Friday, July 31, 2015

Prayer Simple as Doves

Here's a reflection from a modern day Carthusian writer, Dom Jean-Baptiste Porion.
* * * * * *

God would not be infinite Goodness and Wisdom if, seeking and even demanding our love, He had not at the same time made it possible for us to enter into this intimacy with Himself. The means He has provided, and of which we can be absolutely certain, to enter into immediate contact with Him, are the theological virtues and the gifts which accompany them.

By faith we adhere to the truth of the divine life offered to us. By charity this life becomes ours. By hope we are certain, with the help of grace, to live this life more and more, and finally to possess it forever in eternity.

This is the essence of all true and real prayer. Instead of frittering away our time of prayer on various points; instead of philosophizing about God, multiplying acts of the intellect, of the will and the imagination, in order to conjure up ‘pictures’ of what we are thinking about, how simpler it is to go to God directly in our hearts. Seek Him in simplicity of heart ~ Wisdom 1:1.It is Our Lord Himself Who gives us the invitation. Be simple as doves ~ Saint Matthew 10:16.Man is a complex being, but it would be a pity if he introduced his complications into his relations with God. God, on the contrary, is simplicity itself. The more complicated we are, therefore, the farther we stray from Him; the simpler we are, on the other hand, the closer we come to Him.

We have seen that God, our Father, is present in us. When a child wants to talk to his father he does not make use of a manual of etiquette or a code of manners: he speaks in a simple and unaffected way, without formality; and we must do the same with our heavenly Father. He Himself said: Unless you become as little children, you shall not enter into the Kingdom of heaven ~ Saint Matthew 18:3. A mother never grows tired of hearing her little one say: ‘Mother, I love you’. It is the same with God. The more childlike our prayer, the more it is pleasing to Him. After all it was He Who chose for Himself the name of Father. It is the Holy Spirit Who cries in us: Abba, Pater ~ Galatians 4:6. It is the Holy Spirit also Who places on our lips the inspired words of Scripture and of other liturgical texts.

Our prayer, then, must be quite simple – as simple as possible. All we have to do is to place ourselves on our knees, and with complete sincerity make our acts of faith, hope and love. There is no method of prayer more certain, more elevated, and more salutary than this.

Monday, July 27, 2015

18th Sunday in Ordinary Time - August 2, 2015

First Reading Commentary
As mentioned in last week’s commentary, the First Reading and the Gospel are chosen because of their similar theme.  It also gives us the opportunity to see the symbolism of the First Reading become the reality or fulfillment in the Gospel Reading.  This weekend’s Readings are no exception. 

In this, the First Reading, “the whole Israelite community grumbled against Moses and Aaron” because of their hunger.  God satisfies their desire by raining “down bread from heaven.”  We don’t even need to read today’s Gospel to know that the bread we receive at Mass is not only from God, but also is God. 

The complaints of the Israelite community are very indicative of our human weakness, sinfulness and inability to understand the ways of God.  How often do we complain and long for those things that have only a temporary satisfaction?  In the case of food, that satisfaction lasts only a matter of hours. 

Since the beginning of salvation history to this very day our Lord has listened to many complaints even though He has everything under control.  Nevertheless, He has continued to love us and care for us beyond our understanding.  Jesus tells us in Matthew 6:25-26, “Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink.  Is not life more than food?  Look at the birds in the sky; they do not sow or reap, they gather nothing into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them.  Are not you more important than they?”   It would seem that Jesus wants us to long for the things which offer eternal satisfaction, such as the Bread of Life; while at the same time trusting in the Lord that the needs of this life will be met.  

Second Reading Commentary
“I declare and testify in the Lord that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do.”  In Saint Paul’s day much of the struggle was with the Old Covenant versus the New Covenant; also, loyalty to God versus paganism.  Today, the battle we face is somewhat different but the principles that Paul is teaching still apply. 

Today’s struggle is more about trying to live a holy life in the midst of an onslaught of secularism.  The temptations of this day and age can be overwhelming.  We live in a world that suggests that abortion and euthanasia are okay and adultery is not that big of a deal because so many are committing it.  Immorality has become an accepted way of life in our culture. 

Saint Paul tells us in this Reading that the “truth is in Jesus.”  That was true when Paul declared it and it is still true today.  In baptism we were buried with Christ and raised up to a “new self, created in God’s way in righteousness and holiness of truth” and no matter what society tries to convince us of, we must pursue and continually grow in the holy and never-changing ways of our Lord.  Prayer is a great way to do this.  The more time we spend with our Lord, the less time we have to be a target of secularism; or at least receive the heavenly wisdom to recognize immorality when it tempts.  We should not only pray for our own growth in holiness, but also pray for the conversion of others; and like Saint Paul, be living examples of holiness.    

Gospel Commentary
“Rabbi, when did you get here?”  The crowd is “looking for Jesus” not necessarily because they look at Him and see a Man of great holiness; it’s more because He is able to take care of their temporal needs such as hunger.  But Jesus tells them to “not work for food that perishes but for the Food that endures for eternal life,” and Jesus is this Food.  “For on Him the Father, God, has set His seal.”  The crowd seems to interpret this statement from our Lord to mean that Jesus accomplished miracles in His Father’s Name, therefore the Father shows His approval of Jesus by granting Him these miracles; and perhaps wanting that same power, the crowd immediately asks, “What can we do to accomplish the works of God?”  Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in the One He sent.”  Probably not the answer they were looking for but it is the answer that comes from a loving God Who longs for their salvation. 

