Month: June 2017

THE RED LIGHT DEVOTION: MAKING THE MOST OF YOUR RED LIGHTS!

THE PROPHETIC MISSION OF BLESSED MARIA OF THE DIVINE HEART

(Painting representing the vision received by Blessed Mary of the Divine Heart. Jesus had revealed to her: “By the brightness of this light, peoples and nations will be illumined, and they will be warmed by its ardor.”)

“I could never separate the devotion to the Heart of Jesus from the devotion to the Blessed Sacrament, and I will never be able to explain how and how much the Sacred Heart of Jesus deigned to favor me in the Blessed Sacrament of the Eucharist” (Blessed Maria of the Divine Heart).

CONSECRATING THE WORLD TO THE SACRED HEART OF JESUS

This short outline of the life of  Blessed Maria (or Mary) of the Divine Heart is derived from and based on Ann Ball’s short biography of her in Modern Saints (TAN), and also from the Wikipedia article on Blessed Maria. This saint (she is beatified) shows us how much Jesus desires consecration to His Sacred Heart. The story which follows is a powerful incentive to consecrate yourself and your family to the Sacred Heart of Jesus Christ.

A short portrait of Blessed Maria of the Divine Heart:

1. Blessed Maria Droste Zu Vischering, 1863-1899, was a Catholic nun known as “Maria of the Divine Heart.”

2. She was born to a wealthy family in Germany, and upon attending boarding school at the Sisters of the Sacred Heart (at age 15), she began to understand “that the love of the Sacred Heart without a spirit of sacrifice is but empty illusion.”

3. According to Wikipedia, “While at school, she contracted pneumonia and shortly before her eighteenth birthday, returned home to recover. In 1883, at the chapel of the Castle of Darfeld, Maria is said to have had an interior locution of Jesus Christ who said her: ‘Thou shalt be the wife of My Heart’. On 5 August of that same year, on the Silver Jubilee of her parents’ marriage, Maria told them of her desire to become a religious.”

4. Maria joined the Sisters of Charity of the Good Shepherd and made her final vows on January 29, 1891 at age 27. She received the name Maria of the Divine Heart.

5. She had considerable success as a youth worker with young girls, and “attributed all her success in her apostolate to the Heart of our Lord.”She stated: “Only the Heart of Jesus is responsible for the success I always had with the girls….When you are appealing to His Divine Heart for a soul, He will never refuse you, although sometimes He demands much prayer, sacrifice and suffering.”

6. In her mystical life, while Superior of the Convent of the Good Shepherd in Oporto , Portugal , Jesus told her of His wish to consecrate the entire world to His Sacred Heart, and directed her to make this wish known to Pope Leo XIII.

7. Sister Maria “had predicted that she would die as soon as the consecration was accomplished.”

8. According to Wikipedia:

“On June 10, 1898, her superior at the Good Shepherd monastery wrote to Pope Leo XIII stating that Sister Mary had received a message from Christ, requesting the pope to consecrate the entire world to the Sared Heart. The pope initially did not believe her and took no action. However, on January 6, 1899 she wrote another letter, asking that in addition to the consecration, the first Fridays of the month be observed in honor of the Sacred Heart. In the letter she also referred to the recent illness of the pope and stated that Christ had assured her that Pope Leo XIII would live until he had performed the consecration to the Sacred Heart. Theologian Laurent Volken states that this had an emotional impact on Leo XIII, despite the theological issues concerning the consecration of non-Christians.

Pope Leo XIII commissioned an inquiry on the basis of her revelation and Church tradition. In his 1899 encyclical letter Annum Sacrum, Leo XIII decreed that the consecration of the entire human race to the Sacred Heart of Jesus should take place on June 11, 1899. In the same encyclical, Pope Leo XIII referred to the illness about which Sister Mary had written, stating: ‘There is one further reason that urges us to realize our design; We do not want it to pass by unnoticed. It is personal in nature but just as important: God the author of all Good has saved us by healing us recently from a dangerous disease’.”

Pope Leo XIII also composed the Prayer of Consecration to the Sacred Heat, and included it in Annum Sacrum. Pope Pius X later decreed that this consecration of the human race, performed by Pope Leo XIII, be renewed each year.”

9. “On June 8, 1899 , two copies of the encyclical were personally delivered to her [Sister Maria], and at 3:05 pm [on the Feast of the Sacred Heart, according to Wikipedia, although not confirmed by Ann Ball] she quietly gave her soul to God.”

10. “On June 11, 1899, Pope Leo XIII consecrated the entire human race to the Heart of Jesus.”

11. “Pope Leo XIII called  this consecration ‘the greatest act of my pontificate’. “

12. Sister Maria was declared Venerable in 1964, and was beatified by Pope Paul VI in 1975.

13. Blessed Maria of the Divine Heart, intercede for and share with us your great love for the Sacred Heart of Jesus Christ.

Tom Mulcahy, M.A.

P.S. According to Wikipedia, “Blessed Mary of the Divine Heart’s incorrupt body is exposed for public veneration in the Church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, in Ermesinde, in northern Portugal.”

Image: Image and caption at Wikipedia (Public Domain, U.S.A.)

Book Recommendation: The Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus: How to Practice the Sacred Heart Devotion by Rev, John Croiset (TAN Books).

Links: 

Sacred Heart Enthronement – Jesus at Center of your Life‎

Men Of The Sacred Hearts: Home Enthronement To The Sacred Heart .

