Friday, May 29, 2015

Mary Knows Her Son

Alfred Joyce Kilmer (1886-1918) was an American poet and a convert to the Catholic faith. His life was tragically cut short due to a gunshot in the head, likely from a sniper, during World War I. Among his poems is one titled: “The Robe of Christ” in which he recognizes that our Blessed Lady keeps us from being deceived.
* * * * * *

At the foot of the Cross on Calvary
Three soldiers sat and diced,
And one of them was the Devil
And he won the Robe of Christ.

When the Devil comes in his proper form
To the chamber where I dwell,
I know him and make the Sign of the Cross
Which drives him back to Hell.

And when he comes like a friendly man
And puts his hand in mine,
The fervor in his voice is not
From love or joy or wine.

And when he comes like a woman,
With lovely, smiling eyes,
Black dreams float over his golden head
Like a swarm of carrion flies.

Now many a million tortured souls
In his red halls there be:
Why does he spend his subtle craft
In hunting after me?

Kings, queens and crested warriors
Whose memory rings through time,
These are his prey, and what to him
Is this poor man of rhyme,

That he, with such laborious skill,
Should change from role to role,
Should daily act so many a part
To get my little soul?

Oh, he can be the forest,
And he can be the sun,
Or a buttercup, or an hour of rest
When the weary day is done.

I saw him through a thousand veils,
And has not this sufficed?
Now, must I look on the Devil robed
In the radiant Robe of Christ?

He comes, and his face is sad and mild,
With thorns his head is crowned;
There are great bleeding wounds in his feet,
And in each hand a wound.

How can I tell, who am a fool,
If this be Christ or no?
Those bleeding hands outstretched to me!
Those eyes that love me so!

I see the Robe - I look - I hope -
I fear - but there is one
Who will direct my troubled mind;
Christ's Mother knows her Son.

O Mother of Good Counsel, lend
Intelligence to me!
Encompass me with wisdom,
Thou Tower of Ivory!

"This is the Man of Lies," she says,
"Disguised with fearful art:
He has the wounded hands and feet,
But not the wounded heart."

Beside the Cross on Calvary
She watched them as they diced.
She saw the Devil join the game
And win the Robe of Christ.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

A Life Purely of Faith

What follows is from the Preface of a book written by a Carthusian monk which is out of print. The Preface was written from Saint Hugh’s Charterhouse at Parkminster, in the year 1964, on the feast of the Compassion of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Remaining true to the Carthusian way of anonymity, all the writer of the Preface tells us about the author of the book is that he was a Carthusian monk who spent years ‘in charge of old lay-brothers’. Here’s an excerpt of the Preface.

* * * * * *

There are miracles and miracles, down to this very day; and all answer to real prayer is, after all, a miracle in a sense, since it is none other than the supernatural coming down into this very natural world; a continuation – may we not say – of the Incarnation itself. There is no reason why prayer should be answered, or that the poor anxious souls of this world, involved, whether they will or not, in the battle that is continually going on ‘in high places’, should have their Memorare heard. But when it is heard, and they are comforted and helped on their way, then we term it at least a kind of a miracle, for which we can only very humbly say, Deo gratias!

Let no one think that life in a Charterhouse consists of returning to cell after three hours spent in choir on a cold winter’s night, to find our Lady waiting with the holy Child in her arms. The Carthusian way of life, like life in any monastery – for men or women – is sterner stuff than that! Indeed, as time goes on and the monk begins to feel age creeping on him, it may be that the life becomes purely one of faith, and all thought of miracles in the sense of visions and such like has long since departed from his memory – or his hope! It is doubtful if he would believe them if he saw them: the way of faith is surer.

Yet the writer of these lines has witnessed many near-miracles, shall we say, of an intellectual order, during years spent in charge of old lay-brothers, grown very close to God in the course of their long and faithful service. One instance alone must suffice. An old French lay-brother lay dying. For many a long month he had been able to do nothing but sit immobilized in a chair, saying his Rosary – Rosary after Rosary: he could do no more. On this day, in the event to be his last on earth, normally unable to move, he was seen to sit up, utterly alert. Then he said, speaking to someone he seemed to see at the end of his bed: ‘Qui êtes vous, Madame? . . . Who are you, Madam’? Then he himself was heard to answer: ‘Je suis Marie, ta Mère . . . I am Mary, your Mother’. The words were heard, but nothing was seen. Imagination? Perhaps. But, if so, a very good kind of imagination on the part of a dying man, for which he might well be envied.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

To Love to be Unknown

Today is the liturgical Memorial of Saint Philip Neri. The Venerable John Henry Newman had preached a couple of sermons on this great saint at the Birmingham Oratory. Here’s an excerpt.
* * * * * *
Let us . . . inquire what Saint Philip's times were, and what place he holds in them; what he was raised up to do, how he did it, and how we, my Fathers of the Oratory, may make his work and his way of doing it a pattern for ourselves in this day. His times were such as the Church has never seen before nor since, and such as the world must last long for her to see again; nor peculiar only in themselves, but involving a singular and most severe trial of the faith and love of her children. It was a time of sifting and peril.

[The] Church . . . though full of divine gifts, the Immaculate Spouse, the Oracle of Truth, the Voice of the Holy Ghost, infallible in matters of faith and morals, whether in the chair of her Supreme Pontiff, or in the unity of her Episcopate, nevertheless was at this time so environed, so implicated, with sin and lawlessness, as to appear in the eyes of the world to be what she was not. Never, as then, were her rulers, some in higher, some in lower degree, so near compromising what can never be compromised; never so near denying in private what they taught in public, and undoing by their lives what they professed with their mouths; never were they so mixed up with vanity, so tempted by pride, so haunted by concupiscence; never breathed they so tainted an atmosphere, or were kissed by such traitorous friends, or were subjected to such sights of shame, or were clad in such blood-stained garments, as in the centuries upon and in which Saint Philip came into the world. Alas, for us, my brethren, the scandal of deeds done in Italy then is borne by us in England now.

It was an age . . . when civilization, powerless as yet to redress the grievances of society at large, gave to princes and to nobles as much to possess as before, and less to suffer; increased their pomp, and diminished their duties and their risks; became the cloak of vices which it did not extirpate, made revenge certain by teaching it to be treacherous, and unbelief venerable by proving it to be ancient. Such were the characteristics of Saint Philip's age; and Florence, his birth-place, presented the most complete exhibition of them - and next to Florence, Rome, the city of his adoption.

It is not by powerful declamation, or by railing at authorities, that the foundations are laid of religious works. It is not by sudden popularity, or by strong resolves, and demonstrations, or by romantic incidents, or by immediate successes, that undertakings commence which are to last.

