Sunday, August 21, 2011

From glory to Glory


Unfortunately, I'm now posting this a week later, given the lack of wifi access during travels, so...

Aug 14 brought another extraordinary grace... Our pilgrimage group left Lourdes early in the morning and travelled by bus to Loyola and the family home of St. Ignatius, great Founder of the Society of Jesus. We arrived while dozens and dozens of other WYD pilgrims of different countries were arriving. I thought for sure we would be among the hundreds and hundreds preparing for an outdoor Mass in front of the Basilica.

Instead, we made our way to the upper room where St. Ignatius spent months recuperating from his near-mortal wounds taken during a battle in Pamplona, including a leg shattered by a cannonball. In this room while lying in bed he would read, finally reading as well a life of Christ and stories of the saints. From here he resolved inwardly to serve Christ and to seek His glory rather than his own. Fantasies of winning the love of a lady at court and renown for military exploits gave way to a dawning awareness of a love and beauty incomparably greater ... the majesty of a God who hid His glory for a time in order to draw all things to Himself (cf. John 12:32). A King who became a servant so as to truly establish His reign in the wayward hearts of His creatures.

Here then, in Ignatius' room, we celebrated the Mass... It was a blessing and a reminder of the true glory to which each of us is called ... that to Whom is given a name above all names. Jesus.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Lourdes: The gift of a "disarming" Mother


I went to the baths at Lourdes this afternoon and washed in the waters of Bernadette's spring. It was the third time I have done so in four visits to Lourdes. And each time it is powerfully emotional for me. Hundreds of human beings from all over the world standing in line to enter the baths, praying and singing in different languages, asking for graces and healing for themselves and for others.

What is so powerful? It is the raw vulnerability that is rendered present as one approaches a tender Mother clothed in God's mercy. A smiling Mother who says, "Come as you are and receive the mercy of my Son." She exhorts and even goads us to trust in the One who first became all-vulnerable for us in her womb, taking our fragile humanity to Himself. ...As we made our way on the line to the baths here at Lourdes, it is as though each inner doubt or fear was addressed and further elicited forth by an understanding Mother: "What are you thinking, dear child? What more? Fear nothing and hold nothing for yourself. My Son's crucified love will provide all you need."

In his Angelus address at Lourdes on September 14, 2008, Pope Benedict said: "Before Mary, by virtue of her very purity, man does not hesitate to reveal his weakness, to express his questions and his doubts, to formulate his most secret hopes and desires. The Virgin Mary's maternal love disarms all pride; it renders man capable of seeing himself as he really is, and it inspires in him the desire to be converted so as to give glory to God."

Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of death. Monstra Te esse Matrem! (Show Yourself to be Our Mother!)

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, OCD

fit in with my plan
did fit within the plan of God.
I have an ever deeper and firmer belief that
nothing is merely an accident when seen in the light of God,
that my whole life down to the smallest details has been marked out for me
in the plan of Divine Providence and has
a completely coherent meaning
in God's all-seeing eyes.
And so I am beginning to rejoice in the light of glory
wherein this meaning will be unveiled to me.

Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein)
Discalced Carmelite Nun martyred at Auschwitz on August 9, 1942
Co-Patroness of Europe

Former member of the Order's Bavarian Province to which the monastery of Holy Hill, WI once belonged as a mission house until 1947.

Pray for us, St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross ... and remember especially the brothers and sisters especially of your Province and her missions!

Ave Crux, Spes Unica!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Finding the Hidden God by being hidden

In the first stanza of his commentary on the Spiritual Canticle, St. John of the Cross tells the reader who seeks God, the Beloved, and who asks, "Where have you hidden, Beloved?"  So many people suffer inwardly because they interpret their lack of sensible feeling in prayer as an indicator of God's distance or else their failed "effort" at communion.  But John of the Cross declares: "we are telling you that you yourself are His dwelling and his secret inner room and hiding place. There is reason for you to be elated and joyful in seeing that all your good and hope is so close as to be within you, or better, that you cannot be without Him" (1.7). There's no need to look "outside" of one's soul or to "conjure" the Lord by stirring oneself like the pathetic prophets of Baal who beat themselves into a trance with stones. The Beloved is ALREADY present. However St. John says "there is but one difficulty: Even though he does abide within you, He is hidden." The means then to finding the Beloved who is "hidden" is for us to likewise make ourselves "hidden" by embracing fully the virtues of faith, hope and love. This is the "phenomenally unremarkable" but expedient and certain path to encounter the Beloved One.

