The Jesus Prayer–For Times of Greatest Difficulty

With the hurricanes, the quake in Mexico City, and now the massive shooting in Las Vegas for no perceptible reason, my heart, like that of so many, feels exceedingly sad.  I sit before orthodox-greek-10WOOL PRAYER ROPEthe Blessed Sacrament and don’t know what to say.  Silence speaks for me.  Yes, I plead for those suffering so grievously, but really, all that I find in my spirit is the groaning.  I pray that the Holy Spirit speaks for me in His unspeakable groaning.

When prayer is so difficult, when the land of our heart is arid and dry and often confused, how can we pray? I’ll tell you what I have done.  I’ve gone back to the Jesus Prayer:  “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, the sinner.”  In 2013 I was so deeply attracted to this prayer which is truly the backbone of the Eastern Orthodox contemplative life, that I researched it and spent much time reading about it and practicing it.  So much so that I lived and breathed it, even praying it in my sleep. [I remember waking up with the prayer in my heart and on my lips.]

At that time I wrote a talk on the prayer and shared it with several women in my parish church.  Several of them took it much to heart and grew in prayer as they prayed it.  One elderly black woman told me,  “The Holy Spirit comes in between the words.” This is precisely how it works on the heart—”the use of a sacred phrase as a “prayer word” for focusing one’s attention while learning to pray through the splendor of the silence that exists “between the words” of our thinking minds “ [according to St. John Cassian (360-435 ad)].

When your heart seems dead or sad, struggling, and your mind is distracted and unfocused, this prayer word will help you reach interior silence.  It will center you in the presence of God through its utter simplicity and humility.  Don’t be deceived by its simplicity, however;  this prayer will draw you to a profound place in prayer.  It’s an ideal way to prepare for contemplation.

I helped my ladies make “Jesus beads”:  a simple crucifix with 100 beads on a circular cord (like the rosary), resembling the prayer ropes of wool made by the Eastern Orthodox monks and nuns.  But you can use your rosary just as well. I pray that you find, like my dear friend,  “The Holy Spirit comes in between the words.”

Here you will find the talk that I gave four years ago providing historical and liturgical background, some of  the deeper considerations to keep in mind as you enter the practice of the Jesus Prayer: 

SOUL FOOD Talk 2:    THE JESUS PRAYER – Part 1

[1.]   THE JESUS PRAYER   — The classical form of the Jesus Prayer is,  “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”  The actual words of our short prayers can vary.  We might say the classic version of the Jesus Prayer, or we might say, “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.”  We may say, “Lord Jesus, have mercy.”  A favorite ejaculation or scripture would be excellent–try to incorporate the name of Jesus.  You can make the prayer intercessory by adding: [have mercy] “on the whole world.”   MAKE THE PRAYER YOURS; MAKE IT FIT YOU.  Try to use the same form/s continuously so that it will enter deeply into your subconscious and into your heart.

[2.]   BIBLICAL ORIGIN:  Theologically, the Jesus Prayer is considered to be the response of the Holy Tradition to the lesson taught by the parable of the Publican and the Pharisee, in which the Pharisee demonstrates the improper way to pray by exclaiming:  “Thank you, Lord, that I am not like the Publican,” whereas the Publican prays correctly in humility, saying,  “Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner.”  (Luke 18: 10-14)

[3.]    THE HISTORY OF THE JESUS PRAYER goes back, as far as we know, to the early sixth century, with Diadochos, who taught that repetition of the prayer leads to inner stillness.  Even earlier, St. John Cassian (360-435 ad) who spent quite a few years in the Egyptian desert, did bequeath one absolutely essential gift to western contemplation:  the use of a sacred phrase as a “prayer word” for focusing one’s attention while learning to pray through the splendor of the silence that exists “between the words” of our thinking minds. 

[4.]  PRAY CEASELESSLY  –We are all called to pray without ceasing, says St. Paul  in Thess. 5:17.  The real question is, how.  The Jesus Prayer provides one good way to pray constantly.  In fact, the Jesus Prayer is the widespread and most specifically Orthodox spiritual prayer.  Our task is to draw nearer to God.  St. Isaac of Syria says that it is impossible to draw near to God by any means other than increasing prayer.

 [5.]  THE POWER IN THE NAME   –Biblically, knowing a person’s name gave power over that person.  Name was linked with being. To speak God’s name, YAHWEH, was to invoke the power, presence, and being of God Himself, so the Hebrews would not say it, but out of respect used ADONAI  (Lord) instead.  In the New Testament, Jesus explicitly gives us God’s name, FATHER, and tells us to use the name in prayer.  Jesus gives us access to the Godhead through the name.   Jesus told His Apostles that they hadn’t really used His Name in prayer enough.  “Hitherto you have asked nothing in My Name; ask and you will receive, that your joy may be full” (John 16:23).