The Lord of grace Himself . . . grew up in silence and obscurity, overlooked by the world; and then He triumphed. He was the grain cast into the earth, which, while a man ‘sleeps and rises, night and day, springs up and grows whilst he knoweth not’. He was the mustard seed, ‘which is the least of all seeds, but, when it is grown up, becometh a tree, and shooteth out great branches, so that the birds of the air dwell under its shadow’. He grew up ‘as a tender plant, and as a root out of a thirsty land’; and ‘His look was, as it were, hidden and despised, wherefore we esteemed Him not’. And, when He began to preach, He did not ‘contend nor cry out, nor break the bruised reed, nor quench the smoking flax’; and thus ‘He sent forth judgment unto victory’. So was it in the beginning, so has it been ever since. After the storm, the earthquake and the fire, the calm, soothing whisper of the fragrant air.

St. Philip was a child of . . . the convent of Saint Mark; here he received his first religious instruction, and in after times he used to say, ‘Whatever there was of good in me, when I was young, I owed it to the Fathers of Saint Mark's, in Florence’.

Reverend Father Philip, an old man of sixty, who, they say, is an oracle, not only in Rome, but in the far-off parts of Italy, and of France and Spain, so that many come to him for counsel; indeed he is another Thomas à Kempis, or Tauler. But it required to live in Rome to understand what his influence really was. Nothing was too high for him, nothing too low. He taught poor begging women to use mental prayer; he took out boys to play; he protected orphans. He was the teacher and director of artisans, mechanics, cashiers in banks, merchants, workers in gold, artists, men of science. He was consulted by monks, canons, lawyers, physicians, courtiers; ladies of the highest rank, convicts going to execution, engaged in their turn his solicitude and prayers. Cardinals hung about his room, and Popes asked for his miraculous aid in disease, and his ministrations in death. It was his mission to save men, not from, but in, the world. To break the haughtiness of rank, and the fastidiousness of fashion, he gave his penitents public mortifications; to draw the young from the theatres, he opened his Oratory of Sacred Music; to rescue the careless from the Carnival and its excesses, he set out in pilgrimage to the Seven Basilicas. For those who loved reading, he substituted, for the works of chivalry or the hurtful novels of the day, the true romance and the celestial poetry of the Lives of the Saints. He set one of his disciples to write history against the heretics of that age; another to treat of the Notes of the Church; a third, to undertake the Martyrs and Christian Antiquities; for, while in the discourses and devotions of the Oratory, he prescribed the simplicity of the primitive monks, he wished his children, individually and in private, to cultivate all their gifts to the full. He, however, was, after all and in all, their true model, the humble priest, shrinking from every kind of dignity, or post, or office, and living the greater part of day and night in prayer, in his room or upon the housetop.

And when he died, a continued stream of people . . . came to see his body, during the two days that it remained in the church, kissing his bier, touching him with their rosaries or their rings, or taking away portions of his hair, or the flowers which were strewed over him; and, among the crowd, persons of every rank and condition were heard lamenting and extolling one who was so lowly, yet so great.

Would that we, his children of this Oratory, were able - I do not say individually, but even collectively, nor in some one generation, but even in that whole period during which it is destined to continue here -- would that we were able to do a work such as his! At least we may take what he was for our pattern, whatever be the standard of our powers and the measure of our success. And certainly it is a consolation that thus much we can say in our own behalf, that we have gone about his work in the way most likely to gain his blessing upon us.

My brethren, I do not feel it to be any want of devotion or reverence towards our dear Father, to speak of him as looking out to be taught, or willing to be governed. It is like his most amiable, natural, and unpretending self. He was ever putting himself in the background, and never thought of taking on himself a rule, or seizing on a position, in the Church, or of founding a religious body. He did not ask to be opposed, to be maligned, to be persecuted, but simply to be overlooked, to be despised. Neglect was the badge which he desired for himself and for his own. He took great pleasure in being undervalued. And hence you know, when he became so famous in his old age, and every one was thinking of him mysteriously, and looking at him with awe, and solemnly repeating Father Philip's words and rehearsing Father Philip's deeds, and bringing strangers to see him, it was the most cruel of penances to him, and he was ever behaving himself ridiculously on purpose, and putting them out, from his intense hatred and impatience of being turned into a show.

We have determined, through God's mercy, not to have the praise or the popularity that the world can give, but, according to our Father's own precept, ‘to love to be unknown’. May this spirit ever rule us more and more!

Monday, May 25, 2015

The Most Holy Trinity - May 31, 2015

Saint Thomas Aquinas concluded [from the original Latin]: “Quod impossibile est per rationem naturalem ad cognitionem Trinitatis divinarum Personarum pervenire” - “It is impossible by natural reason to attain to the knowledge of the Divine Persons of the Trinity” (Summa Theologicæ).  Interesting, though, is that Saint Thomas Aquinas believed that the existence of God can be reasoned.  Arguably the greatest theologian the Church has ever had, Saint Thomas had a most peculiar but incredibly fair way of presenting his arguments: He would state his case, answer all objections and even produce opposing arguments no one ever thought of and respond to those as well. 

As far as the Trinity being “three Persons” Saint Thomas said that this doesn’t mean three separate individuals in the subject of God.  In other words, the Trinity is not as sometimes portrayed in artwork with the Father as the older, white-haired Man with the patriarchal beard, while the Son is the younger, brown-haired Man, and the Holy Spirit is the Dove.  Saint Thomas thinks of the Trinity as relationships within one God.  These relationships within God depict His knowledge of Himself and His Love.  This means that the Paternity of God is God.  God’s superior knowledge of Himself is the Filialness or Son of God and the relationship of Love between God and His Self-knowledge is the Holy Spirit.  The Angelic Doctor explains it this way: “Quicumque enim intelligit, ex hoc ipso quod intelligit, procedit aliquid intra ipsum, quod est conceptio rei intellectæ, ex vi intellectiva proveniens, et ex eius notitia procedens. Quam quidem conceptionem vox significat; et dicitur verbum cordis significatum verbo vocis” - “Whenever we understand, by the very fact of understanding, there proceeds something within us, which is a conception of the object understood, issuing from our intellectual power, and proceeding from our knowledge.  This conception is signified by the spoken word; and it is called the word of the heart signified by the word of the voice” (ibid.). 

Granted, that explanation from the gifted mind of Saint Thomas Aquinas is not an easy read but the truth is that no one possesses the intellectual capacity to fully comprehend and thus define the Most Holy Trinity.  The Trinity is a great, sacred mystery.

First Reading Commentary
Never before the time of this Reading were the signs and wonders of Almighty God ever witnessed by such a multitude of people beginning with their captivity in Egypt.  One can almost interiorly hear how awestruck Moses is in this speech to the people as well as how adamant he is when he says: “You must keep His statutes and commandments that I enjoin on you today . . .” 

