All posts by techdecisions

Mother Angelica

“…Born Rita Rizzo, and reared in Canton, Ohio, Mother Angelica experienced poverty, a broken home, maltreatment, multiple physical ailments, jealousy, backstabbing, betrayal—she was even shot at—but nothing could stop her determination. It does not exaggerate to say that the object of her determination never had anything to do with herself—it always had to do with God.

In her lifetime, Mother established the Poor Clare Nuns of Perpetual Adoration and gave birth to the Franciscan Friars of the Eternal Word and the Sisters of the Eternal Word. She built the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament, as well as the largest shortwave network in the world, and the world’s first Catholic satellite network. Not bad for a high school graduate who had everything going against her.

Her father was abusive, both physically and verbally, and eventually abandoned her. It took such a toll on her that she wondered why God would ever subject a little girl to such a miserable family. It also meant that she missed out on what other kids were used to, so much so that one of her cousins would later say of her, “She was an adult all her life. She never had a childhood.” 82

The nuns she met in school were anything but kind. Their opposition to divorce unfortunately led them to oppose the children of divorce, and this was something the young Rita couldn’t bear (the priests her mother encountered were just as condemning). Some family members were just as cruel, including an uncle who verbally abused her mother so badly that Rita literally threw a knife at him.

Yet there were miracles. There was a time when, at age eleven, she was crossing the street only to see two headlights staring her right in the face. She thought she was dead. Incredibly, she was able to jump high enough that she avoided being hit. The driver called it “a miracle”; Rita and her mother dubbed it a graceful “lifting.”

Her stomach ailments were so bad that she was forced to wear a corset. The doctors tried to help, but to little avail. Then she met a stigmatic, Rhoda Wise, and that’s when things began to change. One day, when she was twenty, a voice told her to get up and walk without the corset, and she did just that. Immediately, her suffering was relieved. Her doctor, of course, insisted it had to do with his treatments, but Rita knew better.

Her mother, Mae, wasn’t too happy when she learned that Rita had decided to enter a Cleveland monastery. After all, she had first been abandoned by her husband, John, and now her daughter was leaving her as well. But Rita had a mind of her own. Even after she entered the monastery in 1944, her mother tried to coax her to leave. She sent an emissary, Uncle Nick Gianfrancesco, to visit her; the pretext was the passing of her grandmother. He was there to convey Mae’s message—please come home right away. But he couldn’t do it. “Are you happy here?” “Oh yeah, Uncle Nick, I am.” 83

Eight years later, in the spring of 1952, Sister Angelica was summoned to the parlor by Mother Clare. She expected to see her mother, or one of her uncles. It was her father. Seated on the other side of the double grille, he was filled with guilt. He asked what Uncle Nick had asked: “Are you happy here?” “Yes, I am,” she replied. She admitted that she felt sorry for him. “For some strange reason,” she said, “I don’t remember having any resentment toward him. I didn’t hate him or love him.”

Her father came back a second time to offer an apology. “I want you to know I’m sorry, and I want your mother to know I’m sorry.” Sister Angelica was stunned. “That was like a million dollars to me, because I didn’t know him well enough to think he could be sorry … and I really wanted to see him again.” But that was not to happen. The cloister rules allowed parents to visit only once every two months, putting her in a tough spot. Her mother gave her an ultimatum: choose me or your father. Mother Clare counseled Sister Angelica to choose her mother, so she wrote her father a letter explaining the situation. He was devastated. Six months later, John Rizzo died of a heart attack. 84

After nine years in the cloister, Sister Angelica took her solemn vows. By that time she enjoyed a reputation for teaching the novices the importance of surrender. She taught them about the example of St. John of the Cross and his “dark night of the soul”—a time when his relationship with God seemed to slip. The lesson to be drawn, she told the sisters, was “complete abandonment to God and [to find] happiness in doing as He wills whether He leads … by suffering or by consolation.” 85

Sister Angelica was not in good health. Her legs and her back were so twisted she could hardly walk (she wore a body cast), leading her to beg God to allow her to walk again in exchange for a promise: she would build a monastery in the South. What she wanted was a “Negro apostolate,” a cloistered community in service to poor blacks. After undergoing spinal surgery, and after being rebuffed initially by her bishop, she got her way; approval was given to build a monastery in Birmingham, Alabama. Then came the hard part—coming up with the money to pay for it.