“What sign can You do, that we may see and believe in You?”  This is a puzzling question since they have already witnessed His miracles.  It also seems that they are trying to put Jesus on the spot by comparing His merits with that of Moses.  In their eyes, Jesus feeding 5,000 people doesn’t stack up to the 600,000 Israelites that “ate manna in the desert” for forty years.  This begins Jesus’ discourse on the “Bread of Life.”  Jesus is saying that the bread which came through the prayer of Moses is only a figure of Himself; and He is the “true Bread” which came “down from heaven” to give “life to the world.” 

“Sir, give us this Bread always.”  This statement from the crowd leads both Saint Augustine and Saint John Chrysostom to believe that it is at this point that the crowd believes that Jesus is God because they do not implore Jesus to ask His Father for this Bread, but instead they ask Jesus Himself for this Bread. 

Virtually all the Fathers of the Church believe that the crowd did not understand this Bread to be the Eucharist but only bread that comes from Jesus which promises to be far more excellent than the manna that their ancestors ate.  We, of course, know that this Bread is Jesus, and this Bread offers a life of immortality and eternal joy to all who receive this Bread worthily. 

Thursday, July 23, 2015

God's Fire

Here's an interesting piece from the Carthusian, Dom Augustin Guillerand. 
* * * * * *

God is a brazier of love. Prayer brings us near to Him, and in coming near to Him we are caught by His fire. The soul is raised by the action of this fire, which is a kind of spiritual breath that spiritualizes and carries it away. The soul frees itself from all that weighs it down, keeping it attached to this wearisome earth. The Psalmist compares this breath to incense: Let my prayer be directed as incense in Your sight ~ Psalm 140:2. Now incense is a symbol universally known and exceptionally rich. But from all the substances that fire penetrates under the form of flame or heat, there follows a movement by which it spreads, causing it to increase by communicating itself to all that surrounds it.

The movement of the soul that prays has something special about it. It goes out from itself and yet remains in itself. It passes from its natural state to its supernatural state; from itself in itself to itself in God. At first glance, these expressions may seem strange. The mystery is not in the realities but in our understanding of them. Our mind is not used to these realities; we have to become accustomed to them.

Our soul is a dwelling with many apartments. In the first, it is there with the body: that is to say, with all the body's sensitiveness. It sees when the eye sees, hears when the ear hears. It moves with the muscles; it remembers, imagines and appreciates distances, when we take part in all the activities which are the common ground of its action with the body. In the second, the soul is alone and acts alone. The body is there - it is always there - but it no longer acts, it has no part in the soul's action. The soul alone thinks and loves. The body with its senses prepares the matter and elements, the conditions of this spiritual activity, but it has no part in producing it. That room is closed: the soul is there alone, and dwells there alone.

In that spiritual dwelling there is a part still more remote. It is the dwelling-place of Being, Who communicates Himself and makes us to ‘be’. We are so accustomed to live turned outwards; we hardly ever open the door of that chamber, and scarcely give it a glance; many die without ever suspecting its existence. Men ask: Where is God? God is there -- in the depths of their being, and He is there communicating being to them. They are not ‘Him Who is’ and Who gives being to all other things. They receive being; they receive a part of being which does not depend upon themselves. They receive it for a certain time, and under certain forms. And from His ‘beyond’ God gives them existence. They exist only by His power, and are only what He enables them to be. He is at the source of all they do and, no matter how much they may desire to continue those activities, they cannot do so if He is not there. To understand this, we have to think a great deal, and reflection -- perhaps the highest form human act can take -- has given place to exterior action and to local movement, both of which are common to animals and matter.

The soul that prays enters into this upper room. It places itself in the presence of that Being Who gives Himself and enters into communication with Him. To ‘communicate’ means to have something in common, and by this common element to be made one. We touch, we speak, we open out to one another. Without this ‘something’ we remain at a distance; we do not ‘communicate’. God is Love. We enter into communication with Him when we love, and in the measure of our love. The soul that loves and that has been introduced by Love into that dwelling-place where Love abides, can speak to Him. Prayer is that colloquy. God will not resist that love which asks. He has promised to do the will of those who do His will: He will do the will of them that fear Him ~ Psalm 144:19.
It is to love that is due these divine communications which have drawn from those happy recipients the most amazing exclamations. ‘Lord, stay, I beg you, the torrent of Your love: I can bear no more’. The soul, submerged and ravished, has fainted under the weight of these great waters, and has asked to be allowed to take breath for an instant, in order the better to renew its welcome. The anchorite in the desert, when he prayed, had to forbear extending his arms, so as not to be rapt in his prayer. Saint Mary the Egyptian, Saint Francis of Assisi, were raised up from the ground and remained upheld by a power greater than the weight of their body.

Monday, July 20, 2015

17th Sunday in Ordinary Time - July 26, 2015

First Reading Commentary
In the design of the Lectionary, the First Reading and the Gospel are purposely intended to be similar.  For this Sunday, the similarities are obvious as both Readings involve miraculous feedings. 

In this, the First Reading, “a man came from Baal-shalishah,” a city north of Jerusalem; and this man cannot possibly comprehend how “a hundred people” could be fed with such a small amount of food.  “Elisha, the man of God,” speaks the words of God and says, “They shall eat and there shall be some left over.”  And when they had eaten, there was some left over. 

When we read Scripture, very often the passage we are reading reminds us of another passage.  In this Reading, not only does today’s Gospel come to mind but also the words of the angel Gabriel to the Blessed Virgin Mary at the Annunciation, “For nothing will be impossible for God” (Luke 1:37). 