“Did a people ever hear the Voice of God speaking from the midst of fire, as you did, and live?”  It was generally thought that if anyone witnessed any outward sign from God, such as an angel or hear God’s Voice in the midst of fire, you would immediately die. 

“The Lord is God in the heavens above and on earth below, and that there is no other.” This verse is saying that God is everywhere, even in places we don’t know exist; and there is no person, place or thing that is more powerful than Him. 

“Long life on the land which the Lord, your God, is giving you forever” in the literal sense is the land that the Lord promised to Israel; but in the prophetic sense it is referring to heaven; and “long life” is translated into eternal life. 

On this coming weekend’s celebration of the Most Holy Trinity we see Father, Son and Holy Spirit prefigured in this Reading.  God is Father by the love and care He gives to His sons and daughters of Israel.  God is Son in the person of Moses who was called upon to be God’s instrument and proclaim the wonders of the Almighty.  God is Spirit in the signs and wonders that are witnessed by the people of Israel.

Second Reading Commentary
We are sons and daughters of God by the grace of adoption; and it is this grace which we have received from the Spirit of God that enables us to call God “Father.”  As children of the Father, we are heirs with the Son; but as heirs with the Son we must act in accordance with the way that the Son has taught us, bearing our sufferings with patience and with the hope and trust that, like the Son, we also shall be glorified. 

Let us not forget the words “Spirit of adoption,” and the love that these words suggest.  If we are adopted, then we are chosen.  We did not choose God but He chose us.  We were sought out by God because He loves us; and how much does He love us?  So much that He would sacrifice His only Son to have us.     

Gospel Commentary
“When they all saw Him, they worshiped, but they doubted.”  There are several possibilities to the meaning of the word “doubted.”  It’s possible that it is referring to those other than the apostles who see Jesus on this mountain in Galilee.  It may also be a statement about the disciples who first doubted, namely Thomas.  It may also be suggesting that the doubt is not in the Resurrection or in the Divinity of Jesus, but is the Person who appeared to them really their Lord and Savior Jesus Christ?

We have those doubts: Does Jesus really hear my prayers?  Is that really Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament?  Are my sins really absolved in Confession by Jesus through a priest?  The list goes on.  There is doubt in this Reading based on what is seen.  How much more can doubt creep into our faith because of what is unseen or invisible?  “I do believe Lord; help my unbelief” (Mark 9:24).    

“All power in heaven and on earth has been given to Me.”  This verse can be confusing for if Jesus is God, how could the power He possesses be given to Him?  Jesus is God and Man and in this verse He is speaking as a Man.  There is also a lesson of humility to be learned here.  We must always remember that all we have or possess is given to us by God.  He trusts us with His goods. 

At this point Jesus has taught His disciples all they need to know for salvation and He has given them the assignment to go and do the same, beginning with baptism “in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit” - the Most Holy Trinity. 

“I am with you always, until the end of the age.”  With all the struggles in this life, these are words of great comfort and they are words that are very real to us, even in times of struggling with our faith. The Holy Spirit is present everywhere in the world; but also, Jesus in the Most Blessed Sacrament waits for us in the Tabernacles of the Catholic Church throughout the world.  Jesus is always with us, but we need to stay familiar with what our faith teaches.  In other words, we need to constantly grow in the spiritual life; for if we make no attempt to grow spiritually, then the burdens of this life will continually rest on our shoulders alone.  Even with Jesus, as with a total stranger, pure desperation excepted, we would not ask Him to help us with our crosses because the relationship isn’t close enough.  That’s just human nature whether we’re dealing with another human being or with the divine.  In all close relationships there is some level of trust, but without a daily conversation with our Lord, there’s little faith, little trust, and really, without growing in the spiritual life, we’re not even sure how to approach Him.

One of the aides of Saint John Paul II walked into a washroom and found the Holy Father kneeling at a sink in prayer.  In the pope’s summer residence someone on staff opened the door of a utility closet and found His Holiness deeply immersed in prayer (Saint John Paul the Great: His Five Loves)  For those, however, who see God as their most important relationship would likely applaud that kind of determination and faith.  Question is: Which of those opinions do we adhere to?

Thursday, May 21, 2015

The Virtue of Obedience

Here is more from the Carthusian Order about our Blessed Mother.

* * * * * *
"Behold the handmaid of the Lord: be it done to me according to thy word" (Luke 1:38).Our Lady’s reply to the angel was more than an obvious response to the message of the heavenly envoy, or merely the expression of a feeling aroused by the archangel’s words. Into this sentence, the mind, the heart and the life of Our Lady flowed, as it were, like a stream. By an obedience that knew no bounds, she yielded herself entirely to her Creator and Lord.

Submitting in everything and with all her heart to the divine good pleasure, Mary could do no less than abandon herself to it with a joyful eagerness, when it was manifested to her through human agencies. She obeyed Saint Joseph; she obeyed the commands of the Synagogue; she obeyed Saint Peter and the Apostles; and above all she obeyed the devout widows who had charge of the virgins in the Temple. Thus did she lay the foundations of the virtue which was to dominate the whole of her life, and so provide the religious of future ages with a model for them to imitate.

Having herself fulfilled the law so perfectly, Mary was able to exhort others to do the same. "Although in our life there are numerous and varied observances, let us hold it as certain, that they will be fruitful for us by virtue of obedience alone" (Statuta Ordinis Cartusiensis, II pars, c.xviii, 31).

Without this virtue we shall never achieve the purpose and end of our vocation, which is union with God. Solitude of place, of mind and of heart are of little value without solitude of soul, which consists in perfect obedience. Let us listen to our Reverend Father Dom Le Masson (50th General of the Carthusian Order from 1675-1703), writing to the nuns of the Order. "Solitude of soul implies the cutting off of every attachment, so that the soul remains voluntarily stripped, not only of its affections, desires and cares, but even of itself. It no longer considers its own consolation, its own profit or happiness, but God alone! It is His glory that is its aim; all else is naught" (Dom Le Masson: Subjects of Meditation, Montreuil-sur Mer, 1890).

Monday, May 18, 2015

Service to Our Queen

A Carthusian monk describes how we should be servants of our Blessed Lady, and the mistakes we make by our indifference. To make his point, the writer shares a couple of stories, first about Martin, the brother of Saint Peter Damian; and then about the Carthusian Prior, Dom Louis Rouvier.
* * * * * * 

With what docility . . . should the irrational world hasten to serve Mary, in doing the will of the Master Who created it for her, and restored it through her? The earth and the heavens, exclaims the royal Prophet, fire and snow, hail and the stormy winds, mountains and hills, the beasts of the field and the birds of the air: all hymn the glory of the Almighty God (cf. Psalm 148)

What is man’s part in this universal hymn? What note do we add to it? Surrounded by creatures that should serve as instruments for Mary’s glory, do we not frequently use them indifferently, without giving a thought to our heavenly Queen, at the risk of provoking their lamentations (cf. Romans 8:22) by turning them away from their true end, which is to give glory to the Incarnate Word and His Blessed Mother? 

