The Intimacy of SUFFERING WITH

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Hardness of Heart, Part 2: Faith & Trust

AUDIO (parts 1 & 2)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Current State of Catholic Prophecy

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

“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.”

The Holy Wind

This week Mark Mallett posted wind_serenity“RAISE YOUR SAILS (Preparing for Chastisement),” a post which touched me deeply and thrilled me to my core.  He combined three aspects of spirituality:  the “strong driving wind” of the Holy Spirit,  abandonment to the Divine Will through the duty of the moment, and embracing the Cross, especially as we face the Storm.

Undoubtedly you recognize the first aspect; the “strong driving wind” describes the first Pentecost.  But elements struck me forcibly that I never noticed before.  Here is the passage:  “When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled, they were all in one place together. And suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were.” (Acts 2:1-2). The Holy Wind falls on the whole house and fills it entirely.  We understand that the Holy Spirit is not actually wind, but acts as a driving wind would act, in power, unable to be resisted, encompassing all in Its path.  Yet It could not act upon anyone there unless they had first gathered in one place, abandoning themselves to whatever God willed.

Prompted by the risen Christ, Mary and the apostles were waiting:  “And [behold] I am sending the promise of my Father upon you; but stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.” (Luke 24:49)  What did it mean to be “clothed with power from on high”?  What would that look like?  What would it feel like?  And how would this happen?  The apostles were anxious, filled already with “fear of the Jews.”  Christ told them, “Stay in the city…”  Don’t move.  Don’t go anywhere.  Don’t do anything until…so they waited for the moment that would change everything.

Pentecost changes everything, but only if we are moved by the Holy Wind Himself.  Mark Mallett shows us how it is by abandoning ourselves to the moment that we are moved by the Holy Spirit.  God’s Will, God’s Power, does not descend on us in its fullness in the totality of a whole lifetime, but is revealed one full moment at a time, in what Father Jean-Pierre deCaussade calls the “duty of the moment.”  For it is clearly deCaussade’s spirituality, [Abandonment to Divine Providence] to which Mark is referring here:

Each moment—and the Divine Will contained in it—are the wind of the Holy Spirit. In order to sail forward toward your goal: union with God—one must always raise the sail of faith mounted upon the mast of one’s will. Don’t be afraid to catch this Wind! Never be afraid where the winds of God’s Will take you or the world. At each and every moment, trust the Holy Spirit who blows where He wills according to My plan….

Each and every moment the Divine Will of God blows in your life within the present moment. All that is required of you is to simply raise the sails of trust into the Winds of the moment and, turning the rudder of obedience, do that which the moment requires, the duty of the moment. Just as the wind is invisible, so too, hidden within this moment is the power of God to transform, sanctify, and make you holy—yes, hidden behind the mundane, the ordinary, the unglamorous; behind crosses and consolations, the will of God is always there, always working, always active.”

Father deCaussade tell us that holiness is simple: “Embrace the present moment as an ever-flowing source of holiness…God speaks to every individual through what happens to them moment by moment…  If we have abandoned ourselves to God, there is only one rule for us:  the duty of the present moment.”

Mark says virtually the same thing:  “But whether the seas of your life are calm or whether great waves assail you from every side, the response for you is always the same: to keep your sail raised by an act of the will; to stand in the duty of the moment whether it is a gentle breeze or a harsh spray of sea salt passing over your soul. For within this divine action is the grace to transform you.”

Charlie Johnston advises us to “acknowledge God, do the next right thing, and be a beacon of hope.”  Isn’t this the same advice—not to be confused, anxious (as the apostles were filled with “fear of the Jews”), but to live the fullness of God’s Will in doing our duty of the moment—“the next right thing”?  [https://charliej373.wordpress.com/gods-plan/]

The only way that we can abandon ourselves, to let ourselves be filled with the Holy Wind of God’s power, His Holy Will, is trust.  Mark tells us:  “What God asks of you is to be docile to this Will, with the trust of a child.”

St. John of the Cross tells us the same thing.  He advises us that the soul “must be like to a blind man, leaning upon dark faith, taking it for guide and light, and leaning upon none of the things that he understands, experiences, feels and imagines.”  This is total abandonment, thrusting our heart, our mind, our soul, our will into the Holy Wind, trusting that whatever way It blows will be for our good, our transformation, and the transformation of the world.