Elisha prefigures Christ, who has no doubts that the crowd of people will be fed.  We, a people of God, are actually well-represented by both men in this Reading.  Each of us probably has our fair share of doubts that Divine Providence will intervene in certain situations, especially in circumstances that look hopeless; but then again we are a people of prayer because we know that indeed with God all things are possible.

Second Reading Commentary
Paul’s plea can be summed up by saying that we should act in accordance with what we believe and live by Christian virtues. 

The word “prisoner” has negative connotations but being “a prisoner for the Lord” is something we should never wish to be freed from; although being “a prisoner for the Lord” is true freedom. 

We’re all in this together because we are one, the Body of Christ, giving praise to “one Lord,” Who is “God and Father of all.”  Since we have this in common, it demands “humility, gentleness, and patience” with each other, “bearing with one another through love.”       

Gospel Commentary
Since “the Jewish feast of Passover was near,” it’s reasonable to assume that the “large crowd” was even larger than what Jesus and the apostles were accustomed to. 

Jesus asks, “Where can we buy enough food for them to eat?”  Both Philip and Andrew contribute answers which do not solve the dilemma as neither can foresee this amount of people being fed. 

Although it can be extremely difficult at times, it is our faith that should lead us more on our journey than our physical sight.  These two apostles, Philip and Andrew, were relying on their physical sight and not their faith, even with Jesus in their midst, knowing what He was capable of doing.  From this we can see how prayer is so necessary in our lives to continually strengthen our faith. 

In Luke 6:21 are the words, “Blessed are you who are now hungry for you will be satisfied.”  In today’s Gospel these words would seem to be fulfilled in a physical sense; but when Jesus became Man to dwell among us, He not only mingled the Divine with humankind but also mingled heaven with earth.  Even though a physical miracle has taken place, the words in Saint Luke’s Gospel seem to suggest some kind of fulfillment in the future.  Perhaps today’s Gospel is not only another wonderful miracle from Jesus, but also a glimpse into the joys of heaven and eternal life whereby we will be abundantly satisfied. 

“When the people saw the sign He had done, they said, ‘This is truly the Prophet, the One Who is to come into the world.”’  These words may be a reference to what is written in Deuteronomy 18:15, “A prophet like me will the Lord, your God, raise up for you from among your own kinsmen.” 

Let us not conclude without mentioning the boy who possessed the little food that was available.  He, surely as hungry as the rest, had faith in Jesus to share everything he had.  “Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the Kingdom of heaven (Matthew 18:4). 

In our life of faith, if we offer to Jesus the little we have, He will indeed multiply it.   

Thursday, July 16, 2015

The Little Flower's Song of Gratitude

From the first moments of my life,
You took me in your arms.
Ever since that day, dear Mother,
You’ve protected me here below.

To preserve my innocence,
You placed me in a soft nest.
You watched over my childhood
In the shade of a holy cloister.

Later, in the days of my youth,
I heard Jesus’ call
In your ineffable tenderness,
You showed Carmel to me.

“Come, my child, be generous,”
You sweetly said to me.
“Near me, you’ll be happy,
Come sacrifice yourself for your Savior.”

Close to you, O my loving Mother!
I’ve found rest for my heart.
I want nothing more on earth.
Jesus alone is all my happiness.

If sometimes I feel sadness
And fear coming to assail me,
Always supporting me in my weakness,
Mother, you deign to bless me.

Grant that I may be faithful
To my divine Spouse Jesus.
One day may His sweet Voice call me
To flyaway among the elect.

Then, no more exile, no more suffering.
In Heaven I’ll keep repeating
The song of my gratitude,
Lovable Queen of Carmel!

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Mary Protects Us

Today on this liturgical Memorial of Saint Bonaventure, a Carthusian monk, with the help of Saint Bonaventure, describes the power of Mary’s name and how evil fears her.

* * * * * *

Mary protects us by renewing our courage. Little by little, she will weaken those evil inclinations left in our nature by sin, those instincts which are stepping-stones to further sin. Above all, she will curb the audacity of our enemies. They cannot endure her presence, and the mere invocation of her name is enough to put them to flight. "The powers of darkness," says Saint Bonaventure, "melt away like wax in the warmth of the fire, when they meet anyone who keeps Mary in remembrance and is in the habit of calling on her, and is zealous in imitating her."

But should we unhappily presume on our liberty to tear ourselves for a moment from her arms and stretch out our hands to Satan, our heavenly Mother would still come to our aid, by preventing this cruel tyrant from exercising over us the power into which our fault has betrayed us, and by forcing him to give us time to gain our pardon.

In a touching allegory Holy Scripture describes this manifestation of Mary’s mercy. The sons of Respha had been delivered up to the Gabaonites, who crucified them. By their bodies, keeping untiring watch to defend their remains from the birds of the air by day and from the beasts of the field by night, was their mother. Nor did she leave them until king David had them taken down from the cross, and had them buried with the bones of Saul and Jonathan his son. Such is the image of Mary, watching over fallen souls, in order to prevent hell from completing the work of their destruction, and ceaselessly drawing upon them the cleansing waters of sorrow and repentance: donec stilleret eos aqua de cælo . . . until there fall upon them dew from heaven.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Blessed John of Spain

Today on the Carthusian calendar is the feast of Blessed John of Spain. Here’s what a Carthusian monk tells us about Blessed John.

* * * * * *

Blessed John was born in 1123 in the kingdom of Leon in Spain. At the age of thirteen he left his country for France, both to escape the Moslems and for the purpose of studies. He settled in the town of Arles, in Southern France. At sixteen he felt drawn to the monastic life and entered a monastery in the vicinity. After some years, he heard about the recently founded Order of the Carthusians and their monastery of Montrieux not far away, founded in 1118, five years before he himself was born. Drawn to their austere and entirely contemplative life, he joined the Carthusians there. Once a Carthusian, he was ordained a priest, was named sacristan and eventually — still a man in his twenties — elected Prior. We may assume he was precocious on the natural level, but even more so by the early maturity of his virtues.