And this is not all. Not only do we remain deaf to the voice of creation urging us to gratitude and love, as it did to the ecstatic saint of Assisi, who unlike us heard and understood its language; but how often do we not fling insults in the face of our Queen by rebelling against her claims on us? To obey Mary is to obey God, and to offend her is to be unfaithful to her Son. 

One can understand what led the brother of Saint Peter Damian to act as he did. Martin, for such was his name, had had the misfortune to commit a grave fault. Quickly entering into himself, he prostrated himself before our Lady’s altar, and there, grieving for his sin, he uttered the prayer: "O my Patroness, mirror of chastity, I have sinned against God and against you. Wretched sinner that I am, I have no longer any hope save by becoming your servant; receive me as such." Then, loosening his girdle, he placed it around his neck, as the humble badge of his service. At the same time, he laid upon the altar a sum of money which he vowed to pay every year to his heavenly Mistress. 

Mary, it is true, does not ask any such ransom of us, or necessarily any external marks of our love. Instead, let us offer her our self, our whole way of life, in a generous and unfailing service. This, at least, we can and should do. 

It is related that when Dom Louis Rouvier was installed as Prior of the Charterhouse of Bosserville, his constant desire was to show in some way that he regarded himself in his office simply as our Lady’s vicar, and that he intended to exercise his authority solely in dependence upon her. In the church and refectory, above the prior’s seat, he placed a small statue of our Lady bearing the inscription: Reign over us, O Blessed Virgin, together with your Son. At his instance, also, a picture of our Lady Immaculate was hung on all the cell doors; and at various parts of the monastery he placed prints representing Carthusians at Mary’s feet, offering her the homage of their love. 

We, too, should never forget the tremendous honor God has paid us in allowing us to have His Mother as our Queen, and to be reckoned among her servants.

Pentecost Sunday - May 24, 2015

First Reading Commentary
Shavuot, a Jewish festival mandated by the Law of Moses is the root of the Christian celebration of Pentecost.  Shavuot commemorates the day when on Mount Sinai the Torah was given to the Jewish people.  In Scripture it is called the "festival of weeks" (cf. Exodus 34:22 & Deuteronomy 16:10).  It is also labeled the "feast of the harvest" (cf. Exodus 23:16) and the "day of firstfruits" (cf. Numbers 28:26). 

Pentecost or "Pentekoste," the transliterated word from the Greek, means "the fiftieth" and is linked to Shavuot because Pentecost arrives fifty days after Easter; and Shavuot recalls the Torah being given on Mount Sinai fifty days after Israel's departure from the land of Egypt.  It is actually during Shavuot "when the time for Pentecost was fulfilled". 

Blessed Columba Marmion wrote: "The Holy Spirit appeared under the form of tongues of fire in order to fill the apostles with truth and to prepare them to bear witness to Jesus.  He also came to fill their hearts with love.  He is the Person of Love in the life of God. He is also like a breath, an aspiration of infinite Love, from which we draw the breath of life.  On the day of Pentecost the Divine Spirit communicated such an abundance of life to the whole Church that to symbolize it 'there came a sound from heaven, as of a violent wind coming, and it filled the whole house where they [the apostles] were sitting.'  The Holy Spirit came to remain with the Church forever.  This is the promise of Jesus Himself.  He dwells in the Church permanently and unfailingly, performing in it without ceasing, His action of life-giving and sanctification.  He establishes the Church infallibly in the truth.  It is He Who makes the Church blossom forth with a marvelous supernatural fruitfulness, for He brings to life and full fruition in Virgins, Martyrs, Confessors, those heroic virtues which are one of the marks of true sanctity" (Les Mysteres du Rosaire). 

To expound a little on Blessed Columba's thoughts about the tongues of fire preparing the apostles to bear witness to Jesus, the image of tongues perhaps more specifically points to the power that would be prevalent in the apostles' preaching.  Also coming to mind is a statement made by Saint John the Baptist: "He [Christ] will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire" (Luke 3:16).  Our liturgical text reads that the tongues "parted" which means that before the parting they were together indicating the unity the Holy Spirit would give to the Church; and then by parting intimates the dispersion of the Good News to all nations and peoples.  The universality of the Church is revealed by the many nations and languages present and yet all understanding the proclamations "of the mighty acts of God." 

Acts 1:14 indicates that the Blessed Virgin Mary was present in the Upper Room.  If there was ever a time the ancient world needed a mother's assurance and love, this was it.  Jesus is no longer physically present to the apostles.  It was surely a stressful time; but they were all "persevering with one mind in prayer" (Acts 1:14).  Perhaps it was the Blessed Virgin Mary who opened their hearts to prayer.  She did, after all, exemplify trust in God at the Annunciation: "Behold the handmaid of the Lord, let it be done to me according to your word" (Luke 1:38). 

The Church teaches us where the Upper Room is for each of us in this prayer from the Feast of Our Lady of the Cenacle.  Translated from Latin it reads as: “O God, Who in the solitude of the Cenacle, filled Blessed Mary ever Virgin, Your Mother, with the gifts of the Holy Spirit, united in prayer with Your disciples; grant that we may so love to withdraw into the secret places of the heart, that by praying aright, we may be made worthy to be filled with these graces in abundance.” 

Saint John Paul II shared these words: "In the atmosphere of expectation that prevailed in the Upper Room after the Ascension, what was Mary's position in relation to the descent of the Holy Spirit?  Having already had a unique experience of the effectiveness of such a gift, the Blessed Virgin was in a condition to appreciate it more than anyone; indeed, she owed her Motherhood to the mysterious intervention of the Spirit, Who had made her the way by which the Savior came into the world.  Unlike those in the Upper Room who were waiting in fearful expectation, she, fully aware of the importance of her Son's promise to the disciples, helped the community to be well disposed to the coming of the Paraclete.  Thus, while her unique experience made her ardently long for the Spirit's coming, it also involved her in preparing the minds and hearts of those around her.  It was appropriate that the first outpouring of the Spirit upon her, which had happened in view of her divine Motherhood, should be repeated and reinforced.  Indeed, at the foot of the Cross Mary was entrusted with a new Motherhood, which concerned Jesus' disciples.  It was precisely this mission that demanded a renewed gift of the Spirit. The Blessed Virgin therefore wanted it for the fruitfulness of her spiritual Motherhood.  While at the moment of the Incarnation the Holy Spirit had descended upon her as a person called to take part worthily in the great mystery, everything is now accomplished for the sake of the Church, whose Image, Model and Mother Mary is called to be.  Thus Pentecost is also a fruit of the Blessed Virgin's incessant prayer, which is accepted by the Paraclete with special favor because it is an expression of her Motherly love for the Lord's disciples.  Responding to the prayer of the Blessed Virgin and the community gathered in the Upper Room on the day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit bestows the fullness of His gifts on the Blessed Virgin and those present, working a deep transformation in them for the sake of spreading the Good News.  The Mother of Christ and His disciples are granted new strength and new apostolic energy for the Church's growth" (L'Osservatore Romano, June 4, 1997).