If you want to find the Beloved in your hiding place, "Seek him in faith and love, without desiring to find satisfaction in anything, or delight, or desiring to understand anything other than what you ought to know. Faith and love are like the blind person's guides. They will lead you along a path unknown to you, to the place where God is hidden. Faith, the secret we mentioned, is comparable to the feet by which one journeys to God, and love is like one's guide" (1.11).

De profundis... I blog for you, O Lord

     ...Perhaps I should just try a "blog burst" (a series of brief posts) since it's been months since my last post.  If I had a dime for every occasion or event when I thought "I should blog that," I'd be ... well, wealthier than I am now (but there's no evidence to prove the good intentions).  The best blogs (and I do follow a few) offer something contemporaneous to the events they discuss--they're "current."  But given my very intermittent bloggings, I tend to take an inventory of the past few months and then make some comment on past happenings.

     Why am I so reticent to blog? (I ask myself.)  Well, I don't think it's laziness.  Personally, it's that I'm not naturally inclined to regularly publishing my thoughts or the happenings of my daily life.  Actually, when I discerned my entrance into Carmel, I was (and still am) drawn to a "hidden life." Those who know me and my 6'2" 240ish pound frame might chuckle to hear me say that (since I can't easily hide anywhere).  But it's true.  Our world is so awash in words and there are countless Twitterers and others who unreservedly disclose to the world their every thought.  Lots of digital noise.  Much of which is vapid.  I do feel like I have much more to listen to than to say.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Post-Resurrection Impressions

In April of 1571, St. Teresa of Jesus was living in Salamanca.  The day after Easter Sunday she was feeling very down and put to paper a reflection for her confessor at the time--Fr. Martín Gutiérrez, S.J., who was rector of the Jesuit house there.  She says: "All day yesterday I felt very lonely, for except when I received Communion I benefited little from the fact that it was Easter Sunday" (Spiritual Testimonies, 12).  Loneliness.  It is an affliction that touches us at the core and it is a suffering that we make great efforts to remedy time and time again.  There are times in our lives, no matter how we surround ourselves with others or lose ourselves in some task or another, when we simply pine for a rendezvous wherein we know ourselves to be known and loved intimately.  And with a love that is all-assuring and absolute.  To be embraced from within.

Teresa says that shortly thereafter: "One day after receiving Communion, it seemed most clear to me that our Lord sat beside me; and He began to console me with great favors, and He told me among other things: "See Me here, daughter, for it is I: give Me your hands." And it seemed He took them and placed them on His side and said: "Behold My wounds. You are not without Me. This short life is passing away" (ibid.).  ... Ah, this is the love we desire--the love of One who has been to the depths of hell, bearing aloft like a torch His unquenchable love, seeking any who are lost.  One who understands my longings.  Just as Jesus showed His wounds to His disciples, He shows them to Teresa in order to console her and to awaken her to His divine perspective.  Forever He bears His wounds in order to assure us that His love is stronger than death.  And He does not "leave us orphans" but rather "prepares a place" for us to finally be with Him (John 14:3,18).

Teresa's experience of loneliness serves as the pretext for her visit from the Risen Christ.  Perhaps it is there, in our painful longing for a definitive rendezvous, where Christ our God takes our hands and places them on His side.  Our ache is met by the touch of God.  Dark faith conceals and reveals the One for whom we long.  Behold My wounds. You are not without Me. This short life is passing away.