In 1959, the year before she became Mother Angelica, she spotted an ad in a magazine for fishing lure parts. She decided that the nuns would go into the fishing-lure business; this was the beginning of St. Peter’s Fishing Lures. In 1961, Sports Illustrated honored her with a plaque for her “special contribution to a sport.” Remarkably, the half-crippled nun with no business experience was able to garner national attention for her entrepreneurial acumen. Much more was to come.

Building a monastery in the South in the early 1960s, especially one that would service African Americans, was not exactly a popular exercise. It didn’t take long before local opposition mounted, even to the point of violence. Mother Angelica was shot at one night by one of the protesters (he barely missed). But she persevered and even launched another venture: the Li’l Ole Peanut Company proved to be so successful that by the end of 1968, she paid off all her monastery debt. Over the next decade, she would write books and give talks, managing to walk with an artificial hip.

In 1978, her life was forever altered when she visited a TV studio in Chicago. Instantly, she got the bug: she had to have one of her own. Then came the first of many disappointments dealing with the bishops. When she contacted them about a Catholic TV show, none replied. Undeterred, she secured funding from New York philanthropist Peter Grace. In 1981, she founded EWTN. The rest is history: her shows are translated into many languages, including Spanish, German, French, Ukrainian, Lithuanian, and Korean. In 2011, EWTN took over the National Catholic Register, an influential weekly newspaper.

Everyone who ever worked with Mother Angelica can tell stories featuring her great sense of humor. Father John Trigilio, author and EWTN personality, recalls that when he first met her, she was so humorous that “my sides were hurting.” 86 Sister Mary Agnes, who spent much time with her, said “she had a great sense of humor. She was somebody everybody wanted to be with. Everybody wanted to be with Mother because she was a lot of fun. But, at the same time, she was holy.” 87 Holiness and happiness—the two go together.

I asked Raymond Arroyo, who hosts the EWTN’s flagship show, The World Over, and who has written more authoritatively on Mother Angelica than anyone else, to reflect on her happiness.

“One of the things that most impressed me about Mother Angelica was her constant joy,” Arroyo says. “It didn’t matter whether she was in the middle of some public fracas or battling a life threatening illness—her joy never flagged.” As many others observed, “there was always laughter and lots of humor (it occasionally turned black).” When she had a stroke in 2001, and was suffering, he asked her how she was able to maintain her joy and avoid self-pity and anger, two emotions we might expect of someone in her condition. What she said was so poignant, it induced Arroyo to write it down: “I do what I do because it is the will of God and that alone gives me joy—nothing else.” She distinguished between happiness and joy. “Other things can give me happiness but doing God’s will is my joy.” As Arroyo notes, “She believed that her pain, united with Christ’s, was the foundation of all she accomplished.”” 88

Love,
Matthew

82. See my book review of Raymond Arroyo’s book, Mother Angelica: The Remarkable Story of a Nun, Her Nerve, and a Network of Miracles in the Catholic League journal, Catalyst, October 2005, available online.
83. See p. 46 in Arroyo’s book.
84. Ibid., pp. 63–64.
85. Ibid., p. 69.
86. “EWTN Celebrates Mother Angelica’s 90th Birthday,” Catholic News Agency, April 19, 2013.
87. Joseph Pronechen, “Happy 90th Birthday, Mother Angelica!,” www. ncregister. com, April 20, 2013.
88. Personal correspondence with Raymond Arroyo, November 18, 2013.

The Adventure of Obedience

Obey & Live; Obey & Be Freed from the Tyranny of Death & Sin, which leads to eternal, the second & final, Death!!