In his book, Abiding in the Indwelling Trinity, Father George A. Maloney, S.J. gives us the prayer, the attitude, the posture of spirit which we must adopt:  “In utter emptiness of heart we wait for the wind, the fire, the living waters to rush upon us and reveal Himself in His love….”

            Mark Mallett shares with us an admonition from Christ which we would do well to take to heart, because it applies to all of us—to embrace the Cross, especially as we face the Storm:

                “My commandments are My Holy Will for you hidden each day in the present moment. But when My Will is not agreeable to your flesh, you refuse to remain in it. Instead, you begin to look for Me in the more agreeable forms of My presence, rather than remain in My love, in My commandments. You adore Me in one form, but you despise Me in the other. When I walked the earth, many followed Me when I presented Myself in the form which was agreeable to them: as healer, teacher, miracle-maker, and triumphant leader. But when they saw their Messiah in the disguise of poverty, meekness, and gentleness, …when they saw their Messiah presented to them as a sign of contradiction to their lifestyles, …when they saw their Messiah in the distressing disguise of a sacrificial lamb, bloodied, bruised, scourged, and pierced through as the embodiment of a trial and a Cross, they not only refused to remain with Me, but many became angry, mocked and spit upon Me.

            “So too, you love Me when My will is agreeable to you, but when My Will appears in the disguise of the Cross, you abandon me….”

For many years now I have referred to the “duty of the moment” as the “sacrament of the moment” because in embracing the moment, whatever it brings, however ordinary or extraordinary, whether consolation or desolation, glory or persecution, is to be in communion with the indwelling Trinity, to embrace the Beloved Will as our  daily bread, just as Christ said,  “I have food of which you know nothing”—referring to the Father’s Beloved Will.  In embracing the moment, we are continually fed by God’s hand; in embracing the moment we are embracing Love Crucified.

Father deCaussade, the French Jesuit who lived 1675 – 1751, tells us:  “The love of God comes to us through all creatures but hidden as it is in the Blessed Sacrament.   So every moment of our lives can be a kind of communion with his love.”  If we can begin to think of each moment as “the sacrament of the moment” we will not waste one precious moment of time.     “If we open our mouths they will be filled….  [Our bread] is the ready acceptance of all that comes to us at each moment of our lives.”

How inadequate our language is to truly express the reality of God and His power!  All we have are metaphors.  As we labor in pain, in darkness, in the fear of our own weakness, we have only trust and abandonment.  Let us cast ourselves like the blind man of St. John of the Cross, leaning on faith, trusting the Holy Winds to carry us to Union in the sacrament of the moment each moment of our lives.

[For further reading:

RAISE YOUR SAILS by Mark Mallett

ABANDONMENT TO DIVINE PROVIDENCE [a reflection on Father deCaussade’s spirituality by Kathy AE]

THE SACRAMENT OF THE MOMENT [further reflection on “duty of the moment” –  Kathy AE]

 

 

 

 

 

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“Threads of Attachments”

Today at Adoration I meditated onDARK NIGHT OF THE SOUL Chapter 1 of THE ASCENT OF MT. CARMEL, St. John of the Cross.  I am understanding quite well the night of the senses—the quelling of the natural desires.  As I reflected, I remembered this favorite Psalm verse which I ran across in 2013:

PSALM  74:25-26

“Whom have I in the heavens but You?

None besides You delights me on earth.

Though my flesh and my heart fail,

God is the rock of my heart, my portion forever.”

This thought has pierced my heart for several years already.  As I thought about George and our life together, I had a sudden revelation:  with George’s death in 2012, God suddenly snapped many attachments.  My whole life of natural desires, all the innocent employments of my married life, have dried up almost entirely.  I have no desire for social engagements, entertainment of every kind—except for a little television—those activities which I do take on are mostly in the nature of ministry; and I have taken care not to undertake anything which will interfere with my life of prayer and adoration.

