An Unpetalled Rose….

(I have been on a bit of a blog break, falling in love with my precious granddaughter….now ten weeks old).   Meanwhile, here is a favorite post of mine from 2011.

 

The summer after I graduated from highschool, I attended a “going away” shower for a pretty girl who had graduated with me.  She was leaving to enter a Carmelite monastery nearby.                                                                                                                  

Earlier that year when Mary had announced her plans, the comment, “What a waste,”  was frequently bantered about.  And on the day of her shower, after we had helped her load the gifts into her car, and she had hugged everyone good-bye, the same comment was repeated as she drove away.

Then there was Dolores Hart.  She sent the “what a waste” crowd into apoplexy when she abandoned her Hollywood career to join a Benedictine monastery — even after starring in two movies with Elvis, no less.  I admit to being intrigued by Dolores myself when she made appearances on EWTN Live a couple of times over the past few years.  She is still beautiful in her 70’s, and is radiant and funny and full of joy– and still a nun.

My friend Mary, and Mother Dolores Hart come to mind whenever I read one of my favorite poems by St. Therese.  It’s titled, The Unpetalled Rose.  How like Therese to want to “squander” her life just for God — simply to give Him pleasure, to be a fresh petal beneath His feet.

But this beautiful poem is not limited to cloistered nuns like Therese and Mary and Dolores.  We can all desire to be “unpetalled.”  We can surrender with joy our plans and dreams into the Heart of God and fling away the script we had hoped our life would follow.

And, petals fall too when we truly seek the last place, rejoicing when others are praised and rewarded while we are overlooked….when we live our lives “with mystery” as Therese states in the last stanza of her poem.  To live in mystery is to be an enigma to the world, to choose what the world does not understand, all the while in secret, unpetalling the rose of our lives.

There are a thousand ways to lose our petals, and allow ourselves to simply be used up for God’s pleasure.  You can tell when you are being unpetalled.  There is a pain within, like a struggle… like dying…..to self.

But suddenly, you feel lighter.  There is fragrance.  Another petal has dropped…. for  His Joy Alone!

But now let Therese tell us as only she can —

An Unpetalled Rose

By
  St. Therese of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face

Jesus, when I see you held by your Mother,
Leaving her arms
Trying, trembling, your first steps
On our sad earth,
Before you I’d like to unpetal a rose
 In its freshness
So that your little foot might rest ever so softly
On a flower!….

This unpetalled rose is the faithful image,
Divine Child,
Of the heart that wants to sacrifice itself for you unreservedly
at each moment.
Lord, on your altars more than one new rose
Likes to shine.
 It gives itself to you…..but I dream of something else:
 To be unpetalled!….”

The rose in its splendor can adorn your feast,
Lovable Child,
But the unpetalled rose is just flung out
To blow away.
 An unpetalled rose gives itself unaffectedly
To be no more.
Like it, with joy I abandon myself to you,
Little Jesus.

One walks on rose petals with no regrets,
And this debris
Is a simple ornament that one disposes of artlessly,
That I’ve understood.
Jesus, for your love I’ve squandered my life,
My future.
In the eyes of men, a rose forever withered,
I must die!…

For you, I must die, Child, Beauty Supreme,
What a blessed fate!
In being unpetalled, I want to prove to you that I love you,
O my Treasure!…
Under your baby steps, I want to live here below
With mystery,
And I’d like to soften once more on Calvary
Your last steps!….

(all emphases by Therese)

From:  The Poetry of St. Therese of Lisieux

Translated By:  Donald Kinney, OCD

ICS Publications, (Institute of Carmelite Studies) 1995

(first posted August 9, 2011)

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She who was called barren is in her sixth month….

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While my husband was checking out at Sam’s this afternoon, I took a seat in the snack area nearby.  And it was there that it captured me….a tiny, delicately sculpted foot with dimples and miniature toes….a perfect work of art.  I always marvel at that fresh beauty of a baby’s little fingers and toes, appearing almost too perfect to be real…like a masterpiece of purest wax.

This tiny, kicking foot was kissed and cuddled by an adorable little girl of about four, no doubt sister to whom I later saw was a baby boy of a few months, peacefully nursing from his bottle.  And, I didn’t cry.  Those of you who know my story might have expected that.

But not this time.  As I watched the husband and father of this trio gather his family together, I was lost in thought over the wondrous power they possessed.

Do they ever think about such things….these life- bearers entrusted with clothing in flesh the very children of God?   I know that we, the infertile, the barren, probe this mystery in breathless and unending fascination, turning it round and round, in wondrous contemplation.

But what of us?  Are we forgotten, somehow cursed by God, disgraced and covered in shame as once believed not so long ago…and surprisingly, somewhat in our own day.

I think not.  I think not, on this day when we celebrate the Birth of John the Baptist, son of Zechariah and the once hopelessly barren Elizabeth.

And… there were so many others.  So many women with “closed wombs” whom the Lord permitted to suffer the agony and disgrace of barrenness before blessing them with many of His most chosen servants.

