Tuesday adoration….broken promises?

I was reading some Facebook comments tonight, and one woman wrote that she had always felt she should have been a nun, and that she still regrets every single day that she did not follow-up on that desire.

That made me smile.  After my adult conversion, I too wanted to be a nun, but there was one problem:  I was married.  I spent a couple of years mourning my lost vocation, before it occurred to me that Our Lord would have timed things differently if He had really wanted me to be a nun.

All of this reminded me of something I was thinking about during Eucharistic Adoration today.

I have recently been going through items I have kept for years, like cards and pictures, and my stack of prayer journals.  The latter go back thirty years, and flipping through them re-acquaints me with someone I no longer am.

There are so many resolutions in those journals, so many promises to the Lord to  do great things for Him, so very many lists of virtues to practice, faults to overcome and new and better prayer schedules.

There are pages written while awash in consolations or on a weekend retreat…words splashed across pages filled with fervor and wonder and exclamations of love.

Have you ever done this?  Have you ever promised the Lord everything….your whole life, every moment just for Him, no turning back, no old ways.  And you meant it, with every beat of your heart…at the time.  No string of adjectives could express what you felt, nor could there be too many exclamation points!  Have you…ever?

I must confess to feeling some sadness and regret, as I leafed through hundreds of pages written by a much more idealistic and passionate young woman than the person I am today.  And of course, I have not kept all of those well-meaning promises or become that warrior for the Lord…..or fulfilled my long ago dream of echoing the heart of my beloved Therese.

“What about all of this Lord?”  I found myself wondering today, when I realized that I had not even kept most of the resolutions written in this year’s journal.

And Jesus seemed to say:  But you meant them at the time, didn’t you?  Don’t you know that I am listening to your heart at every moment, and I accept every good intention, every act of love, every desire you have for Me and My Glory?  Nothing meant for good is ever lost.  Without your realizing it, I have planted within your soul, a kernel, a seed of all that you have ever offered to me….and in My Own Time, I bring forth the harvest. 

I was truly comforted by these thoughts, which seemed to lift a burden from me….the impossible burden of being perfect, of remembering every promise, and of journeying in darkness and dryness of soul with the same flush of fervor experienced during my first encounter with my Lord, so many years ago.

Thank You, Jesus, for tending the garden of my soul.  May it flower in Your Season.  I love You!

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….

When Jesus sleeps…..

When I went to adoration the other day, I found myself fighting sleep.  I had taken an antihistamine, and it might as well have been a sleeping pill.  There I was, all alone in the chapel with Jesus for two hours, and all I could do was struggle to stay awake.

I remembered that I had brought with me a little book titled, When Jesus Sleeps, by dear Archbishop Luis Martinez, who also wrote Secrets of the Interior Life which I chose as one of my three favorite books in a recent meme.

I have always been fascinated by the idea of watching Jesus sleep, and of wondering what He dreamed….just the incomparable beauty and wonder of the God of the Universe fast asleep so delights me.  The charm of God.  The sweet mystery of the God-Man.

But Archbishop Martinez expressed similar ideas in such rapt words:

Jesus was exceedingly beautiful when He spoke words of eternal life, accomplished wonders, looked with love, pardoned with mercy and caressed with tenderness. But I would like to have seen Him while He was sleeping because I could have contemplated Him to my heart’s content, without the fascination of His gaze distracting me, without the perfection of His beauty and the glory of His splendor dazzling my eyes and enrapturing my soul. The beauty of Jesus awake is too great for my smallness. Who could support it? I feel it more suited to me veiled by sleep, as the glory of the sun is more adapted to my eyes when I look at it through a translucent lens……

In the presence of that regal immobility and the divine silence of that most comely body, could one guess the interior glory? Through the delicate, celestial veil of human sleep, could penetrating and loving eyes like those of the Virgin discover the deep secret of the interior joy of Jesus? (pp 6,7,9)

And then, I was awake…my heart stirred by the touching portrait of Jesus, shared above only briefly, sketched by this holy Archbishop.