(Icon painted by Br. Claude Lane, OSB of Mt. Angel Abbey, OR)

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Awake, O Sleeper! ...I did not create you to be a prisoner of hell...

An Easter Homily given this morning at Holy Hill, the Basilica of the National Shrine of Mary, Help of Christians... Happy Easter!
The Lord is risen! He is truly risen! Alleluia!
Brothers and sisters, there is NO love like the love of God in Jesus Christ. Pope John Paul II once wrote that in Christ Jesus, we have a God who actively goes out in search of man. God is PASSIONATE for the man and the woman He created—He is passionate for each and every one of you and me.
How passionate? Our God is passionate enough to accept being immersed in OUR suffering, and even to surrender the power of death… so to enter into our pain and our loneliness and our fear. In His Son, Jesus Christ, God scours the very depths of HELL to look for us and to take us upon His broad shoulders and to bring us home to Himself.
It was YOUR flesh and MY flesh that God took to Himself in order to reveal to us A LOVE STRONGER THAN DEATH. This is the meaning of our Easter celebration. After the horrific suffering of the crucifixion, and the abandonment and the shame, God reveals the gift of RESURRECTION. Jesus told His disciples, “I am going away and I will return to you. I do not leave you orphans.” Though at times we may think God is silent HE NEVER abandons us. When we think He does not remember us in our suffering, it is especially then that God is most active preparing a dwelling for us.
It is not ONLY Christ’s victory we celebrate today, but the promise of OUR VICTORY in Jesus. Following the homily, we will be sprinkled with the new Easter water, that symbolizes the waters poured upon us in Baptism. On the day of your Baptism, God made an eternal covenant with you. Through the action of the priest in the company of the whole Church, God etched into your being the very name of His Son and planted in you the seed of eternal life. We bear this SEED.
“I have come that you might have life and have it to the FULL!” We Christians worship a God who has the power and the DESIRE to give us ETERNAL LIFE. ETERNAL LIFE is not a perpetual continuation of the life we experience now. It is life of abundant love and joy, a life that has NO fear or self-concern. It is the life we LONG for in the depths of our hearts—to know a LOVE that has no end or conditions.
It is our Christian belief that the gift of RISEN life begins here on earth. Brothers and sisters, we are not celebrating an event of the past, or an event somewhere in the future. It is a reality NOW…. We who are baptized into Christ’s death are baptized into His resurrection. But the disciples running to the tomb in today’s Gospel show us HOW we are to receive this gift of new life. We are told Peter and the other disciple whom Jesus loved ran to the tomb, the other disciple who arrived first, BENT DOWN and LOOKED into the empty tomb, saw the burial cloths, entered the tomb and BELIEVED. We are called to BEND DOWN, to make ourselves small as it were—to put aside our selfishness, our pride, our resentment of others—and to believe—to humble ourselves before the mystery of Jesus Christ risen from the dead. Many do not come to know Jesus as Lord, even many baptized Catholics, because they refuse to run to the tomb, to humble themselves and to believe. They insist on holding on to the hurt and anger that is so familiar, rather than to embrace the freeing love of Christ Jesus that makes us new.
It is marvelous, it that we Catholic Christians believe that the Risen Jesus touches our lives and transforms us EVERY TIME we receive the Sacraments—when we come to Holy Communion, when we receive the Sacrament of Penance—we encounter the Risen Jesus. How many Catholics do not come to Mass because they think there is nothing to be gained there! And yet EVERY time we receive the Eucharist, we receive the RISEN LIFE of Jesus Christ into our own body and soul! We can go pray by ourselves, go get exercise, commune with nature and even stand on our heads, BUT nothing can give us the RISEN LIFE that we receive in the EUCHARIST.