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MAKE NO PROVISION FOR THE FLESH

 

DARN IT! I COULD HAVE SANCTIFIED THAT PASSING MOMENT

 “For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.” (Phil. 2:13)

 
From the perspective of a healthy diet, we might after drinking a Coke regret the fact that we didn’t opt for a V-8. And with respect to the spiritual life, we might react to a failure in virtue by regretting that we failed to grow in holiness by sanctifying that passing moment. It is important to remember that God is always sending us real and actual graces to sanctify the present moment! That’s encouraging! These actual graces direct our will and actions towards the good ( see Phil. 2:13 quoted above). When an inordinate anger rises up within us, God gives us ever present graces to let meekness descend into our hearts. A moment of anger is thus transformed into a moment of virtue and merit (that’s holiness!).
 
In a great spiritual book Manual for Interior Souls, a highly acclaimed spiritual writer, Father Grou, states a principle well worth remembering. He says:
 
“Great occasions of heroic virtue are rarely presented to us. But little things are offered to us every day….     A soul which is faithful to its resolution of pleasing God in the smallest things will most assuredly gain the Heart of God; that it will draw to  itself all His tenderness, all His favors, all His graces; that by such a practice it will amass every moment inconceivable treasures of merit….” 
 
The great Father Lallemant adds in The Spiritual Doctrine:
 
“The smallest measure of holiness, the least action that increases holiness, is to be preferred before scepters and crowns. Whence it follows, that by losing everyday opportunities of doing so many supernatural actions [i.e., little sacrificial acts done out of love for God] , we incur losses of happiness inconceivable in extent and all but irreparable.” P.197
 
OUR SURE PATH TO HOLINESS IS DOING EVERY LITTLE ACT, EVERY LITTLE SACRIFICE, FOR THE LOVE AND THE GLORY OF GOD. Each time our motive is supernatural in this regard we amass amazing treasures of merit (that is, an increase in sanctifying grace). The more we sanctify the present moment, the more we grow in virtue. The more we grow in virtue, the more we grow in holiness. The more we grow in holiness, the closer we draw to God. Think of the amazing merits St. Therese accumulated using this “little way”! Every moment is an opportunity for growth in holiness through love of God! It is the purity of intention that counts. “All for Jesus.”
 
These are two great Jesuit and French spiritual writers – Fathers Grou and Lallemant! Saint Therese was French too (although a Carmelite)!
 
Tom Mulcahy, M.A.
 

P.S. Now to purify your mind simply get rid of all useless thoughts. Discipline the mind only to dwell on God-centered thoughts. The mind is the switchboard for everything. Train your mind to think kind thoughts, reversing any learned process to think unkind thoughts. This is all about watching over your interior life and practicing purity of heart. Junk out; God in.

Photo: Bridget Mulcahy.

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THE DEEPLY PROFOUND MEANING OF “OUR FATHER WHO ART IN HEAVEN”

(The Lord’s Prayer by James Tissot, Public Domain, U.S.A.)     

                        “[T]he Kingdom of God is within you” (Luke 17:21)

God in near – “nearer to us than we are to ourselves.” Perhaps we might even say that God is too close for comfort. But when we pray the first line of the Our Father (“Our Father who art in Heaven”), we are reminding ourselves (in a truly poignant moment of adoration)  that God dwells within our souls. This is a point of great significance. It helps to bring alive the Our Father prayer.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) states in paragraph 2794 that “Our Father who art in heaven is rightly understood to mean that God is in the hearts of the just, as in his holy temple.” Again, these are truly profound words; they help to awaken in our hearts a poignant realization that through sanctifying grace God indwells our souls. Here is the full and very striking text of CCC 2749:

“Who Art in Heaven” This biblical expression does not mean a place (“space”), but a way of being: it does not mean that God is distant, but majestic. Our Father is not “elsewhere”: he transcends every- thing we can conceive of his holiness. It is precisely because he is thrice-holy that he is so close to the humble and contrite heart.

“Our Father who art in Heaven” is rightly understood to mean that God is in the hearts of the just, as in his holy temple. At the same time, it means that those who pray should desire the one they invoke to dwell in them” (quoting Saint Augustine) 

“Heaven could also be those who bear the image of the  heavenly world , and in whom God dwells and tarries” (quoting Saint Cyril of Jerusalem).

My dear friend, we begin the practice of contemplative prayer (active contemplation) precisely when we begin to “lovingly contemplate” the presence of God within us. It is the deep recollection of God’s interior presence which helps greatly to mold saints! What a striking invitation the Our Father prayer gives us to spend some time in silence deeply recollecting the interior presence of God. Vocal prayer is tremendously important; and so too is meditative prayer, especially on the mysteries of our Lord’s life, but contemplative prayer (which seeks interior union with God) is the pathway of great holiness.

The CCC has an entire section on contemplative prayer, beginning at 2709 through 2719. But as a practical matter, you can begin a simple form of contemplative prayer merely by recollecting the interior presence of God within your soul whenever you say, “Our Father Who Art in Heaven.” In fact, I remember Father Garrigou-LaGrange recommending that we sometimes pray the “Our Father” very slowly.

The “method” employed here can be quite quick and simple: in a moment, in a flash, you gaze inwardly at God’s presence within you as you say, “Our Father who Art in Heaven.” This isn’t hard, but rest assured it is very beneficial! I do hope that this note “ups” your appreciation of the first line of the Our Father, and thus your personal love of God. Saint Paul and Saint John were no doubt great contemplatives, and so too Saint Teresa of Avila and Saint John of the Cross, but the Virgin Mary was the greatest of all contemplatives (a point made by Father Garrigou-LaGrange). Mary’s awareness of God’s presence within her compels her to acknowledge: – “My soul doth magnify the Lord” (Luke 1:46).

