Tuesday Adoration…Delight of the Father

Today during Eucharistic Adoration, in preparation for the Feast of St. Teresa of Avila, (a Solemnity for Carmelites),  I was reading some of her Spiritual Testimonies and received, from the Saint, a beautiful new insight into what transpires during Holy Communion.  Perhaps what St. Teresa reveals will be a blessing to you as well.

 

st-therese-of-avila-5

Once after receiving Communion I was given understanding of how the Father receives within our soul the most holy Body of Christ, and of how I know and have seen that these divine Persons are present, and of how pleasing to the Father this offering of His Son is, because He delights and rejoices with Him here–let us say–on earth.  For His humanity is not present with us in the soul, but His divinity is.  Thus the humanity is so welcome and pleasing to the Father and bestows on us so many favors.  I understood that He also receives this sacrifice from the priest who is in sin, except that He doesn’t grant to his soul the favors He grants to those who are in the state of grace.  But the reason for this isn’t because these influences proceeding from this communication, by which the Father receives this sacrifice, lose their force, but because of a lack on the part of the one receiving it; just as the lack is not on the part of the sun when it fails to shine on a piece of pitch as it does on crystal, but on the part of the pitch.  If I could now describe this, I would give a better explanation, for there are deep interior secrets revealed when one receives Communion.  It is a pity that these bodies of ours do not let us enjoy them.

The Collected Works of St. Teresa of Avila, Volume I
Spiritual Testimonies, No. 52, Deep secrets revealed in Communion
ICS Publications,
Washington, D.C.
(Italics by me)

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O Queen and Beauty of Carmel….

O Queen and Beauty of Carmel,
I rejoice to be
in Your motherly care.
No harm shall come to me
beneath Your watchful eye.

I love Your tender smile,
and the assurance that
my tiny hand is held by Yours
O Mary, Fragrance
of Holiness!

Purity beyond comprehension,
I delight to be
Your child.
O Full of Grace,
draw me close to You.

And let your motherly touch
leave traces
of Your Holiness
lingering upon me
that I may resemble You.

I thank God that
You are my Mother,
For time and eternity
O lovely and incomparable
Virgin of Carmel.

My Peace…I give to you..

(The beautiful chanted Salve Regina, with which my Carmelite Community always ends our meetings.)

Today was my monthly meeting for the Secular Discalced Carmelites, of which I have been a member for 16 years.

It is hard to believe that it has been that long since I nervously walked into my first meeting, not knowing anyone, but feeling called there by a desire which had long been in my heart. It is fascinating to look back and see how God begins preparing us for the future, even though we are completely unaware.

I had been taught by Carmelite sisters, of the Order of Ancient Observance (O.Carm.), from first grade all the way through highschool. I remember receiving my acceptance letter into Mt Carmel Academy.  It began, “Dear Carmelite..,” and that especially delighted me for some reason.

Years later, I read The Story of a Soul, and immediately fell in love with St. Therese and sat at her feet imbibing her wisdom and her science of love, as I read every available book I could find about her.  I have a personal collection of at least fifty such books, and have read more besides, in addition to countless articles in Carmelite publications throughout the years.

And then, in God’s timing, I learned that there was a community of Secular Discalced Carmelites in my area, and after a retreat and much prayer, I gathered the courage to attend that first meeting.

This morning, I was rushing as usual, praying not to be late, and trying to shake a migraine which had awakened me before dawn.  During the past few years, it is always that way. I have come to expect that meeting days will be a challenge.

In the beginning, it was quite the opposite. I looked forward to these special days and always arrived a bit early to talk and laugh with my formation companions. I loved my formation classes and never fell behind in the required reading and other assignments. LIke the first steps in the spiritual life which are usually strewn with much spiritual joy and many consolations, so also were my first steps in Carmel.

Now it is different, as there are always challenges just getting out of the house. I am not one to see the devil behind every bush, but I do believe he is always at work trying to grind us down, and discourage us from anything which will enable us to progress in our love for and union with our God. 

My current journey in Carmel also reflects the spiritual desert I have been living in for some years now. It is hard to pray, impossible to meditate … a spiritual existence devoid of any sweetness or consoling feelings.  As I walk through day after day like this, I also greet my monthly meetings in much the same way. My closest friends have left Carmel, and other beloved members have passed away. There are many new members I hardly know, as they joined during the two years before my parents died, a period when I had to miss many meetings. There was a certain disconnect, as I was not present for some clothings and professions and not available to participate in discussions about implementing changes, etc.

So now, I tend to sit in the back, quietly listening and observing, and endeavoring to be faithful to my current assignment as infirmarian, which makes me responsible to see that our sick and homebound members are not forgotten.