Second Reading Commentary
What Saint Paul is trying to impress upon us is that "different kinds of spiritual gifts" or "different forms of service" or "different workings" should not cause division.  We are a great diversity of people called to unity. 

The physical body and its "many parts" is useful imagery for trying to understand the mystical body.  Saint Paul uses the word "different" three times in this short Reading.  We are all different – in fact, we are all unique.  No two people are exactly the same.  God produces spiritual gifts in each of us and calls us to service for the sake of the entire mystical body. 

Saint Ambrose very directly taught: "Recall then that you have received the spiritual seal, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of right judgment and courage, the spirit of knowledge and reverence, the spirit of holy fear in God's Presence. Guard what you have received. God the Father has marked you with His sign; Christ the Lord has confirmed you and has placed His pledge, the Spirit, in your hearts" (De mysteriis). The need to guard anything suggests that it could escape or be taken away. 

Our Savior tells us that whosoever shall drink of the water which He gives, it shall become a well of water springing up unto everlasting life (cf. John 4:14).  Saint Paul tells us in the Reading that this drink is the Spirit.  Once again, Saint Ambrose continues with that thought and adds: "This well is clearly the grace of the Spirit, a stream proceeding from the living Fount. The Holy Spirit, then, is also the Fount of eternal life" (ibid.).

Gospel Commentary
Our Lord's appearance through locked doors might seem like forced entry and thus incompatible with Love.  But God knows our hearts, therefore, our Savior not only loves with a boundless love all those who are on the other side of the door, but He also knows that they love Him and it is out of fear that the doors are locked. 

In the spiritual life perhaps there are aspects of it in which we have locked the doors of our hearts.  Sacramentally, here are some common things that are said: "I can't go to Confession and tell Father what I have done – what will he think of me?"  Or, "The priest is just a man, what do I need him for?  Can't I just go directly to God?!" 

Back in 1947 there was a rather humorous movie titled: "Life with Father".  The film centers on a turn of the century wealthy family in New York.  The eccentric husband and his wife are the parents of five sons.  It is discovered early on in the film that the father had never been baptized.  From that point on his family keeps gnawing at him to get baptized even though he is dead set against it.  In the end when he finally agrees or actually is kind of tricked into it, as the mother gathers up her five children in order for the family to hop on a horse and carriage and head off to church to get their father baptized, the father asks somewhat angrily, "Must the children witness this indignity?" 

The sacraments were instituted by our Savior; and as far as entertaining thoughts of: "There must be another way," only Jesus knows.  Even the father in the film in his wishful thinking boldly said: "They can't keep me out of heaven on a technicality!"  All we know by means of Scripture and Tradition is how Jesus architected the dispersing of grace and our Lord's specific design for reconciliation is revealed in this Gospel: "Receive the Holy Spirit.  Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained."  When adult baptism is seen as undignified or the many excuses that arise for avoiding Confession, perhaps it is a sign that there are hearts with locked doors.  And it doesn't mean that God is loved less because of our excuses or fears of embarrassment or the fear of emptying ourselves to a priest.  The more attention that one gives to the spiritual life, the more one realizes that we're all in a war zone.  The battle for the human soul is waged all around us nonstop. 

The third chapter of the Book of Genesis tells us that the serpent is the craftiest of all; and original sin has already inflicted us with a disease that is adamant about being in control of everything ourselves.  Knowing that, it's quite convenient for the serpent to bombard us with the thought of: "Did God really say…?" (Genesis 3:1).  Jesus touches us through His Holy Spirit and challenges us to meditate on "His Hands and His Side".  This is Almighty God Who stands before us with these Wounds.  From a human perspective, shouldn't our Lord feel undignified or embarrassed?  A deep absorption into these Wounds, however, will undoubtedly disclose that love is the reason for them – and love conquers all.  In this Gospel the apostles get that.  Don't forget they love Him too as we love Him; and what should have been a room full of uncomfortable looking faces staring at this marred Man, instead there was rejoicing.  Since they love Jesus, if the doors of their hearts locked Him out because of the shame of abandoning Him, Jesus, because there is mutual love, is able by His Divine Power to go through those locked doors. 

In our own fears of embarrassment, shame, mockery or just the struggle to surrender our will to God, all of which can make fulfilling the mission of being sent an obstacle, as long as Jesus is loved, He will in His own time appear through those locked doors.  If we're willing to keep fighting the good fight in this life full of distractions and temptations, the day will come when we will close our eyes to this world and finally gaze upon the Face we have been seeking our whole life and He may say: "Peace be with you."  And then what will follow is an undeniable assurance that this Peace will remain with us uninterrupted for all eternity.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Tender Devotion to Our Lady

The following is an intimate, historical look into the Carthusian Order and their closeness to our Blessed Mother.  It is a Carthusian monk who shares with us such beautiful anecdotes.
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Our beloved founder worked strenuously for the glory of her who had chosen him from his childhood to be her apostle and servant. Together with his tender devotion to Mary, his children have also inherited his gratitude, and this is manifested as effectively as is permitted by their apostolate of the hidden life. Let us see what form this takes in the cloister.

After Saint Bruno, our principal exegetes – Denys the Carthusian, Ludolph of Saxony, Lanspergius among others – have held the dogma of the Immaculate Conception which was later to be proclaimed by the Church. And our historian Tromby (Benedetto Tromby: Storia del Patriarcha S. Brunone) even speaks of a manuscript entitled “Cartusia immaculata. . . the immaculate Charterhouse,” which recounts all that Carthusian authors have written in defense of Mary’s most beautiful privilege. For there has always existed in the Order a special zeal to propagate this doctrine, and His Holiness Saint Pius X, in his encyclical on the occasion of the Jubilee of the proclamation of the dogma, did Denys the Carthusian the great honor of borrowing his very words, in declaring the tradition of the Church on this point.