The “Our Father” prayer means that God the Father is very close to you. Very close!

Tom Mulcahy, M.A.

Book recommendation:  Christian Contemplation and Perfection by Father Garrigou-LaGrange (TAN). If you have the time to read over Romans 8, one of the most important chapters in the Bible, you can see how many times Saint Paul refers to the interior presence of the Holy Spirit.

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IT IS THROUGH THE HOLY SPIRIT THAT GOD EXISTS IN THE MODE OF GIFT

 

“And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spiritwhom he has given us” (Romans 5:5)

“If you  knew the gift of God and who is asking you for a drink, you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.” (John 4:10)

Saint Pope John Paul II‘s encyclical on the Holy SpiritDominum et Vivificantem, contains wonderful insights into the nature and mission of the Holy Spirit. In this short note, I will discuss the concept or revelation of the Holy Spirit as “Person-Gift” as developed by John Paul II in the encyclical.

You get married. What an incredible gift you have been given by God: the gift of another person. Truly, excepting God and grace, it is hard to fathom a greater gift than this – your spouse. Marital love then blossoms into the gift of another person: a child destined to praise God for all eternity! These are amazing gifts. These are persons made in the image and likeness of God.

 In Dominum et Vivificantem Pope John Paul II points out that in the Old Testament “the personality of the Holy Spirit is completely hidden” (17). But in the New Testament the “Holy Spirit is revealed in a new and fuller way,” not only as a gift from Jesus but as a “Person-Gift” (22). Just as Jesus Christ in His Incarnation is a Person-gift from the Father, so too is the Holy Spirit a Person-gift from God the Father and Jesus. This giving of the Holy Spirit as a gift to us is truly the greatest of all possible gifts, for the Holy Spirit is the “personal love” proceeding from the Father and the Son, which John Paul II calls “uncreated Love-Gift.” It is “through the Holy Spirit [that] God exists in a mode of gift” (10).The Holy Spirit is “Person-Love” and “Person-Gift” (10).

In light of the above insights of Pope John Paul II, we can begin to understand why Jesus was so anxious to leave the apostles and return to the Father (“If I go, I will send him [the Holy Spirit] to you,” John 16:7): Jesus wanted the apostles – and us – to receive the ultimate gift of His love – the “Person-Gift” and the “Person-Love” of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is “the Lord and giver of life”; he is the “Infinite Spirit” of love and the “inexhaustible source” of eternal life. Our Lord’s death, Resurrection and Ascension therefore converge to bring forth a most incredible gift: “The Holy Spirit as a Person who is the gift” (23).

The “eternal love” of the Father and the Son is a Person-Gift: this Person-Gift is the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the final gift, the gift of God’s own life within us, justifying us, sanctifying us, filling our hearts with love, a love “welling up to eternal life” (John 4:14). And so we say, with renewed fervor, in the words of that ancient hymn of the church, Come Holy Spirit, Creator Blest, and in our souls take up Thy rest.”

Tom Mulcahy, M.A.

P.S. Mary’s life began (as the Immaculate Conception) in profound union with the Holy Spirit, and the angel greets her accordingly as “full of grace.” The progress of the spiritual life is to draw ever closer to the Holy Spirit. It is thus that Saint Louis DeMontfort has such high regard for the prayer,Veni Creator Spiritus. The basic or fundamental truth is that we are made whole, or become our true selves, when united to God. Mary was given this gift of union with God from the very beginning. Mary is our model in the spiritual life.

Image: The Baptism of Christ by Jose Ferraz de Almeida Junior, 1895, Public Domain, U.S.A.

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A SHORT SUMMARY OF THE SPIRITUALITY OF SAINT THERESE OF LISIEUX

“In all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28)

 
Introduction: A short summary like this is by its very nature inadequate and needs to be balanced out and given more depth by the writings of professional theologians who have written books about the life and spirituality of St. Therese of Lisieux. Moreover, the best way to gather in the spirituality of Saint Therese is to read her autobiography, either in its traditional edited version or in its full version. Nevertheless, I hope I capture in this note some of the key elements of St. Therese’s spirituality which, in turn, caused her to become a great saint and Doctor of the Universal Church. We may say therefore, in reference to the above quote, that Saint Therese loved God intensely and therefore fulfilled the purpose in life to which God called her.
 
1. Here is a key quote from St. Therese’s famous autobiography, The Story of a Soul, emphasizing the core of her spirituality, namely, the primacy of love, or of capturing God’s heart through love:
 
“But what I demand is love. I care now about one thing only – to love You, my Jesus! Great deeds are forbidden me, I cannot preach the Gospel nor shed my blood – but what does it matter? My brothers toil instead of me and I, a little child, well, I keep close by the throne of God and I love for those who fight. Love proves itself by deeds, so how am I to show my love? Well, I will scatter flowers, perfuming the Divine throne with their fragrance, and I’ll sweetly sing my hymn of love. Yes, my Beloved, that is how I will spend my short life. The only way I can prove my love is by scattering flowers and these flowers are every little sacrifice, every glance and word, and the doing of the least of actions for love. I wish both to suffer and to find joy through love” (p 156, Image Books edition).
 
What did Saint Therese see with great accuracy (great spiritual insight)? She saw that God has a FATHER’S HEART! And growing up in a very affectionate home she knew that a good Father helps out his little children. And seeing clearly that God is an Infinitely Good Father, she realized that her littleness and weakness would draw down the Father’s help. She realized she could trust God…her Father…because she was a child, a daughter, of the Father!  She saw she could take God by love! (Ref. The Way of Trust and Love: A Retreat Guided by Saint Therese of Lisieux by Father Jacques Phillippe).
 