Who can forget Sarah, who “laughed” because she was so old, but gave birth to Isaac a year later?  And what of the beautiful Rebecca, wife of Isaac, who had to wait 45 years before conceiving Jacob and Esau?

“Give me children or I shall die,” wailed Rachel, wife of Jacob.  And the Lord heard her cries and she brought forth Joseph and Benjamin.

Why were the wives of these great men of God, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, all afflicted with such long periods of barrenness, before the Lord blessed them with sons through whom He would in turn raise up His people, Israel?

And then there was Hannah, who is remembered for her tears as she cried before the Lord for a child, and was answered and brought forth the great prophet Samuel.

Another barren woman….another great man of God conceived.

There is mystery here.  There is emptiness filled to overflowing.  There is agony and shame brought to glory.

Elizabeth knew the glory, as her once barren womb was filled with the Holy Spirit rushing upon her child of whom Jesus later said, “Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has risen no one greater than John the Baptist.”

But what of us?  What of those women who, unlike our sisters above, will never have fruitful wombs?  Or those who have given birth, but who yearn for more children?  Has God forgotten us?

God never changes.  He is the same God Who heard the cries of Rachel and saw the tears of Hannah….and He has seen our tears, and heard our cries.

I do not pretend to know Why.  But it is enough to know that He Hears.

God Who IS Life and is the Giver of all life must weep when He lays this particular Cross on His daughters, created to give life too.  We must trust in His tenderness, His goodness, His Love.

We can be sure that there is nothing He will allow us to suffer that we won’t rejoice over one day… when we understand.

Meanwhile, let us pray for those struggling with infertility.  Let us pray for the unborn.  Let us pray for couples who stifle their life-giving gifts.  Let us pray for those who have miscarried or lost children in other ways.  Let us pray for those who suffer anguish over past abortions.

And let us rejoice with those who are fruitful, and praise God for every precious life, and for every tiny hand and foot and baby smile.

He expects no less of us…..we who are called to bear the mystery of our barrenness into the Glory of Eternal LIFE….where the mystery will be revealed at last… in His Presence!

LORD, I bow before Your Perfect Will.  It is enough to know that Your Love could find no better path for me than the one I tread.  I walk it willingly into Your Loving Embrace.  Glory and Praise to You forever, Most Holy Trinity!

Some helpful resources for those suffering from infertility:

http://health.groups.yahoo.com/group/catholic-fertility/
http://hannahstearsinfertilitysupport.blogspot.com/
http://www.popepaulvi.com/fcco_Home.htm
http://blessedarethebarren.wordpress.com/ (An inactive blog, but with some beautiful, insightful articles by a Christian blogger bearing the cross of infertility)

Five minutes with Jesus….

Life can get so busy and so complicated that sometimes all the stress and confusion can overflow into our prayer life.  That’s been me lately.  And because I am also in that desert place, where prayer is dry and difficult, I have struggled trying to “pray well.”

Then I heard Father Larry Richards.  I was driving to my Secular Carmelite meeting Sunday afternoon, and Father Larry was on the Catholic radio re-broadcast of EWTN’s Life on the Rock.  He was talking about his new book, Surrender, and began to share what he tells people who say that they don’t have time to pray.

First of all he said that everyone has at least five minutes a day to spend with Jesus.    But many of the people Father ministers to are new to prayer, and five minutes seems like a long time to be alone with God.

So Father suggests spending those precious minutes in the following way:

Spend one minute telling Jesus that you are sorry for your sins, and asking Him to forgive you.
Spend the second minute telling Him that you surrender your life to Him
And spend the last three minutes asking Jesus to just hold you. Imagine yourself leaning against His chest, like St. John at the Last Supper, and listening to His Heart beating.

That’s it.  Just five quiet minutes with Jesus.

After my meeting, I went to evening Mass, and during my thanksgiving after Holy Communion, I spent the time just like Father Larry suggested….and it was so lovely and peaceful.

Jesus reminded me of what I have known about prayer in better days…that it doesn’t have to be perfect. That it shouldn’t be a struggle. That He understands when we are tired, have a bad day, are in pain, etc. We don’t have to be formal or follow methods to pray. When God doesn’t send consolations, we should remain at peace. It doesn’t mean that He is displeased with us.

Our Father is always waiting for us, longing for us to run to Him, no matter what we may have done.  He is so eager to forgive.  And Jesus, yes, He longs to hold us in His arms…hold us tight.  Who loves us more than the One Who died to save us?  Who is more loving and consumed with affection for us than Jesus?  St. John knew this, and did not hesitate to rest on Our Lord….and no doubt was a great comfort to Jesus through this act of love.

Some years ago, I stopped by an empty church to visit Jesus.  But instead of going up near the tabernacle as I usually did, I knelt in the back.  I had not been on my best behavior that day, and felt unworthy of drawing nearer.  Then into my mind flashed the scene of myself as a little girl, and she was running up the aisle as fast as she could to Jesus, Who scooped her up in His arms and hugged and kissed her.

And suddenly I got up and walked quickly to kneel before my Savior and smile at Him and ask His forgiveness and lose myself in His welcoming embrace.

Prayer is really so simple.  St. John knew.  Father Larry knows.