Our Ephemerides (Le Vasseur: Ephemerides Ordinis Cartusiensis) instance two of our Fathers who frequently declared themselves ready to undergo martyrdom to prove their belief in the grace of preservation from the stain of original sin accorded to the Virgin Mother of God. In the seventeenth century Dom Jean Pégon, whose generalate (Dom Jean Pégon was Prior of the Grande Chartreuse and 49th General of the Order from 1649-1675) had borne such exceptional fruit for the Order, had just received the Last Sacraments. Seeing his community gathered around him, he spoke to them of the principal mysteries of the Faith, especially of the Immaculate Conception, to which he had a particular devotion. And during his last illness, leaning on the arm of one of his monks, he used to kneel before the window of his cell, which opened on the side of the sanctuary of the chapel of Notre Dame de Casalibus, and there he would recommend to the heavenly Protectress of our Order all the needs of his religious family.

In the same century, the Charterhouse of Bosserville near Nancy was dedicated to the Immaculate Conception, and the proclamation of the dogma was solemnly celebrated there in 1854. A very simple but touching act of piety is related in this connection. A lay-brother of the House, Bruno Lhuillier, loved to preserve as long as possible the flowers that had been used for the festival, so dear were they to him because they had served to do honor to his Mother’s triumph.

And what a consolation it is to us, and what a cause for joy, to know that the feast of the Immaculate Conception in our Order dates back as far as the year 1333. It is true that the Statuta Nova of the year 1368 changed the term Conception first adopted to that of "Sanctification," and that the General Chapter of 1406 continued to use this word to avoid all controversy. Nevertheless from 1418 onwards, the term "Conception" once more made its appearance in our liturgy, and was definitely restored in 1470.

If such was the Order’s zeal and fidelity shown in honoring the mystery of the Immaculate Conception, it was no less eager to celebrate that of the Visitation, as soon as the Holy See proposed this feast for the devotion of the faithful. In spite of the difficulties raised in the Church against the celebration of this feast proposed by Urban VI, and finally decreed by Pope Boniface IX, the Carthusians received it at once with holy joy.

The mere site of the titles under which our monasteries have been dedicated or known unfolds to our eyes a whole poem of faith and filial confidence. Out of the 260 or more Houses comprised in Monasticon (Maisons de l’Ordre des Chartreux), more than 120 have the honor of bearing the name of Mary; and under what varied and charming titles! Such are, for instance, the Door, the House, the Castle, the Cloister, the Cell, the Temple, the Court, the Throne, the Burning Bush of Mary. They are her Mountain, her Valley, her Park, her Garden, her Fountain, her Stream, her Gate. Our Lady is represented therein as the Way, the Door, the Peace of Paradise, the Queen of Heaven, the Mother of Mercy, the Court of God the Father, the Altar of Christ, the Lily of the Holy Spirit. None of the mysteries of her life are forgotten. Three Houses are dedicated to her Immaculate Conception; others to her Annunciation, her Visitation, Purification, Compassion, Assumption, Coronation. . . not forgetting the singularly expressive and confiding title of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the Valley of Josaphat.

What more can we say? Out of about four hundred seals of our Houses that have been recovered, two hundred bear some representation, monogram or legend in Mary’s honor. We can count no less than 168 Carthusian writers, who have composed in Mary’s praise some 335 works in different languages, without reckoning numerous reprints and translations.

And how about many touching incidents do we find in the devotion which so many devoted religious of the Order have shown for the Mother of our Savior. In this little work we shall content ourselves with recalling only the following, culled from the lives of three of our Fathers who have been raised to the altar.

What a delicacy of love and respect we see in the last directions given by Saint Hugh of Lincoln, that after his death his body should be washed, in honor of the Church of our Blessed Lady where he was to be buried (Le Vasseur: Ephemerides, Vol. IV).

Saint Stephen, Bishop of Die, formerly Prior of the Charterhouse of Portes, also wished to be laid to rest in the chapel of his cathedral dedicated to the Mother of God. And as he died on 7 September (the year was 1208), many miracles were worked from his tomb from the morrow onwards – the feast of the Nativity of Mary, a feast which he had the happiness of keeping with her, it is hoped, in heaven (Le Vasseur: Ephemerides, Vol. III).

Blessed Nicholas Albergati, Cardinal-Archbishop of Bologna, and formerly a simple monk of the Charterhouse of that city, seeing in 1433 his diocese ravaged by earthquakes and torrential rains, ordered three days of public prayer at the sanctuary of La Guardia, where there was preserved, it is said, the authentic picture of our Lady painted by Saint Luke. The venerated image was carried in procession during these three days to the churches of Bologna, and the scourged ceased (Cavallo: Life of Blessed Nicholas Albergati).

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Aflame with Heavenly Love

A letter dated this day fourteen years ago was sent by Saint John Paul II to the Carthusian Order on the occasion of the ninth centenary of Saint Bruno’s death. Here are the thoughts expressed by the Holy Father for this celebration.
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To the Reverend Father Marcellinus Theeuwes,
Prior of La Grande Chartreuse, General of the Carthusian Order,
and to all the members of the Carthusian family,

At the time when the members of the Carthusian family celebrate the ninth centenary of their Founder's death, I with them give thanks to God who raised up in His Church the eminent and ever topical figure of Saint Bruno. Praying fervently I appreciate your witness of faithfulness to the See of Peter and am happy to join in with the joy of the Carthusian Order which has in this good and incomparable father a master of the spiritual life. On 6 October 1101, Bruno, aflame with divine love left the elusive shadows of this world to join the everlasting goods for ever. The brothers of the hermitage of Santa Maria della Torre in Calabria little knew that this dies natalis inaugurated a singular spiritual venture which even today brings forth abundant fruits for the Church and the world.

Bruno witnessed the cultural and religious upheavals of his time, in a Europe that was taking shape. He was an actor in the reform which the Church faced with internal difficulties wished to fulfill. After having been an appreciated teacher he felt called to consecrate himself to that unique Good which God is. What is there as good as God? Better still, is there another Good than God alone? Really, a holy soul who has any sense of this Good, of its incomparable splendor and beauty, finds himself aflame with heavenly love and exclaims: "I am thirsting for the strong and living God; when shall I go and see the Face of God?" The uncompromising nature of that thirst drove Bruno, a patient listener to the Spirit, to invent with his first companions a style of eremitical life where everything favors one's response to the call from Christ - Who indeed ever chooses men to lead them into solitude and join themselves to Him in intimate love. By this choice of life in the desert, Bruno invites the entire Church community never to lose sight of the highest vocation which is to remain forever with the Lord.