The nuns of the monastery of Prébayon in the vicinity, following the Rules of Saint Caesarius of Arles and of Saint Benedict, were so impressed with the fervor of Montrieux under John’s leadership that they asked to be admitted to our Order, which till then had consisted only of monks. The Prior of our Mother house, la Grande Chartreuse, and Superior General of the Order, Saint Anthelm, authorized this. He asked John to adapt the Customs of Guigo, which were our Rule at that time, to the nuns. He did so and this was the beginning of the female branch of our Order.

Various difficulties at Montrieux lead to his retirement from the priorship and he moved to la Grande Chartreuse in 1150. Just then, a noble lord in neighbouring Savoy asked for a monastery of Carthusians on his lands. Saint Anthelm saw in Blessed John the man of Providence. He sent him to make the foundation in Savoy, which was eventually given the name of le Reposoir. There he governed wisely as Prior for some years.

On June 25, 1160 John died, not yet forty years old. Through unusual circumstances he was interred not inside the enclosure, as the custom is, but outside. In fact, during his priorate, two servants of the monastery, having died in the mountains, under an avalanche of snow, had been interred in an inappropriate place, outside the enclosure, for which John had been reproved. To make amends he had made his monks swear that after his death, they would bury him at the same place as the two servants. This, however, permitted John’s tomb — with his renown for sanctity — to become the object of popular pilgrimages. The faithful prayed at his tomb and many miracles occurred in the course of the centuries, particularly cures of malignant fever. In 1864 Blessed Pius IX approved the cult of Blessed John of Spain, venerated since time immemorial.

Monday, July 13, 2015

16th Sunday in Ordinary Time - July 19, 2015

First Reading Commentary
“Woe to the shepherds who mislead and scatter the flock of My pasture.”  This verse is mostly a reference to false prophets.  Jeremiah prophesies that shepherds will come and these shepherds will be righteous and the people will “no longer fear and tremble.”  In Jeremiah's mind, he's probably thinking of prophets who are sent by God who will guide and instruct the people wisely. 

From a Christian viewpoint, this is a prophecy about the apostles and their successors who are instructed and sent by “a righteous shoot” Who is our Lord Jesus Christ.  And sadly, since the Church has had scandals because of a small percentage of shepherds, one has to wonder what is the application of “woe” to those shepherds.

“In his days Judah shall be saved, Israel shall dwell in security.”  Again, from Jeremiah's perspective, this “righteous shoot” would be a king who would govern his people fairly and Israel would be freed from the bonds of false prophets who manipulated the people of Israel for their own personal gain. 

From a Christian perspective, this is a prophecy about Jesus Christ Who would free not only Judah and Israel, but the whole world from the bonds of evil and sin.  Because of the Savior's deeds, His people “shall dwell in security” for all eternity in the Kingdom of heaven.    

Second Reading Commentary
Saint Paul, a Jew, whose mission was to preach the Good News to the Gentiles is encouraging the Ephesians and us by explaining that anything which divided us as a people, no longer exists because Jesus Christ has made us “one and broke down the dividing wall” so that all might be reconciled with God. 

Jesus “is our peace,” and we, through His Sacrifice on the Cross, have been made one in the Body of Christ.  As members of that one mystical Body, we ideally share in each other’s joys and feel the pains of each other’s sorrows and sufferings.  We work together, using our God given gifts to build up the Body of Christ, and like the Head, Who is Jesus, we are now able to address God as “Father.”      

Gospel Commentary
In last Sunday's Gospel, Jesus sent the apostles out to preach the Good News; and He gave them the authority to cast out demons and heal the sick.  This week's Gospel begins with the apostles returning from that mission to report to Jesus “all they had done and taught.” 

“Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.”  Jesus knows that they are tired and is offering them rest which is very consistent with what God said way back in Genesis when He ordained rest from labors.  Perhaps we can learn something from this.  When our day is finished, and we are tired, it would seem that Jesus is recommending that we “go to a deserted place,” which could be anywhere in our homes where we can be alone and rest with Jesus and tell Him about our day.  Certainly Jesus already knows about our day but for us to grow in our relationship with Him, we need to tell Him.  Of course, when raising a family, alone time can be difficult to manufacture; thus, our alone time could mean alone in our thoughts which is usually when we go to bed, before falling asleep. 

“People were coming and going in great numbers, and they had no opportunity even to eat.  They were like sheep without a shepherd.”  These verses are an example of a cross that most, if not all of us, have to bear.  How often is our help needed at a most inconvenient time?  How often do we have to stop what we're doing because something else requires our attention?  How often are we, like the apostles, expecting that moment of rest but circumstances of life cut it short?  Anytime someone needs our help, we become the shepherd.  This could be anything from having to stay a little longer at the workplace, to cleaning up the milk that our child spilled.  Every day we perform tasks that are unexpected.  When our help is needed and we become the shepherds, are we, like Jesus, “moved with pity” for the sheep in need; or are we angry because of the inconvenience? 

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Saint Benedict

Today, the feast of Saint Benedict, at Matins the Carthusians reflect on the following fromThe Life of Saint Benedict.

