St Therese…victim of Love

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Celebrating the Feast of my beloved St. Therese with a post from the archives.  May she pray for each of us “to love God as He has never been loved before.”

I pray that many who read these posts on Therese may experience God’s call to become little victims of His Merciful Love.

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During Holy Mass on Trinity Sunday in 1895, twenty-two year old Sister Therese of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face was given a most remarkable insight into the Merciful Heart of God.

Therese was so overwhelmed by this new inspiration of the Holy Spirit that she immediately sought out the Prioress, her sister Pauline (Mother Agnes of Jesus), who later described Therese as appearing “aglow with excitement.”

What transpired between God and Therese on that Trinity Sunday can best be described in her own words, written six months later and recorded in her autobiography, The Story of a Soul:

..I was enabled to understand more clearly than ever before how Jesus longs to be loved. I was thinking of those souls who offer themselves as victims to the Justice of God, so that, by drawing it down on themselves, they turn aside the punishment due to sinners. I thought this a noble and generous offer, but I was a long way from feeling that I should make it myself.

From the depths of my heart, I cried, “O my Divine Master, must it be only Your Justice which has its victims? Hasn’t Your Merciful Love need of them too? It is everywhere rejected and ignored. Those on whom You long to lavish It seek a wretched, fleeting happiness in other creatures instead of flinging themselves into Your arms and welcoming the flames of Your Divine Love.

Must Your rejected Love stay shut up in Your Heart? It seems to me that if You found souls offering themselves as sacrificial victims of Your Love, You would consume them speedily and would rejoice to unloose those torrents of infinite tenderness You hold within Yourself. If Your Justice must spend itself, though It is concerned only with the earth, how much more must Your Merciful Love long to inflame souls, since, “Thy Mercy reaches even to the Heavens..”

O Jesus, let me be Your eager victim and consume Your little sacrifice in the Fire of Divine Love.

Therese motioned for her sister Celine (Sister Genevieve of St. Teresa) to follow her as she went to find Mother Agnes. Celine described Therese as too overcome with emotion to speak. When at last she had located the prioress, Therese was able to breathlessly explain that she wished to offer herself as “a victim of holocaust to the Merciful Love of God.”

For Therese, her discovery was no passing whim or pious dream. Nor was it to be merely a lovely prayer or an unattainable desire.

To this pure and passionate soul, who had never wished for anything but His Happiness, God revealed that He desired a new kind of victim — one who would place no limits on the Love in which He burned to immerse her.

Therese knew that the greatest Joy of God is to give Himself away…to be a fountain of Mercy and Love to all of His children.

Years before, she had noticed in a picture of Jesus Crucified that His Precious Blood was falling to the ground with no one to receive it. She determined then that she would remain at the foot of His Cross to receive His Blood, and through her love, prayers and sacrifices, she would distribute this Blood to sinners so in need of it.

Now she beheld her God with His Love “locked up” in His Heart, with so few willing to notice or care. But her Beloved had revealed to His little spouse a remedy.

No, she would not be a victim of Divine Justice. She would instead become a victim of Merciful Love, allowing those rejected torrents of Infinite Love to fall upon her, to consume her, and in the end, she wished to “die of love.”

As I will share in the next post, Therese had already reached the heights of sanctity in 1895, but she did not hesitate to invite the novices in her care to also make the same Offering….and at the end of one of the three manuscripts which compose her autobiography, she exclaims to Jesus: I beg You to choose in this world a multitude of little victims worthy of Your LOVE!!! (sic)

And that includes you, and me…

Mary of the morning glories…..

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(In tribute to the loveliest Mother of all…a favorite post from the archives.)
Happy Mother’s Day, Sweet Mary!

The above statue of Our Lady has accompanied my husband and me throughout almost our entire life together.

He surprised me with it at our first real home in Greenville, NC, three years after we were wed. He placed it on a pedestal beneath a large maple tree in the backyard. Then he planted a vine of large blue morning glories at the base of the tree. It quickly took root and wound gracefully around the trunk, creating a blanket of blue each morning behind Mary’s statue.

I loved looking out of my kitchen window, sipping my first morning cup of tea and seeing morning glories and Mary. As the day wore on, the warmth of the sun would cause the flowers to fade and by afternoon, their beauty was gone. But each morning, they returned, glorious, with the dawn.

During those happy days, I never imagined how much Mary and the morning glories would soon come to mean to me. Only a year after she took her place beneath the maple tree, I was diagnosed with the cancer which destroyed all of our dreams of having babies…an unexpected tragic end to four years of trying to conceive.

I packed a small statue of Mary to take to the hospital with me, and placed her upon the window sill where I could glance at her comforting presence. But there were no morning glories for me, and I felt that there never would be again.

Eventually, I came home, and I would sit on the backyard swing, near Mary’s tree and pray my rosary..over and over. I prayed to live, and I prayed for some relief from the unbearable pain of losing children I had never even known. And Mary listened, and the morning glories brought beauty into an otherwise barren, thirsting, aching season of my life.

We moved back to our home state in the deep South a year later. My husband could not get morning glories to grow in our sunny yard which had no mature trees. So, he placed Mary’s statue in front of the rose garden he had planted. And she reigned there for twenty years.

She smiled, I know, on the day we brought home our adopted infant son. And as he played in the yard as a little boy, I imagined Mary watching over him. When he was old enough, we sometimes had May crownings with his friends who lived next door. And when he became a teenager, I would run sobbing to the rose garden and unburden my heart to Mary…just as I had years before with the cancer. Only this time I was too distraught to even say my rosary. But I knew she understood.

Now, it is just my husband and I again, and we have moved to yet another home. As you can see, Mary’s garden is now filled with lilies and roses and other assorted flowers which change with the seasons. Right across from her statue, there is a garden bench, a place where one can sit and pray or simply enjoy the sounds of the birds and squirrels playing. Often my husband will relax there with a beer, after cutting the lawn. Sometimes, I pray my Divine Office or a rosary in this shady spot. Glancing at Mary’s statue, I feel a certain peace. She is still with us, and we have survived the many crosses which have fallen upon us since Mary of the morning glories first took her place beneath the maple tree.

Her statue reveals the toll of decades spent in the sun, wind and rain. The surface is no longer a smooth gray color, and her features have been worn down from their original loveliness. She, like my husband and me, reflects the passage of time. Yet we would never dream of replacing our precious statue with a new one. She has watched over us all these years…through all the joys and sorrows life brings. And we want her with us until the last page of our lives has been written.

The blows of life have buffeted and scarred us as well. But they have taught us to depend on God alone and to put all of our faith in Him. Gone from this life forever are those carefree morning glory days of youth …now we dream of the glory of Heaven. There we hope to see, no longer a faded statue, but our Most Beloved Mother in all of her eternal beauty….

Thank you, Mary, for accompanying us with your living presence, throughout our lifetime together. I know you have held us when we were broken with sorrow and that you have rejoiced with us in the good times. What a comfort to know that you will always be with us until that day when at last we behold Your Divine Son Jesus in Glory.

Stay near, dearest Mother, until the morning glories bloom again….forever.  I love you!

The beautiful Wounds of Jesus…

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Thomas, called Didymus, one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples said to him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the nailmarks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”

Now a week later his disciples were again inside and Thomas was with them. Jesus came, although the doors were locked, and stood in their midst and said, “Peace be with you.”

Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands, and bring your hand and put it into my side, and do not be unbelieving, but believe.”

Thomas answered and said to him, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:24-28)

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That beautiful verse of Scripture is cherished by many of us for the love Jesus shows to “doubting” Thomas, and for His beautiful promise, “Blessed are those who have not seen, but have believed.”  It’s such a rich passage:   the touching, the intimacy Jesus extends to His somewhat bewildered apostle. One can only imagine the awe with which the others present must have looked on.

But this passage is significant for another reason. It clearly reveals to us something perhaps unexpected: Jesus still bears His Wounds upon His Resurrected Body.

But why?  Certainly, God could have removed any sign of the torments inflicted upon His Son’s precious Body. Jesus Christ possesses the most beautiful, most glorious risen Body which even God could create…for Jesus is God, and therefore perfect…even bearing Wounds.