“The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, ‘Abba, Father’ “ (Romans 8:15 ).  Abba literally means Daddy or Papa. That’s what Therese did with God: she cried “Abba,” or “Papa,” as the adopted daughter of an Infinitely Good Father. So now we see why, despite her weakness and littleness, Therese had such confidence in God. Father Faber says that so much stunted growth in the spiritual life comes from not truly seeing God as our Father. We must get this right: “Abba.”  Saint Therese’s way of spiritual childhood is reflected nicely in this quote from her: “To remain little is to recognize one’s nothingness, to expect everything from God, as a little child expects everything from his father.” 
 

2. She was a cloistered Carmelite nun (Born: 1873 in Alencon, France) who from as early as age three had an intense longing for God (a key element of her spirituality). She grew up in a very loving and Catholic household and her faith development was greatly influenced by her parents and older sisters. The early part of her autobiography recounts her childhood years and the many steps she took to gain early admission to the convent at Carmel at the age of fifteen. She would die nine years later. 

As is not uncommon with the great saints, Therese had a profound devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary (the Carmelites are under the patronage of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel). Therese developed a debilitating nervous condition when her sister, Pauline, left the family home to enter the convent at Carmel (Pauline had become Therese’s “second mother” upon the death of Zelie Martin – Therese’s mother –  in 1877). Therese attributed her sudden cure from this illness to a prayer she made while gazing at a statue of the Virgin Mary – a prayer in which she asked the Virgin to have pity on her. Suddenly, as Therese relates:

“The Blessed Virgin glowed with a beauty beyond anything I had ever seen. Her face was alive with kindness and infinite tenderness, but it was her enchanting smile that really moved me to the depths. My pain vanished and two great tears crept down my cheeks – tears of pure joy” (p.46).
 
Therese was ten years old at the time she was cured by “Our Lady of Victories,” and approximately one year later she made an act of consecration to the Virgin Mary on the day of her First Communion.
 
3. As a Carmelite nun, she was well grounded in Carmelite spirituality (John of the Cross, Teresa of Avila), a spirituality which emphasizes, above all other considerations, the primacy of the love of God. Austerity, detachment, mortification, contemplative and community prayer, trust in God, solitude (Saint Therese was a cloistered nun), and a keen realization that the passing things of this world do not amount to a hill of beans when compared to the glory God has prepared for those who love Him, are key elements of Carmelite spirituality. Well before she entered Carmel to be a contemplative, cloistered nun, at about the time she made her First Holy Communion, she states:
 
“Our friends were too worldly and too clever at mixing the pleasures of the world with the service of God. They scarcely gave a thought to death…. And I knew that all is fleeting that we cherish here under the sun. The only good thing is to love God with all one’s heart and to stay poor in spirit” (49-50).
 
4. Saint There was ardently Eucharistic from a very early age. She relates that she received exceptional graces when she made her first Holy Communion at age eleven. The Saint – describing her first Holy Communion “as a flood of divine joy” –  relates the following in her autobiography, The Story of a Soul:
 
“Oh how sweet the first kiss of Jesus was! It was a kiss of love. I knew that I was loved and I declared: ‘I love you and I give myself to you forever!’  …on that day it was no longer a matter of gazing: it was a union. There were no longer two of us . Therese had disappeared like a drop of water in the depth of the ocean. Only Jesus remained….”  (Image Books, page 52).
 
5. The image of her as a charming French girl who gave her life to God by becoming a nun and offered up little sacrifices on God’s behalf is true and of great importance – and yet her life runs even deeper than that. Her life is the story of a girl and then a young woman who was radically in love with God and who wished to offer herself to God in an exchange of love that took her completely beyond herself and into God (nuptial union).
 
Here are a few examples from Saint Therese’s autobiography which demonstrate her great desire to offer herself to God: 
 
–  she reflects in her autobiography that around age 6 “I loved God intensely,  and very often I  offered Him my heart in words taught me by Mummy” (Image, p.32);
 
–  At age 13 she writes these words of Saint John of the Cross in “fine lettering” : “To suffer and to be despised” (Gaucher, p.11);
 
– At age 14 “while contemplating an image of Christ on the cross, she resolved to ‘remain in spirit at the foot of the cross’ in order to gather the blood that drips from his wounds and give it to souls” (Gaucher, p. 13); and
 
– While a nun at Carmel (around age 22) she makes a profound offering of her life to God as a “victim of love” in a written text available online entitled, “An Act of Oblation to Merciful Love.”
 
6. At a young age she realized that self-love was the greatest obstacle to her sanctity. She learned to check self-love by making acts of self-denial – a practice taught to her by her sisters. Later in her life she stated:
 
“True love grows by sacrifice and the more thoroughly a soul rejects natural satisfaction, the stronger and more detached its tenderness becomes” (132).
 
Renunciation is a foundational element of her spirituality.
 
7. At the time of her First Holy Communion she is given the grace to understand the important role suffering will play in her life:
 
“After Holy Communion…I was seized with a passionate longing to suffer. I felt certain that Jesus had many, many crosses in store for me. My soul was flooded with such consolation that I regarded it as one of the greatest graces of my life. I was drawn to suffering” (53).
 
The value of redemptive suffering is a key component of her life and spirituality.
 