Bruno, when able to forget his own plans to answer the call from the Pope, shows his strong sense of the Church. He is conscious that to follow the path of holiness is unthinkable outside of obedience to the Church: and shows us in that way, that real following of Christ demands putting oneself into His Hands. In abandonment of self he shows us the supreme love. And this attitude of his kept him in a permanent state of joy and praise. His brothers noticed that his face was always radiating joy, his words modest. To a father's vigor he joined the sensitivity of a mother. These exquisite remarks from the obituary scroll show the fruitfulness of a life given to contemplate the Face of Christ as the source of all apostolic fecundity and brotherly love. Would that Saint Bruno's sons and daughters, as did their father, may always keep on contemplating Christ, that they keep watch in this way for the return of their Master ever ready to open when He knocks; this will he a stimulant call for all Christians to stay vigilant in prayer in order to welcome their Lord!

Following upon the great Jubilee of the Incarnation, the celebration of the ninth centenary of Saint Bruno's death acquires by this fact a supplementary emphasis. In the Apostolic Letter Novo millennio ineunte I invite the entire people of God again to take in Christ their point of departure, in order to permit those who thirst for meaningfulness and Truth to hear God's own Heartbeat and that of the Church. Christ's words: "And lo, I am with you always until the end of the world" (Matthew 28:20) call all those who bear the name of disciples to draw from this certitude renewed energies for their Christian existence and inspiring strength for their path. The call to prayer and contemplation, which is the hallmark of Carthusian life, shows particularly that only Christ can bring to the hopes of men a fullness of meaning and joy.

How could one doubt for a second that such expression of pure love gives Carthusian life an extraordinary fecundity, as it were, for the missions? In the retreat of their monasteries, in the solitude of their cells, the Carthusians spin Holy Church's wedding garment ("beautiful as a bride decked out for her bridegroom," 1 Revelation 21:3); every day they offer the world to God and invite all mankind to the wedding of the Lamb. The celebration of the Eucharistic Sacrifice is the source and the summit of life in the desert, modeling into the very being of Christ those who give themselves up to His love. Thus the presence and the activity of Christ in this world become visible, for the salvation of all men and the joy of the Church.

At the heart of the desert, where men are tried and their faith purified, the Father leads them on a path of dispossession which questions all logic of having, being successful and finding fleeting happiness. Guigo the Carthusian would always encourage those desiring to follow Saint Bruno’s ideal to follow the example of the poor man Christ, in order to share in His riches. This dispossession passes through a thorough break with the world, which does not mean contempt for the world but a fresh orientation of one's whole life in a tireless search for the unique Good: "You have seduced me, Lord, and I have let myself be seduced" (Jeremiah 20:7). The Church is fortunate to have at its disposition the Carthusian witness of total alertness to the Spirit and a life entirely surrendered to Christ!

So I invite the members of the Carthusian family to remain, by holiness and simplicity of life, like the city on the mountain or the lamp on the lamp stand (cf. Matthew 5:14-15). Rooted in the Word of God, quenching their thirst with the sacraments of Holy Church, upheld by the prayers of Saint Bruno and their brothers, let them remain for the entire Church and at the heart of the world a sort of place for hope and discovery of the Beatitudes, where Love leaning on prayer - source of communion - is called to become logic of life, and source of joy! The cloistered life as an outward expression of the offering up of one's whole life in union with Christ’s, shows the fleetingness of our existence and teaches us to count only on God. It increases the thirst for graces given in meditation of the Word of God. It also is the place for spiritual communion with God and our brothers and sisters, where the restricted character both of space and of contacts favors an interiorization of Gospel values. The quest for God in contemplation is indeed undissociable from love of our brothers, love that makes us recognize the Face of Christ in the poorest of men. Contemplation of Christ lived in brotherly love remains the safest path of all for a fruitful life. Saint John unceasingly reminds us of it: "Beloved, let us love each other, because love is of God, and whoever loves is born of God and knows God" (1 John 4:7). Saint Bruno understood that well, he who never separated the primacy he gave to God in all his life from the deep humanity he showed his brethren.

The ninth centenary of Saint Bruno's dies natalis gives me the occasion to renew my trust in the Carthusian Order in its mission of selfless contemplation and intercession for the Church and the world. Following Saint Bruno and his successors, the Carthusian monasteries never stop awakening the Church to the eschatological dimension of its mission, calling to mind God's marvelous deeds and being watchful in the expectation of the ultimate accomplishment of the virtue of Hope. Watching tirelessly for the Kingdom to come, seeking to Be rather than to Do, the Carthusian Order gives the Church vigor and courage in its mission to put out in deep waters and permit the Good News of Christ to enkindle all of mankind.

In these days of Carthusian celebration I ardently pray the Lord to make resound in the heart of many young the call to leave everything to follow the poor man Christ, on the demanding but liberating path of the Carthusian vocation. I also invite those in charge of the Carthusian family to respond without timidity to the requests from the young Churches to found monasteries on their territories.

In this spirit the discernment and formation of the candidates presenting themselves necessitates renewed attention from the novice masters. Indeed today's culture marked by strong hedonistic currents, by the wish for possessions and a certain wrong conception of freedom, does not make it easy for the young to express their generosity when they want to consecrate their lives to Christ, to follow Him on the path of self-offering love, of concrete and generous service. The complexity of each one's itinerary, their psychological fragility, the difficulties to live faithfully over the years, all this suggests that nothing must be neglected to give those who ask for admission to the Carthusian "desert" a formation spanning all the dimensions of the human person. What is more, particular attention must be given to the choice of educators able to accompany candidates on the paths of interior liberation and docility to the Holy Spirit. Finally, aware that life together as brothers is a fundamental element of the itinerary of consecrated persons, communities must be invited to live unreservedly their mutual love, and develop a spiritual climate and lifestyle in conformity with your Order's charisma.

Dear sons and daughters of Saint Bruno, as I reminded you at the end of my post-synodal apostolic exhortation Vita consecrata you should not only reminisce and tell a glorious past history, but make a grand history! Look towards the future, where the Spirit is sending you to do with you still great things. At the heart of the world you make the Church attentive to the voice of the Bridegroom whispering in her heart: "Courage! I have defeated the world" (John 16:33)I encourage you never to give up the intuitions of your Founder, even if the impoverishment of your communities, the drop in vocations and the incomprehension, which your chosen radical lifestyle provokes, might make you doubt the fecundity of your Order and your mission whose fruits in a hidden way belong to God!

It is up to you, dear sons and daughters of the Charterhouse, heirs to Saint Bruno's charisma, to maintain in all its authenticity and depth the specific spiritual path, which he traced for you by his words and example. Your pithy knowledge of God, matured in prayer and meditation of His word, calls the people of God to look further, to the very horizons of a renewed humankind inquest of fullness of meaning and unity. Your poverty, offered for the glory of God and the salvation of the world, is an eloquent contestation of the logic of profit and efficiency, which often closes the hearts of men and nations to the real need of their brothers. Your hidden life with Christ, as the Cross silently planted in the heart of redeemed mankind, remains in fact for the Church and for the world the eloquent sign and the permanent reminder that anybody, yesterday as today, can let himself be taken by Him Who is only Love.