“And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” —Genesis 2:16,17

“If they obey and serve Him, they will spend the rest of their days in prosperity and their years in contentment.” – Job 36:11

“Follow My decrees and be careful to obey My laws, and you will live safely in the land.“ – Lev 25:18

“Love the LORD your God and keep His requirements, His decrees, His laws and His commands always.” – Deut 11:1

“Now if you obey Me fully and keep My covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is Mine…” – Ex 19:5


-by Br Joseph Martin Hagan, OP

“God writes the best adventures. From Abraham to the Apostles, God draws unsuspecting men out of their routines and sets them on unexpected journeys. Moses was tending his father-in-law’s flock, but after meeting a burning bush, he eventually found himself leading a whole nation out of slavery. Peter was fishing in a remote corner of the world, but after encountering an exceptional man, he ended his life in Rome, leading God’s people.

These journeys were entirely unexpected, and often undesired, at least at first. Moses said he wasn’t eloquent enough, and Jeremiah objected that he was too young. In each case, God answered their objection and redoubled his offer. He still respected their freedom. They had to take the first step willingly. Thus, the secret ingredient of these adventures was obedience. Their adventures only began when they obeyed, leaving their routine and following God.

Without obedience, there’s no adventure. The Gospel records various would-be followers of Jesus. They try to write their own adventures, but without obedience, their attempts fail. In one case, a man tells Jesus: “I will follow you, Lord; but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” But Jesus answers: “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God” (Lk 9:61ff.). Or remember the rich man, who refused the adventure of poverty, choosing rather to depart in sadness.

To us, this connection between adventure and obedience may seem a bit strange. Our culture prizes the former and disdains the latter. Yet the real thrill in an adventure is the unplanned moment or the unscripted wrinkle, even if it is a hardship that must be overcome or simply endured. If we want a truly thrilling adventure, we cannot plan it ourselves. Another author must take up the pen. The better the author, the better the adventure.

What does this look like in our lives? We probably won’t encounter burning bushes or receive angelic visitors. Rather, God often speaks to us in more subtle ways. Sometimes it’s the exceptional moment that inspires us. Or perhaps it’s the everyday obedience to a parent or a spouse, or the obedience in accepting one’s personality or even one’s body, with their limits and weaknesses. With due prudence—and sometimes a helpful friend or spiritual director—we can discern God’s hand in these circumstances.

Obedience doesn’t always feel like an adventure. For the most part, it’s only in the rearview mirror that we glimpse how far God has brought us and the wonders He has done. Remembering these wonders prepares us for the daily adventure of obedience.”

Love, & Freedom for Excellence & Life!!, the love of Him,
Matthew

“Blessed are they who mourn…” – Mt 5:4

“…But there is also the mourning occasioned by the shattering encounter with truth, which leads man to undergo conversion and to resist evil. This mourning heals, because it teaches man…

…Peter is an example of (this) second kind: Struck by the Lord’s gaze, he bursts into healing tears that plow up the soil of his soul. He begins anew and is himself renewed.

Ezekiel, Chapter 9

Then I heard Him call out in a loud voice, “Bring near those who are appointed to execute judgment on the city, each with a weapon in his hand.” And I saw six men coming from the direction of the upper gate, which faces north, each with a deadly weapon in his hand. With them was a man clothed in linen who had a writing kit at his side. They came in and stood beside the bronze altar.

Now the glory of the God of Israel went up from above the cherubim, where it had been, and moved to the threshold of the temple. Then the Lord called to the man clothed in linen who had the writing kit at his side and said to him, “Go throughout the city of Jerusalem and put a mark on the foreheads of those who grieve and lament over all the detestable things that are done in it.”

As I listened, He said to the others, “Follow him through the city and kill, without showing pity or compassion. Slaughter the old men, the young men and women, the mothers and children, but do not touch anyone who has the mark. Begin at my sanctuary.” So they began with the old men who were in front of the temple.