On a retreat I attended several years ago, the priest spoke of the Wounds of Christ, and he said that Our Lord’s Sacred Wounds now shine like splendid rubies in His glorified Body. Far from detracting from the perfection of that Holy Body, they contribute greatly to its Glory. For those Wounds are the Wounds of Love. The very Body of Jesus is imprinted forever with His Love for you and for me.

Jesus is no longer on the Cross, but He would never wish to surrender His Wounds. How He must cherish them…these Sacred Marks upon His Holy flesh which visibly proclaim to all of creation the Love He bears for poor sinners.

And to chosen souls, who love Him greatly, what gift does He sometimes give? The stigmata…wounds of the crucifixion mystically experienced in the bodies of great Saints like Catherine of Siena, Francis of Assisi and Padre Pio, to name a few.

The priest at my retreat went on to suggest that we too may bear wounds in Heaven. Not scars or disfigurement, but our own precious wounds of love. He explained that we should not be surprised to see that what we have suffered in our bodies for Jesus, through sickness, pain, torment, etc., will be manifested one day as great beauty. We too shall be adorned with heavenly jewels….for Jesus counts every tear and measures every pain, storing them all as treasures awaiting us in Heaven.

As I listened to Father, I thought of how Jesus so generously allows us to participate in His Saving Work by redemptive suffering. How like Him to desire that our little wounds of love, willingly suffered for Him, would tell the story of our love for all eternity.

When I allow myself to consider the possibility of Jesus without His Glorious Wounds, I cannot do so for very long. It is too sad…too heartbreaking. Jesus without His pierced hands and feet and His wounded Heart?  That is impossible!  His Love makes it impossible. I hope one day in Heaven to kiss those Precious Wounds, as I have so often kissed them on my little crucifixes. Like Thomas, I want to be able to recognize Jesus by His beautiful Wounds of Love and proclaim, “My Lord and my God!”

Words of a Saint…worth re-visiting

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This is a re-post from last Advent.  I thought I would share it once again.  As usual, the words of a Saint are imbued with that special gift of going straight to one’s heart.

Hope you enjoy this beautiful piece by St. Alphonsus Liguori

“Lo, here I am…send Me!”

Adam, our first parent, sins. Ungrateful for the great benefits conferred on him, Adam rebels against God by a violation of the precept given him not to eat of the forbidden fruit. On this account, God is obliged to drive him out of the earthly paradise in this world and, in the world to come, to deprive not only Adam but all his descendants of the heavenly and everlasting paradise which He had prepared for them after this mortal life.

There was not one innocent person on the earth. “Since, therefore,” said the Eternal Father, “amongst men there is no one who can satisfy My justice, let someone come forward who will go down to redeem man.” The angels, the cherubim, the seraphim, –all are silent. Not one replies. Only one voice is heard: that of the Eternal Word, Who says: “Lo, here I am! Send me!” (Isaiah 6:8)

“But think,” answered the Heavenly Father; “Think, O My Son that, in taking upon Thyself the burden of man’s satisfaction, Thou wilt have to lead a life full of sufferings.”

“No matter,” replied the Son: “Lo, here I am –send Me!”

“Think that Thou wilt have to be born in a cave, the shelter of beasts; from there Thou must flee into Egypt whilst still an infant to escape the hands of those very men who, even from Thy tenderest infancy, will seek to take away Thy life.”

“It does not matter: Lo, here I am — send Me!”

“Think that, on Thy return Thou shalt lead a life most arduous, most despicable, passing Thy days as a simple boy in a carpenter’s shop.”

“It does not matter — send Me!”

“Think that, when Thou goest forth to preach and to manifest Thyself, Thou wilt indeed have very few to follow Thee; the greater part will despise Thee and call Thee imposter, magician, fool, Samaritan. And, finally, they will persecute Thee to such a pass that they will make Thee die shamefully on a gibbet by way of torments.”

“No matter! Send Me!”

The decree then being passed, the Archangel Gabriel speeds on his way to Mary. Mary accepts the Word for her Son: “And the Word was made flesh” (John 1:14). Thus behold Jesus in the womb of Mary! Having now made His entry into the world in all humility and obedience, He says: “Since, O My Father, men cannot make atonement to Thy offended justice by their works and sacrifices, behold Me, Thy Son, now clothed in mortal flesh, behold Me ready to give Thee satisfaction in their stead with My sufferings and My death!”

Wherefore, when He came into the world, He said: “Sacrifice and oblation Thou wouldst not; but a body Thou has fitted to Me…Then I said: Behold, I come!” (Hebrews 10:5)

Amen.

From: The Incarnation, Birth, and Infancy of Jesus Christ, by St. Alphonsus Maria Liguori

Awaiting the King

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From the root of Jesse a flower will blossom, the glory of the Lord will fill the earth, and all creation shall see the saving power of God.  (Antiphon:  Canticle of Zechariah, Morning Prayer, Tuesday, first week of Advent)

While praying the beautiful Psalms and readings for these first few days of Advent, I found myself feeling a precious bond with the people of Israel.  And I wondered:  Was it difficult for them to keep believing in the prophecies…that God would truly send a Savior?

Two thousand years passed between the time of Abraham and the coming of Christ.  That is a long time to keep a Promise alive.  So much suffering, enslavement, exile.  The prophets came with their words of fire, but they too passed away.

Where was the promised Messiah?   Would He ever really come?  Was it all a dream?

Surrounded by pagans, the Hebrew people must have wondered about their God.  How different He was!  He alone was God and He would tolerate no other gods.. He demanded holiness and obedience.  Stories of His great power and might were recorded in their holy Scriptures.  Were these accounts really true?  It had been so long…so very long…the waiting.

One thousand years passed between David singing of the suffering Servant in his Psalms and, finally, the birth of Christ.

But He did come!  The Promise was fulfilled.  Many generations had come and gone, but somehow faith in their God survived among these people.  They continued to hope, and to pass this hope on to their children.

We too are waiting for Christ.  During this Advent, we prepare for His coming at Christmas.  We await the celebration of His birth.  But our waiting is not like that of the Israelites who waited in darkness.  We already possess the Light of Christ.  We know that He has come, and even now, is with us in our waiting.

But, we are waiting for something else!  We are waiting for His coming in Glory on that Last Day.  We are waiting for the Resurrection of the dead.  We are waiting for our glorified bodies.  We are waiting for the New Heavens and the New Earth.  We are waiting for our King!

And in that sense, we are very much like the Israelites, for it has been so very long….over two thousand years since the birth of our Savior.

The apostles, it seems, thought He would return in their own lifetimes.  So many have thought that.  But He hasn’t come yet.

And it seems the world is weary of waiting.  It even seems that many, if not most, have forgotten Him…have abandoned the Promise.   It is too hard to be holy and obedient and patient.  We have so many distractions with which to amuse ourselves now.  We are so smart and clever and self-sufficient.  We have filled the world with our own creations.  Who needs a demanding God?  We have a new god:  ourselves….or pleasure….or both.

But He Is Coming Again!  Jesus Himself promised us that the first time He came.
And we know God keeps His Promises.

But it has been so long…where are You Jesus?  The world grows so dark again, like in the days before You came two thousand years ago. We need Your Light!  We are so weary.

We long for You so!  If we call to You….will You come?  Can our yearning bring you to us?

Look, I am coming soon.. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.
I am the sprig from the root of David and the bright star of the morning. I am indeed coming soon.

Amen; come, Lord Jesus. (Revelation 22:13-14,16,20) NJB

The day I met the King…..

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I first met the King of the Universe in a movie theater when I was twelve years old. And I still consider it one of the great graces of my life.

Mom worked in retail downtown in New Orleans.  Adjacent to the store where she was employed was a movie theater.

It was magical.  It had a lovely balcony, and in the ceiling were tiny lights that twinkled like stars.  Grecian inspired statues posed elegantly on pedestals nestled against luxurious drapery that ringed the theater ceiling to floor.  And it was huge.  Row after row of seats stretched across several aisles before the huge screen.

One glorious spring day, I accompanied my mother to work, so that I could meet a friend to have lunch and shop at the five and dime store nearby.  But my friend wasn’t feeling well, and couldn’t meet me.

Mom was going to send me home in a taxi, but then I looked up at the marquee on the magical theater and read the words:  King of Kings.

“Mom, there is a movie about a king playing next door.  Can I please go see it?”