Such life events offer tremendous opportunities to reassess our spiritual lives and practices.  What seems at first to present a panorama of loneliness and emptiness, a feeling of being left out of the normal sweep of life, actually gives us remarkable openings to deeper and more substantial spiritual development–if we can see it for what it is and take advantage of it.  The early church saw widowhood, for example, as one of the earliest  opportunities for consecration.  Remember Anna, who attended the presentation of the child Jesus in the Temple?  She was a widow of many years who spent her time praying in the Temple:  “Contemplative widows are foreshadowed by Anna, early widowed, praying in the Temple for decades for the coming of the Messiah”  [SPIRITUALITY FOR WIDOWS.  See also:  http://www.rondachervin.com/ocw.htm]

In Nov. 2014, I was reading Owens’ book NEW & DIVINE about the eternal mode of prayer.   “Only souls who abandon themselves to the Will of the Father through the Holy Spirit can fully participate in His interior life made present in the Eucharist.” P. 34   Also,   “He [Jesus] told Blessed Dina that by abandoning herself to the Father’s Will through the Holy Spirit, she would allow Him to operate freely in her and with her, in eternity   “Even one soul given completely over to Me can radiate on all the other souls.  …My rays reach out into the distance, far into the distance.” P. 36

Jesus told her that, through souls who abandoned themselves completely to Him, his rays reach all souls, past, present, and future:              ‘In consecrated souls in whom my hands are bound by threads, in whom consequently my Heart is wounded, my rays reach only some souls living in the world at the same time.  In consecrated souls who refuse Me only small things, you can see that my rays reach many other souls in the world and extend further.  In consecrated souls that have abandoned themselves totally to me, in whom I can act freely, see how my rays reach all souls, even to the end of time.’” P. 49

I was immediately taken by the vision of how attachments, however slight, hinder Jesus’ effectiveness, “binding His hands.”  It grieved my heart to permit any attachment of my soul to natural desires, but I could not see how they could be entirely eliminated. My greatest desire is to live in the eternal mode of prayer, entirely abandoned to the will of the Father through the Holy Spirit—to sever the least thread which would hinder Jesus hands.

Then today I read in St. John of the Cross:  “…it is true that all the desires are not equally hurtful, nor do they all equally embarrass the soul. I am speaking of those that are voluntary, for the natural desires hinder the soul little, if at all, from attaining to union, when they are not consented to nor pass beyond the first movements (I mean,[177] all those wherein the rational will has had no part, whether at first or afterward); and to take away these — that is, to mortify them wholly in this life — is impossible.”

             What hinders Christ, hinders the soul, are not natural desires, if they are involuntary and not consented to by the rational mind and will.  He explains:  “But all the other voluntary desires, …whether they be only of imperfections, …must be driven away every one, and the soul must be free from them all, howsoever slight they be, if it is to come to this complete union; and the reason is that the state of this Divine union consists in the soul’s total transformation, according to the will, in the will of God, so that, there may be naught in the soul that is contrary to the will of God, but that, in all and through all, its movement may be that of the will of God alone.”

Later he laments:   “…when God has granted them strength to break other and stouter cords[182] — namely, affections for sins and vanities — they should fail to attain to such blessing because they have not shaken off some childish thing which God had bidden them conquer for love of Him, and which is nothing more than a thread or a hair.”

That little thread, that little hair reminds me of my beloved Conchita and what struck me so forcibly on Oct. 4, 2014—Conchita’s HOLY HOUR:              “Why do those tiny things stop you?  And why do you not see these open arms that are waiting for you?…you are stopped by little straws, by silly things…,who will not walk if I do not drag you, because it is hard for you to sacrifice yourself.”

WHAT WILL IT TAKE?

“And you still tell Me that you love Me, that you love Me?  O, no!  Love is not like that!  Here, here in this Heart is where fire burns!  How ungrateful you are!”

Here I prayed in the spirit of and with some of Conchita’s very words:  “Help me, my Life, to destroy within my heart every trace of self-will, self-love, self-indulgence, burning myself like incense—in all my roughness—before your Sacred Heart.”

Threads, hairs, straws, silly things, childish things that we refuse to give up—voluntary desires—voluntary attachments, especially habitual ones, hinder union.  St. John gives specific example of these habitual imperfections:  “These habitual imperfections are, for example, a common custom of much speaking, or some slight attachment which we never quite wish to conquer — such as that to a person, a garment, a book, a cell, a particular kind of food, tittle-tattle, fancies for tasting, knowing or hearing certain things, and suchlike…any one of these imperfections, if the soul has become attached and habituated to it…”

I persist with my little sister, Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity, to deepen my interior silence, to live in my sanctuary of the heart, my inner cloister of fiat, to enter within myself the abode of the Indwelling Trinity,  “this silent gaze of the Beloved Three, wordless and imageless, which floods the heart with the unfathomable richness of Mystery. “ [Journal July 24, 2016]

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“Solitude & Silence” – Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity

Before we begin, let me preface all that follows of Bl. Elizabeth’s spirituality with what Monsigneur du Vauroux writes of her in the preface of the book,face Blessed-Elizabeth-of-the-Trinity The Spiritual Doctrine of Sister Elizabeth, by Father M. M. Philipon:  “Like St. Teresa, the dear little sister loved above all else true, strong, beautiful doctrine” [Doctrine xix].  She drew her understanding principally from Sacred Scripture, especially from the Epistles of St. Paul, and from St. John of the Cross.