But, as on the spiritual journey, no matter which stage one may be in…no matter how dark and dreary and dry as a bone one’s soul feels, yet, deep within, there is that Peace which the Savior promised, a peace the world cannot give. It is in the center of the soul, where the King dwells with His treasures.

This peace is not so deep in the beginning, and can still be disturbed when especially painful crosses fall upon us, but as time passes, it penetrates more deeply into our hearts, and like a welcome anchor, is not easily shaken. And joy too remains…not the sunny bursts of joy which once made our souls dance and sing, but a quieter joy which comes from being absolutely certain that God is always with us, and will never abandon us. We have learned that He does not leave when the consolations go, and that is such a comfort. We have not lost Him because we no longer feel His Presence. We continue to trust, and that is much more reliable evidence than feelings.

For a Carmelite, it is now living what we once only learned about in formation, from our spiritual masters and Doctors of the Church, St. John of the Cross, and St. Teresa of Jesus.

And so I thank my Almighty King Jesus, that the Peace and Joy which lit up my soul on meeting days in my early years in Carmel, are still with me today, although now they are more like a gentle breeze, wafting across my heart, ever so gently, and reassuring me that: Yes, the vocation I embraced 16 years ago was indeed God’s Will for my life.

Thirty-third Sunday of Ordinary Time
Evening Prayer II
Responsory:

The whole creation proclaims the greatness of Your Glory.
-The whole creation proclaims the greatness of Your Glory.
Eternal ages praise,
-the greatness of Your Glory.
Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit,
-The whole creation proclaims the greaness of Your Glory.

“O Eternal Word, my Savior, You are the Eagle I love……”

Therese at 15 years old.

Today is Therese’s Feast Day, and as the sun sets where I live, still gently casting light through the trees in the woods behind my house, I think of how much Therese loved nature, and of how everything reminded her of God.

She once remarked, “I don’t think I have ever gone more than three minutes without thinking of Him.” An amazing statement, and she was not yet a nun.

There is no denying that Therese is a superstar among Saints. I would dare to say that more has been written about her than perhaps any other Saint who passed our way. Her statues abound in churches throughout the world — even in places like Russia. We are all familiar with the countless holy cards and novenas bearing her image.

Therese herself knew it would be so. In spite of the night of faith she dwelled in during her last 18 months on earth, she once told her sister, Mother Agnes: I know full well that everyone will love me.

Earlier in her life she had said, I feel that I was born for glory. I would like to become a great Saint.

But I doubt that even Therese ever dreamed of the “Storm of Glory,” that her Beloved Jesus was preparing for her.

Why do we love Therese so much? What IS it about her?

Here we have a Saint born into a family of means, surrounded by love from her first memories, possessed of an attractive appearance and exceptional intelligence, who while prodigious in holiness from an early age, did not dwell in a world of mysticism as one might expect, but led quite an ordinary life.

Thank God!

Therese climbed to the heights of sanctity by doing little things with great love. That makes her so approachable. And, she writes about it all with such charm, and the romantic phrasing of a young girl, still at an age when dreams of great deeds and great love seem possible.

It was so lovely of God to give us this girl-Saint with the sweet face of youth concealing a soul possessed of such Divine Wisdom that she is now a Doctor of the Church.

In the early years of her ascendance to greatness, many did not know what to make of her. In her own convent, some sisters wondered what her obituary would say about her; she seemed so ordinary. One of those nuns was cured of cerebral anemia – even before Therese was buried — by pressing her head against the feet of Therese shortly after her death.

As Therese’s star continued to rise, scholars, theologians, bishops and even popes realized that Therese’s genius is deceptively simple.

Therese rejoiced that God needs nothing from us…but our love. He is not impressed with great intellects or magnificent deeds. He much prefers a little act of kindness done out of love for Him. Therese was famous for her sweet smile, and she called it her “alms.” Since as a nun she had no money of her own, she loved to give away her smiles at every opportunity.

She was so convinced that love alone can exalt even the smallest effort, that she would even stoop to pick up a pin, “just to please God.”

She was a student of the gospels, and Jesus was her great model. “Jesus, make me resemble You…” she prayed.

She sought out the least loved sisters and spent her recreation time with them. She gave up all of her precious free time, so scarce in monastery life, to write poems and do other little favors requested by her fellow nuns.

Perhaps her greatest discovery was her realization that her own nothingness qualified her to depend on Jesus for everything. She counted on His Merits, His Charity, His Purifying Love to enrich her own soul.

In the evening of this life, she wrote, I will appear before you with empty hands… for all of our good works are stained in your sight….be Yourself my Sanctity.

Therese threw herself into the arms of God with the complete trust of a little child, knowing that Jesus had said, “…of such is the kingdom of Heaven.”