And now, I remember too.

Jesus, hold me, hold me close……forever.

_____________________________________________________

From Descending Fire, The Journal of a Soul Aflame:
by Father Jean Petit

I desire, Holy Trinity, that each act of my life might be stamped with the seal of heroism and martyrdom, that nothing may be lost in each of the moments given to me through your generosity……

Alas!  Reality is different.  My times of emptiness are numerous, at least in appearance, when I hardly am permitted to think about You, when my physical capacity is inadequate for intellectual learning, when it seems that I have done nothing.  I have done nothing, and so I must be resigned to wait for better days.

Better days?  But these empty days are the best.  They are really empty only in appearance.   That is when You force me to put my finger on the reality of what I am and so make me experience my complete powerlessness.  Happy days are those empty days, in which You fill me with Yourself, in which You teach me secretly, consume me, and strengthen me; in which You allow Your light, Your love and Your power to pierce my soul….

I’m looking for someone I used to be….


If therefore the Son shall make you free, you shall be free indeed.
  John 8:36

On my recent retreat, I thought deeply about the one thing which still holds me back from completely, unabashedly abandoning myself to my Lord.  And I know it well….FEAR.

It’s not that I am unwilling to carry the crosses which come my way.  But, the thought of kneeling before God, and deliberately speaking a total and complete surrender to Him stirs a visceral reaction within me, and I quake at the unseen dread I imagine will soon fall upon me. 

Whenever I do offer myself to Him, it is always with a slight disclaimer… oh, but please not that or I hope You won’t ask me for this.  Sadly, it is not a generous and courageous gift of myself to Him…. such as He has made to me.

I trust God… that His Grace will be sufficient for any adversity, but it is the anticipation which terrifies me.  And that is enough to restrain me, even  though I know quite well that my caution in no way affords me any additional control….and do I really imagine that I know a better path than the one my Lord has chosen for me?

Once upon a time, I stepped out into the unknown, and offered myself unreservedly to God.

It was the first New Year’s Eve after my adult conversion. I was then 26 years old, and totally consumed with this God of Love Who had truly come “bounding over the hills” into my life. I had also immersed myself in the writings of St. Therese, whose passionate and daring protestations of her love for God delighted my young heart, so close then in years to her own.

Putting pen to paper, I sat on the floor by our Christmas tree and filled several pages with effusive thanksgiving to God for all that He had done for me during the past year… His coming into the darkness of my life and filling it with the Light of His Love, the torrents of Grace He had showered upon me, as though beside Himself to make up for all the lost years…calling me to daily Mass and an irresistible attraction to His Eucharistic Presence…. the holy, paternal Irish priest who had taken me under his wing, and in whom I saw a reflection of my heavenly Father. There was so much to thank Him for!  My pen weaved into words the thoughts spilling out of my heart. And then, longing to make a return to Him, I ended my thanksgiving with an invitation:

“Even though I long to help save souls for You, I am too weak to ask You to send me suffering, but I simply want to say that if You desire me to suffer something for love of You, let it come, and I will know from whence it came.”

The following October, I was diagnosed with cancer. It was completely unexpected. My doctor was shocked. Young women simply don’t get uterine cancer of the type I had. And then there was the cure…a total hysterectomy, which would remove not only organs, but also my cherished dream of bearing children.

When the nurse phoned to ask that my husband and I come in to see the doctor, she didn’t say why.  But somehow, I knew.  My sister was sure that the procedure I’d had the previous day had revealed something related to why I hadn’t been able to conceive in the four years we had been trying. But I knew better.

I locked myself inside my red and white bathroom and cried aloud to God, “I can’t have cancer. I can’t deal with it. I just can’t.”

And then, for the very first time, I heard an interior voice, clear, riveting, incredibly powerful, yet reassuring. “Yes you can,” the voice said. “Yes you can.”  And I walked out of the bathroom and got into the car with my husband. The doctor was nervous, but I was strangely calm.  Because I knew.

And yes, I dealt with it…dealt with it in a way which surprised me. With a peace and calm and strength which can only come from the Lord.

But, you don’t forget something like that. You just don’t forget. And the devil knows well our weaknesses, and how to exploit them.

My earliest memories from childhood are of lying in a pool of blood on my pillow. I suffered severe nosebleeds for the first nine years of my life. Because of this, I was anemic, and my mother hovered over me much more so than over my sisters. I was her “sickly” child, or so she unintentionally made me feel.

Yes, the devil knows our woundedness, and that terrified little girl who woke up in pools of blood, long ago learned to fear what could happen to her body…how little control she had, and she has been trying to protect herself ever since.

But somewhere inside of me there is also that brave, 26 year old…the one who stared down fear and surrendered herself, not to sickness and suffering, but to the Will of the One she loved, whatever form it might take.

She’s the one I’m praying to find.

And when I do, I will borrow her strong heart, and take my wounded child by the hand and together we will go before the One Who came to cast out all fear….

We will kneel before Him and say,

“I am Yours. I give myself to You completely.  Do with me whatever You Will.”

And this time, I mean it forever…..