Rev. Philipon admits frankly that his purpose is to study not only her doctrine, but also her soul. Chapter 1, “Spiritual Journey,”  details her interior life in the world, before she entered Carmel, which includes a description of her fiery temperament, her normal social experiences, being surrounded by children and young people who loved her, travels and dances through which she guarded her heart—above all, her desire to enter Carmel from the age of 14, and her decision to wait patiently on her mother, a widow, who was intensely opposed to losing her oldest daughter to the cloister.  She was drawn to prayer.

Father reports in this first chapter that “when Elizabeth was shown into her Carmelite cell she was heard to murmur, ‘The Trinity is there!’” When asked a week after she arrived at Carmel to fill out a questionnaire, “What point of the Rule do you like best?” her response:  “Silence.”

Father Philipon explains:  “In accordance with her special grace, it was in the very depths that she lived her Carmelite ideal.  She went straight to the essentials:  solitude, the life of continual prayer, the consummation in love….On the mountain of Carmel, in silence, in solitude, in a prayer that never ceases because it continues through all else, the Carmelite lives as though already in heaven, by God alone….so she hungers for silence in order to be always listening, to penetrate ever more deeply into His infinite being”  [Doctrine 13-14].

What Elizabeth longed for with all her soul was to seek the Trinity dwelling in the deepest sanctuary of her heart, to listen to that Mystery, the very essence of which is Divine Silence.  For that she entered the cloister of Carmel, entered the exterior cloister of the walls.  Once inside, she entered more deeply into the inner cloister of her heart to seek the indwelling Trinity which invaded her soul from the first moment of baptism. She declared:  “I am Elizabeth of the Trinity, that is, Elizabeth who disappears, who is lost, who lets herself be invaded by the Three.”[Doctrine 49].  One of her favorite Carmelite mottos was this one:  “Alone with the great Alone.”

On the day of her profession, she said:   “Who could describe the joy of my soul when, on contemplating the crucifix which I received after my profession and which our Reverend Mother placed ‘as a seal on my heart,’ I could say to myself: ‘At last He is all mine and I am all His. I have nothing else but Him. He is my All!’ And now, I have only one desire, to love Him, to love Him all the time, to be zealous for His honor as a true bride, to give Him joy, to make Him happy by preparing a dwelling and a refuge for Him in my soul, so that there He may forget, by the strength of my love, all the abominations of the wicked!”  [Doctrine 65]

Her powers of recollection were intense: “She passed through the cloister silent and absorbed, and nothing could distract her from Christ.”  This goal of abiding deep in silence with her Beloved in the indwelling Trinity would be the guiding focus of her entire spirituality as she sought to fulfill the true meaning of her name Elizabeth—which means “House of God.”

Beginning with Chapter 2, Father Philipon reveals “The Ascesis of Silence,” telling us that she had a special devotion to the prophet Elias, “who was the first to lead the eremetical [hermit or solitary] life and whom God had commanded to flee from the dwellings of men and to hide himself, far from the multitude, in the desert:  ‘Get thee hence…and hide thyself by the torrent of Carith.’”  The ideal of Carmel was not to form a community of contemplatives, but to form a collection of hermits, solitary contemplatives.  The walls of Carmel offer practical protection and living essentials, but is not meant to dissipate the solitude.  This is the life of which Elizabeth dreamed and into which she poured her whole soul.  This was also the dearest wish of St. Teresa of Avila, as she says, “Let us call to mind our holy Fathers, those hermits of other days, whose life we seek to copy.  What sufferings did they not have to bear, and in what loneliness!” [Doctrine 35].