Then He said to them, “Defile the temple and fill the courts with the slain. Go!” So they went out and began killing throughout the city. While they were killing and I was left alone, I fell facedown, crying out, “Alas, Sovereign Lord! Are you going to destroy the entire remnant of Israel in this outpouring of your wrath on Jerusalem?”

He answered me, “The sin of the people of Israel and Judah is exceedingly great; the land is full of bloodshed and the city is full of injustice. They say, ‘The Lord has forsaken the land; the Lord does not see.’ 10 So I will not look on them with pity or spare them, but I will bring down on their own heads what they have done.”

11 Then the man in linen with the writing kit at his side brought back word, saying, “I have done as You commanded.”

Ezekiel 9:4 offers us a striking testimony to how this positive kind of mourning can counteract the dominion of evil. Six men are charged with executing divine punishment on Jerusalem—on the land that is filled with bloodshed, on the city that is full of wickedness (cf. Ezek 9:9). Before they do, however, a man clothed in linen must trace the Hebrew letter tau (like the sign of the Cross) on the foreheads of all those “who sigh and groan over all the abominations that are committed in the city” (Ezek 9:4). Those who bear this mark are exempted from the punishment. They are people who do not run with the pack, who refuse to collude with the injustice that has become endemic, but who suffer under it instead. Even though it is not in their power to change the overall situation, they still counter the dominion of evil through the passive resistance of their suffering—through the mourning that sets bounds to the power of evil.

…Once again, as in the vision of Ezekiel, we encounter here the small band of people who remain true in a world full of cruelty and cynicism or else with fearful conformity. They cannot avert the disaster, but by “suffering with” the one condemned (by their com-passion in the etymological sense) they place themselves on his side, and by their “loving with” they are on the side of God, Who is love.

…Those who do not harden their hearts to the pain and need of others, who do not give evil entry to their souls, but suffer under its power and so acknowledge the truth of God—they are the ones who open the windows of the world to let the light in. It is to those who mourn in this sense that great consolation is promised. The second Beatitude is thus intimately connected with the eighth: “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Mt 5:10).

The mourning of which the Lord speaks is nonconformity with evil; it is a way of resisting models of behavior that the individual is pressured to accept because “everyone does it.” The world cannot tolerate this kind of resistance; it demands conformity. It considers this mourning to be an accusation directed against the numbing of consciences. And so it is. That is why those who mourn suffer persecution for the sake of righteousness. Those who mourn are promised comfort; those who are persecuted are promised the Kingdom of God—the same promise that is made to the poor in spirit. The two promises are closely related. The Kingdom of God—standing under the protection of God’s power, secure in His love—that is true comfort.”

Ratzinger, Joseph. Jesus of Nazareth: From the Baptism in the Jordan to the Transfiguration (Kindle Locations 1418-1429, 1430-1433, 1436-1445). The Crown Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Love, blessed be God,
Matthew

 

Triumph of Grace

-from http://vultuschristi.org/index.php/2017/08/saint-dominic-and-the-triumph/

“…Saint Dominic would spend whole nights weeping and groaning in prayer before the altar. Over and over again he would say, “What will become of sinners? What will become of sinners?” Saint Dominic’s great passion was to reconcile sinners by preaching the mercy of God.

The Power of Preaching

Dominic understood that the power of preaching comes from ceaseless prayer. His prayer had three characteristics:
-humble adoration,
-heartfelt pity for sinners,
-and exultation in the Divine Mercy.

Saint Dominic prayed constantly; he prayed at home and on the road, in church and in his cell. For Saint Dominic there was no place or time foreign to prayer. He loved to pray at night. He engaged his whole body in prayer by standing with outstretched arms, by bowing, prostrating, genuflecting, and kissing the sacred page. If you are not familiar with the extraordinary little booklet entitled The Nine Ways of Prayer of Saint Dominic, today would be a good day to find it and read it.