[6.]  WHEN TO PRAY The Jesus Prayer is recommended in a block of 10-30 minutes once a day, at your preferred prayer time. (Begin with 10, and increase as you mature in prayer). This is the “formal” use of the prayer. The second form of the Jesus Prayer is the “free” use of the prayer. This means at any and all other times of the day, or night. This is especially true for the semi-automatic tasks such as driving, doing dishes, walking, being unable to sleep, etc. The Jesus Prayer is notably useful in time of extreme concern, upset, or temptation.

When alone, we might find it helpful to pray the Jesus Prayer, out loud. This can help lower the distraction level. In the beginning, you can also use a beautiful chanted or sung version to help you get started.

 7.]  SOME PRACTICAL SUGGESTIONS: Don’t feel hurried or pressed to “finish” the beads. Lovingly “work” each bead with all the longing and adoration and humility of your heart. Don’t feel compelled even to “finish” the words of the prayer form you have chosen. Sometimes it is enough to taste the name of the Lord and let it linger on the tongue and the heart. Don’t hesitate to change your prayer in the middle of the beads if a different prayer enters your heart, but gently return to the rhythm of the prayer when it is next feasible for you. To close, even if you are in the middle of the beads, say a spontaneous prayer to the Lord or to Mary, make the sign of the Cross, and kiss your crucifix.

 [8.]  PRAYER OF THE HEART – The Jesus Prayer is also called the Prayer of the Heart. In Orthodoxy, the mind and heart are to be used as one. St Theophan tells us to keep our “mind in the heart “at all times. Heart means the innermost core of the person, the spirit. Heart means our innermost chamber, our secret dwelling place where God lives. There is within us a space, a field of the heart, in which we find a Divine Reality, and from which we are called to live. The mind, then, is to descend into that inner sanctuary, by means of the Jesus Prayer or wordless contemplation, and to stay there throughout our active day, and evening. We descend with our mind into our heart, and we live there. The heart is Christ’s palace. There, Christ the King comes to take His rest. I like to think of the Jesus Prayer as my “door” to enter my inner sanctuary any time I can.

[9.]  SILENCE is a choice. Silence, at its best, is God-awareness. We quiet down our outer and inner lives, and listen to God speak. Someone said that when God speaks, His words are like the sound of a flutter of a bird’s wings. We need to be attentive if we are to hear anything. Inner silence can usually be achieved only by substituting one thought for another. Hence, the Jesus Prayer overrides our usual compulsive stream of consciousness about our own anxieties. Beginning with this form of prayer, then we might be led to deeper inner stillness, prayer without words (CONTEMPLATION). The caution here is that prayer without words is not heaviness, semi-sleep dullness. Rather, wordless prayer is alive, vigorous God-awareness.

 [10.]  CONTEMPLATION is a gift of God, a direct meeting with a personal God, on God’s terms. This special kind of inner silence, inner stillness, is experienced by wordless sitting, imageless contemplation. When consciousness strays, a phrase like “Lord Jesus” can be used to bring the mind back, and then the person sits quietly in the presence of the Lord. The desire of wordless sitting awareness is to open oneself to God, to listen to God. Both the Jesus Prayer and contemplation make us single-centered, concentrating upon the here and now, focused, one-pointed. The point is God.

 [11.]  PRAYER ROPES/BEADS- Orthodox prayer ropes are usually soft and made of wool. The purpose is to help us concentrate, not necessarily to count. In the famous book, The Way of the Pilgrim, the pilgrim said the prayer 2,000, then 6,000, then 12,000 times. Is 12,000 Jesus Prayers better than 2,000? Absolutely not. Quantity has nothing to do with love, and a living relationship with Jesus. The pilgrim did 12,000, no more and no less, as an act of obedience to his spiritual father, not because he was “making progress.” He also prayed much because that was his “heart’s desire.” Every prayer is an act of love, made to the Author of Love, Who is waiting expectantly for our desire, and our acceptance of His Love.

 [12.]  THE JESUS PRAYER AS HEALING – As medicine, the Jesus Prayer is destructive of the passions and altering of conduct. Just as a doctor places a dressing on a patient’s wound, and the dressing works without the patient’s knowing how, calling on the Name of God “removes the passions” without our knowing how and why, according to Sts. Barsanupius and John of the Egyptian desert.

The Holy Name, when repeated quietly, penetrates the soul rather like a drop of oil, spreading out and impregnating a cloth. Our modern translation of “mercy” is limited and insufficient. “Mercy” comes from the Greek eleisonEleison has the same root as elaion which means olive and olive oil. In the Middle East, olive oil provides physical healing for many sicknesses, particularly respiratory. “Have mercy” means to pour “healing oil” on my soul.

The Fathers tell us that praying the Sacred Name changes our personality, from overstrain to joy. “Hitherto you have asked nothing in my Name; ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full” (Jn 16:24). The Jesus Prayer functions as therapy, much like healing oil, transforming our personality from overstrain to joy, and by our continuing to pray, these changes become permanent.