And so, I bought my ticket for the eleven o’clock matinée.  Those were the days when movies ran consecutively, without pause to empty out the theater…so you could stay as long as you liked.  I settled into the end seat on a side aisle, with my popcorn, and waited for the movie to begin.

From the moment I heard the majestic music, and saw the title flash on the screen in imposing letters, I realized that this would be a movie about Jesus.  He was a King, wasn’t He?

I didn’t consider myself to be very religious.  I had book knowledge about God from my Catholic school, but I didn’t know Him at all.  In fact, I was rather afraid of Him. Yet, for as long as I could remember, I had always felt a strong attraction to this mysterious God, and would sometimes catch myself daydreaming about Him, most especially, Jesus…the Crucified One.

But, I certainly had no intention of falling in love with Him while watching a movie. Yet, when Jeffrey Hunter appeared on the screen as the adult Christ, my heart soared….not for the handsome actor. Even then, I knew the difference. No, it was the Person of Jesus Christ Who attracted every fiber of my being. I was mesmerized as I watched Him gently hold in His arms the foaming at the mouth demoniac.  And when He visited John the Baptist in prison, I wanted to grasp His hand and hold on the way John did.

I loved Him for defending that poor woman caught in adultery,  and I imbibed every peaceful, loving and challenging word of the Sermon on the Mount. I wept with Him in His Agony in the Garden, and could barely watch the scourging and crucifixion. And then it all ended…. with only His shadow on the sand and those awesome words: ” I am with you always, even until the end of the world.”

If ever there was a movie I didn’t want to end, it was this one.  And yet the screen went dark…for a few minutes. But then it all began again: the music, the title, the Story…and I stayed. I stayed and watched the second viewing of this three hour long movie.

I was alone, in an empty part of the theater, yet I did not feel alone. I felt warm and joyful and hopeful inside…and yes, even loved.   I followed Jesus throughout His life again…this time focusing more on Who He was than what He did.

Jesus came alive for me on that screen, as He never had in my religion books or sermons I’d heard, or even the Bible stories we read at school. He knew I had needed to “see” Him.

And although it would be 13 more years before we sealed that first encounter, I never forgot our “first” meeting.  He was always with me…calling me, reminding me of His Love.  Although I fell into sin, and even stopped attending Mass for a time, He was always there. He was unforgettable.

In the theater, the third showing had begun, and I desperately wanted to stay…to stay forever, but I knew my parents would be waiting for me.  I stayed as long as I could, about an hour, and then slowly left the theater, fighting back tears.

Mom and Dad were amazed that I had spent the entire day at one movie, but they didn’t ask any questions. And I was grateful for that, as I had a need to be silent in that way that we do when we have felt the Master’s touch.

Since then, other more sophisticated and refined productions of the Life of Jesus have been produced, and I have seen as many as I heard about.

But superior though they may be by critics’ standards, none have ever transformed my life like that day I spent at the movies with the King of all kings.

Jesus, You are so beyond words…even the tongues of angels cannot praise You as You deserve.  Thank You for capturing my heart when I was twelve.  I didn’t realize at the time the depth of what I had experienced.  It would lie buried within for the next several years, but I knew You and I never ceased to desire You, even when I was running away from You.  O my King, may we never be separated again!  I love You!

How great and wonderful are all your works,
Lord God Almighty;
upright and true are all Your ways,
King of nations.
Who does not revere and glorify your name, O Lord?

For you alone are holy,
and all nations will come and adore you
for the many acts of saving justice you have shown. (Revelation 15: 3-4) NJB

Christmas along the way….

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 My husband and I recently spent ten days in mid-December visiting friends in North Carolina.  On our journey, I found glimpses of Christmas, and I want to share these three with you:

Enroute

The first thing I noticed was the rain, a slow drizzle falling from a gloomy sky.  Sitting near the window at the boarding gate in Atlanta’s airport, I stared out at our waiting plane.  Then I noticed him…a soldier in  Army dress, standing in the rain near the plane’s loading door.  And I knew.

A few moments later, the pilot walked up and spoke briefly to the solider. Then I saw it. A flag draped coffin was slowly and carefully brought forward while the soldier snapped to attention and saluted, as did the pilot. And it rained on them and the coffin, which slowly disappeared into the bowels of the plane.

Once everyone had boarded, the pilot came out to address the passengers. He explained that our plane was privlieged to bring a fallen hero home to his family in Raleigh, NC. Then he introduced the young soldier I had seen, explaining that he was the “best buddy” of the deceased. Finally, he explained that we would have to wait on the plane while the escort soldier exited and went down to receive the casket.

The passengers broke into applause. There were no complaints as we quietly waited until we were free to deplane. As we walked toward  baggage claim, I noticed people gathering at the windows overlooking our plane. We had been told there would be a brief military service there, and that our baggage would be delayed until it was completed.

I felt gratified to know that our fallen soldiers were treated with the respect and gratitude that they deserve. And yes, we all waited again, an extra 15 minutes or so for our baggage.

And I thought of the family whose wait was over. The family out there in the dark night, receiving their son home at last. And I thought of their Christmas tears…like the rain.

Christmas at the Cross.

 

Destination

It was late when we drove into Greenville, NC, so we dropped off our luggage at the hotel and headed directly to the 6pm Mass. We knew ahead of time that it would be a youth choir with guitars and keyboard, but they were actually good, so I didn’t really mind.

We sat behind a young couple who had an infant son, not more than two months old. He was dressed all in green, and wearing what appeared to be a handmade crocheted cap. As usual when seated near children, my eyes kept wandering over to him. I thought of this lovely young couple soon to celebrate their first Christmas with their baby. Remembering our first Christmas with our son, I felt happy anticipation for them.

After receiving Our Lord, I knelt behind the young mother who was now seated and rocking her son gently in her arms. She had removed his cap, and his soft brown hair was visible. The choir began singing the thanksgiving song after Holy Communion: Mary, did you know that your Baby Boy would one day walk on water?

And I found myself carried back to that night so long ago, when another Mother cradled her Infant Son. Did you know that your Baby Boy has walked where angels trod? When you kiss your little Baby you kissed the face of God?

I wondered it the young mom before me was struck by her identity with Mary, as mother loving son…so touchingly portrayed in the lyrics of this song. To me, the young mom and her baby were an icon which drew me into a tender glimpse of Christmas….
Mary, did you know…that your Baby Boy is heaven’s perfect Lamb? The sleeping Child you’re holding is the Great, I Am.

Christmas in Bethlehem.

 

Returning Home

The woman seated to my husband’s left on the plane noticed when I reached into my purse for the aspirin bottle.

“Well, you won’t get a blood clot while flying, will you?”

I laughed and told her that I actually had a headache, and never worried about blood clots since I was always taking aspirin.

We exchanged a few other pleasant words, and then the plane began to land.  As I gathered my things and prepared to enter the aisle, I wished her a Merry Christmas.

“We celebrate Yule,” she told me.  Seeing my surprise, she explained further, “Winter Solstice.  We celebrate on the 22nd.”

“Oh, well have fun,”  I said, like an idiot.

But I prayed for this lady as I exited the plane.  And I have prayed for her since, and will pray for her each time the Lord brings her to mind.  I will especially pray for her at Mass on Christmas.  I believe God puts such people in my path and yours, just to gather prayers for them.  He is so Merciful!  I hope that this lady will one day find her Savior.

Would you say a prayer for her too?

Jesus, it was for such as this woman that you were born…for all of us who are lost or who have been lost, that Your Love might find and save us.   She, most of all, reminded me why You came.  You are Savior!  May You be forever praised!

Christmas hope…..

 

Each soul is My favorite….

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“Each soul is My favorite…if only you knew My Love for each one..”
(Jesus to Gabrielle Bossis (1874-1950) From the book: He and I.

About 20 years ago, I came across a mini-booklet written by Mother Angelica which gave me a tiny glimpse into how rare and precious a gift it is just to exist. 

The name of the booklet was “Before Time Began,” and it was an account of a mystical experience which Mother Angelica had over a period of a few days.

She was somewhere in the darkness, in a great void.  She had not yet been created, rather she was something akin to a thought, which was immovable, and could not reason or feel anything.  But, she was aware that she was not alone.  There were countless other “thoughts” in the void…billions and billions of them.