8. Her favorite book, besides the Bible, is The Imitation of Christ, which is, in essence, a practical Christian handbook for overcoming disordered self-love. In Carmelite spirituality self-denial and mortification of the senses and spirit are means of purgation that open up our hearts to the love of God.
 
9. She is very well versed in the Bible, and the following passages from the Old Testament have a tremendous impact on how she views herself:
 
“Whoever is a little one, let him come to me” (Proverbs 9:4)
 
“For to him that is little, mercy will be shown” (Wisdom 6:7)
 
Humility and littleness are foundational to Therese’s spirituality. “Unless you become like a little child you shall not enter the Kingdom of Heaven” (Matt 18: 3). Additionally, she draws great strength from the Bible.
 
10. She had a great yearning in her heart to be a missionary or a martyr for God. A famous picture of Therese in Carmel (her convent at Lisieux) shows her dressing up as the great Saint Joan of Arc. Therese also desired to perform “heroic deeds.” She states: “I want to be a warrior….I should like to die on the battlefield in defense of the Church. I should like to wander through the world , preaching your Name and raising your glorious Cross in pagan lands” (153). Yet she realizes that, given the circumstances of her life, including her ill health, great deeds do not seem to fit within God’s plan for her life. This realization of her “littleness” and “weakness” does not weaken her resolve to love and serve Jesus. From 1 Cor. 13, where St. Paul writes about the primacy of love, she comes to the insight that even small acts done with love are very pleasing to God. She states: “Charity gave me the key to my vocation. My vocation is love! I will be love…. I remember that the smallest act of love is more…than every other work put together….The only way I can prove my love is by scattering flowers and these flowers are every little sacrifice, every glance and word, and the doing of the least of actions for love.”
 
Therese’s “little way” of “making love the mainspring of every action” requires the profound, constant and universal mortification of self-love and self-interest. It is a little way but with huge implications for growth in holiness. The sweet, little way is a death – a death to self. Undergirding Therese’s little way, therefore, is an ardent love of God expressed by a sacrificial life.
 
We affectionately call Saint Therese “The Little Flower”.  And all the saints were aware of their extreme littleness compared to God: humility is the pathway to God. But it would be a mistake not to see in Saint Therese the heart of a lion who went after God with a ferocious appetite. In fact, Saint Therese in her autobiography compares herself to “a weak little bird” who has “the eyes and heart of an eagle” (Manuscript B)
 
11. The real essence of her spirituality is her great confidence and trust (indeed abandonment) in God’s love and mercy. She states: “O Jesus, if only I could tell all little souls of your immeasurable condescension. I feel that if you found a soul feebler than mine…You would delight in heaping even greater favors on it if it abandoned itself with supreme confidence to Your infinite mercy” (159). I feel the following words of St. Therese best summarize her spirituality:
 
“Holiness is not one exercise or another. It consists in a disposition of the heart, which renders us humble and little in the hands of God, conscious of our weakness but confident, even daringly confident, in God’s goodness.”
 
12. Of Therese, Father Christopher O’Donnell says: “When we get beneath the language and culture of Therese, we find that for all her charm, she was almost ruthless in her pursuit of holiness in her complete sacrifice to God’s merciful love.” Thus, our own desire and determination to love and serve God, albeit supported by grace, is crucial if we want to grow in holiness. Our own effort to love and serve God is very important. “Strive for that holiness without which no one can see God” (Hebrews 12:14).
 
13. Therese underscores that we stray from the path of holiness when we take our eyes off of Jesus. This is a fundamental spiritual maxim that St. Teresa of Avila was fond of repeating:”Don’t take your eyes off of Jesus.” Therese states: “I resolved never to let my soul wander from the gaze of Jesus, so it could sail peacefully towards the shores of Heaven” (p.38). Like the apostle Peter, we begin to sink when we take our eyes off of Jesus.
 
14. She underscores the vanity of all earthly things, stating: “the only way to get happiness in this world is to remain in ignorance of all created things….I saw that He alone was unchanging and that He (God) alone could satisfy the immensity of my desires” (p.107). In our present times, we should reflect deeply on how our possessions and “things” impede our love of God. Although some possessions are necessary, we should renounce any attachment to them.
 
15.Therese understands that so many of the activities we do in life are boring and hum-drum. Nevertheless, with each present moment – no matter what we are doing – we have the opportunity to grow in grace and holiness by performing our duties faithfully and for the love of God. The essence of her sanctity, as John Beevers points out, is in the realization that great love, not  great deeds, is what makes us holy. This is Therese’s “little way,” and it involves the recognition that God is present in every moment of our lives no matter how insignificant our lot in life may be. Each present moment is an opportunity to grow in holiness, this especially when we are motivated by the love of God. Some scholars note a similarity here between Therese’s spirituality and Jean Pierre de Caussade’s theology of the “sacrament of the present moment” (Reference: Introduction of Abandonment to Divine Providence, audio Cds, Ignatius Press). Another great French spiritual writer, Father Lallemant, once said: “The smallest measure of holiness, the least action that increases holiness, is to be preferred before scepters and crowns. Whence it follows, that by losing everyday opportunities of doing so many supernatural actions, we incur losses of happiness inconceivable in extent….”
 
16. Despite her littleness, Therese had a prophetic intuition that God was accomplishing great things through her, despite the fact that she would not witness these things in her lifetime (talk about confidence in God!) She states in her autobiography: “I was made to understand the glory I was to win would never be seen during my lifetime – I shall become a saint.” What a prediction! She is no doubt the most popular saint of modern times. Her autobiography, The Story of a Soul, is one of the best selling religious books of all time.
 