The Psalter of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Saint Dominic had a tenth way of prayer too: the Psalter of the Blessed Virgin Mary that today we call the rosary. The use of beads was widespread and the repetition of the Hail Mary were both widespread before the time of Saint Dominic. The Hail Mary prayed 150 times in reference to the 150 psalms was practiced in Carthusian and Cistercian cloisters before the time of Saint Dominic.

Irrigated by Grace

Saint Dominic understood that preaching alone was not enough. Preaching has to be irrigated by grace, and grace is obtained by prayer. Inspired by the Mother of God, Saint Dominic interspersed his sermons with the Psalter of the Blessed Virgin Mary. He exhorted his hearers to continue praying the Psalter of 150 Aves as a way of prolonging the benefits of holy preaching. The rosary allows the seed of the Word sown by holy preaching to germinate in the soul and bear fruit.

Simple Means

Divine Wisdom has so ordered things that the simplest material means — humble and adapted to our weakness — produce the greatest spiritual effects. Father Raphael Simon, the saintly Trappist psychiatrist, said that, “five decades of the rosary or even three Hail Marys daily may mean the difference between eternal life and death.” The effect of the rosary is entirely disproportionate to its simplicity. The fruits of the rosary are well known: among them are detachment from sin and from the occasions of sin, peace of heart, humility, chastity, and joy. The rosary, and all authentic prayer, is always realistic — that is to say, honest about human weakness and sin — and, at the same, full of hope — that is to say, open to the glorious plan of God’s mercy.

The Supplication of the Rosary

If Saint Dominic preached the rosary and prayed it, it was because he knew it to be a prayer capable of winning every grace. The rosary is a prayer of repetition. It is a prayer of confidence. It helps one to persevere in supplication, bead by bead, and decade by decade. Our Lord finds the rosary irresistible because His own Mother “subsidizes” it. She stands behind it. The rosary is the voice of the poor, the needy, the downtrodden, and the weak. Persevere in praying the rosary and one day you will hear Our Lord say to you what He said to the woman of the Gospel: “Great is thy faith! Be it done for thee as thou wilt” (Mt 15:28). Saint Dominic shows us that, with the rosary in hand, we will experience the triumph of grace.”

-by Br Dominic Verner, OP

“While he thus labored to make his own soul pleasing to God, the fire of divine love was daily more and more enkindled in his breast, and he was consumed with an ardent zeal for the salvation of infidels and sinners. To move the divine mercy to regard them with pity, he spent often whole nights in the church at prayer, watering the steps of the altar with abundance of tears, in which he was heard to sigh and groan before the Father of mercy, in the earnestness and deep affliction of his heart; never ceasing to beg with the greatest ardor, the grace to gain some of those unhappy souls to Christ.” – From the Chronicle of the Origin of this Order, compiled by Bl. Jordan of Saxony

The tears of our Holy Father Dominic never fail to move and challenge me. There is something haunting and mysterious at the thought of a man weeping in the solitude and silence of a sleepless night on the altar steps. Entering a church at night to find someone in such a state of fervent and distressing prayer is a moving and troubling experience. The state of crisis shatters the thin veil of our quotidian expectations to reveal the startling reality that we are still poor, banished children of Eve, living in the status viatoris, awaiting the glorious coming of Our Lord and the eternal beatitude of Heaven. The encounter with the soul in crisis reminds us of the reality of the cross that we are called to bear with Christ and with one another. Seeing another bearing such a burden awakens our Christian sympathy and draws us out of our private concerns to beseech the Lord of all consolation for his mercy and compassion.

But what is the crisis that confronted Saint Dominic as he wept in fervent petition at the altar steps? Our holy father was not suffering from the betrayal of a spouse, the loss of a job, or the death of a loved one. His tears were not shed over a personal crisis, but rather the crisis of the “infidels and sinners” who reject the obedience of faith and do not enjoy the salvation offered by Christ. When we encounter the tears of our father Dominic, we are confronted with the reality that those who are closed to faith are lacking the possibility of true and lasting friendship with God, a friendship which requires filial trust and a loyal heart. Saint Dominic was brought to tears at the thought of a soul rejecting such a gift. In Dominic we see the beauty of a soul transfigured by faith, hope, and love in a state of fervent petition; more, we see a participation in the redemptive mission of Jesus Christ.

