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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“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.”

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

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

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

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Hardness of Heart, Part 2: Faith & Trust

AUDIO (parts 1 & 2)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Hardness of Heart

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AUDIO (parts 1 & 1)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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

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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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“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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“Dark Night according to St. Jane de Chantal” –Flying Duck

Flying-duck-s[GUEST POST]

The Flying Duck takes off again….With much love to YOU from your fair feathered friend:

There is a silent place
Within my soul
Not the hiding place of days of old
But a place so quiet, so set apart
Where Love & Sorrow meet….. & kiss
A painful and yet gentle groan
Only to My Maker known
Like incense rising to His throne
Still utterances arise within
All for Him, Because of Him
Thru Him, With Him, Lost In Him
I follow Him as best I can
He takes me forth , He takes my hand
Those hands pierced through for love of me
and all He calls to “Come & See”
My soul cannot resist His voice
He waits for me to make my choice
I ponder all this filled with wonder
No voice I’ve ever heard more fonder
Than God’s own voice within my soul
He speaks to me in Silence
So loud and clear I”ve learned to hear His Heart Beat in my own
How Beautiful, How Steady
How Reverent , How Holy…
How thankful I am
For this merciful  grace
Only found in this silent place….
candle burning
[ANOTHER WORD FROM The Flying Duck]
IN THE DARK
Have you ever wondered why the Lord
Will draw you close then pull away?
Seemingly distant and withdrawn
I often painfully yearn and pray
Trusting Him beyond my senses
As He purifies my soul
Trusting that He will complete the work He has begun in me…in spite of me
This thought helped open up my mind
to other ways I yearn & pine
For  loved ones who cannot fulfill
The restless longings of my will to be consoled,
be held and told that I am safe and deeply  loved
For they , too, draw close, and then withdraw
And, I , left often in confusion
Remain here still and pray God’s will
Will purge me of all False Illusions-  Romantic Tantrums are Not Love
To forego the consolations
is  like dying to oneself
It feels like death to not feel loved
But faith assures me that I am
Loved beyond my senses,
Beyond my doubts, Beyond my sins ,
Beyond my very deepest sorrows
Surrounding me
Astounding me
Inviting me to love LOVE back
And to take Him forth to others.
I know I’m still quite far away
When for my penance asked to pray
the litany of humility…(many times I may add)
Now that’s a litmus test of LOVE!
Maybe one day I’ll love like that.
Hopefully! For that will be one very glorious day:)
Meanwhile God has me where I’m at – here in the dark (with Him)

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“The Violence of Sorrow” –St. Bernard of Clairvaux

THE VIOLENCE OF SORROW  — 9/1/16

“The violence of sorrow has cut through your heart.”  St. Bernard of Clairvaux.sorrowswtheotokos (460x600)

St. Bernard is, of course, addressing our Mother of Sorrows.  In our PATH TO UNION, p. 141 we read further: “ Thus the violence of sorrow has cut through your heart, and we rightly call you more than martyr, since the effect of compassion in you has gone beyond the endurance of physical suffering.”

Mary was united to the Word of the Cross ever since she carried Him in her womb. Through her ordinary hidden life she lived united as one to Christ; and in this way, she possessed, with her Son, the power of God and the wisdom of God. She lived her daily trials, challenges and sufferings abandoned completely to God.”

Because she was one heart, one mind, one will with her beloved Son, Mary entered the Passion and Crucifixion of Jesus through compassionCompassion means “to suffer with.”  Although through her overwhelming compassion, her heart was pierced with the violence of sorrow, Mary’s compassion is only a small replica of the compassion of Jesus Himself.

How can we begin to understand the violence of sorrow that pierced the Sacred Heart of Christ?  Jesus enters intimately in the suffering of every member of His Body—there is no sorrow so little or so great that He does not feel with us, undertake with us.  As we are pierced, so is His Heart.

The saints of God are filled with compassion—they suffer with Christ and with His Body.  For example, today I read an article by Father Alexander Sherbrooke about St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta—about her premonitions about the deterioration of the Middle East:

“In 1991, Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait and the military action being proposed by the Americans and British seemed inevitable. I spent that winter in Calcutta and can testify to Mother’s absolute preoccupation with the consequences of the proposed Allied military action. She knew it would mean children orphaned, homes destroyed, limbs lost and the poor becoming poorer. I was set the task, as a newly ordained priest, of helping her to write letters to President Bush and Saddam Hussein. For hours we laboured over them, the draft pressed against the tabernacle by her immense hands and the final copy put on the altar. The letters were delivered.

           “In a strange way, I feel I was given an interior vision of Mother’s heart. She understood the immediate urgency of the present situation, but she also had a dreadful fear, and a premonition about how the Middle East was to unravel over the next 25 years and fall into chaos. I would venture that God was crying over our catastrophic manoeuvrings in the Middle East and the mayhem we were to cause.