17. In the months before her death from tuberculosis at the age of twenty-four, she suffered through a terrible dark night of the soul – battling heroically the temptation that her belief in Heaven was a mere illusion. It was only shortly before her death that this tempest of darkness broke, and there can be no doubt that Therese’s voluntary participation in our Lord’s passion during her dark night of abandonment won countless graces for many souls (and obviously continues to do so). Saint Mother Teresa of Calcutta also underwent a very trying and elongated dark night, so this type of abandonment and experience of desolation is a sign of great sanctity.
 
18. She is a saint of God’s divine mercy. From the opening line of her autobiography she is constantly praising the mercy of God. It is from God’s mercy that she draws her strength and confidence. Because of God’s incredible mercy, Therese is secure in her littleness and imperfections – knowing that God loves her in spite of her flaws and failures. Although she laments often falling asleep during meditation, she nevertheless remains untroubled by her weakness because she knows that God loves her even when she is sleeping! Thus, even when we sin and offend God we should never despair but rather put all our trust and confidence in God’s incredible – unfathomable – mercy!
 
The core of Saint Therese’s message, says Saint John Paul II, is the merciful love of God.  In his Apostolic Letter Proclaiming Saint Therese of Lisieux a Doctor of the Church, Pope John Paul II made the following observation regarding the core of Saint Therese’s message:
 
“The core of her message is actually the mystery itself of God-Love, of the triune God infinitely perfect in himself. If genuine Christian spiritual experience should conform to the revealed truths in which God communicates himself and the mystery of his will (cf. Dei Verbum, 2), it must be said that Therese experienced divine revelation, going so far as to contemplate the fundamental truths of our faith united in the mystery of Trinitarian life. At the summit, as the source and goal, is the merciful love of the three divine Persons, as she expresses it, especially in her “Act of Oblation to Merciful Love.”  At the root, on the subject’s part, is the experience of being the Father’s adoptive children in Jesus; this is the most authentic meaning of spiritual childhood, that is, the experience of divine filiation, under the movement of the Holy Spirit. At the root again, and standing  before us, is our neighbor, others for whose salvation we must collaborate with and in Jesus, with the same merciful love as his.” (no. 8)
 

19. A core feature of Carmelite spirituality is contemplation or contemplative prayer (Saint John of the Cross and Saint Teresa of Avila, both Carmelites, were great mystics and contemplatives). It is sometimes thought that Saint Therese was less graced with the gift of mystical contemplation, but Father Garrigou-LaGrange challenges this notion. He states:

“Truly St. Teresa of Lisieux traced for us the simple road which leads to great heights. In her teaching, as it pleased Pope Pius XI to point out, the gift of wisdom appears in a lofty degree for the direction of souls thirsting for the truth and wishing, above all human conceptions, to live by the word of God….The way of childhood thus understood, especially as we see it toward the end of the life of St. Teresa of the Child Jesus, is very elevated in its simplicity. Its lofty simplicity comes home to us because the saint certainly passed through the night of the spirit (which corresponds to the sixth mansion of St. Teresa of Avila), as may be seen on reading chapter nine of the Histoire d’une ame. It was the reading of this chapter, some thirty years ago, that gave us the idea of explaining the night of the spirit by a profound and intense influence of the gift of understanding, which brings out in powerful relief the formal motive of humility and of each of the three theological virtues. Thereby these infused virtues are purified of all alloy or attachment to secondary and accessory motives on which until then the soul had dwelt excessively” (The Three Ages of the Interior Life, Chapter 41, regarding the way of spiritual childhood).

20. I think one could make a strong case that the Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit were highly operational in Saint Therese’s life, even from an early age: the Gift of Fear in her reverence for God and holiness; the Gift of Piety in her tenderness and affection for God as Father; the Gift of Fortitude in her ability to overcome many difficulties and sufferings in the pursuit of holiness; the Gift of Counsel in her docility to the will of God; the Gift of Knowledge in her grasping the vanity of all earthly things that pass away; the Gift of Understanding in her profound understanding of spiritual truths and her ability to express them in written form; and the Gift of Wisdom in her union with God through love and contemplation . What I have said here is both cursory and inadequate and could be greatly expanded upon by many concrete examples from her life and writings.

22. In 1898,  2000 copies of her autobiography were printed. By 1914, Carmel was receiving 200 letters a day regarding Therese and her “favors”; this number grows to 800 a day by 1923.
 
23. She was beatified in 1923 and canonized by Pius XI in 1925.
 
24. She was declared a Doctor of the Universal Church by Pope John Paul II in 1997. She is the patron saint of missions and the Secondary Patroness of France (behind her hero, Joan of Arc).
 
25. Pray to her, for she promised “to do good from Heaven.” John 15:15 is a summary of her life:
 
“I am the vine; you the branches: he that abideth in me, and I in him, the same beareth  much fruit: for without me you can do nothing.”
 

Thomas L. Mulcahy, M.A.

References: I am relying primarily on St. Therese’s autobiography, The Story of a Soul, including the Introduction by John Beevers in the Image Edition and the Introduction by John Clarke in the ICS Edition; and John Beever’s biography of St. Therese, Storm of Glory; and Ralph Martin’s audio presentation on Saint Therese available at renewalministries.net

Image: Saint Therese at age 13 (Public Domain, U.S.A.)

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SEEING ANEW: A MYSTICAL EXCURSION INTO NATURE

 

“Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:3)

The child easily experiences joy because she enjoys what is simple. We live in a world of the multiplicity of things and images, which causes a certain overload of life to come down upon us and impedes joy. Contact with nature can lead us back to this child-like simplicity and joy, if we learn to see anew.