Suddenly, in the distance, she saw a great Light, and this Light began to move over the almost infinite number of “thoughts.”  As it passed over them, they all disappeared into the nothingness, and the “thought” that was she waited to disappear as well.

But then, the Light suddenly stopped before “her”, and she felt warmth and tenderness and then she heard these amazing words, “You shall be.”  Then the Light moved on over the remaining thoughts and they continued to disappear.

Now, the “thought” that represented Mother Angelica in this great void stood all alone….nothing else remained.  She did not yet exist, but she had been told that one day she would, and so she waited, now certain that the Light would return, and she would “be.”

What an amazing experience this must have been for Mother.  Yet, is it not really true?

Each one of us was lovingly and deliberately chosen by God to live and breathe and love and to have eternal life….with Him and in Him…even sharing His Own Divine Life.  What a glorious destiny!

And what Love does He have for you and for me…each of us chosen to be His, over countless other possibilities!  Is it not breathtaking?

You exist; I exist; His Love chose us!  We are the beloveds of His Life, His darling children to whom He has given everything He has, even to the last drop of His Own Precious Blood.

Jesus pours out His Heart to mystics and Saints like St. Faustina and so many others, and grieves that we do not love Him, and that we do not even believe in His Love for us.

Some of us believe that He loves us when we are good or if we have prayed enough or done many good works.  But no!  He loves us always.  He waits for us.  He longs for us.  He yearns for our companionship.  He cherishes every word, every glance we offer to Him.  We cannot make Him not love us.

And, in the end, if we are separated from Him, it will not be because He stopped loving us, but rather because we refused His Love…refused Him,this One Who stood on the brink of Creation, casting His Gaze on countless possible souls and chose you and me as the ones He could not bear to live without.

The Light that is He looked at the idea, the thought of each one of us, and fell madly in love…and said, “You shall be.”

You are His favorite.  I am His favorite.  Oh, let us drink this in deeply, become inebriated by the sheer joy and wonder of it.  Let us immerse ourselves in this truth.  Let us run to His Divine Embrace which awaits us, sink deeply into His Sacred Heart that so longs for us.  Like Therese, let us rejoice that we are the “prey” of His Love.

And let us love Him in return….let us love Him with all of our being.

Let us tenderly, faithfully, trustingly love Him, love and adore this God Who has nothing left to give us….His treasuries are empty….His riches heaped upon us.

For what else is there to give when He has given us His Very Self in the Person of His Divine Son, Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ!

Let us love Him then…  ” Oh, let us love Him,” as Therese would say, “to folly!”

A King’s Ransom……..

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In my thanksgiving after Holy Communion today, I found myself consumed with how completely I am owned by God.

The Price He paid overwhelmed me, as I recalled the Stations of the Cross, His Holy Face pressed into the dust and rock as the Cross fell heavily upon His scourged Body. More blows from the soldiers as He struggled first to His knees, and then to His feet….for me.

Before me was the Crucifix where I could see the nails, the nakedness, the agony, the forsakenness. Heart racing, lungs burning, muscles cramping, Blood spilling, cold sweat….Tears.

Within me, the Sacred Host. Jesus dwelling in nothingness, wretchedness, yet robing me in the Grace He had purchased with so much suffering.

I am motionless. How does one move when they contain within their dust not the universe, but the One Who made the universe? Not a pure and sacred thing, but Holiness Itself? Not a king, but a God Who is King of all kings?

How do I breathe? Why am I not annihilated by such Glory, such Majesty, such burning Purity?

“You are Mine,” Jesus said. “I paid the price. I paid more than the cost. I gave Everything. I gave All. Now no one or nothing else can ever claim you, for I gave my last drop of Blood….for you.

No one can pay more. But you can refuse my Love. You are free to love me…or not.”

I am lost in the Love I cannot comprehend, in what He chose to give in exchange for me — not an ocean of precious jewels or a mountain of gold or even a thousand universes! But His Own Blood, His Own Life is what He chose to give.

I am confused by the extravagance of my worth.

Where do I go?

What do I do?

How can I love enough?

The Host rests within me.

We are one.

And Jesus says:

“Do not fear.

My Love has made you worth

everything to Me.

And I will live in you,

And I will love in you,

And together we will go,

When the time comes…

Always together,

For you are Mine.”

A King’s Ransom

In my thanksgiving after Holy Communion today, I found myself consumed with how completely I am owned by God.

The Price He paid overwhelmed me, as I recalled the Stations of the Cross, His Holy Face pressed into the dust and rock as the Cross fell heavily upon His scourged Body. More blows from the soldiers as He struggled first to His knees, and then to His feet….for me.

Before me was the Crucifix where I could see the nails, the nakedness, the agony, the forsakenness. Heart racing, lungs burning, muscles cramping, Blood spilling, cold sweat….Tears.

Within me, the Sacred Host. Jesus dwelling in nothingness, wretchedness, yet robing me in the Grace He had purchased with so much suffering.

I am motionless. How does one move when they contain within their dust not the universe, but the One Who made the universe? Not a pure and sacred thing, but Holiness Itself? Not a king, but a God Who is King of all kings?

How do I breathe? Why am I not annihilated by such Glory, such Majesty, such burning Purity?

“You are Mine,” Jesus said. “I paid the price. I paid more than the cost. I gave Everything. I gave All. Now no one or nothing else can ever claim you, for I gave my last drop of Blood….for you.

No one can pay more. But you can refuse my Love. You are free to love me…or not.”

I am lost in the Love I cannot comprehend, in what He chose to give in exchange for me — not an ocean of precious jewels or a mountain of gold or even a thousand universes! But His Own Blood, His Own Life is what He chose to give.

I am confused by the extravagance of my worth.

Where do I go?

What do I do?

How can I love enough?

The Host rests within me.

We are one.

And Jesus says:

“Do not fear.

My Love has made you worth

everything to Me.

And I will live in you,

And I will love in you,

And together we will go,

When the time comes…

Always together,e

For you are Mine.”

Your first day in Heaven…

My love lifts up his voice,
he says to me,
“Come then, my beloved, my lovely one, come….”  (Song of Songs 2:10)

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I love when God surprises me!

On the way home from running errands, I stopped by a church to visit Jesus in the Most Blessed Sacrament.  I was alone except for the organist, and a vocalist who were seated at the organ and whispering.

Kneeling, I rested my head on my arms, hoping not to be distracted by the musicians. Suddenly, the organist launched into the the majestic tones of Felix Mendelssohn’s Wedding March.  How grand it sounded, as music poured out of the huge pipe organ, filling every nook and cranny of the empty church.

I looked up toward the aisle and imagined a bride, in her beautiful wedding gown, beginning her walk on her father’s arm.  What a glorious celebration a wedding is, and the bride plays the starring role.  Everyone stands to look at her as she appears in back of the church.  Every eye follows her walk toward her waiting groom.

But then…another thought flooded my consciousness.  If a wedding on on earth can be so beautiful, so magical and magnificent, what must the eternal espousals, celebrated in heaven, between God and the soul be like?

Surely no soul arrives in Heaven as though it were just an ordinary day.  God is no ordinary Lover.  Here comes His beloved, for whom He laid down His Life to purchase her freedom. Here approaches a priceless soul, fed on His Own Body and Blood.  Here she is at last, forgiven, cleansed, purified, clothed in His Grace, and ready for that for which she was created — everlasting union with the Most Blessed Trinity.  She will never be lost to Him again.   Sin is no longer possible.  She is His forever.  My love is mine and I am His.  (Song of Songs 2:16)

I shall betroth you to myself for ever,
I shall betroth you in uprightness and justice,
and faithful love and tenderness.  (Hosea 2:21)

Yes, all of heaven rejoices as she approaches the King of kings.  No one is unaware of her presence.  She will even have a new name known only to her and her beloved.

“…to those who prove victorious  I will give some hidden manna and a white stone, with a new name written on it, known only to the person who receives it.” (Revelation 2:17)

I am grateful that the organist continues to play the beautiful Wedding March.  But my heart is caught up with awe and wonderment at what must be the celebration of a soul’s entrance into heaven.   It is a new thought for me.  I had never before considered it.

Yet, God has written of this unending day all over the Scriptures– His “foolishness of Love” as St. Catherine of Siena once described Divine Love.  We cannot hope for too much.  We cannot dream too big.  Nothing we can imagine could even come close to the reality.  God is so in love with each of us.