While on pilgrimage in Paris at age 15, she encountered her first elevator. She was fascinated, and as usual made a connection to God: The arms of Jesus will be my elevator to Heaven.

She slept in His arms quite literally — often falling asleep during her thanksgiving after Holy Communion. Undisturbed, she observed that, Doctors put their patients to sleep to operate on them. She was quite sure that Jesus was not disturbed if she slumbered while He transformed her soul.

Even Purgatory did not deter her.  She was convinced that those who truly love God do not go to Purgatory.  Still, she said that if she should find herself there, she would walk among the flames singing the canticle of love like the three Hebrews in the fiery furnace.

While Therese’s little way of spiritual childhood may at first glance seem an easy one, it requires a will of iron…which is one reason I have never liked her famous Little Flower title. She is much more, (to copy one author), a steel magnolia who refused to bend to the natural desires for rest, attention, self-indulgence, complaining and the whole host of faults so difficult for most of us to resist.

Day after day, year after year, Therese faithfully picked her flowers for Jesus — her metaphor for her continuous life of self-denial and acts of charity. It is extremely difficult to adhere to such a program of virtue even for a day or two, much less for a lifetime, and under extreme physical and spiritual suffering such as she endured for the last 18 months of her life.

Most of all, Therese loved God.  She loved everything else in Him.  She loved Him because He was so Worthy of her Love — not for any reward or favor. She liked to say, I love what He does. If she received consolations (rarely), she was happy. When he plunged her into an almost unbearable trial of faith, she wrote out the Creed in her own blood, but never asked Him to take away her suffering.

For her, Heaven would equal possession of God. I want no other throne or crown than You, O my Beloved..
And she did not wish to rest until the last soul had been saved. She wanted to return to earth after her death, to make souls love God as I love Him.

Therese, one biographer wrote, was obsessed with the happiness of God. She cared for nothing else.

Ah Therese, how your Beloved Jesus has heaped glory on glory upon you! You were not mistaken!  It is love alone that counts!

O precious Saint, as you once implored Our Lady, teach me the secrets of loving Jesus, I implore the same of you.  And imitating your prayer to those “eagles” the great Saints, I beg you, now yourself an eagle, for a double portion of your love for God!

My life is but an instant,
an hour that passes by,
A single day that slips my grasp
and quickly slides away.
O well you know, my dearest God,
to love you,
I only have today.

(by St. Therese)

Thank you, Therese!  Happy Feast Day my dear Sister.

Living on Love….

One of my favorite books is the collection of Therese’s poetry, which has only been available in English for about 15 years.

I have even considered studying French, so that I could read her original words, but I have not yet followed up on that idea!  However, the Institute of Carmelite Studies, (ICS) translation seems excellent, and I have found much to ponder within its pages.

My favorite poem written by Therese is the 15 stanza, Living on Love.  It was also the favorite of her beloved sister Celine (Sister Genevieve of Saint Teresa.)  Therese composed it during Forty Hours Devotion before the Most Blessed Sacrament in 1895.  She later wrote it down from memory.

To choose one stanza to share is so difficult.  Each one breathes Therese:  love, simplicity, confidence…

In stanza 12, she wishes to imitate Mary Magdalene, and this stanza also references her deep love for the Holy Face of Jesus.  In fact, although she is widely known as St. Therese of the Child Jesus, her true name in religious life was Sister Therese of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face, and Carmelites generally still accord her the honor of both of her titles — or “kingdoms” as she called them.  But that is a story for another day…..

(from a painting by her sister, Celine Martin)

LIVING ON LOVE

By

 St. Therese of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face

Stanza 12

Living on Love is imitating Mary,
Bathing your divine feet that she kisses, transported.
With tears, with precious perfume,
She dries them with her long hair…
Then standing up, she shatters the vase,
And in turn she anoints your Sweet Face.
As for me, the perfume with which I anoint your Face
Is my Love!….

Translated by Donald Kinney, OCD

(Therese used rhyming, in the original French)

Something to share….secrets of the King

For the past week, I have written about St. Therese and her Offering of herself as a holocaust to the Merciful Love of God.

This was one of the most signficant events in her life, and many scholars believe, the culmination of her little way of love.

The effect of this Offering on her already pure soul was manifested in the only intense mystical experience of her life, which followed a few days later.  She received the “wound of love,” a favor which St. John of the Cross wrote is experienced only rarely, even among the Saints.

Today, in anticipation of her approaching Feast Day, I would like to share that, inspired by Therese, and with the dream of offering at least a bit of consolation to God, I decided to make her Act of Oblation.