* * * * * *

Benedict, desiring rather the miseries of the world than the praises of men: rather to be wearied with labor for God's sake, than to be exalted with transitory commendation: fled privately from his family, and went into a desert place called Subiaco, distant almost forty miles from Rome: in which there was a fountain springing forth cool and clear water; the abundance whereof does first in a broad place make a lake, and afterward running forward, comes to be a river. As he was travelling to this place, a certain monk called Romanus met him, and demanded to know what he wanted, and understanding his purpose, he both kept it close, furnished him what he could, vested him with the habit of holy conversation, and as he could, ministered and served him. The man of God, Benedict, coming to this foresaid place, lived there in a narrow cave, where he continued three years unknown to all men, except to Romanus. He lived not far off, under the rule of Abbot Theodacus, and very virtuously studied certain hours, and likewise sometimes a loaf was given for his own provision, which he carried to Benedict. And because from Romanus' cell to that cave there was not any way, by reason of a high rock which hung over it, Romanus, from the top thereof, on a long rope, let down the loaf.

Not far from the place where he remained there was a monastery, the Abbot whereof was dead: whereupon the whole Convent came to the venerable man Benedict, entreating him very earnestly that he would vouchsafe to take on him the charge and government of their Abbey: a long time he denied them, saying that their manners were different from his, and therefore that they should never agree together: yet at length, overcome with their entreaty, he gave his consent. Having now taken on him the charge of the Abbey, he took order that regular life should be observed, so that none of them could, as before they used, through unlawful acts decline from the path of holy conversation, either on the one side or on the other: which the monks perceiving, they fell into a great rage, accusing themselves that ever they desired him to be their Abbot, seeing their crooked conditions could not endure his virtuous kind of government. Therefore, when they saw that under him they could not live in unlawful sort, and were loath to leave their former conversation, and found it hard to be enforced with old minds to meditate and think on new things: and because the life of virtuous men is always grievous to those that be of wicked conditions, some of them began to devise, how they might rid themselves of Benedict.

Taking counsel together, they agreed to poison his wine: which being done, and the glass wherein that wine was, according to the custom, offered to the Abbot to bless, he, putting forth his hand, made the sign of the cross, and straightway the glass, that was held far off, broke in pieces, as though the sign of the cross had been a stone thrown against it: on which accident the man of God by and by perceived that the glass had in it the drink of death, which could not endure the sign of life. Rising up, with a mild countenance and quiet mind, he called the monks together, and spoke thus to them: "Almighty God have mercy on you, and forgive you: why have you used me in this manner? Did not I tell you before hand, that our manner of living could never agree together? Go your ways, and seek out some other father suitable to your own conditions, for I intend not now to stay any longer among you." When he had thus discharged himself, he returned to the wilderness which so much he loved, and dwelt alone with himself, in the sight of his Creator, Who beholds the hearts of all men.

As God's servant daily increased in virtue and became continually more famous for miracles, many were led by him to the service of almighty God in the same place. By Christ's assistance he built there twelve Abbeys; over which he appointed governors, and in each of them placed twelve monks. A few he kept with himself; namely, those he thought would gain more profit and be better instructed by his own presence. At that time also many noble and religious men of Rome came to him, and committed their children to be brought up under him for the service of God. Evitius delivered Maurus to him, and Tertullius, the Senator, brought Placidus. These were their sons of great hope and promise: of the two, Maurus, growing to great virtue, began to be his master's helper; but Placidus, as yet, was but a boy of tender years.

In one of the monasteries which he had built in those parts, there was a monk who could not continue at prayers; for when the other monks knelt down to serve God, his manner was to go forth, and there with wandering mind to busy himself about some earthly and transitory things. One day, Benedict came to the monastery, and when the singing of psalms was ended, and the hour come in which the monks took themselves to prayer, the holy man perceived that the monk, who used at that time to go forth, was drawn out by the skirt of his garment by a little boy. On seeing this, he spoke secretly to Pompeianus, father of the Abbey, and also to Maurus saying, "Do you not see who it is, that draws this monk from his prayers?" and they answered him, that they did not. "Then let us pray to God," he said, "that you also may behold whom this monk follows." After two days Maurus saw him, but Pompeianus could not. On another day, when the man of God had ended his devotions, he went out of the oratory, where he found the foresaid monk standing idle. For the blindness of his heart he struck with a little rod, and from that day forward he was so freed from all allurement of the little boy, that he remained quietly at his prayers, as the other monks did.

The town, which is called Cassino, stands on the side of a high mountain, which contains, as it were in the lap thereof, the foresaid town, and afterward so rises in height the space of three miles, that the top thereof seems to touch the very heavens. In this place there was an ancient chapel in which the foolish and simple country people, according to the custom of the old gentiles, worshipped the god Apollo. Round about it likewise on all sides, there were woods for the service of the devils, in which even to that very time, the mad multitude of infidels offered most wicked sacrifice. The man of God coming there, beat the idol into pieces, overthrew the altar, set fire to the woods, and in the temple of Apollo, he built the oratory of Saint Martin, and where the altar of the same Apollo was, he made an oratory of Saint John. By his continual preaching, he brought the people dwelling in those parts to embrace the faith of Christ.

Once upon a time, while the venerable Father was at supper, one of his monks, who was the son of a great man, held the candle. As he was standing there, and the other ate his meal, he began to entertain a proud thought in his mind. He spoke to himself: "Who is he, that I wait on him at supper and hold him the candle? And who am I, that I should do him any such service?" Immediately the holy man turned and with severe rebuke spoke to him: "Sign your heart, brother, for what is it that you say? Sign your heart." Forthwith he called another of the monks, and bid him to take the candle out of his hands. He commanded him to cease his waiting, and to retire. Benedict, being demanded of the monks what it was that he had thought, told them, how inwardly that monk had swelled with pride, and what he spoke against the man of God, secretly in his heart. Then they all realized very well that nothing could be hidden from venerable Benedict, seeing that the very sound of men's inward thoughts came to his ears.