If we desire it, if we accept His Love, and truly love Him in return, someday the Creator of the Universe shall say to us:

You ravish my heart,
my sister, my promised bride,
you ravish my heart with a single one of your glances
with a single link of your necklace.
What spells lie in your love,
my sister, my promised bride! (Song of Songs 4:9-10)

Lifting up the world….in Him

Today is the Feast of St. Therese of Lisieux, my most beloved heavenly friend.  This post combines some of her wisdom with my own thoughts about the last presidential election.  I thought it might be appropriate to re-visit it today.  Blessings to everyone on this beautiful Feast of the great Virgin and Doctor of the Church,  Saint Therese of the Child Jesus and of the Holy Face, OCD.

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It has been reported that 50 percent of Catholics overall, and 42 percent of Catholics who regularly attend Mass voted to re-elect the current president.  I was astounded by the latter number in particular.  How can this be?

It is sad but true that many good people simply accept abortion as a “necessary evil,” one which they would not choose to participate in, but which they accept as an option for others. This same attitude of relativism is driving the tolerance and even approval of so-called same sex “marriage.” I know some of these people. They attend Mass, but ignore much of the Church’s teaching on social issues. The Church is, after all,  “extreme in these matters…and hopelessly out of date….”   As am I.

Over the past few days, I have been wondering, “What can I do Lord?  How can I make a difference?”

Then I read Evening Prayer for today, and the power of God was pulsing through every line of Psalm 46:

God is for us a refuge and strength,
a helper close at hand, in time of distress,
so we shall not fear though the earth should rock,
though the mountains fall into the depths of the sea;
even though its waters rage and foam,
even though the mountains be shaken by its waves.

And I was uplifted.  God is with us.  Of course He is!  He always is…..

Then in the Reading which followed the Psalms, I found the future….so far removed from our world engulfed by sin and darkness.  I saw the future which God desires for each one of His children:

I saw a new Jerusalem, the holy city, coming down out of heaven from God, beautiful as a bride prepared to meet her husband. I heard a loud voice from the throne cry out: “This is God’s dwelling among men. He shall dwell with them and they shall be his people and he shall be their God who is always with them.” I saw no temple in the city. The Lord, God the Almighty, is its temple — he and the Lamb. But nothing profane shall enter it, nor anyone who is a liar or has done a detestable act. Only those shall enter whose names are inscribed in the book of the living kept by the Lamb.  (Revelation 21: 2-3, 22, 27)

One day, I hope to dwell in this holy place with all of my brothers and sisters.

And God brought to mind what I could do.  I thought of the Angel of Peace, who appeared to the children of Fatima.  I remembered the prayers that He taught them, and I particularly remembered the brief intercessory prayer, so simple, so perfect:

My God, I believe, I adore, I trust and I love Thee! I beg pardon for all those that do not believe, do not adore, do not trust and do not love Thee.

This prayer from Heaven was entrusted to the innocent souls of little children. But, we can all pray it, sinners though we may be. We can pray for those who may be far from God, and not even aware of it, or worse, not even care.

But God is so Good and so Merciful, and Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ has won for us an Infinite Treasury of Graces from which our prayers may draw down pardon, light, a change of hearts…even miracles.

In the words of the “greatest Saint of modern times,”

The Almighty has given them (the saints) as fulcrum: HIMSELF ALONE; as lever: PRAYER which burns with the fire of love. And it is in this way they have lifted the world; it is in this way that the saints still militant lift it, and that, until the end of time, the saints to come will lift it.” Story of a Soul: The Autobiography of ST. Therese of Lisieux (3rd edition, by John Clarke, O.C.D.), p. 258.

LORD, send us Your Holy Spirit, that our prayers may “burn with the fire of love,” so that like St. Therese, we may lift the world up to You, so that one day all people will believe in, adore, trust and love You.

“Be still and know that I am God, supreme among the nations, supreme on the earth!” (Psalm 46)

(All Scripture verses are from the Liturgy of the Hours, Evening Prayer II, Feast of the Dedication of St. John Lateran)

(First posted on November 9, 2012)

A Little Pentecost…

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How faithful and loving is the Holy Spirit as He carefully directs our souls.  I am convinced that in Heaven we will be astonished at all that He has done for us at every moment….the inspirations, the graces to resist temptation, the soothing comfort when we are troubled, the wisdom to solve difficulties that come our way.

And yet, He cares about other things too…like friends.

When I was a young mother, we moved to a new town.  I didn’t know many people for quite some time, and I didn’t know anyone at all with whom I could share my Catholic faith.  This was especially painful since I had just left a community of Catholic friends and a most beloved pastor in my former parish.

Thirsting to hear Jesus spoken about, I would often watch Protestant television shows.  Our cable network didn’t carry EWTN at the time.

While reading a book one day, I came across a beautiful prayer to the Holy Spirit.  It was actually the Veni Sancte Spiritus.  Suddenly I had an idea.  Although I had not prayed much to the Holy Spirit previously, I would make a 30 day novena to Him, using the Veni Sancte Spiritus.

And so I did.  I prayed this prayer each day for 30 days, with the intention that the Holy Spirit would send me a friend with whom I could share my Catholic faith.

When the 30 days were up, my phone rang.  It was Paula, the neighbor who had moved next door a couple of months before.  We had exchanged small talk over the fence a few times, but I really knew very little about her.  So, I was quite surprised to hear her voice on the phone.

She had called to tell me that she was attending a Life in the Spirit seminar at her church.   I had already attended one a couple of years before, and so I knew what she was talking about.  But I was amazed that she had called out of the blue to tell me about it.  (Holy Spirit, is that you?)  Then she suggested that we attend an upcoming charismatic conference together.

Paula was one of those people who is a magnet for friends.  Outgoing and absolutely hilarious, everyone knew and loved her.  Before long, the Holy Spirit had sent me more friends than I could ever have wished for.

To make a long story short, Paula and I had many faith related adventures throughout the next dozen years.  We even met with our cable company and got them to pick up the four hours of EWTN which were available at the time.  Much to my surprise, I found myself being towed by Paula to the founding meeting in our diocese for a women’s prayer breakfast ministry.   Throughout the six years I served, I made many more friends and was blessed to meet speakers from all over the country and to pray with some of God’s most devoted children.

It was shortly after I left this ministry that Paula went back to work.  Her kids were then in high school.  At the same time, I found myself drawn to a more contemplative, quiet way of life.  I looked into third orders, and after much prayer began attending meetings with the Discalced Secular Carmelites.  Eucharistic Adoration had also become a frequent and much loved part of my prayer life.

And so the Most Beloved Holy Spirit answered my novena in a wondrous way.  He tossed me out of my comfort zone into a whirlwind of people and active ministry.  (As they say, be careful what you pray for 😉  )

As He drew me back to my true preference for solitude, quiet prayer and adoration,  He confirmed my beautiful vocation to the contemplative Order of Carmel and I made my First Promise in 1998.

But among that  group of extraordinary women who became my friends for a time, I learned that with God’s Grace, I could do things I never dreamed possible.  It was an exciting, energizing and delightful time in my life.  I am forever grateful for those years.

My life these days is quiet and simple…focused more on our growing family which now includes grandchildren.  My husband and I moved to a rural town several years ago, and I have lost touch with Paula and most of the women who were my friends twenty years ago.

But I am surrounded by the beauty of nature, and best of all, a perpetual Adoration chapel is only 15 minutes away.  It is there that I regularly meet with my very Best Friend, the One I had been seeking all along.

I am thinking of beginning another 30 day novena to the Holy Spirit this Pentecost.  And although I don’t expect tongues of fire, I have a feeling that the answer will come in, at the very least, a “little Pentecost.”

Come Holy Spirit, and knit my soul to Thee!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jesus!

 

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Glory to God for such a Savior as we have in Jesus Christ!  His Love knows no limits.  He chose to suffer all that He, the God-Man, could bear in Body and Soul. He could have chosen otherwise, but He never gives less than All.

Will we not need an eternity to ponder and contemplate so great a God as we have? What mystery, what beauty, what Love is the Life and Person of Jesus Christ.

And He loves us! Each one of us with an unfathomable Love. We would die of joy if we truly comprehended how lovingly obsessed He is with His children.