Father Philipon explains that Bl. Elizabeth distinguishes three kinds of silence:  “exterior and interior silence and, finally, a wholly divine silence,” sacred silence or God’s silence [Doctrine 36].  Outward or exterior silence helps to foster and maintain interior silence.  Only from interior silence can the soul enter the sacred silence which is the true silence of the Trinity.  Elizabeth rigorously protected her exterior silence, ruthlessly pursued interior silence because in her heart of hearts she longed for the true silence of the Mystery of the Trinity.  “She loved the silence of her cell…’It is full of God and I spend such happy hours there, alone with the Bridegroom.  I keep silence; I listen to Him; it is so good to hear everything from Him…and then, I love Him!” [Doctrine 36].

Elizabeth loved St. Catherine of Siena, the third order Dominican saint, who in her necessary travels, learned to enter her “interior cell” where she found constant refuge in the midst of bustling activity.  This is an example of interior silence.

Father Philipon explains:  “This is teaching straight from the Gospels: whoever desires to be lifted up to God in prayer must reduce to silence in himself both the empty tumult without and the din within, and retire into the depths of his soul and there in secret, ‘having shut the door,’ recollect himself in his Father’s presence”  [Doctrine 39].  Indeed, this was the practice of Christ himself.

This interior silence includes silence of the imagination and other faculties of the soul, a whole interior world of sensations and impressions within us which threatens to take possession of us at any moment.  The understanding, too must hush all human commotion within itself.  Not all thoughts, thinking, and reflection lead to the sacred silence of the Mystery of God. Father Philipon gives us such a beautiful explanation of Elizabeth’s practice here:  “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].

It seems to me that this one sentence of Father Philipon may be worth the entire post.  I have been chewing on this substantial truth for several days now—and will be for days to come.

Father Philipon also reveals:  “Above all, there must be silence in the will.  The whole drama of our sanctification takes place there; the will is the faculty of love.  Rightly does St. John of the Cross assign to the will the final purifications that prepare the way for transforming union.  ‘Nothing, nothing, nothing, nothing, nothing, on the way; and on the Mountain, nothing’ [Doctrine 40].

What we will, the object of our will, the focus of our will must be completely purified—“We must extinguish every other light” as Elizabeth puts it—except that of the indwelling Trinity.  “’To know nothing….’ To be resolute in passing everything by in order that, in complete self-forgetfulness and abnegation, the soul may be united to God alone….not a material separation from external things, but a solitude of spirit,  a detachment from all that is not God” [Doctrine 41].

Near the end of her life, in her last retreat, Sister Elizabeth devotes an entire chapter to the freedom of the soul set free by interior silence:  “My Rule tells me:  ‘In silence shall be your strength.’ To keep our strength for the Lord is to keep our whole being in unity by interior silence; to collect all our powers, to occupy them in the one work of love, to have the ‘single eye’ which allows the light of God to enlighten us…” Doctrine 42].

To conclude, let us reflect on a beautiful interpretation of scripture by Elizabeth herself:  “’Hearken, O daughter…incline thy ear; forget thy people and thy father’s house.  And the King shall greatly desire thy beauty.’  This injunction is, I feel, a call to silence. ‘Hearken…incline thy ear.’ But in order to listen, we must forget our ‘father’s house,’ that is, whatever pertains to the natural life, of which the Apostle says:  ‘If you live according to the flesh you will die.’ To forget our people is more difficult, for this ‘people’ is that world which is, as it were, a part of ourselves.  It includes our feelings, memories, impressions, etc.  In a word, it is self. We must forget it, give it up.  Then when the soul has broken with it and is wholly delivered from all it means, ‘the King shall greatly desire’ its beauty, for beauty—at least God’s beauty—is unity.”

            “The Creator, seeing the beautiful silence that reigns within His creature, who is deeply recollected in her interior solitude, greatly desires her beauty.  He leads her into that immense and infinite solitude, into that ‘large place’ of which the Psalmist sings, which is His very self.”  Thus, this supreme solitude establishes the soul in the very silence of the Trinity [Doctrine 44-45].

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Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity – 1880-1906

When I was a novice in 1968, in the School Sisters of Notre Dame, I came upon Blessed Elizabeth’s diary–  Bl_Elizabeth_of_the_Trinity_CNA_3_7_16Praise of Glory: Reminiscences of Sister Elizabeth of the Trinity, a Carmelite nun of Dijon, 1901-1906. Her diary made a profound impact on me.  I identified with her so very much, partly, I guess because she had been so young, and I was young also.  But more because so much of her spirituality derived from St. Paul, and I was enamoured with and devoured scripture in these formative years.  As I consider her writings today, I realize how little I truly understood—but how I wanted to understand and follow her, completely!