His little book shall be my companion this Lent. After sharing the magnificence of the Son of God at repose, the book continues on to encourage the soul in desolation by reminding her that Jesus has not departed. He is only sleeping. Gaze upon Him within your soul as He rests in you…as He slept on the boat amidst the stormy sea. He is sleeping? Yes, but not as we sleep.

Jesus says to the soul, “I sleep, but my Heart is awake.” (Song of Songs 5:2) He has not forgotten us. He can never forget. His Love never sleeps. In dryness and darkness and desolation, He is present with us, in all of His Glory.

He is only testing our faith, our trust, our love for Him, just as He tested that of the apostles on the lake. “Why are you so frightened, you who have so little faith?”

Let us not wake Jesus when He desires to sleep in our souls. Let us be brave and trust that He will awake at the perfect moment. Like St. Therese, let us permit Him to rest. She liked Jesus to sleep in “her boat,” because, as she said, so few allow Him any rest.


My sleeping Jesus,
You are breathtaking
In Your rest.
Your Peaceful Face
belies the Truth
That You are God
Of all Power and Might
Lord and King
Of The Universe.
But the resting place
You choose
Is my heart,
For more than
All else,
You are
Seeking love
That asks nothing save
Your Presence.

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

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.

When the turtledove no longer sings…

Birds from Holland - collared turtle doves; Image ONLY

Yesterday morning, I woke up to the sound of joyful voices praising God’s Goodness.  My mp3 player is chock full of Catholic radio podcasts.

Instead of being uplifted, I felt a deep loneliness.  That used to be me, I thought.  I felt broken – sort of like Humpty Dumpty was broken, all shattered.  Only on the inside.

I’ve been feeling like this for years, but it seems to grow worse over time.  I claim to love God deeply.  I believe in His Love for me.  But, I don’t feel a shred of devotion or affection for Him.  Anymore.   Yet, just the thought of Him once took my breath away.

Every Tuesday, I sit before His Eucharistic Presence for two hours struggling to pray.  I am happy to be with Him.  I love the peace.  But I cannot meditate or pray mentally at all.  I try to remember how thoughts of Him once flooded my mind and heart like an embrace of warm waves washing over me.

I tell Him that I love Him (because I do), but avoid terms of endearment which once tumbled out of my entire being in a litany of praise and adoration.  Such passion would seem hollow, even phony now.  And I am sad for it.

I am aware of Him in every choice that I make.  Is it for or against Him?  I try to do what would please Him, but it’s more like habit than love.  And I don’t want to go to hell — I who once dreamed of rushing into the arms of my Savior after breathing my last.  No fear then.

I have long since given up trying to find out Why.  I have turned my life inside out looking for a reason.  I cannot find one.  It is as though I have fallen into a deep dark well, and there is no way out.  And not one ray of light.

I have asked a few different priests what they thought, but in the rush of a few moments in the confessional, or a 20 minute exchange on retreat, they have not understood, and I cannot blame them.  But I thank them for listening.

“Dark night of the soul”,  a holy nun  with the gift of healing told me.  “But,” she added, “IF you are praying.”   So, all bets are off.

Am I praying?  What is prayer now?  There is no question that I could pray more, much more.  How much do I have to pray to be in the purification of a dark night rather than the lukewarmness of a soul who has left the narrow way and wandered onto the wide road?

I tell Jesus that I believe it will always be this way now.  I no longer allow myself to hope that I will ever again experience His Presence, or my own heart leaping within me at the sound of His Name.  I am so very grateful for those memories.

He has given me more than I could have ever hoped for.  It is His to give, and His to take away.  If I have driven away His favors by my lack of generosity, I pray, as best I can now pray, that I will not one day cause Him to leave me too.

My prayer  is simple now.  It is that of the dying thief:  “Jesus, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.”