Entrusting all the members of the Carthusian family to the intercession of the Virgin Mary, Mater singularis Cartusiensiumstar of the evangelization of the third millennium, I give them all an affectionate apostolic blessing, which I extend to all the benefactors of the Order.
Ioannes Paulus II, 14 Maius Anno Domini 2001

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

The Chosen Myrrh

This Carthusian monk's reflection from Le Mois de Marie Cartusien on the chosen myrrh, who is our Blessed Mother, was clearly, according to the way it was written, never intended to scale the walls of Carthusian monasteries and reach the outside world. He offers some thoughts on living the Carthusian life, and on a couple of occasions refers to their Rule, thus giving readers outside of the Order some insight into their charism. We also get to meet in this writing a Carthusian nun, Mother Anne Griffon, who one would deduce from what is shared here, was a mystic and a visionary. You’ll see the Latin words, “Fluminis impetus lætificat civitatem Dei,” which is from the Latin Vulgate and more specifically, Psalm 45, verse 5, which translates as: “The stream of the river makes glad the city of God.” This is a splendid reflection on our Lady. The picture used for this post depicts the Presentation of Mary in the Temple. Happy Feast of Our Lady of Fatima!
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One of the principal aims of our Order is to form followers of our crucified Lord, who will carry the cross after Him, in order to fill up, as Saint Paul says, for themselves and for the Church, what is wanting of the sufferings of Christ 
(cf. Colossians 1:24). In our Constitutions all has been ordained to the end that the cross destined for the sons of Saint Bruno should be borne by them in a perfect manner, and with unflinching constancy. “The man who gives himself to prayer,” says Saint Teresa, “offers himself to our Lord to carry His cross.” She who entered most deeply in union with Him has become the Queen of martyrs. Thus the Church places on Mary’s lips the inspired words: I yielded a sweet odor like the choicest myrrh (cf. Ecclesiasticus 24:20). May our souls, too, and our whole lives be impregnated with this divine fragrance emanating from the Wounds of our crucified Savior.

The cross of the Carthusian serves a double purpose, according as it affects the soul or the body. It is in other words spiritual or material, and is called humility or austerity. Let us see how, following in Mary’s steps, we can offer to our Savior this double martyrdom imposed by our Rule.

Mary’s humility has only been surpassed by that of the Heart of Jesus. No saint can compare with our heavenly Mother in this fundamental virtue. Singularly favored, as she was, by heaven, Mary looked on herself as a mere nothing. “Take it for certain,” she said to Saint Elizabeth of Hungary, “that in the Temple I regarded myself as the lowest of all creatures, and as unworthy as you yourself to be the Mother of the Redeemer.” This humility was the heavenly spikenard which ravished the Most High, and drew the Word of God into the womb of Mary. At the very moment when she was humbling herself in her prayer, not daring to aspire even to the favor of serving the privileged creature who was to give birth to the Savior, the archangel Gabriel came to propose to her that she herself should be the Mother of the Redeemer.

One of our nuns, Mother Anne Griffon, the venerable Prioress of Gosnay in Artois, had wonderful lights on the abyss of humility which caused the graces of the Most High to flow so abundantly into the soul of the Immaculate Virgin. Through these revelations, we may learn to preserve deep in our hearts the knowledge of our own insufficiency in this respect.

On the feast of Saint Anne, as during the Mass the nuns were singing the Responsory, Fluminis impetus lætificat civitatem Dei, the venerable Mother saw Saint Anne under the figure of the city of God, thus depicted because she bore in her womb the Tabernacle of God (cf. Psalm 131:5). God dwelt in Mary by sanctifying grace from the moment of her conception. The stream of the river represented the torrent of graces drawn down upon the mother and the daughter by their mutual humility.

On the feast of the Nativity of Our Lady, the venerable Mother saw in contemplation the Blessed Trinity and all the heavenly court rejoicing in the birth of this unique creature, sanctified and full of grace from the first moment of her existence, and immediately endowed with the use of reason, so that she might be aware that she owed all these graces to her Creator.

On other occasions, our Lady appeared to the venerable Mother as when, after her Presentation in the Temple, she humbled herself more profoundly before the adorable Trinity than ever angels or saints have done or will do. And again, in the mystery of the Purification, seeking how to humble herself, as did her Son when He emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant, made in the likeness of men (Philippians 2:7). Again, co-operating in the Redemption at the foot of the Cross, as she suffered for us to an extent equaled by no other creature; at her death, so transformed in God that she seemed to be identified with Him, yet stripping herself of all this glory in order to attribute it all to its divine Author; crowned in heaven with such splendor that we would be tempted to adore her, were we not conscious of the Majesty of the Son. Again, so great that God alone comprehends her, yet ceaselessly offering to Him all she has received from Him, interceding with the divine Goodness that He might bestow on all the elect a share in her glory as the Mother of Jesus and thus the Mother of men – a Mother whom we must imitate by profoundly humbling ourselves, as she did, in the presence of the Divine Majesty, esteeming ourselves as nothing.

We must love, then, humility in all its forms, if we would be true religious, and be content with the hidden life which shelters us from the vanities of this world, and with the lowly position we occupy in the House of God. Let us find pleasure in the apparently humble and commonplace actions which fill our days. Mary herself avowed to a holy religious that she experienced great joy in seeing him every Saturday sweeping the convent cloister for love of her. We should also accept with a fervent heart the practices of respect and humility imposed on us by our Rule, whether it be towards the Fathers of the cloister or to our superiors (Statuta Ordinis Cartusiensis, II Pars, ch. XVIII, I); we should lose none of these opportunities to practice virtue. Above all, we should fulfill with exact fidelity the act of humility prescribed to us when we are admonished for some fault (ibid., ch. XVIII, 20).

We have already treated of austerity, the second form of our Carthusian cross, when meditating on the vow of poverty; we need not, therefore, repeat it here. Let it suffice to recall that according to the testimony of the Sacred Scriptures, wisdom is seldom found in those who live in luxury (cf. Job 28:13), and it hardly becomes the members of a thorn-crowned Head to garland themselves with roses.

It is for us, then, to practice renunciation or self-denial, and to use the sword of immolation whenever grace inspires us to do so. In the matter of the mind, our Lady would have us renounce our ideas, our opinions, our plans, our own judgment; in that of the heart, our desires, our affections, our tastes and our repugnances. As for the senses, we must renounce our ease, all forms of self-gratification and satisfaction; and in the matter of the will, all over-eagerness and our natural vivacity. Such, and no less, is the extent of the renunciation we are called upon to practice.