When I returned to the church in 2009, I was so hungry to revisit all that I had missed for so many years, and one of the books which I reread was Elizabeth’s diary.  In 2014, I was astounded to learn that my obscure (I thought) little Carmelite had been beatified by Pope John Paul, and that her canonization is in process.

In my posts, I want to do a series on her spirituality.  First, her diary is available; but I am reading and meditating deeply another book:  The Spiritual Doctrine of Sister Elizabeth of the Trinity by Rev. M. M. Philipon, O. P., the same priest who wrote Conchita: A Mother’s Spiritual Diary, another book which has had and is having a profound effect on my life.   The first printing of this book about Blessed Elizabeth’s doctrine was 1947, the year after I was born!  Thus the style and language is that of the mid 1900’s.  Although I did not know till a couple of weeks ago that this book existed, it is available online as a free ebook.  Here is the link:  http://www.strobertbellarmine.net/books/Elizabeth%20–%20Spiritual%20Doctrine.pdf

As a general introduction to Blessed Elizabeth, I recommend this beautiful short video.  As it contains many quotations from her, be ready to pause so that you can read them in full before the screen changes:

Here I am, nearly 50 years after first reading her diary, finally plunging deeply into her remarkable teachings.  When I began reading Rev. Philipon’s book which reveals and explains so well her spirituality, especially the first section on silence and solitude, my heart was pierced with sudden longing.  This section is one of the most powerful reflections that I have ever read, and  makes me more than ever, long to go deeply, deeply into that inner cloister, the intimate sanctuary where dwells “the unfathomable Trinity: ‘Immensus Pater, Immensus Filius, Immensus Spiritus’” in the words of Elizabeth herself.

In my next post, we will take a look at silence and solitude from Blessed Elizabeth’s viewpoint, as illumined by Rev. Philipon.  As eager as I am to do this, the work is so profound, I truly feel inadequate to the task, but I will have to rely on the Holy Spirit, to give me what He wants to give you.

LITTLE SOULS: The Way of Spiritual Childhood

The saint who immediately comesSt. Therese to mind is St. Therese of Lisieux, the Little Flower who is renowned for her “little way.”  Not only is she a saint, but in 1997 she was declared a doctor of the church—among such giants of the faith as Saint Gregory the Great, Saint Ambrose, Saint Augustine, and Saint Jerome in the Latin Church and in the Eastern church: Saint John Chrysostom, Saint Basil the Great, and Saint Gregory Nazianzen.

Until 1970, no woman had been named a doctor in the church, but since then four additions to the list have been women: Saints Teresa of Ávila (St. Teresa of Jesus) and Catherine of Siena by Pope Paul VI; Thérèse de Lisieux (St. Therese of the Child Jesus and of the Holy Face), “the Little Flower” by Pope John Paul II; and Hildegard of Bingen by Benedict XVI. Saints Teresa and Therese were both Discalced Carmelites, St. Catherine was a lay Dominican, and Hildegard was a Benedictine.

Undoubtedly, in such august company, St. Therese, who died at 24, felt herself to be a little soul, indeed.  But to be little in the eyes of world is not to be little in the eyes of God.

St. Therese is not the only saint whose spirituality teaches us that the power of God is made manifest in the weakness, powerlessness, and littleness of His saints.  In The Simple Path to Union, one of our Mothers of the Cross discovers an early Old Testament example in the story of David:

          “Believe that the sword of this mission will conquer the dragon. (The Holy Spirit then brought to my mind David and Goliath.) David and Goliath: How could it be that the little one who could not wear the armor of the mighty warriors defeats the giant? The ways of God are never the ways of the world.

          “He was wearing the armor of God and he possessed the power of God. He trusted in God with the innocence of a child. God defeated the enemy through His humble vessel so that all glory is given to God not man. The enemy will be conquered and all things will be made new but never in the ways of the world. God has chosen to give the sword of righteousness to His little mustard seed. The sword of the mission is the power of God that will pierce and conquer the dragon.