[Primary source, Part 1:  SAYING THE JESUS PRAYER]

THE JESUS PRAYER – PART 2,   FURTHER CONSIDERATIONS

 [13.]   In the free use of the prayer the mission is to find Jesus everywhere.   In the fixed or formal use of the prayer the mission is to create silence.  It’s often hard enough to achieve exterior silence, to find a quiet time and place to pray.  Even harder is to find interior silence;  because of the way we are made, we hold a constant conversation with ourselves, our imaginations and minds constantly moving from trivial fleeting thoughts to those of greater consequence.   As you settle down to prayer in a comfortable chair, after you have begun to quiet your spirit, you may want to read briefly from a favorite book or scriptures, or even to pray the rosary or other prayers meaningful to you.  Then, as you begin the Jesus prayer, pray with your eyes closed.

[14.]   The repetition of the simple formula, while being a heartfelt prayer, occupies our mind and imagination so that our hearts can enter into a deep silence, as we become conscious of the presence of the Lord.  Fingering the Jesus beads occupies our bodies so that they too become participants, entering their own quiet– we do not fidget.

 [15.]   Focus on the words of the prayer to reduce distractions, even praying it aloud in the beginning.  Central to the prayer is the name of Jesus:    Lord Jesus Christ.  All power is in that name above every other name.  Son of God:  beloved of the Father.  In John 14, Philip tells Christ,  “Show us the Father and it will be enough for us.”  Jesus replies,  “Philip, whoever sees me sees the Father.”  Jesus is the outpouring of the Father’s heart.  “Have mercy on me/us.”  Remember the origin of “eleison” – from the root word for “olive”–the mercy of God is an anointing, a healing oil that soothes as it is absorbed. “On me, a sinner:   These words name the depth of our poverty, our frailty, our misery before the all-majestic and pure God.    As soon as we empty ourselves of our pride and know our poverty, we can be truly filled.    Remember that God is one,  His mercy is one with His peace, His love, His light, His purity, His anointing Spirit that makes us one with Him.  What we are really asking for is for our greatest and deepest need,  whatever it is. Inevitably, it is the Holy Spirit itself.  The more we pray the prayer, the deeper the teaching we will receive from the Holy Spirit.

[16.]  As we pray, embrace your Lord in three ways:

Embrace his feet in repentence, as you weep with Mary for His mercy.     We ever have a need to embrace His feet in repentence.  St. Philip Neri used to tell Jesus,  “Keep your eye on Philip, Lord;  he is likely to betray you.”  Embracing the feet of Jesus is one of the hallmarks of the purgative way.

[17.]  Embrace the Sacred Wound in His side as you pray to embrace the Father’s will along with Christ, more perfectly, entering into His passion.    When we embrace His Sacred Wound in His side, His sacred heart, we recline on the breast of Christ like St. John at the last supper.  There is no better place to learn our theology.

[18.]  Embrace His sacred face as you pray, “Let Him kiss me with the kisses of His mouth” (Song of Songs, 1,1)-­-as His mercy flows into you in the anointing of the Holy Spirit, making you one with Him as bride and beloved.  St. Bernard of Clairvaux explains that Christ is the mouth of God (His incarnate Son).  St. Bernard says:  “Christ kisses us with the kisses of his mouth by giving us the Holy Spirit who makes possible this most intimate union between us individually and Christ.”   Receiving the kisses of His mouth is one of the hallmarks of the unitive way.

[ 19].    As we are more and more greatly purified and illumined, we prepare ourselves like eager brides for the kisses of His mouth, the greater and deeper abiding in the Holy Spirit, in the Holy Trinity.

[20.]     In short,  embrace Jesus, embrace the Father’s Will, embrace the Holy Spirit in repentence, in poverty, in reverent humility, in the fullness of your longing and desire to be one with the Blessed Trinity.

[21.]     As time passes, you will find yourself embracing Christ in all three ways, depending on where you are in your spiritual journey.  There are three definite stages in our spiritual journey acknowledged by the saints and by theologians:  the purgative,  the illuminative, and the unitive. [ See Soul Food Talk 1, Expressions of Prayer]  We generally find traces of all three in ourselves at different times.  God has his rhythm and way with each one of us in our uniqueness.   Yet one thing is sure,  He calls every one of us to holiness; and holiness is perfect union with the Trinity.

From a Catholic Theologian, Dr. Peter Kreeft:   “Jesus”: The Shortest, Simplest, and Most Powerful Prayer in the World

 

 

 

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“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].

 

 

“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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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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The Mass of St. Padre Pio

Recently I was deeply touched by a virtual interview conducted with Padre Pio by his spiritual daughter, Cleonice Morcaldi.  She asked him questions and carefully wrote down his answers about his experience of the Holy Mass, especially on his experience of the passion of Christ during the Holy Sacrifice.  I pray that every priest sees this remarkable document, printed as an article on this blog: http://www.michaeljournal.org/articles/roman-catholic-church/item/the-holy-mass-of-saint-padre-pio. I print the entire article here for you.