God wants us to receive His Risen Life… Consider the person you love most and how you would so desire to give them what is most intimate to yourself … imagine then, that person you love then casually dismissing this most intimate gift of yourself. How much more Christ wishes to give us the gift of His Risen Life in the Eucharist. Do we eagerly meet Him? We received the seed of eternity in the gift of Baptism and Christ wishes to nourish that seed into FULLNESS.
Today, let us run to the empty tomb moved by love and let us bend down and humble ourselves so to receive through faith the gift of Christ’s Risen Life. He is our Savior, now and forever. He loves us without condition and calls us to now share in the abundance of His life. He desires only that we should know and possess His joy which is a life forever free of fear, sin, and death.

Friday, April 22, 2011

The Truth Will Set You Free

"If man lives without truth, life passes him by: ultimately he surrenders the field to whoever is the stronger.... In Christ, God entered the world and set up the criterion of truth in the midst of history. Truth is outwardly powerless in the world, just as Christ is powerless by the world's standards: he has no legions; he is crucified. Yet in his very powerlessness, he is powerful: only thus, again and again, does truth become power." - Pope Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth, Vol II, p. 194.

"I would rather a spirit without prayer than one that has not begun to walk in truth." -- St. Teresa of Jesus (Life, 13.16)

Thursday, April 21, 2011

“Now is the time of judgment on this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out.” (John 12:31)

St. Teresa of Ávila, Life 9.4: "The scene of His prayer in the garden, especially, was a comfort to me; I strove to be His companion there. If I could, I thought of the sweat and agony He had undergone in that place. I desired to wipe away the sweat He so painfully experienced, but I recall that I never dared to actually do it, since my sins appeared to me so serious. I remained with Him as long as my thoughts allowed me to, for there were many distractions that tormented me. Most nights, for many years before going to bed when I commended myself to God in preparation for sleep, I always pondered for a little while this episode of the prayer in the garden. I did this even before I was a nun since I was told that one gains many indulgences by doing so. I believe my soul gained a great deal through this custom because I began to practice prayer without knowing what it was; and the custom became so habitual that I did not abandon it, just as I did not fail to make the sign of the cross before sleeping."

Monday, April 18, 2011

A brief homily for Palm Sunday

Today we celebrate Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem riding humbly on a donkey. Today marks the beginning of the New Exodus—like a warrior preparing to conquer death, Jesus enters the city where He will be mocked, tortured, stripped and crucified… and where He will lead us to conquer DEATH.
See the true humility of Jesus Christ—He is the Son of God who for love of us also becomes the Son of King David, in order to lay down His life for us. He is the One who will reestablish the Kingdom of God and to put and end once and for all to sin and death.
Brothers and sisters, we would do well to witness the reaction of the crowds—both the crowd that travels with Jesus up to the city gates AND the also the citizens of Jerusalem who are troubled by what this SOLEMN entrance means for them… Today we are not simply reenacting an historical event that happened long ago. Instead, we welcome Jesus Christ HERE and NOW—after all, He is more ALIVE than any of us. What do the crowds tell us today?
1) First, there is the crowd that travels with Him to the gates of Jerusalem… They sing “HOSANNA” (a word which originally meant “SAVE US NOW!”) …and line the road before Jesus with garments and palms—what does any of this mean for us, if we do not welcome Jesus Christ with our faith and love? We NEED a Savior, but we must ask ourselves: do we WELCOME the Savior? Are we willing to throw onto the ground before Him the pride, the resentment, the greed, the lust that we hold so closely to ourselves?
2) Then there are the citizens within the city of Jerusalem. When St. Matthew tells us: “when [Jesus] entered Jerusalem 
the whole city was shaken and asked, “Who is this?” He uses here the same Greek word to describe the earthquake following the Resurrection—the whole people are "shaken" as from an earthquake. In His humility, in His going to the Cross, God shakes us to our very foundations. Let us not be afraid or ashamed—God shakes us in order to FREE us from what enslaves us. This is true humility—not to belittle ourselves or to think of how “bad” we are, but to acknowledge WHO we are BEFORE Almighty God.
Brothers and sisters, let us welcome Jesus into our hearts and let us ENTER into this Holy Week with true humility and trust. Let us enter into the New Jerusalem with Christ our King.