Father Irala laments that many of us fail to have “clear sensations” of the beauty of the external world. “Only rarely,” he says, “do we come out into the exterior world, beautiful and joyful as it was created by God.” We are preoccupied, worried, and caught up in our own subjective world. Some people even find it difficult to put down their cell phones as they walk along a beautiful nature trail.

The great Jewish philosopher Martin Buber tells this tale: “Rabbi Mendel once boasted to his teacher Rabbi Elimelekh that evenings he saw the angel who rolls away the light before the darkness, and mornings the angel who rolls away the darkness before the light. ‘Yes,’ said Rabbi Elimelekh, ‘in my youth I saw that too. Later on you don’t see these things anymore.’”

Annie Dillard in Pilgrim at Tinker Creek  states that “there is another kind of seeing that involves a letting go.” She says, “When I walk without a camera, my own shutter opens , and the moment’s light prints on my own silver gut. When I see this second way I am above all an unscrupulous observer.” Father Dubay adds: “The personal inability to perceive truth and beauty is related…to a lack of wonder….It is troubling that in a universe replete with mind-boggling fascinations masses of people live dull and drab lives.” 

Dillard relates in her book that “the secret of seeing is…the pearl of great price.” For “the newly sighted,” she says, vision is pure sensation unencumbered by meaning.” Dillard mentions a girl who, born blind, underwent surgery which restored her sight. “When her doctor took her bandages off and led her into the garden, the girl who was no longer blind saw ‘the tree with the lights in it.’” Dillard’s quest was to recover this pure sensation of sight so that she too could see the tree with the lights in it.

We can relearn to receive the true “sensations” of nature’s beauty. Here are instructions given by Father Irala to improve our receptive power in the areas of sight and sound.

Sight: “For your re-education you should apply your sense of sight for about ten or twenty seconds to a landscape, an object, a detail. Keep a tranquil or almost passive attention. Take your time. Consider the object before you and no other. Pay no attention to any other idea. Let the object enter within you as it is in itself, without any special effort. Look at it the way a young child does. [Remain] loose and relaxed.”

Hearing: “Apply your hearing to a near or distant noise. Let yourself be penetrated by the sounds, as above, naturally, without mental discussion of the fact or its cause. Be a mere receiver of sound and perceive it with pleasure and relaxation.”

Dillard learned how to see like the young girl who, through her doctor, received the gift of sight. Dillard relates the following: “One day I was walking along Tinker Creek thinking of nothing at all and I saw the tree with the lights in it. I saw the backyard cedar where the mourning doves roost charged and transfigured, each cell buzzing with flame. I stood on the grass with the lights in it, grass that was wholly fire, utterly focused and utterly dreamed. It was less like seeing than like being for the first time seen, knocked breathless by a powerful glance. The flood of fire abated, but I’m still spending the power.”

The great Catholic philosopher, Jacques Maritain, states: “The part played by the senses in the perception of beauty is even rendered enormous in us, and well nigh-indispensable…only sense knowledge possesses perfectly in man the intuitiveness required for the perception of the beautiful.” “At first,” says Father Irala, “it is not so easy to practice these fully conscious sensations with no attention at all paid to anything else. So, in your first attempts, you might find yourself thinking about the process itself, or the cause, effect, or some circumstances, instead of what you perceive. But in a few days, after a series of good tries, you will succeed in separating the pure sensation from accessory mental processes. And then you will find joy or rest in the sensation itself.”

Commenting on the healing power of nature, Saint Pope John Paul II made the following observation: “The aesthetic value of creation cannot be overlooked. Our very contact with nature has a deep restorative power; contemplation of its magnificence imparts peace and serenity. The Bible speaks again and again of the goodness and beauty of creation, which is called to glorify God.”  (John Paul II, 1990 World Day of Peace Message, no. 14.)

Have you seen the tree with the lights in it? Learning to slow down and gather in the beauty of nature with child-like simplicity will be of immense value to all of us – restorative and even transformative in its scope and power.

Thomas L. Mulcahy, M.A.

Ref. Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard; Achieving Peace of Heart by Father N. Irala; and The Evidential Power of Beauty by Father Thomas Dubay.

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IS ROMANS 8:28 THE MOST ENCOURAGING VERSE IN THE BIBLE?

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)

What I want to stress in this note is the importance of loving God (and what could be more important than that?). There are many tangents in Romans 8:28 – grace, justification, election, predestination, to put a name on them – but we can, in effect, overcome these theological considerations simply by loving God. Not all the Saints were great theologians, but they all loved God quite intensely. We might say, then, that your love of God is a great sign of your calling and election.

The verse – Romans 8:28 –  is quite clear and very powerful: God works for the good of those who love Him. The New Living Translation puts it this way: “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.” What does love do for us? Love unites us to the object we desire. Thus, the love of God unites us to God who is the source of all goodness and every blessing. God calls us to this love, gives us the grace to love Him, and indeed shares His life of love with us through the gift of the Holy Spirit.  “God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us” (Romans 5:5). It is essential, then, that we nurture intimacy and friendship with the Holy Spirit Who is Love!

The key point, then, is that you must love God, and grow more and more in love with Him. You must love Him more than all things, more than yourself, and you must love yourself and your neighbor in Him. When you do this all is tilted towards your good, and the magnetic power and attraction of God’s omnipotent love draws you inevitably – no matter what happens – towards eternal glory. This powerful bond of love between you and God cannot fail. How cannot it not but work good for you because God is drawing you to Himself?

