the Trinity as she entered her last sufferings.

From my journal of Sept. 18, “Entering more deeply the Cross”:

“I was struck by an article about the martyrdom of Father Pro, Mexican martyr of 1927.   Saint John Paul II at his beatification: “Neither suffering nor serious illness, neither the exhausting ministerial activity, frequently carried out in difficult and dangerous circumstances, could stifle the radiating and contagious joy which he brought to his life for Christ and which nothing could take away. Indeed, the deepest root of self-sacrificing surrender for the lowly was his passionate love for Jesus Christ and his ardent desire to be conformed to Him, even unto death.”     Here was Philippians 3:7-10:

But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faipadro-pro-diesth in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, 10 that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death…”

“Becoming a living holocaust,” also reminds me deeply of one of the most remarkable sermons of St. Peter Chrysologus, (c. 380 – c. 450), his sermon found in the Office of Readings, Tuesday, 4th week of Easter—an excerpt:

“Listen now to what the Apostle [St. “Paul] urges us to do. I appeal to you, he says, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice. By this exhortation of his, Paul has raised all men to priestly status.

“How marvellous is the priesthood of the Christian, for he is both the victim that is offered on his own behalf, and the priest who makes the offering. He does not need to go beyond himself to seek what he is to immolate to God: with himself and in himself he brings the sacrifice he is to offer God for himself. The victim remains and the priest remains, always one and the same. Immolated, the victim still lives: the priest who immolates cannot kill. Truly it is an amazing sacrifice in which a body is offered without being slain and blood is offered without being shed.

“The Apostle says: I appeal to you by the mercy of God to present your bodies as a living sacrifice. Brethren, this sacrifice follows the pattern of Christ’s sacrifice by which he gave his body as a living immolation for the life of the world.”

Here, just three centuries after Christ’s life and death, one of the earliest bishops and doctors of the Church gives us a teaching so close to Christ’s own words to Conchita:  “Reproduce My life in you with the mark of sacrifice by becoming a living holocaust to his [the Father’s] love.”

We find above Conchita’s crypt:  “Through the Holy Spirit, He immolated Himself, Immaculate, to God.” In Conchita’s Diary, in “The Mystical Incarnation,” just as Conchita immolated herself through the Holy Spirit, Immaculate in Jesus, to the Father, Christ teaches us how to become a living holocaust to God’s glory, how to immolate ourselves in union with Him, and He teaches in great depth and in detail every aspect of immolation:

“In the concrete, the mystical incarnation is nothing other than a most powerful grace of transformation which simplifies and unites to Jesus by purity and by immolation, rendering the being in its entirety, as much as possible, like to Him” (Diary 158).

“The mystical incarnation,’ the Lord has stated, ‘has as its object the offering of Myself in your heart, as an expiatory victim, checking at each moment divine justice and obtaining heavenly graces'” (Diary, Feb. 2, 1911) [p.160].

“’The principal object of this grace is a transformation which unites what you will to what I will, your will to Mine, your immolation to Mine. Wholly pure and sacrificed in your body and in your soul, you must offer yourself and offer Me to the heavenly Father at each instant, at each breath…[for the Church, for souls](Diary 160).

This is My Body, this My Blood. I say this again to the eternal Father, at each instant, on the altars. Make yourself worthy, as much as possible, to offer your body, your blood, your soul and all that you are, as I have told you, in union with this continual immolation on behalf of the world” (Diary 160).

“The purpose of the mystical incarnation is the fusion of My life in you, according to its development on earth. ‘Be yourself…’” (Diary 161).

“I want you to be My host and have the intention, renewed as often as possible day and night, of offering yourself with Me on all the patens on earth. I want you, transformed in Me by suffering, by love and by the practice of all the virtues, to raise heavenward this cry of your soul in union with Me: ‘This is My Body, This is My Blood’”  (Diary 161).

“’Be yourself,’ I told you one day, and today I tell you again: ‘Let Me come to you, and be one with Me and transform yourself through the instrumentality of My divine life in your heart. Let Me possess you, simplify you in God, in Our indivisible unity through the Holy Spirit’” (Diary 161).
“You must transform yourself into charity, that is, into Me, who am all Love, killing the old man, making with Me but one single heart, and one single will’” (Diary 160).

Here, again, in the impassioned words of Jesus himself, is the objective:  …one only Host, one only Victim, one only Priest immolating Himself and immolating Me in your heart on behalf of the whole world. The Father pleased, will receive this offering presented through the Holy Spirit, and the graces of heaven will descend as rain on the earth” (Diary 162).

This urgent plea from Christ is not for Conchita alone.  Hugh Owen’s book, New and Divine:  The Holiness of the Third Christian Millennium explains how closely bound many of our saints are in immolation and union with Christ—Host/Victim/Priest, all victims of love: St. Therese of Lisieux, St. Faustina, St. Maximillian Kolbe, St. Elizabeth of the Trinity, Venerable Archbishop Luis Martinez, Venerable Conchita, Blessed Dina Bellanger, Servant of God Marthe Robin and others.

In all we see victims of love and immolation, living sacrifices, living hosts, mystical incarnations, holocausts of total abandonment to God’s Will, all “one Heart, one Mind, one Will.”

Their offerings are the “mystic Mass of the bride”—(Archbishop Luis Martinez), the “sacrament of the moment” of Father de Caussade –[Jesus tells Conchita: “…you must offer yourself and offer Me to the heavenly Father at each instant, at each breath.”]  All of them are marked for sacrifice in life and in death, living holocausts glorifying the Father in the most hidden, ordinary and extraordinary moments of their lives.

Reading in Conchita:  A Mother’s Spiritual Diary, I came upon this statement by her editor/biographer, Rev. M.M. Philipon, O.P.: “There is not one sole form of transforming union but a thousand varieties, or rather an infinity of possible realizations, according to the creative freedom of the Spirit of God and the various needs, according to the epochs, of the Mystical Body of Christ.”

The plea, the invitation, the call is to all.  I find most poignant of all these words of Jesus to Conchita:

“What does the Holy Spirit intend in My Church save to form in Me the unity of wills, of sufferings and of hearts in My Heart? What was the desire of My Heart throughout My life, but to bring about unity in Me by charity, by love? Why did the Word descend into this world save to form with His Flesh and His Blood most pure, one sole blood to expiate and to win souls? Has the Eucharist any other purpose than to unite bodies and souls with Me, transforming them and divinizing them?”

“It is not only on altars of stone, but in hearts, those living temples of the Holy Spirit, that one must offer heaven this Victim like unto Him. The souls also offer themselves in hosts and in victims… God will be thereby profoundly touched”
(Diary, June 6, 1916) [p. 162].

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