The man of God, Benedict, being diligent in watching, rose early before the time of Matins, his monks being yet at rest, and came to the window of his chamber where he offered up his prayers to almighty God. Standing there, all of a sudden in the dead of the night, as he looked forth, he saw a light that banished away the darkness of the night and glittered with such brightness that the light which shone in the midst of darkness was far more clear than the light of the day. During this vision a marvelously strange thing followed, for, as he himself afterward reported, the whole world, gathered together, as it were, under one beam of the sun, was presented before his eyes. While the venerable father stood attentively beholding the brightness of that glittering light, he saw the soul of Germanus, Bishop of Capua, in a fiery globe, carried up by Angels into heaven. All creatures are, as it were, nothing to that soul that beholds the Creator. For though it sees but a glimpse of that light which is in the Creator, yet all things that are created seem very small. By means of that supernatural light, the capacity of the inward soul is enlarged, and is so extended in God, that it is far above the world. The soul of one who sees in this manner, is also above itself; for being rapt up in the light of God, it is inwardly in itself enlarged above itself. When it is so exalted and looks downward, it comprehends how little all creation is. The soul, in its former baseness, could not so comprehend. The man of God, therefore, who saw the fiery globe, and the Angels returning to heaven, could, no doubt, not see those things but in the light of God.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Confession: Applying Our Savior's Blood

Jesus Christ shed His precious Blood on Calvary, in order to wash out the sins of the world. But, though He thus shed His Blood, still He arranged that this Blood, so shed, should be applied by the priest to the soul of each individual and applied by means of the Sacrament of Penance, as when the sinner makes his confession. It was after the shedding on Calvary, not before it, that Christ instituted Confession, and this is an irresistible argument to prove that Christ meant that Confession was necessary, in order to apply His precious Blood and thereby to get sins forgiven. The best medicine in the apothecary’s shop will not cure unless it be applied. If Christ’s Blood, as shed on Calvary, were alone sufficient to forgive sin, should not Christ Himself know it; and, knowing it, how could He, Who was Truth itself, utter the lie when giving the commission to His Apostles: “Whose sins you retain, they are retained!”

The Church has, at all times, preached and practiced the doctrine of Confession. Saint Clement, a disciple of Saint Peter, taught in the first century, the necessity of Confession, in order to get the forgiveness of sins. Here are his words: “Saint Peter taught that we must reveal, even the bad thoughts, to the priests.”

Tertullian taught the necessity of Confession in the second century. He said: “Several fail to tell their sins, because they are more concerned about their honor than about their salvation . . .  What is better, to conceal your sins and be damned, or to make them known and be saved?”

Origen, in the third century, taught: “If we are sorry for our sins, and if we confess them not only to God, but also to those who have a remedy for them, then they shall be forgiven us.”

Saint Ambrose, in the fourth century, writes: “But, they say, we show reverence to the Lord by reserving to Him alone the power of forgiving sins.”

Now, no one can more grievously offend Him than they who would annul His commands and throw upon Him the duty given to themselves. For, since the Lord Jesus Himself has said in His Gospel: “Receive ye the Holy Ghost; whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them; and whose sins you shall retain, they are retained.” Who is it that honors Him the more, he that obeys His commands, or he that resists them?

Our Confession must be sincere. We must confess our sins just as they really are, without adding anything to them, or subtracting anything from them. What is doubtful should be told as doubtful; what is certain, told as certain; what is grievous, told as grievous. Saint Gregory says: “If you excuse yourself, God will accuse you; if you accuse yourself, God will excuse you.”

Our Confession must be simple. By this is meant that we must confine ourselves at Confession exclusively to our sins. The names of persons who may be implicated in our sins, or who may have given us scandal, must, on no account, be mentioned. Charity strictly requires this.

Let us, then, my brethren, make good use of Confession. Let us not be kept from it by sloth, nor by fear, nor by false shame. It is an awful thing to go to sleep at night in a state of mortal sin. It is easier to confess to one individual, tied up by all the laws of secrecy, human and divine, than to have to confess before the whole world hereafter.

Why should you be ashamed to confess your sins? Why not take the shame off yourself and put it upon Satan? When the devil is tempting the sinner to fall, he takes away the shame from him; but when he is going to make a Confession, the devil hastily gives back the shame. Let no one be ashamed, then. The power of forgiving sin has not been given by God to an angel, or to a saint, but to man, frail human creature, tempted and subject to fall like every one else; and therefore, disposed to feel compassion for the sinner, and to be full of mercy. Saint Peter, the chief and head of the priesthood, was permitted to fall into terrible sin, in order to teach a lesson to all. Saint Augustine cries out: “He who hears your sins is a sinner like you, and perhaps a greater . . .  Why, then, do you fear, O sinner, to confess to man and a sinner?"

In the Sacrament of Penance Jesus remains as a Physician, inviting all who are laboring against temptations and heavily laden with sin to come and He will refresh and heal them.

Wherever there is a Confession made, there is Jesus present, silently and invisibly, saying to the confessor: “Whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them.”

Excerpted from a homily given by Reverend Patrick O'Keeffe, of the Archdiocese of Cashel, Ireland.
His homily is taken from "Discourses from the Pulpit" published in 1891.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Saint Rosaline of Villeneuve

Today on the Carthusian calendar is the feast of Saint Rosaline of Villeneuve.  Saint Rosaline was born in 1263. She received the Sacrament of Confirmation from the Bishop of Fréjus, and when she did she became surrounded by a supernatural light. She was very young when she made a private vow of virginity.