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THE MASS OF PADRE PIO

At every Mass, he relived the Passion of Our Lord

Why the Mass of Padre Pio?

God reveals his greatness through the saints. Thus, we came to know the poverty of Jesus seeing the example of Saint Francis of Assisi; the humility of Jesus in the person of Saint Martin of Porres; the sweetness and meekness of the Lord in the example of Saint Francis of Sales and therefore all the saints show us something of the greatness of God.

In the last century, Padre Pio confirmed with his life something of the greatness of the mystery of Christ Crucified. Furthermore, in the manner of many other saints, like St. Philippe Neri, the holy Cure of Ars, and St. Joseph Calfasso, he had the gift of discernment of souls to help them repent. But until then, such a profound testimony about “what happens” during the celebration of the Eucharistic mystery was unknown. We all know that the Holy Mass is the Sacrifice of Christ on the Cross that is renewed in every Mass, every day. But do we realize what that means? Do we repeat it as an abstract definition of Mass? That is why the example of St. Padre Pio of Pietrelcina is so edifying, he who shows us that the Mass is a reality in an active and profound way.

If we want to know what really happens during the Mass, let us remember the testimony of St. Padre Pio: through him, Christ is again giving Himself up to death for us.

The Celebration of the Holy Mass

pio-1

Saint Pio of Pietrelcina shows himself to us as a witness of the supernatural in a special way in the celebration of the Eucharistic Mystery.

Padre Pio really lived the mysteries that he celebrated on the altar in his own flesh and soul. The Mass is the bloodless renewal of the Sacrifice of Christ. The Mass is at the same time the sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving, the memorial of the sacrifice offered at the Cross and “real propitiatory sacrifice to mitigate God and make Him favorable to us.” This vivid experience of the Mass, sacrifice of Christ, was that of Padre Pio during his 58 years of priesthood. And he, whom God marked with the visible signs of His Passion, celebrated Mass experiencing similar pain — but not the same — as that which Jesus had on the Cross.

Cleonice Morcaldi, one of the spiritual daughters of Padre Pio, asked him several times what he felt and lived in each of his Masses. She wrote carefully each of his answers and thanks to her, we have a unique testimony from the Father himself about his Mass.

– Father, what is your Mass?

– A sacred accomplishment of the Passion of Jesus.

– What should I comprehend in your Holy Mass?

– All of Calvary.

– Father, tell me all that you suffer at the Holy Mass.

pio-2– All what Jesus suffered in his Passion, I inadequately suffer to the extent a human creature can possibly suffer. All of it at no merit of my own and only because of His Goodness.

– Father, how could we know about your passion?

– In knowing the Passion of Jesus, you will also know mine.

– Do you have the agony of death, Father, like Jesus in the Garden?

– Probably.

– Does the angel also come to comfort you?

– Yes.

– What FIAT do you say?

– The one of suffering, and always to suffer for the brothers in exile and for His Divine Kingdom.

– You also said…”and they will shout: Crucify him, crucify him!” Who will shout?

– The children of men… more precisely the beneficiaries of His death.

– How was Jesus after being scourged?

– The prophet says: “He became as a whole sore. He became like a leper”

– So, you also are like a sore from head to foot?

pio-3– And is not this our glory? If there is no place left for more sores, we will make sores on top of sores.

[St. Padre Pio’s pajama that shows the marks of blood, caused by the sufferings of the scourging of Our Lord.]

– My God, this is too much! You are, dear Father, too much! You are, dear Father, a real executioner of yourself!

– Do not be afraid. On the contrary rejoice in it. I do not want the suffering in itself, no, but the fruits it gives me. It praises God and saves our brothers. What else could I wish for?

– Father. When at night you are scourged, are you alone or does somebody assist you.

– The Holy Virgin assists me, all of Paradise is present.

– Jesus has made me feel that you suffer the crown of thorns.

– Otherwise the immolation would not be complete.

– What sins did Jesus pay for with the crowning of thorns?

– For all, especially those regarding thoughts, not excluding the vain and useless ones.

– Father, do you have the thorns on your forehead or around your head?

– Around the whole head.

– Father, how many thorns does your crown have…Thirty?

– Ah…yes!

– Father, I think that your crown does not have 30, but 300 thorns.

– You get impressed because of a zero! Anyway, is not thirty contained in three hundred?

– Father, is it true that you suffer the torment of the crowning of thorns during the Holy Mass?

– And you doubt it?

– During the whole Mass?pio-4

– And also before and after it. The crown is never taken away.

[St.Padre Pio, Mystic, Confessor and Stigmatic.  He said:  “Pray hope and do not worry.  Worries are useless.  God is merciful and will listen to your prayer.”]

Father, do you also suffer what Jesus suffered during the Way of the Cross?

Father, do you also suffer what Jesus suffered during the Way of the Cross?

– Yes. But I wish to do so, in order to arrive at the point of suffering to which the Divine Master arrived.

– Who are your Simon of Cyrene and Veronica?