Dear friend, make the love of God a special object of your prayers. You might simply pray: “Oh Holy Spirit, I pray for the grace to fall deeply in love with God. I beg of you the grace to see how great God is, and how infinitely lovable He is. Oh Holy Spirit, help me to grow in the love of God.”

“We should, therefore, deem as nothing all that we give to obtain the priceless treasure of the love of God, of ardent love. He alone gives to the human heart the interior charity that it lacks. During the journey toward eternity, we must never say that we have sufficient love of God. We should make continual progress in love. The traveler (viator) who advances toward God progresses with steps of love, as St. Gregory the Great says, that is, by ever higher acts of love. God desires that we should thus love Him more each day. The song of the journey toward eternity is a hymn of love….” (Father Garrigou-LaGrange).

“IN ALL THINGS” God works for the good of those who love Him in all things. Are we deeply affected by this Gospel mystery? Does it fill our hearts with confidence, and even holy boldness, that if we “keep in His love” all things, everything, happy things and sad things, trial and afflictions, joys and sufferings, they all work for our good. We see this principle operating in the life of Jesus: because he loved God everything in his life worked for the good, so much so that his crucifixion on Calvary obtained an infinite good for humanity. Our love of God, therefore, gives us the certitude that God is secretly – or even explicitly – accomplishing the good he desires in all that we do and suffer. “The apostle [Paul in Romans 8] speaks as one amazed, and swallowed up in admiration, wondering at the height and depth, and length and breadth, of the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge. The more we know of other things, the less we wonder; but the further we are led into gospel mysteries, the more we are affected by them. While God is for us, and we keep in his love, we may with holy boldness defy all the powers of darkness” (Matthew Henry Bible Commentary).

By “all things” I conclude that St. Paul means all things, which would include any present difficulties you are undergoing. If you are loving God, these difficulties are all going to work for your good. A great spiritual writer, Father Grou, states: “Everything that happens here to the servants of God…is arranged by Infinite Love and Wisdom for their eternal happiness…. For, as long as they love God with a real, effective, and practical love, it is impossible for anything in the world to keep them back; on the contrary, everything will help to their advancement….” Every trial, then, is for our advantage! And if we are presently suffering through some trial or persecution, we should ask: “What good is God trying to work in my soul with this trial?”

Is Romans 8:28 the most most encouraging verse in the Bible? If it helps you to understand the crucial and critical importance of loving God during all the joys and adversities of life – well then, it certainly is!

Tom Mulcahy, M.A.

References: My discussion on love is based on and flows from Father Garrigou-LaGrange’s masterpiece, The Three Ages of the Interior Life (see especially Vol. I, Chapter 19). The quote from Father Grou is in Manual For Interior Souls, a book highly recommended.

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THE INWARD GROANINGS OF THE HOLY SPIRIT AND SAINT JOHN PAUL II



“In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express” (Romans 8:26)

Saint Pope John Paul II was once asked the question, “How does the Pope pray?,” to which he answered, “You would have to ask the Holy Spirit! The Pope prays as the Holy Spirit permits him to pray” (Crossing the Threshold of Hope, p.19). I am no expert in mystical prayer, but the Pope’s answer leads me to believe that he had reached a very high level of prayer.

Ralph Martin relates in his book, Hungry for God, that he had the privilege of attending Mass with Pope John Paul II in the Pope’s private chapel. Martin relates what he witnessed when he entered the chapel:

“As we entered the small chapel…the Pope was already there, kneeling in personal prayer, as he usually was before Mass. But this time there was a difference. Audible groans were coming from the Pope as he prayed. And they continued during Mass as the readings were read, as Communion was distributed. And I knew it wasn’t simply that the Pope had physical or spiritual suffering to contend with, although he certainly did, but that we were experiencing that prayer of the Spirit Paul speaks about in Romans 8, where the Spirit helps us pray in groans and sighs too deep for words. Experiencing the Pope’s personal prayer has opened me to more dimensions of the Spirit’s work in my own prayer” (pages 57-58)

The Pope’s incredible intimacy with the Holy Spirit was no doubt the fruit of having yielded his life to God. Pope John Paul II was probably the most extraordinary person of our times. I read in another book that the Pope once told a group of people that he had prayed a daily prayer to the Holy Spirit since he was 12 or 13 years old (The Spirit and the Bride Say, “Come,” p. 7). How important it is, therefore, for us to increase our devotion to the Holy Spirit,  for the Holy Spirit is the “master of the Christian life”. The Holy Spirit fills us with the graces, virtues and charisms we need to imitate Jesus. Oh, Come Holy Spirit, Come! Beseech the Holy Spirit!

It is well known that Saint John Paul II was deeply devoted to the Blessed Virgin Mary. He had entrusted his life to Mary’s maternal care and mentioned at one point during his papacy that his consecration to Mary was a major turning point in his life:

‘The reading of this book (True Devotion to Mary) was a decisive turning-point in my life. I say “turning-point,” but in fact it was a long inner journey. . . . – This ‘perfect devotion’ is indispensable to anyone who means to give himself without reserve to Christ and to the work of redemption.”

One way to draw nearer to the Holy Spirit is through devotion to Mary, the spouse of the Holy Spirit. Saint John Paul II’s life is, no doubt, a testimony to this remarkable phenomenon, and confirms in a dramatic manner what Saint Louis De Montfort had said in True Devotion to Mary:

“The more the Holy Ghost finds Mary , His dear and inseparable spouse, in any soul, the more active and mighty He becomes in producing Jesus Christ in that soul, and that soul in Jesus Christ” (#20).

Tom Mulcahy, M.A.

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