Today, we celebrate His Glorious Resurrection. He lives forever, and so shall we, if only we desire it, and go to Him. He has already told us that He turns no one away. How merciful He is!  How inconceivably blessed are we!

Imagine, one day we will see His Face…the Face of God.

Jesus Christ is risen today!    Our hope, our joy, our Heaven.  Jesus!

Help, my soul is cluttered!

With Lent fast approaching, here’s a favorite of mine from the archives….

clutter

I hate clutter.  I have it stashed in closets and spare drawers all around my house.  I tackle a pile whenever I have time, but somehow more always seems to accumulate.  One of the great goals of my life is to one day own nothing that I do not truly need, or do not enjoy for its beauty.

Today, I learned that there is a worse place to collect clutter than in your house.  It was during confession this afternoon that Father mentioned to me that we should all try to declutter our souls this Lent, because they are truly the house which God most cares about.  I immediately knew that God was answering my prayers about what I should concentrate on this Lent..

On the way back to my car, it occurred to me that tackling the piles of clutter in my house would be the perfect penance to join with my spiritual decluttering.  As I sort through clothes, photos, vacation mementos, stacks of greeting cards, religious articles which arrive in the mail (and I can’t bear to throw away), etc., I can meditate on the comparisons between household clutter and spiritual clutter.

When clutter is visible in my house, it detracts from the beauty and order of my home. A big stack of mail and catalogs on the kitchen counter is stressful to see. Clutter which I have stashed out of sight still disturbs my peace.  I know it’s there, waiting.  If guests are staying over, I sometimes dash off to the guest room to see if any clutter needs to be removed and reassigned.  🙂

And, there’s always forgotten clutter, like when you open a seldom used cabinet and find a stash of paper napkins and salt and peppers packets from long ago take-out dinners.

Do you ever move clutter from place to place?  I do.  It would be funny if it wasn’t so frustrating.

The bottom line is that no matter how clean my kitchen may be or how sparkling the bathrooms are, the memory of clutter somewhere else never allows me to truly feel like I have everything done and can totally relax.

And, what if I should die suddenly!  Oh my!  Someone else would have to go through all my stuff….maybe even my super clutter-free sister-in-law.  Gasp!

I see so many parallels here to what the clutter of petty faults, neglected duties, self-absorption, concern with the world, time wasted, etc., can wreak in our souls.

All of these things disquiet us, steal our peace and keep us distracted from God.  Just as it is more difficult to relax in a cluttered home, it is also much harder to be with God in solitude and silence in a soul which is littered with “stuff.”

Years ago I used to stop at a church to visit Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. This church had a golden tabernacle, but I was annoyed that it often seemed dusty on top. “How can they allow all of this dust to accumulate on Jesus’ house?”  I would complain to myself.

One day, God seemed to say to me, “I don’t mind that dust nearly as much as I mind the dust on your soul.”    Of course that was true!  I was worrying about dust that mattered little to God, when His Own dwelling place in my soul needed much more attention.

I am going to take an in-depth inventory of my soul this Lent.  I will ask God to show me where the most clutter is hiding, and I’m going to be sure to write it down so that I can remind myself often.  I am not talking so much about sin, but rather more of its underpinnings…those little habits and attractions and distractions which keep us less centered on God.

And, I will also make a list of clutter projects to tackle around the house for the next 40 days….the clutter I’ve been avoiding the longest.

I will ask the Immaculate One to help me with my project.  She, who is without the slightest stain, is the perfect one to clearly see where the overlooked dust and clutter reside in my soul.  I also think she will be happy to help me better organize things here at home.

Yes!  It is time to declutter!  Anyone else out there want to join me?  Spring cleaning for  houses and souls….not in that order!

In her spiritual classic, The Interior Castle, St. Teresa of Avila gives the description of a soul in the state of grace:

It is that we consider our soul to be like a castle made entirely out of a diamond or of very clear crystal, in which there are many rooms, just as in heaven there are many dwelling places.   …..We realize that the soul of the just person is nothing else but a paradise where the Lord says he finds his delight.  (Interior Castle, Chapter 1, no.1.)

I pray that this Easter, our Risen Jesus will  find in your soul…and mine too, a most pure and sparkling diamond in which to dwell!   May His Radiant Light shine clearly in and through us, and out to the whole world!

 

And the Light shines in the darkness…

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O Holy Night….words so precious, so sublime that it seems they must be whispered.  Jesus has come!  The Light has come into the world.  The Son of God has been born, and nothing will ever be the same.

I give thanks to the Lord with all of my heart that I was chosen to live after the coming of Jesus.  I cannot imagine a world without Jesus; a life without the sweet and consoling Presence of His Love.

He is truly the Light of the world.  How dark those places are where He is shut out, where His Beauty, Truth and Love are unknown or rejected.

Imagine….living in the era before the birth of Jesus.  How hopeless life must have seemed, for Jesus is our Hope, our Joy, our Everything!

O Heavenly Father, thank You for the Gift of Your Son, Whose birth we celebrate on this Holy Night.  We are astonished that Your Love would deign to send Him to us, to live among us, to give His Life that we might have eternal life.  Jesus, the inestimable Gift!

In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.  And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness grasped it not.

It was the true light that enlightens every man who comes into the world.

And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us.  And we saw his glory…glory as of the only-begotten of the Father..full of grace and of truth.

(John 1: 4, 9, 14)

(from the archives)

Isn’t He beautiful?

Thou art beautiful above the sons of men: grace is poured abroad in thy lips; therefore hath God blessed thee for ever.  Psalm 45:2 (DRB)


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O Jesus, Your Incomparable Face!
It is my Glory, my Joy, my Fascination.
O how I long to see You!
Promise me that that moment will be ever new
That it will never end;
But always be beginning.
Grant that I may be
Eternally falling in love
With the indescribable Beauty of Your Face.
I felt Its Radiance today,
And I was lost in wonder!
O God of Beauty! I await You!
Reveal Yourself to me.
Show me Your Face,
The Face of Love!

Will you go to Purgatory?

Today is All Souls’ Day, when we remember our beloved dead whom we entrust to the Mercy of God.  The whole month of November is especially dedicated to praying for these departed souls.  We must never forget to pray for them, and ask God to hasten their entrance into His Presence, should they be detained in Purgatory.

But All Souls’ Day is also a time when I love to re-read the amazing thoughts of St. Therese on Purgatory.  

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Therese was convinced that she would not go to Purgatory, and she even taught her novices to embrace the same hope (to the horror of her superiors) . Her belief was certainly not borne out of any presumption upon the Mercy of God, or based in any worthiness of her own. Rather, like everything else, Therese saw Purgatory through the lens of God’s Love.

She reasoned that His Love was a Fire which could purify instantly and completely: You can prepare me to appear before you in an instant. (From her Act of Oblation to Merciful Love)

Therese believed that God would gladly accept anyone who truly trusts in Him, and embraces their littleness…souls with “empty hands” who in all humility depend entirely on the Love and Mercy of God. It follows that such souls, while not necessarily possessing the perfection of the Saints, would nevertheless live their lives trying to love and serve God as best they could, humbly asking Him to clothe them in His Own Sanctity.

And if she was wrong…well, Therese had a charming “backup plan”.  She would spend her Purgatory praising God, strolling through the flames singing the Canticle of Praise from Daniel 3: 57-88. But, her hope remained in her Beloved, and she fervently prayed:  May my soul, without delay, leap into the eternal embrace of Your Merciful Love. 

And what about the rest of us poor mortals, not quite burning with the fire and holiness of Therese? Well, we can hope too. And, we can remember that God takes into account the suffering we have endured on earth. And, as Therese would say:  Can we ever hope for too much from God’s Goodness?