– Jesus Himself.

– Father, at the Divine Sacrifice, do you take our iniquities on yourself?

– It is impossible to do it differently, as it is part of the Divine Sacrifice.

– So, does the Lord consider you a sinner?

– I do not know. But I am afraid to be so.

– I have seen you trembling when going up the stairs to the altar. Why? Was it because of what you were going to suffer?

– No, not because of what I am supposed to suffer, but because of what I should offer.

– Father, what time during the day do you suffer the most?pio-5

–During the celebration of the Holy Mass.

– Father, do you also suffer during the day what Jesus allows you to suffer during the Holy Mass?

– I would not feel well! How could I work? How could I do my ministry?

– At which part of the Divine Sacrifice do you suffer the most?

– From the Consecration to the Communion.

– At which moment of the Mass do you suffer the scourging?

– From the beginning to the end, but more intensely after the Consecration.

– Father, why do you almost always cry when you read the Gospel in the Holy Mass?

– And do you find it little thing that a God talks to His creatures, and they react against Him? That he is injured constantly by their ingratitude and incredulity?

Eucharistic liturgy and concluding ceremonies

The second part of the Mass finds in Padre Pio a liturgist of high class.

Through this singular minister, the Crucified Christ of Golgotha can make happen again the actual, visible and physical incommensurable tragedy of Calvary in a way that a creature is able to do so who is made an efficacious sign of Christ.

In the history of the Sacramental Sign, the stigmatic of Gargano is the only minister, up to this moment, whose flesh also has revealed the Crucified of Golgotha in such a way. In all the centuries in the history of the Church there is no similar case.

– Father, is your Mass a bloody Sacrifice?

– Heretic!

– No. What I want to say that is that the Eucharistic Sacrifice of Jesus is bloodless but your participation in the Passion is bloody. Am I wrong?

– Well… now you are right. Taking it as a personal matter, you might be right.

– Who washes off his own blood during the Mass?

– Nobody.

pio-6The offertory was another moment that immobilized Padre Pio. It was the outstanding part of his Mass.

The Father, with his face full of tears, used to remain immobile, as if transfixed by a mysterious force, his eyes affectionately resting on the crucifix at the altar. He remained still for some minutes, holding the bread and wine in his hands.

– Why do you weep over the offertory?

– Do you want to worm the secret out of me? Well then, it’s the moment when the soul becomes detached from all that is profane.

The Lord used to pull his servant apart to such an extent that it caused him to be insensitive to every profane distraction that occurred.

– Father, the people make noises during the Mass…

– Well, if you would have been at the Calvary, where you heard screams, blasphemies, loud clamor, and threats… that was really an uproar.

– Do you not become distracted because of noises at the church?

– No, absolutely not.

This did not mean that Padre Pio was completely detached from those who were around him participating at the Mass. The total and intimate union with God that Padre Pio had, the moment that his soul was separated from all that was profane, gave to Padre Pio the superhuman possibility of feeling each soul, one by one; all that surrounded the altar.

– Father, are all the souls that attend to your Holy Mass present in your spirit?

– I see all my children who come to the altar, as if in a mirror.

pio-7Padre Pio used to lie down on the Cross of Jesus to consummate the Divine Sacrifice, while carrying all of his children in his heart. The love with which he disposed himself to be immolated was reflected on Padre Pio’s trembling face.

The stigmatic from Gargano, amidst tears and sobs, suffering indescribable torment, actualized the Divine Tragedy of Calvary during the Consecration in such a vivid way that the atrocious torment of Jesus Crucified was translucent in his grievously wounded flesh.

– Father, why do you suffer so much at the Consecration?

– You are too cruel!

With these words Padre Pio eluded the answer. A new attack was foreseeable.

– Father, why you suffer so much during the Consecration?

– Because it is at that very moment when a new, awesome and wonderful annihilation and creation happens.

In a brief and concise phrase Padre Pio now says something else. The most exceptional miracle of the Eucharistic conversion is affirmed with assertive clarity. But he says nothing about his sufferings at the altar in the moment of transubstantiation. Padre Pio hides his intimate and secret participation to the new and admirable destruction and creation from view.

It was not only an evasive answer, because he meant to say many things. The query had not been replied to, and so it was necessary to wait for the propitious occasion to reiterate the question to obtain a more complete answer.

– Why do you suffer so much during the Consecration?

– Revealing the secrets of the Supreme King is desecrating them. You ask me why I suffer. I would like to shed not a few tears but abundant tears. Are you not conscious of the tremendous mystery? God, Victim of our sins! And we are His executioners!

The awesome mystery of the Consecration contains the last hours that Christ spent on the Cross. The crucified of Gargano now relives at the altar, one after the other, each of the last moments of the Crucified of Golgotha. Let us keep in mind what the Gospel says about Jesus. Especially at the introduction of the Crucifixion.

– Father, do you suffer the bitterness of gall?

– Yes, very often.

After tasting the gall the most patient son of Saint Francis speaks of his crucifixion at the altar.