       “The precious and fragile neighbourly cooperation between Christian, Muslim and Jew – which had somehow allowed those ancient and faith-filled communities to survive – has now disintegrated. The suffering cries of persecuted Christians are like the cries of Rachel’s children. “               [http://www.catholicherald.co.uk/issues/september-2nd-2016/mother-teresas-terrifying-premonition/]

We need to delve more deeply into this Heart so pierced with the violence of sorrow.  Several years ago I was blessed to do precisely that.  As a consequence I wrote SOUL FOOD TALK # 18:  The Sacred Heart of Christ.  I want to share a small excerpt of that talk here [par. 31-35]:

What sends us reeling here is the dimension of pain.  We have all meditated on the Passion of Christ, but we tend to see it as horrible, primarily physical sufferings which He endured 2000 years ago.  We should not forget that the drama of the Redemption is ongoing.  When will it end?  Only the Father knows.  We do know this, the vicious spiritual warfare is even more intense today than it has been throughout the last 2000 years.  Sin is more grievous and torrid than it has ever been. Abortion alone is unspeakable.  And we know this too, the Heart of Christ is living, pulsing in our Tabernacles, contending with the hearts of all the men alive today.  And will be till this whole drama is over once and for all. 

        “9/2/14–  Today the Lord let me enter the sorrow of His Sacred Heart… Then He gave me a vision of what He has held in His Heart since the Incarnation:  the face of every child since the beginning of time, the innocent child of His Heart, every one, till assaulted by personal sin or the assaults of other sinners—what a barrage of pain, His sense of loss and suffering for each little one, for the aborted, for those lost to Satan. Not only is the sinner a victim of his own sin, but his sin victimizes other souls, like a Ponzi scheme, like ripples on a lake which spread indefinitely when a pebble is tossed in….

          “We are constantly praying for souls, intensely, sometimes very emotionally when the objects of our prayer are loved ones, living or deceased; but it is the vision of all these little faces which struck me with such power because for just a short time He made me see all of these souls, every human being who has ever lived or will live, as He sees them.  The innocence and potential purity of each one.  Remember Bishop Martinez’ remark:  “…this love is a singular love, because each soul is for God ‘one beyond compare’…No two loves are the same, for each soul has its own special character…God created each soul precisely that way in order that each soul might love Him with a love which is never duplicated.” [194]

             “For the Heart of Jesus, that little face, “one beyond compare”  is His whole focus, the infinite delight of His Heart or the unmitigated sorrow of His Heart.  It is as though that one little face is the only one that has ever existed or will ever exist and the fullness of His Heart rests on that little one.  Now reflect on all the people who have died.  So many have been lost to perdition.  Can you imagine His grief?  His sorrow both in the Garden of Gethsemane and right now as He looks at our century, our country, our family?

        “Don’t just reflect on the lost souls, but on the barrage of pain inflicted on victim souls, on the abused, for example.  His Heart has felt every pain of every hurt or frightened child—and it is His child’s face that Jesus sees in every confused, broken adult.  The loss of innocence and purity everywhere drowned, killed, mutilated, in the clutches of the evil one. The Sacred Heart of Jesus takes personally every hurt to every child of His Heart.   Can we ever again “pray for souls” without seeing with Him all those innocent faces in harm’s way? “

         One of the central pleas of Love Crucified Covenant Community, a community of victims of love, is this one:  “Suffer all with Me, no longer two but one in my sacrifice of love.”  I pray constantly:  “Let me suffer all with You, no longer two but one in Your sacrifice of love.”  Today I see something new in this prayer.  It no longer applies to me alone suffering with Christ, but to me and to all others who are suffering.  So I pray, “Let me suffer ALL, my suffering and yours,  with you—all my suffering brothers and sisters—for we are the suffering Body of Christ.  One Body, one Heart, one Mind, one Will.  The violence of sorrow pierces all,  All.”

Compassion means to suffer with.  If we, with our weakened wills, our calloused hearts, our innate selfishness, feel pain at the suffering of our brothers and sisters, imagine the violence of sorrow in the sensitive, Sacred Heart for each of His little ones, each little face in the core of His Heart, Mind, and Will.  “Let me suffer all with you…”  Enter the violence of sorrow of His Sacred Heart.  When you see the refugees fleeing Somalia and Syria, the face of the persecuted whose homes and lives are in ashes, the flood victims whose lives are smashed into floating debris,  the shredded lives—open your heart and suffer all—“Let me suffer all with you, all with Your Body, all with You…  Let me be one with Your living Mass, Your sacrifice of love.”  This is what it means to be a victim of love for Christ.

Like Mary, then, “Thus the violence of sorrow has cut through your heart, and we rightly call you more than martyr, since the effect of compassion in you has gone beyond the endurance of physical suffering.”

         ***

A couple of weeks ago, 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.

[AUDIOS –  LOURDES PINTO –Violence of Love, part 1:  http://lovecrucified.com/audio_subsite/violence-of-sorrow-72816.mp3

Violence of Love, part 2:  http://lovecrucified.com/audio_subsite/violence-of-sorrows-part.mp3 ]

AUDIO – FATHER JORDI RIVERO:  “Suffer With”

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