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“God’s Mercy is Greater!” THE TEACHING OF ST. THERESE OF LISIEUX ON PURGATORY

  by Father Dr.Hubert van Dijk, ORC¹


Doctor of the Church for the third millennium

St Therese of Lisieux, who was declared Doctor of the Church by Pope John Paul   II on October 19, 1997, felt the calling in the monastery to teach others and wanted to be a teacher (docteur)1  Early on, God revealed the mysteries of His Love to her. She writes about this: “Ah! had the learned who spent their  life in study come to me, undoubtedly they would have been astonished to see a child of fourteen understand perfection’s secrets, secrets all their knowledge cannot reveal because to possess them one has to be poor in spirit!” 2

In his apostolic letter Divini Amoris Scientia, published when St Therese was declared Doctor of the Church, the Holy Father says that one should not look for a  scientific revelation of God’s mysteries. “Thus we can rightly recognize in the Saint of Lisieux the charism of a Doctor of the Church, because of the gift of the Holy Spirit she received for living and expressing her experience   faith, and because of her particular understanding of the mystery of Christ… That assimilation was certainly favored by the most singular natural gifts, but it was also evidently something prodigious, due to a charism of wisdom from the Holy Spirit.”3
Her writings offer an abundance of ideas concerning practically every field in theology and spirituality, a multitude which even a hundred years after her death bas been far from exhausted. As the popes repeatedly express: Therese of Lisieux is a gift to the Church. Before the year 2000, she was declared Doctor of the Church, becoming the third woman amongst the thirty-three recognized Doctors of the Church. She died young. Not only is she the youngest of all, but also the best known, loved, and read! Already she has given the Church a lot, and in the dawn of a new millennium, she will continue to bless the faithful with her many gifts. Thus, she is also known as “Doctor of the Church of the third millennium.
“One does not need to go to Purgatory”
Little Therese’s theology is a theology that springs from life, a theology of experience. She received a fervent Catholic upbringing at home, in her parish community, as well as at the school of the Benedictine nuns in Lisieux, and thus, she was familiar with the teaching of Purgatory. Being led by-the Holy Spirit, thoughts, notions, and ideas developed which finally became, “The teaching of the Little Flower on Purgatory.”4

The common teaching within the Church is that Purgatory can hardly be avoided. While still only a novice, the saint commented about this with one of the sisters,  Sr. Maria Philomena, who believed in the near impossibility of going to heaven without passing through purgatory:

You do not have enough trust. You have too much fear before the good God. I can assure you that     He is grieved over this. You should not fear Purgatory because of the suffering there, but should instead ask that you     not deserve to go there in order to please God, Who so reluctantly imposes this     punishment. As soon as you try to please Him in everything and have an unshakable trust He purifies you every moment in His love and He lets no     sin remain. And then you can be sure that you will not have to go to     Purgatory.5

She even said that we would  offend God if we didn’t trust enough that we would get to heaven right after dying. When she found out that her novices talked occasionally that they would probably have to expect to be in Purgatory, she corrected them saying: “Oh!  How you grieve me! You do a great injury to God in believing you’re going to Purgatory. When we love, we can’t go there.”6 Now, this is a new doctrine, but only for those who don’t know God, who are not childlike, who don’t trust. It is so correct to see things this way. It is true that God will judge us at one point, but He is always and first our Father Who… suffers when He has to punish His child and sees its suffering. The child should do His will just out of love, and not to avoid punishment. And this really means that God does not want Purgatory! He allows that His children suffer, but only  as if He had to look away.7
If St. Therese is correct that one does not need to be in Purgatory   because God Himself does not want this and would   love to help us, the thought that Purgatory can be avoided is suddenly not so far-fetched anymore. But first there is the problem of the
.  aforementioned opinion which says that only few will avoid Purgatory. This is   confirmed by great saints and mystics like St. John of the Cross who says, “Only a small number of souls achieve perfect   love”8 (perfect love is necessary to go straight to heaven). St.   Teresa of Avila also had the experience that only few   will be able to avoid Purgatory.9 St. John Vianney said, “It is definite that only a few chosen ones do not   go to Purgatory and the suffering there that one must. endure, exceeds our imagination.”10
One also has to take into consideration that even practicing Christians are convinced that even the good and faithful and those consecrated to God will have to be 
exposed to purification in Purgatory for a certain amount of time. The reason for this is always the same: “It is not easy to avoid Purgatory. No one is a saint, and I will certainly  have to spend some time there myself.” They add to this that “God is just” or   “we certainly deserve this.”

Therefore, it is even more amazing what St. Therese has to say. Once she encouraged her novice, Sr. Marie de la Trinire to have the faith that it was possible even  for her to get to heaven right away.Shewondered “If I fail even in: the smallest things, “may I still hope to get straight to heaven?” St Therese, who knew   well the weaknesses of her novice, replied: “Yes! God is so good. He will know how He can come and get you. But despite this, try to be faithful, so that He does not wait in vain for   your love.”11
God is Father rather than   Judge.

Once St. Therese had a confrontation regarding this topic with Sr. Marie  Febronia, who not only was sixty-seven   years old but also was sub-prioress. She had heard that St. Therese encouraged the novices to believe that they could go straight to heaven. She did not like this as she considered this kind of confidence presumptuous, and  thus she reproached St Therese. St Therese tried lovingly and calmly to explain to Sr. Febronia her point of view but with no success as Sr. Febronia clung to belief. For St.  Therese God was more Father than   Judge, and she took the liberty of finally responding,   “My sister, if you look for the justice of God you will get it. The soul will receive from   God exactly what she desires.”

The year had not passed when, in January 1892, Sr. M. Febronia together with other sisters fell prey to the flu and died. Three months later Sr. Therese had a dream which she related to her Mother Prioress and which was then documented: “O my   Mother, my Sr. M Febronia came to me last night and asked that we should pray for her:.  She is in Purgatory,   surely because she had trusted too little in the mercy of the good Lord. Through her imploring behavior and her profound looks, it seemed she wanted to  say, You were right. I am now delivered up to the full justice of God but it is my fault. If I had listened to you I would not be here now.”12
St. Therese’s “doctrine” in 7 key words

1. Purgatory became a rule   rather than the exception.

An infinite number of souls who suffer in Purgatory     and for whom the Church prays daily after consecration did not need to go there. If we think in human terms, God does not wish for us to need Purgatory. God     does not put us here on earth, where we are tested and are suffering after the fall, only to let us suffer     again–and much worse–in Purgatory. Everyone receives enough graces in order to go straight to God after passing the trials on earth. However, Purgatory is an emergency entry to Heaven for those who have wasted their time. However,     what God considered the exception became the rule, and the rule–to go straight to heaven–became the exception.

2. To cope with the “inevitable” is a grave error.

Since God does not really want Purgatory, He does not want it for me either! But then I also have to not want it! Nobody would expose themselves to the danger of Purgatory by living a mediocre and–as is the case so often today–a sinful life.    If they only thought of the intense sufferings in Purgatory. In this regard, the     mystics unanimously say that the least suffering in Purgatory is much greater than the     greatest suffering here on earth!The reason for this is that once in Purgatory, one does not go through the time of God’s Mercy but of God’s Justice. Here, the Lord’s word applies: “1 tell you, you will not get out until you have paid the very last    copper’ (Lk 12:59). The many who carelessly say, “I will probably spend some time  there,” are gravely wrong. Nobody just spends some time there, one has to suffer     there like one     has never suffered nor could have suffered while on earth. One often  even suffers a long time there also. If the Poor Souls in Purgatory had known on earth what to expect in eternity, Purgatory would have remained empty.

3. Purgatory is a waste of time.

   This is what St. Therese says, “I know that of myself I would not merit even     to enter that place of expiation since only holy souls can have entrance there.     But I also know that the Fire of Love is more sanctifying than is the fire of Purgatory.     I know that Jesus cannot desire useless sufferings for us, and that He would not inspire the longings I feel unless He wanted to grant them.”13 It is true that Purgatory is a wonderful grace, for if needed, without the purification in Purgatory we would not go    to Heaven, and the work of art which God intended and created us to be would not be    completed. But St. Therese is right: at the moment of our death we already have our    place in Heaven. Afterwards, there is no growing in grace anymore. Whoever does  not go through Purgatory does not miss anything.

4.   We need a more positive image of God.

We already know that St. Therese told her novices that they offended God when they thought they would go to Purgatory. That is a very shocking statement: for if this is correct, millions   of Christians are offending God or at least hurt Him. And     yet this is the case. They are focused only on themselves, thinking–not without    reason–that they deserve Purgatory. They do not notice God Who is by their side and would love to help them so much. The fact that we fear Purgatory so much also has     to do with a rather negative image that we have of God. We, Christians of     the 20th Century, were like so many, raised with the image of a strict God, anxious to punish us as often as we deserve it. This thinking goesback to heresies like Jansenism. Quietism, or Calvinism.     14

5. Love banishes fear

The question of whether Heaven will follow right after death is a question of trust. God     does not need our merits in order to take us straight to Him but He needs all of our     trust.    Or the other way around–it is not -our sins that can prevent God     from giving us this grace    but rather our lack of trust. Therefore, we must draw the conclusion that     everything depends solely on trust. There is no trust without perfect love. And vice versa, there is no     love without trust. And this is     exactly what the Apostle John writes in his first letter, “In this is love perfected with us, that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as He is so are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with     punishment, and he who fears is not perfected in love” (1 Jn. 4:17-18).