– Father, how do you remain upright at the altar?

– The way Jesus used to hold himself on the Cross.

– Do you mean that you are at the altar hanging from the Cross, the way Jesus did at Calvary?

– And you ask me?

– How can you keep yourself upright?

– The way Jesus kept Himself upright at Calvary.

Regarding the Crucifixion he is asked:

– Did the executioners turn the Cross around to clinch the nails?

– Naturally!

– Do they also clinch the nails for you?

– I think so!

– Do they also turn around your cross?

– Yes, but do not be afraid.

The Divine Master, sitting as King on the Divine Throne of His Cross pronounced His last words as a solemn testament of His Merciful Love for us, under the presence of Heaven and Earth.

– Father, do you also speak during Holy Mass the “seven words” that Jesus stated on the Cross?

– Yes, although unworthily, I also speak them.

– And to whom do you say: Woman, there is your Son?

– I tell her: Here are the children of your Son.

– Do you suffer the thirst and rejection Jesus suffered?

– Yes.

– When do you experience thirst and rejection?

– After the Consecration.

– Until when do you suffer thirst and rejection?

– Normally up to the Communion.

– Did the Crucified Jesus have His innermost Being consummated?

– You should rather say burnt.

– For what did the Crucified Jesus thirst?

– For God’s Kingdom.

Padre Pio’s soul burned with the same thirst. Those were extremely dry hours.

Padre Pios`s burning heart did not receive even a drop of consolation.

– You told me you were ashamed of pronouncing this phrase: “I looked for someone to comfort me, but found none.” Why?

– Because our suffering is insignificant compared to the real suffering Jesus experienced.

– In front of whom do you feel ashamed?

– In front of God and in front of my conscience.

– Don’t the angels of God console you at the altar where you immolate yourself?

– Well, I do not feel them.

– If your spirit does not receive any comfort during the Divine Sacrifice and if you suffer the complete abandonment as Jesus did, then our presence there is useless.

– The usefulness is for you. If it were the way you say, it could be said that the presence of the Sorrowful Virgin, St. John and the pious women close to the feet of the dying Jesus was useless.

The loving heart torn by the sight of such cruel abandonment, would have liked not to remain passive, but to share such atrocious pain.

– Father, why do not share with us a bit of your Passion?

– The Spouse’s pledge is not given to anybody.

– Tell me what could I do to alleviate your Calvary?

– Alleviate? …say rather to make it harder. We must suffer!

– It is painful to attend your martyrdom being unable to help you!

– Also the Sorrowful Mother attended. There is no doubt that it was a consolation for our Divine Master to have His Mother who, instead of being indifferent, accompanied Him in His pain.

– What did the Virgin do at the feet of the Crucified Jesus?

– She suffered watching her Son suffer. She offered to the Eternal Father her pain and the sufferings of Jesus for our salvation.

It is not surprising that suffering such martyrdom, through becoming completely in possession of the victim, to find more pleasure, concentrates on two highly significant points in the person of Padre Pio.

– On posing this question I am not compelled by curiosity. Which one is the wound that hurts the most?

– The head and the heart.

Communion was the summit of Padre Pio`s Mass, the supreme moment of Jesus` Passion.

Bent towards the altar, holding the chalice in his hands tightly and with the Lord in his heart, the seraphim of Pietricina, completely enraptured, remained for a long time with Jesus, without being conscious of the time.

The Father was asked:

– What is the Sacred Communion?

– It is interior and exterior Mercy. A total Embrace. Do not stop begging Jesus to make Himself sensibly noticed.

– Where does Jesus kiss you?

– He kisses me all over.

– When Jesus comes, does he visit only the soul?

– The entire being.

– What does Jesus do at Communion?

– He delights in His creatures.

– Is Communion an incorporation?

– It is a fusion. Like two candles that fuse together and cannot be distinguished one from the other.

– When you join Jesus in Holy Communion, what should we request the Lord for you?

– To let me be another Jesus, all Jesus, always Jesus.

– You gave me to understand that though the Sacred Species are not consumed in you, through your veins flow the blood of Jesus. Are you a living monstrance?

– You say so!

Jesus, while visiting the entire being of Padre Pio, in fusing with Him in such a wonderful way, He allowed the crucified of Gargano to savor with delight the mystery of His Death, (in the same way He delighted at Calvary, when He sealed the Sacrifice offered to the Eternal Father).

In between accents of great fondness and affectionate love and sorrow, Padre Pio consumed within himself Jesus` sacrifice as well.

– Father, why do you cry when you receive Holy Communion?

– If the Church, when referring to the Incarnation, exclaims: “You did not disdain the bosom of the Virgin.” What can we say about ourselves, we as miserable…!

– Do you also suffer during Communion?

– It is the culminating point.

– Do your sufferings continue after Communion?

– Yes, but they are sufferings of love.

– In this union, aren’t you consoled by Jesus?

– Yes, but without leaving the Cross! In that supreme instant a last glance is given.