At only age sixteen her desire was to be a Carthusian nun. Her aunt Jeanne Villeneuve was the Prioress of the Charterhouse of la Celle-Roubaud which was close to the castle where Rosaline lived – she was of southern French nobility. Since the Charterhouse was nearby, Rosaline was quite familiar with the Carthusian way of life. But her aunt’s Charterhouse had no novitiate, therefore, Rosaline entered Saint André de Ramires and was eventually moved to the Charterhouse at Bertaud in the French Alps which was the main Charterhouse for women. In the year 1280 she made her profession.

Her aunt at la Celle-Roubaud was becoming advanced in age, and so, the Superior General of the Carthusian Order permitted Rosaline to enter there and help her. In the year 1288 Rosaline received her virginal consecration. This consecration put her into ecstasy which lasted an entire day. She followed all the practices of her religious community but her soul was united to the Lord. She became very ascetic by sleeping very little and often eating only bread and water. She spent her nights in long hours of prayer and God granted her the gift of reading hearts. When her aunt had died, Rosaline was made Prioress of la Celle-Roubaud which she did for twenty-nine years.

Rosaline died at the age of sixty-six which led to many miracles through her intercession. In the year 1334, only five years after Rosaline’s death, by the order of Pope John XXII, a pope of the Avignon papacy, her tomb was opened. Her body was completely incorrupt. In 1602 her body was transferred from her crypt to a new chapel.

In 1857 Pope Pius IX authorized her feast for the entire Carthusian Order which is celebrated as a Solemnity by the nuns of the Order.

In art Saint Rosaline is often represented as having roses in her skirt. This is due to an event which occurred in her childhood: As a young child she developed a love for taking care of the poor. She would distribute goods to the poor from her family’s provisions. Someone of the household saw her doing this and alerted Rosaline’s father. One day she filled her skirt with bread to take to the poor only to be stopped by her father who asked her what she was carrying in her skirt. She told him they were roses. Extending her skirt by her father’s insistence, what was revealed were actually roses. This was considered a miracle and thus is often portrayed in works of art.

Lord God, for love of You Saint Rosaline trampled underfoot
the flattering allurements of the world, that she
might adhere only to You. Help us to follow her example
and, turning away from things of earth, find our joy in
sharing Your heavenly gifts.

15th Sunday in Ordinary Time - July 12, 2015

First Reading Commentary
“Off with you, visionary.”  In the Latin Vulgate the word used for “visionary” is translated to mean “seer” which is the title that the ancient world gave to prophets although in this verse the term is used rather arrogantly. 

"Never again prophesy in Bethel; for it is the king's sanctuary and a royal temple."  It's unclear whether or not Amaziah is carrying out the king's orders when he tells Amos to leave Bethel.  Amaziah, however, does seem to fear the king much more than the prophecies of Amos. 

“The king's sanctuary” is to be understood as the king's palace.  It would appear that Amos did not ask for the gift of prophecy but the Lord's plan for Amos was different than what Amos had in mind.  Amos seems to be content as a shepherd. 

To try and apply this Reading to our daily lives, perhaps an examination of conscience is in order.  What gifts did God give us as individuals that we are not putting to use for the service of others?  What is the reason we're letting these gifts go to waste?  Fear is often a factor, especially fear of rejection, much like Amos is experiencing from Amaziah.  A strong faith is vital in such cases for if the Almighty gave us the gifts, it is a certainty that He wants us to use these gifts to serve His people.  If fear of rejection or embarrassment is our concern, then we must know by faith that if our Lord gave us these gifts, He has also supplied us with the grace to endure all obstacles.

Second Reading Commentary
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavens.”  If we have been blessed “with every spiritual blessing in the heavens,” then those blessings are eternal and hint that God's plans for us are eternal. 

“In love He destined us for adoption to Himself through Jesus Christ.”  God's love for us is so unfathomable, it simply wasn't enough for Him to create us; He also wanted us to call Him Father and we would be His adopted sons and daughters.  This, however, could not be achieved by our own merits.  Therefore, God, Whose love knows no bounds, sacrificed His only Son so that this may be achieved.  It was the merits of Jesus Christ which has made us sons and daughters of God our Father for eternity.  Redemption, forgiveness of transgressions and all that is eternally good has been given to us because of the efforts of Jesus. 

“In all wisdom and insight” God has revealed His plan to us that Jesus Christ is the key to a life fit for eternity.  God's plan for us will be accomplished, without a doubt, through Jesus Christ.  Our life now and for all eternity is “for the praise of His glory.”  In baptism we received the gift of the “Spirit, which is the first installment” of God's holy plan.

Gospel Commentary
While some Religious Orders in the Church who live a complete and total life of penance may literally follow the instructions of Jesus in this Gospel account, the overall theme applies to everyone in ministry, lay and ordained. 

Regardless of how we serve God's people, we must have a strong faith.  Occasional rejection from those we try to serve is inevitable but a strong faith will give us the courage we need to continue.  Our Lord and Savior was certainly no stranger to rejection. 

Ministry is not limited to our duties at our parish.  If we are to be true followers of Jesus, then we are all ministers who have been sent to fulfill God's calling, each according to the gifts we have received from Him. 

“They anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.”  Anointing with oil was a common practice; but this ordinary practice, becomes something extraordinary when it has been given to the apostles under the guidance of Jesus Christ.  Some scholars believe this is when the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick is instituted.  Others believe that it is at least a prelude to it.  The Council of Trent states that this sacrament is instituted in Mark's Gospel and published in the Epistle of Saint James (5:14) which says: "Is anyone among you sick?  He should summon the priests of the Church, and let him pray over him, anointing him with oil, in the Name of the Lord."