          (p.224)     “You must remain little, insignificant and innocent, drinking the pure milk of the words I bring to you (1 Pet 2). Believe, My little ones, believe that the God of heaven and earth has chosen you for the decisive battle. Live with the innocence of a child the mission given to you. Be little, pure and humble, be nothing; and it is I Who will do the impossible. Trust with the innocence of a child… for you are nothing; but I am God, and I will use My little ones to confound the mighty ones of the world. Believe in the power of My Cross and the power of My Precious Blood, for it is only through the Triumph of My Cross that all darkness will be conquered. Live, love and suffer as ONE with Me; and you will become the sword that will pierce this darkness”  (#152- Be Little to Conquer with the Cross, Diary of a MOC, 11/12/11).

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The focus of this message is humility:  You must be little…with the innocence of a child…nothing. It is always through little ones, the powerless, those who know they are nothing, that God’s power is able to work.  St. Paul taught this well, and it has been a central lesson with so many saints:

“He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. 10 Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:9-11)

This is the essence of the little way of spiritual childhood which is also the way of hidden power:  we trust that in the immolation of the ordinary, the utter nothingness of our little lives, the Power and Light of Christ will burst forth to save.

In St. Theresa the Little Flower, we have the way of the little soul, the weak and innocent one who relies only on the love and strength of Abba; she tells our Savior:  “If by an impossibility You could find a soul weaker than mine, You would fill it with even greater graces…(22).

The Society of the Little Flower warns us not to misinterpret this spirituality:  “The ‘little way’ associated with St Therese of Lisieux can readily be misunderstood. In her writings, focus on the child does not promote childishness, passivity, immaturity, nor a romantic sphere of eternal play. Rather, it points toward a theocentric [God-centered] view of grace….A child develops best in an environment of trust, love, forgiveness, generosity. St. Therese’s personal experience led her to recognize that God was at the centre of her existence as Love. In view of the immensity of the world and the complexities of life she saw herself as ‘a child,’ ‘a grain of sand,’ ‘little’ but energized by a God who directed her journey in faith…. It is called a little way precisely by being simple, direct, yet calling for amazing fortitude and commitment.” (Society of the Little Flower)

We should not think “childish” but childlike—the essence of which is complete trust.  Jesus Himself said that unless we turn and become as little children we shall not enter the Kingdom of Heaven (Mt. 18:2-4). Complete trust demands amazing courage and full abandonment—easy to describe, but difficult to do.

In #381 of the Diary of St. Faustina, Jesus tells her:  “ ….. Yes, when you are obedient I take away your weakness and replace it with My strength. I am very surprised that souls do not want to make that exchange with Me.”  St. Faustina reveals that she understands the essence of the little way when she writes in her Diary:  “My sacrifice is nothing in itself, but when I join it to the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, it becomes all-powerful and has the power to appease divine wrath” (Diary 482).  Jesus also tells her how much distrust wounds His Heart:  “My Heart is sorrowful, Jesus said, because even chosen souls do not understand the greatness of My mercy. Their relationship [with Me] is, in certain ways, imbued with mistrust. Oh, how much that wounds My Heart!” (Diary 379).

The way of spiritual childhood means that the soul trusts completely in the Love (St. Therese) and Mercy (St. Faustina) of the good God.

To another mystic, a Poor Clare,  Sr. Consolata Betrone (d. 1946) Jesus said:  “… I tell everything to LITTLE SOULS; they deprive Me of nothing; they direct all praise, honour, and glory to Me alone.” Of her Jesus said:  “In the womb of the Church you will be trust… I am very pleased with the blind trust, infantile trust, boundless, immense trust that you have in Me… Never allow, not even for an instant, that the enemy should penetrate your soul with the thought of mistrust, ever! Believe in me as only and always good; believe in me as only and always a mother for you… Consolata, understand my heart… tell the world how good and motherly I am… I am and I love being exclusively good and merciful with my creatures. Don’t paint me as a severe God, if I am a God of love… I shall save the world with merciful Love!”  Her way was “the unceasing act of love ‘Jesus, Mary I love you, save souls!’ that the Redeemer called the very small way of love and trust. It wasn’t meant just for her, but for all little souls, since the Lord wants:the triumph in the world not only of Mercy, but especially of Love, particularly in the very little souls.’”  (Mystics of the Church:  Sister Consolata Betrone)

Very little souls live a simple, direct spirituality.  Our way is the martyrdom of the heart in the little things, the ordinary of lives lived in trust, immolation, and constant love.  If we persevere in BEING WHO WE ARE, we will be the Sword in the hand of Christ to conquer the darkness, overcoming evil with Love.

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