Since this Offering is not merely a prayer, but rather a definite choice to offer oneself to God to become a victim of His Love, in whatever way He chooses to pour out that Love, I discussed this desire with my confessor, a very holy Franciscan priest, now deceased.

He was most encouraging, and so on Therese’s Feast Day in 1991, using her own words, I knelt before the tabernacle in the presence of my confessor, and with as much love and longing that I could express, I offered myself to God’s Love.

It goes without saying that I am not even worthy to be mentioned in the same breath as that Saint of Love, Therese.  Yet, how true it is that God will not be outdone in generosity.

I knew that He had accepted my offering, for He rejects no good that we try to do for Him.  And in the months and years that followed, I found myself drawn into a new place on the journey to His Heart.  I became immersed in the Song of Songs, which spoke volumes to my soul.

The secrets of the King are best left unsaid (Tobit 12:7), but I have shared this much only to encourage anyone who is considering making this Offering, but is perhaps hesitant.

Many heavy crosses fell upon me in the years that followed, but I do not believe they were the fruit of my having offered myself to Love.  I think they would have come anyway, but that God in His Great Mercy foresaw their approach, and drew me into this Way of Love so that He could cover these crosses with His Sweet Fragrance, and adorn them with more merits than they would have garnered otherwise.

I have already said too much, and I will probably soon remove this post from my blog.  But I simply wanted to encourage even one heart out there who may be considering making this Offering.  I realize that such things do not appeal to everyone.  God calls us each to different paths.

But lest anyone feel they are unworthy to make such an offering, please know that you are then the Most Worthy.  I quote Therese:  Is the choice of me worthy of Love?…Yes, for in order that Love should be fully satisfied, it needs to stoop down, to stoop down to Nothingness and to transform this Nothingness into FIRE.

So, the least and littlest and the poorest souls are those which allow God’s Love to soar to the heights in manifesting Its Greatness and Magnanimity.  Are we not most like God when we forgive and reach out to those who have done little for us, rather than to those who have indulged us and been attentive to our needs?

So, little souls, do not be afraid.  Therese thought of you long ago:  I beg You to choose in this world a multitude of little victims worthy of Your LOVE!!!

(I would also like to ask your prayers for the success of 40 days for Life, which begins in my area tomorrow. Thank you!)

Promises

With zeal I have been zealous for the Lord, God of hosts. (I Kings 19:14)

Today is very special to me.  Ten years ago, on the Feast of the Most Holy Trinity, I made my Definitive (final) Promise as a Secular Discalced Carmelite.  It was the culmination of six years of preparation.

I think the special dates in our life, such as birth, death, baptism, marriage, etc., often have some significance, and so I was delighted that the day of my Definitive Promise fell on such a magnificent feast.

Three of us made our final commitment in Carmel that day.  A storm raged outside the Church, dedicated to Our Lady.  We could hear the rain pouring, as we read our Promises following the gospel at a special Mass being celebrated for our Carmelite community.

“For the rest of my life….”  It was like a wedding.  I dreamed of being the perfect Carmelite.  My two companions and I were giddy with excitement.  We took pictures.  We cut a cake.  We wrote out and signed the text of our Promise in a special log book.  Many had filled that book before us.  Some had passed into eternal life.  Others had left the Order.

Now, ten years later, one of us has severe back problems and can no longer attend meetings.  Another has left the Order, and as for me, well I am certainly NOT a perfect Carmelite.

A wise Franciscan priest, now deceased, once counseled me:  A vocation is the work of a lifetime.  You will always fail at times.  Don’t become discouraged.

My friend left because she felt she was not living up to her Promise.  I stay because I keep believing that tomorrow I will do better. 

My “wedding” was ten years ago, and today I live as in a marriage, with good times and bad.  Ups and downs.  Outpourings of love and faithfulness and periods of lukewarmness where prayers and promises get overwhelmed by the sheer demands of daily life.

But always there is the desire to remain faithful, to keep promises, to begin again, to seek refuge and forgiveness in the Merciful Heart of the Divine Spouse who somehow never gives up on me.

I am grateful for my 16 years in Carmel, and especially for my tenth anniversary today.

A vocation to a secular order is a great gift.  Many Catholics are not aware of this possibility for them — to belong to a secular (third) order.

I plan to write more about this topic in the future, with the hope that others will consider one of the many secular orders in the Church.  They all offer a beautiful path to holiness, and a unique way to serve others.

Meanwhile, I give thanks to the Triune God Who has taken me this far, my Beloved Three in One Who chose this day as a feast for me too.

Jesus came to be flesh like me,                                
The Father’s gaze trusting the Virgin
While the Spirit overshadowed her.
Most Holy Trinity, I love You so!

Queen, Beauty of Carmel, pray for us!