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Mother Catherine Aurelia Caouette

Reflecting on her years as a youth, Mother Catherine Aurelia Caouette said: “I could sense the Divine from an early age.” Most unusual about her childhood was her desire to spend long hours in a church for adoration. And this desire was actually manifested in her early years as she would spend hours in church on her knees gazing at the Tabernacle. Her parents noticed in her something special and when they confided to their parish priest about their daughter, he said to them: “You have a child of predilection. Watch carefully over your treasure.” She was permitted to receive her First Communion at age nine which was about three years sooner than the norm for that time.

As a student, she played the role of Saint Catherine of Alexandria, in the play written by Reverend Joseph Sabin Raymond titled: “The Martyrdom of Saint Catherine.” In that play young Aurelia proclaimed with great passion a line which touched the audience, and a line which she would later say that her extraordinary devotion to the Precious Blood of Jesus Christ was brought to light at that moment. The line in the play was: “I feel in my soul all the energy of the Divine Blood; it is a generous Blood which desires only to be shed.”

Father Joseph Sabin Raymond became her spiritual director. Because of Aurelia’s incredible  sanctity and Father Raymond’s expertise in spiritual matters, he told her to keep a diary to which she was obedient. Because of her obedience to making entries in the diary, the world knows a great deal about her interior life. In October of 1849, she wrote: “Lord, You know what my heart desires most ardently: to be united to You in Your Sacrament of Love. It is so consoling for a miserable creature to possess You. You inflame me with such a burning love, You inspire me with so many beautiful sentiments, that it seems heaven is in my heart. If, however, O my Divine Savior, I am not worthy to possess You now in Your heavenly home, I wish, at least, to go often to adore You in Your Tabernacle, where I have already passed so many happy moments, where You have spoken mysteriously to my soul and where You have so many times given Yourself to me.”

In November of 1849 was this entry: “O my God, I conjure You, increase my desire to love You, to belong to You alone. O my Jesus, I shall love You all my life. You alone shall possess my heart. It is towards You, it is towards heaven that I wish, above all, to elevate my thoughts, my affections. Dispose of my entire being as it shall please You, but grant me, O well beloved Jesus, Your holy love, because without it, life would be too long, too sad. May all my actions be a continual prayer and may my heart be always turned towards You, O Infinite Beauty!”

Keep in mind that these are the writings of a sixteen year old. Feeling an intimate closeness to the Blessed Mother as well, in December of 1849 she wrote: “O Mary, permit me today to bless you in seeing you so pure! I love you, I venerate you, all beautiful Dove, the favorite of God and of His Elect. Amiable Mother, do not fail to cast a tender look upon the wounds of my soul. Draw my heart towards you and have pity on me. O my Mother, I long for you, I burn with the desire of seeing you in heaven.”

In 1850, after finishing her studies, she returned to her family, but remained under the direction of Father Raymond, whereby she wanted to occupy her soul with God alone. The now seventeen year old submitted to Monsignor Raymond a plan for her spiritual life which included meditation, Mass, work, adoration, silence, and spiritual reading.

She very much saw God in His creation. She wrote: “How glorious and sublime it is to enjoy the sight of an exquisite night! This clear sky which is obscured by no cloud, these brilliant stars which ornament the azure firmament, the moon, that queen of night which diffuses its soft light, this calm, this peace which reigns in all places, inspire one with thoughts of heaven. Omnipotent God, how this silence touches my soul! How it fills it with religious sentiments!” Her mysticism is now becoming more apparent.

This was her experience of watching the Tabernacle on Holy Thursday night, as recorded in her diary: “The consideration of the Agony of Jesus has continually occupied my mind. I have mingled the tears of my repentance with the Blood of my Well Beloved. I have suffered with Him. At one o’clock I was left alone for a few moments. I do not know what secret sentiment inspired me, I dared in spite of my fears, to mount to the altar – I kissed it, I bathed it with my tears – I pressed my lips to the door of the Tabernacle which encloses our love. It felt so good to be so near! I blessed, I loved, I thanked, I wept over my numerous sins. As I saw the Divine Blood flow in large drops, I presented to Him our souls. He blessed them in His Sacred Heart. Jesus asked the sacrifice of my entire self, docility and submission. I have the firm conviction that He will make me share some of His sufferings. I can suffer; it is my consolation! I wish only for suffering.”

In her spiritual hunger she wrote: “Father, the remembrance of Communion returns to me unceasingly. I am dying of hunger!”

In 1851 a dire illness kept her in bed for ten months. She said that she was cured miraculously at the end of a novena to Saint Catherine of Siena. She wrote: “It seemed to me that I saw my amiable protectress. Her whiteness equaled that of the lily. She was dazzling with grace and beauty and seemed to be blessing me with her hand in the Name of Jesus Christ, and in a whisper, she told me to hope and love.” This started what would blossom into a great devotion to Saint Catherine of Siena.

In 1853 she made a pilgrimage to Our Lady of Succor in Montreal. She told Father Raymond of her mystical experience there in which she saw the Blessed Virgin clothed in dazzling white, praying to her Son. Our Lady told her to make frequent Communions to console Jesus because of the many souls that forget Him.

Providence led to her to be the Founder of the Sisters Adorers of the Precious Blood, the first contemplative Order of nuns whose beginnings were in St. Hyacinth, Quebec. It was her deep contemplation of Christ’s love through His Passion which led to her great devotion of the Precious Blood.

The cause for her canonization officially began in November of 1984.