– Where did the dying Jesus look in His last gaze?

– Towards His Holy Mother.

– And you, where do you turn to?

– Towards my exiled brothers.

“And bowing His head, He gave up His Spirit,” writes Saint John about the death of Jesus. It could not have happened otherwise to the crucified of Gargano when he was at the altar.

– Do you also die at the Holy Mass?

– Mystically, at Holy Communion.

– What produces this death in you, is this vehemence for love or for pain?

– Both, but especially for love.

– If you die during Holy Communion, do you stop being at the altar?

– Why? Jesus remained at Calvary when He was dead.

– Father, you told me that at Communion the victim dies. Are you placed in the arms of the Virgin?

– In the arms of Saint Francis.

A pious heart considered the idea that the Sweet Jesus has finally found a soul where to rest with pleasure. This very humble son of St. Francis did not have the same opinion.

– Father, does Jesus take His arms off the Cross to rest on you?

– It is me who rests on Him.

– How much do you love Jesus?

– My desire of loving Him is infinite! But in practice… Poor me! I would be at zero and I am ashamed.

– How will our meeting with Jesus in Heaven be?

– Oh!… The Eucharistic could give us an idea.

Such was Padre Pio`s Mass, and not only men attended it:

– Does the Most Blessed Virgin Mary attend your Mass?

– Do you think the Mother is not interested in Her Son?

– Do angels attend your Mass?

– In legions!

– What do they do?

– Adore and praise.

– Father, who is closest to your altar?

– All of Paradise.

The Holy Mass was over, but in the heart of the stigmatic from Gargano the desire for a continued crucifixion at the altar was not extinguished.

– Would you like to celebrate more than one Mass a day?

– If it depended on me I would never leave the altar.

As the exceptional liturgist could not always stay crucified to the altar, he converted his own person into an altar, trying to make the Passion of Christ always visible.

– You told me you carried the altar with you…

– Yes, to accomplish what the Apostle said: “Taking with me the mortification of Jesus, I am nailed to the Cross”, I punish my body and I convert it into a slave.

– So, I am right when saying that Jesus Crucified walks among us! You suffer continually the whole Passion of Jesus!

– Yes, due to His Goodness and Mercy, as much as a human creature is able to.

– How can you work with so much pain?

– I find my rest on the Cross.

Padre Pio asked God: “Make an altar out of me for your Cross” and his pleading was heard, maybe because this request was never before formulated so sincerely and with so much love.

The altar built by the Divine Artist was beautiful, yes, very beautiful… We have not been seen it’s equal in two centuries of Christianity. Doubtless it was the best ever created.

Jesus was captivated by it, the first one that reproduced His Calvary with such fidelity.

In His delight the Stigmatic from Calvary did not want to raise His Cross in that altar. With joy He put Padre Pio there, crucified in His image. Let us meditate now.

– A Mass! Ask an angel — states Padre Pio — what a Mass is and he will answer: I understand what it is and why it is celebrated, but I cannot understand all the value it has. One angel, one thousand angels, all of Paradise thinks the same. And you, you who receive the benefits from it, you do not want to meditate on it?

– When you go to Mass, continues Padre Pio, concentrate to the maximum on the great mystery being celebrated in your presence: “The redemption of your soul and the reconciliation with God.”

– Father, does the Lord love the Sacrifice?

– Yes, because with It He has regenerated the world.

– How much glory to God does the Mass give?

– An infinite glory.

– What should we do during the Mass?

– Be compassionate and love.

– Father, how are we supposed to listen to the Mass?

– The way the Blessed Virgin and pious women attended to the tragedy of Calvary. The same way John attended the Eucharistic Sacrifice and the bloody Sacrifice of the Cross.

– What kind of fruits do we receive when we hear the Mass?

– They cannot be enumerated. You will know it only in Paradise.

Conclusion

In the new Heaven and the new Earth that John announced for the end of time, the Holy City will once again be a New Jerusalem, which will descend from heaven, adorned as a wife dressed for her husband. It is the new tabernacle of God among men. God will live amidst His people. The mystic of Patmos also says that the New Jerusalem does not need neither sun nor moon, because it is illuminated by the glory of God. The elected souls who will enjoy that light will have the name of the Lamb engraved on their forehead.

– Father, in Paradise shall we contemplate you crucified?

– For your greater glory.

 

 

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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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“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].

lc-and-conchitas-crypt

“The Kiss of Jesus” — Mother St. Teresa of Calcutta

It’s been a whileUNITY CRUCIFIX since I’ve posted though I’ve considered doing so during the last few weeks.  I did write a reflection “Entering More Deeply the Cross”—which has been on my heart for some weeks and I may still post it.  Then today, as I prayed in week three of my preparation for consecration to Our Blessed Mother, I was touched again by Mother Teresa of Calcutta.