This text enlightens our topic very much. Judgment Day is the day of our death. Whoever achieves perfect love at the moment of their death sees God as so merciful and generous that they cannot believe in punishment in Purgatory. We are dealing with the same kind of grace in the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick. St. Thomas Aquinas teaches us that this Sacrament has as its real fruit the wiping out of punishment due to our sins.15 After those who have received the Sacrament of the    Anointing of the Sick, others present often notice that the sick enter a period of growing peace and trust, together with a great surrender to the Will of God, and even    serenity and desire for Heaven. This also applies to those who up to that point did not believe or even lived in mortal sin. Even these people, as the great theologians of the scholastics say–for example, St. Albert the Great or St. Bonaventure–go straight to Heaven without having to go through Purgatory first. This shows the wonderful grace coming from the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick.16

6. The last will be the first.

While many Christians do receive the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick,     experience tells us that they do not go straight to Heaven. The mystics often relate    that many priests and religious suffer long time and have to     wait for their release. However, all of them or almost all of them have received the Sacrament of     the Anointing. What is the reason for this? The answer is certainly that they did not receive the Sacrament with the necessary repentance or     surrender to the Will of God, or that they did not want to change their flaws and vices a long time before their death.
St. Therese of Lisieux tells us that she heard that sometimes great saints with   
many merits come before the Judgment of God, but have to go to Purgatory because our justice before God is often unclean. That is why she recommends to give immediately away all the merits of our good deeds, and that it is better to appear before God empty-handed.17 She recommends to her oldest sister and godmother Marie, to be given Heaven free of charge by God.18

While on the one hand the first ones don’t always get to Heaven first, on the other hand there are enough examples that the last ones become the first ones. Therese refers in her writings to the Lord’s mercy towards the good thief,19 and wishes that the story from the “desert fathers,” about how a great sinner called Paesie died out of love and is being taken straight to heaven, should be added to her    autobiography, “Souls will understand immediately, for it is a striking example of     what I’m trying to say.”20   
When our great hour comes, as St. Therese writes to Abbe Roulland,   
missionary in China, if only we trust, the Blessed Virgin will obtain “the grace of making an act of perfect love” should we have “some trace of human weakness” and so will we reach heaven     immediately after death.21

7. St. Therese’s teaching, a great message for the third millennium

One can rightfully say that Therese is turning all common opinions on    Purgatory upside down.22 She wants to appear before God empty-handed and explains    why it can be easier for sinners who have nothing to rely upon, to reach Heaven than    the great saints with all their merits.. She emphasizes that trust alone is enough, that merits are no guarantee but often an obstacle for the straight way to Heaven, and that sins do not need to be an obstacle. After a ‘messed-up’ life, God can still take one straight to Heaven if the dying person only has trust. And how easy it can be to trust    if there are no     merits but only one’s misery! Through trust she shows the shorter way to Heaven to the small and humble. And so many can and will go that way. She    writes about this to her sister Marie:“…what pleases Him (God) is     that He sees me loving my littleness and my poverty, the blind hope that     I have in His mercy… That is my only treasure, dear Godmother, why     should this treasure not be yours?…”23

As has been said, she has made sanctity available     for everyone through her little way, and this is also true for the straight way to Heaven… This will no longer be an exception. Once those who are smart enough to gather from the treasures of our new Doctor of the Church will walk this way easily, especially those who want to be    part of the legion of little souls which St. Therese asked God for at the end of her    manuscript B, “I beg You to cast Your Divine     Glance upon a great number of little souls. I beg You to choose a legion of     little Victims worthy of YourLOVE!”24Yes, by listening to her wonderful message there will be many, many souls…    and with that, Purgatory stops being the unavoidable detour to Heaven!

Conclusion
    St. Therese of the Child Jesus gave us a lot to think about. There are   yet many new thoughts to be   understood in terms of theology. For us, however, the most important, even existentially significant of everything she wrote is the message on   Purgatory. The question of what happens to us after death should move us deeply. Let  us just remember Sr. Febronia and her suffering in Purgatory; her silent message from the next world should move us. “It seemed,” says Therese, “as if she wanted to say: If I had listened to you I would not be here now.” This is actually shocking when you think about it. One   has to admit that Sr. Febronia entered the next world through the wrong door. And with her, thousands and millions who would have managed to avoid  Purgatory. And why did they not achieve this? The simple reason is that nobody   showed them the correct way. Considering this, one does   understand that Therese is a true gift to the Church. God gave her to us as leader and comforter   for the apocalyptic days in which we very obviously live. Her message concerning Purgatory is a true grace of God’ s   merciful love for the moment of our death. One can apply the urgent exhortation of our LORD: “‘He who has ears to hear. let him hear” (Lk. 8:8).

Father Dr.   Hubert van Dijk, ORC

 

Footnotes:

1. I would like to enlighten souls-as did the   Prophets and the Doctors.’St Thereseof Lisieux. Story of a   Soul. ICS. Washington     DC, 1996, Ms B, 2v, pg. 192. 2. St. Therese of Lisieux.  Story of a SOUL, ICS, Washington DC, 1996, Ms A, 49r. Jig. 105. 3. Divini Amoris, I.c., Nr. 7.4. Philippe de la Trinite,  La Doctrine de Sainte Therese sur Ie Purgatoire. Editions du Parvis, CH-1648 Hauteville/Suisse 1992,     pg. 16. . 5. Annales de Sainte Therese, Lisieux. Nr. 610, Febr. 1982. Translated   from the German. 6. Last Conversations,   ICS. Washington DC. 1971, pg 273.. 7. La Doctrine, l.c. pg 16. Translated from the German.   8. St. John of the Cross, The Dark Night, IT. ch. XX. 9. Ferdinand Holbőck.  Das Fegefeuer, Salzburg 1977, page 94f. Translated from the German. 10.  La Doctrine, I.c.page 22f. Translated from the German.   11. Lucien Regnault, La Pensee de Ste. Therese de 1’Enfant Jesus sur Ie Purgatoire in Annales de Sainte Therese,   1986, Suppl. Nr     101, pages 21-29, quote on page 26. Translated from the German. 12. Annales de Sainte Therese, Nr. 610. Feb. 1983, page 5. Translated from the German.   13. Story of a Soul, Ms A, 84v, pg.181. 14. La Pensee,l.c., page 23. Translated from the German.   15. St Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, Suppl. Qu. 30, art. 1.   Translated from the German. 16. P. Philipon. Vie Spirituelle, Jan./Feb. 1945, pages 21-23; 16-17. Translated from the German. 17. La Doctrine, l.c. page 13. Translated from the German. 18. St. Therese of Lisieux, Letters St. Therese of Lisieux, ICS, Washington DC, 1913, Vol. II, pg 998, LT 197. 19. Pious Recreations, RP 6, 9v, translated from the German.   20. Last Conversations. pg. 89. CJ, 11.7.6   21. Letters of St. Therese of Lisieux. Vol. II, pg. 1093, LT 226.   22. La Pensee, l.c., pg. 28. Translated from the German.   23. Letters of St. Therese of Lisieux, Vol. II, pg. 999, LT 197.   24. Story of a Soul, pg. 200. Ms B, 5v.

(1) Webmaster’s Note: This article, in German, appears in the December 2001, and the January 2002 issue of “Der Fels” (A German Catholic Publication) – see www.der-fels.de/2001/12-2001.pdf  and www.der-fels.de/2002/01-2002.pdf respectively. It was translated into English by Père (Father) de la Trinité, ocd. Fr. Van Dijk, confirmed the authenticity of his writing – which I had requested because it appears that our website is the only place where this article appears in English. We have checked the references noted in the Footnotes, they all check out. Fr. Van Dijk hopes that we can make his paper known to the world. We shall try to do that. / Fred Schaeffer, SFO, webmaster.                            top