Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Transverberation of St. Teresa of Jesus

Today the Discalced Carmelite Order celebrates that mystical grace granted to St. Teresa which we call the Transverberation, also referred to within the Carmels of Ávila as "la gracia del dardo" or the "grace of the dart." St. Teresa herself recounts the experience in chapter 29 of her Life:

“I saw close to me toward my left side an angel in bodily form. … the angel was not large but small; he was very beautiful, and his face was so aflame that he seemed to be one of those very sublime angels that appear to be all afire. They must belong to those they call the cherubim, for they didn't tell me their names. … I saw in his hands a large golden dart and at the end of the iron tip there appeared to be a little fire. It seemed to me this angel plunged the dart several times into my heart and that it reached deep within me. When he drew it out, I thought he was carrying off with him the deepest part of me; and he left me all on fire with great love of God. The pain was so great that it made me moan, and the sweetness this greatest pain caused me was so superabundant that there is no desire capable of taking it away; nor is the soul content with less then God. The pain is not bodily but spiritual, although the body doesn't fail to share in some of it, and even a great deal. The loving exchange that takes place between the soul and God is so sweet that I beg Him in goodness to give a taste of this love to anyone who thinks I am lying.” (Life, 29.13)

Sunday, August 16, 2009

"Tear through the veil of this sweet encounter!"

Regarding the dogma of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Pope Pius XII "pronounces, declares, and defines" that "the Immaculate Mother of God, the ever Virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory" (Munificentissimus Deus). Deliberately left unanswered is the question of whether or not the Blessed Virgin "died." The Eastern Church has long celebrated the "Dormition" (the "falling asleep") of Our Lady.
Without delving into the arguments of "immortalists" and "mortalists," etc., I thought it pertinent to post what St. John of the Cross writes in his commentary on the first stanza of the Living Flame of Love, regarding the experience of death in persons far advanced in their union with God.
He comments on the verse "tear through the veil of this sweet encounter":
"It should be known that the natural death of persons who have reached this state [i.e., spiritual marriage] is far different in its cause and mode from the death of others, even though it is similar in natural circumstances. If the death of other people is caused by sickness or old age, the death of these persons is not so induced, in spite of their being sick or old; their soul is not wrested from them unless by some impetus and encounter of love, far more sublime than previous ones; of greater power, and more valiant, since it tears through this veil and carries off the jewel, which is the soul.
"The death of such persons is very gentle and very sweet, sweeter and more gentle than was their whole spiritual life on earth. For they die with the most sublime impulses and delightful encounters of love ..." (LF, 1.30).

One might imagine the Blessed Virgin Mary experiencing such a transitus, a seamless surrender to love now consummated, a moment wherein she experiences a definitive and glorious embrace by God, her Father, her Son, and her Spouse.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

"In Your Light, We See Light Itself..." (Ps 36:9)

Today we celebrated the great Feast of the Transfiguration.

I was blessed to have professed my solemn vows on this day in 2005 ... all the more significant in light of what Pope John Paul II wrote in Vita Consecrata, interpreting consecrated life via the icon of the Transfiguration. He wrote: "... those who are called to the consecrated life have a special experience of the light which shines forth from the Incarnate Word. For the profession of the evangelical counsels makes them a kind of sign and prophetic statement for the community of the brethren and for the world; consequently they can echo in a particular way the ecstatic words spoken by Peter: 'Lord, it is well that we are here'" (#15).

...This glorious, timeless experience of Christ revealed as the Beloved Son radically "contextualizes" the ensuing journey to Jerusalem and to Calvary. The Word made Flesh, the Son of Man, will soon be scourged, mocked, and crucified as he foretells repeatedly to His disciples. But the intimate moment of Transfiguration mercifully serves to remind Peter, James and John (and to us) WHO it is that bears our humanity to Calvary ... and beyond ... and WHO bears it still in His Divine Life with the Father and the Holy Spirit.

Christ's glorified Humanity, as St. Teresa of Jesus knew by experience, is the instrument of our own transformation. As she says in her Life: "And I see clearly ... that God desires that if we are going to please Him and receive His great favors, we must do so through the most sacred humanity of Christ, in whom He takes His delight" (22.6). Tertullian wrote, "Caro cardo salutis [the flesh is the hinge of our salvation]" (De carnis resurrectione, 8). It is the hinge because, consequent to the Incarnation, we now share this "flesh" in common with God.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

After Seattle ... Back in Milwaukee

Well, the vocation website is now online and operational at

I had a truly grace-filled experience preaching the Novena of Masses in preparation for the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, held at the Seattle Carmel in Shoreline, WA. I was there July 5-19. The experience of the Sacraments, at the altar and in the confessional, humbled me and only deepened my gratitude for the mystery of the grace of priesthood. I met many, many people of such tremendous faith. So many stories of the Lord's power at work in people's lives.

And it was a very special blessing to spend time with my sisters in Carmel at Shoreline. Every such opportunity leaves me grateful for the unique relationship, the spiritual camaraderie, which has marked the friars and nuns of the Discalced Carmel since the time of Holy Mother Teresa of Jesus and Holy Father John of the Cross.

A final note ... Some very generous Secular Carmelites led me to the top of the Space Needle for lunch (photo above left--unfortunately it was overcast, but the food was marvelous).