Most of us know that she struggled with a deep night of the soul for many years.  On Day 15 of 33 DAYS TO MORNING GLORY by Michael Gaitley, I read—and here I include the entire passage:

“After a conversation with a holy priest, she realized that her painful longing was actually a share in the thirst of Jesus: “For the first time in this 11 years — I have come to love the darkness. — For I believe now that it is a part, a very, very small part of Jesus’ darkness and pain on earth.” Teresa’s experience of darkness and painful longing continued to the end of her life. She found the strength to persevere because, as her spiritual director put it, she realized that the darkness was actually a “mysterious link” that united her to the Heart of Jesus.

What about us? Do we yet realize the mysterious link between the darkness we sometimes experience in our own lives and that of the Lord’s suffering? Let us ponder Mother Teresa’s words on suffering that come from her own experience and so, like her, become better lovers of the Heart of Jesus:

“Suffering has to come because if you look at the cross, he has got his head bending down — he wants to kiss you — and he has both hands open wide — he wants to embrace you. He has his heart opened wide to receive you. Then when you feel miserable inside, look at the cross and you will know what is happening. Suffering, pain, sorrow, humiliation, feelings of loneliness, are nothing but the kiss of Jesus, a sign that you have come so close that he can kiss you. Do you understand, brothers, sisters, or whoever you may be? Suffering, pain, humiliation — this is the kiss of Jesus. At times you come so close to Jesus on the cross that he can kiss you. I once told this to a lady who was suffering very much. She answered, “Tell Jesus not to kiss me — to stop kissing me.” That suffering has to come that came in the life of Our Lady, that came in the life of Jesus — it has to come in our life also. Only never put on a long face. Suffering is a gift from God. It is between you and Jesus alone inside.”  [http://www.thedivinemercy.org/news/DAY-15-Lover-of-the-Heart-of-Jesus-6509 [See also Post:  “The Loneliness of Love” – https://soulfoodministries.wordpress.com/2016/03/01/the-loneliness-of-love/].

For many years I have loved this passage from the Canticle of Canticle,  “Kiss me with the kisses of Your mouth” [Canticle 1:2]. The kiss is the icon of intimacy.  Yahweh espouses Israel because God thirsts for intimacy with us, even as we long for Him, even in our darkness of loneliness.  If we long for Him, He first longed for us.  And intimacy with the God-Man means “Entering more deeply the Cross”—The Cross is the bridal chamber where union takes place in the intimacy of suffering. 

It is the very woundedness of our hearts that provides the chalice for the personal mystical Mass which we celebrate daily:  “See in this deep hole in your psyche, this piercing of your heart, the perfect chalice, a cup to receive the tears and blood of your crucified Lord, the flood of Divine Mercy that has nowhere else to go unless a wounded heart is there to receive it. “ [https://soulfoodministries.wordpress.com/2016/04/05/transform-me-into-your-living-chalice/]

I have also been reflecting on “The Cross and the Mystic Mass of the Bride”—the same vein of thought. https://soulfoodministries.wordpress.com/2015/10/22/the-cross-the-mystic-mass-of-the-bride/

Also, the reflection on Archbishop Martinez:  “To Be Jesus Crucified”— https://soulfoodministries.wordpress.com/2015/04/12/to-be-jesus-crucified-part-1/

All of these threads are related in profound ways and throw light on one another.

Another related passage which came to my attention this week was this request from Mary through Medjugorje:  “My children, I was a chalice of the God-man; I was God’s instrument. That is why I am calling you, my apostles, to be a chalice of the true and pure love of my Son. I am calling you to be an instrument through which all those who have not come to know the love of God – who have never loved – may comprehend, accept and be saved.”

Sr. Emmanuel Maillard explains:  There is no Mass without a chalice….The chalice becomes the receptacle of the Blood of Jesus which will be offered to the Father.  A chalice is therefore a sacred vessel that is strictly reserved for the celebration of the Mass, and it is sacred…”  [https://sremmanuel.org/newsletter/november-2016-report/]

It is the chalice of our hearts, deeply wounded, filled with loneliness, suffering, pain, sorrow, humiliation, which we lift in union with the Blood of Jesus in one sacrifice to the Father—this is the mystic Mass of the bride which we celebrate daily:   When we have touched the very pit of the wound in our heart, we touch the pain.  It is through our pain that we share and become one with the pain and suffering of Christ.  Live your woundedness, live your pain again in the pierced Heart of Christ the Victim.  See on the altar that chalice, your martyred heart, pierced like His, pierced with His, and offered to the Father for the Church, for the salvation of souls. Find here the central joy of your life.”  [https://soulfoodministries.wordpress.com/2016/04/05/transform-me-into-your-living-chalice/]

In our darkness of soul we receive the kiss of Jesus who endured the greatest darkness and loneliness of all.  This is what it means to “Enter more deeply the Cross”—it is to enter the Bridal Chamber, to receive the Kisses of His mouth, to be a living chalice filled and overflowing with Redemptive love which overflows on “all those who have not come to know the love of God – who have never loved – [that they] may comprehend, accept and be saved.”