These three features of Saint Dominic’s tears in some way characterize the mission of the Friar Preacher. To preach for the salvation of souls, the soul of the preacher must be elevated by grace through the infused virtues of faith, hope, and love. The preacher must be sympathetically aware of the true deprivation suffered by the poor souls who lack saving faith. And the preacher must see his preaching for the salvation of souls as a participation in the saving action of Christ Our Lord. May the same fire of divine love that burned within Saint Dominic be enkindled within us, that we may never cease “to beg with the greatest ardor, the grace to gain some of those unhappy souls to Christ.”

Love, rely on His grace alone, pray for me, please, please, please,
Matthew

Liturgy, praying with the Church

-by Rev Gabriel of St Mary Magdalen, OCD, Divine Intimacy, Baronius Press, (c) 1964

Presence of God – O Jesus, Head of the Mystical Body, grant that while praying with the Church, I may unite myself to Your prayer.

MEDITATION

A Christian is not isolated. As man, he belongs to the great human family; as one baptized, he is grafted onto Christ and becomes a member of His Mystical Body, the Church. A Christian is, at the same time, a child of God and a child of the Church; it is precisely in the bosom of the Church that he becomes a child of God. Hence his whole spiritual life, even though it has a personal character which tends toward intimate contact with God, ought also to have a social, liturgical character, which shares in the life of the Church. In other words, the spiritual life of a Christian should be framed in that of the Church, his Mother; it should be associated to all that the Church does in union with Christ her Head to extend His sanctifying action in the world.

Just as our spiritual life is born, grows, and develops in the bosom of the Church, so our prayer, which is the highest expression of the spiritual life, should be inserted in the prayer of the Church, that is, in liturgical prayer. Liturgical prayer has a special excellence because it is not the prayer, however sublime and elevated, of individual souls, but is the prayer that the whole Church addresses to God, in union with Jesus, her Spouse and her Head. It is something like a prolongation of Jesus’ prayer; indeed, it is a participation in those supplications which He Himself always offers to the Father. In the glory of heaven and in humble effacement on our altars, He praises Him in the name of all creatures and intercedes with Him for the needs of each one in particular.

“The sacred liturgy is the public worship given to the Father by our Redeemer as Head of the Church; and it is the worship which the society of the faithful render to their Head and through Him, to the eternal Father” (-Venerable Pope Pius XII, Encyclical Mediator Dei).

Whenever we feel the poverty of our own prayer, let us offer to God the great prayer of Jesus and the Church, associating ourselves spiritually.

COLLOQUY

“O my God, how discouraged should I be by reason of my weakness and nothingness, if to praise, reverence, and glorify You, I did not have Jesus Christ, my only Good, Who does this so perfectly! To Him I entrust my weakness, and I rejoice that He is all and I am nothing…. Yes, O Jesus, in You I possess everything; You are my Head and I am really one of Your members. You pray, adore, humble Yourself, and give thanks in me and for me, and I do the same in You, for the member is all one with the Head. Your holy, magnanimous life absorbs mine, which is so vile and mean” (cf. Bl. M. Thérèse Soubiran).

O Jesus, seated at the right hand of the Father, and interceding continually for us, deign to absorb into Your great prayer my very poor one.

“O Jesus, grant that I may adore the Father ‘in spirit and in truth,’ and in order that I may do so, permit me to adore Him by You and in union with You; for You are the great Adorer in spirit and in truth.” (cf. Blessed Elisabeth of the Trinity First Retreat: Heaven in Earth, 9).

You alone are the real adorer, whose prayer and adoration are perfectly worthy of the infinite Majesty. You alone are the perfect praise of the Most Holy Trinity; You wish to associate with this praise the Church, Your Spouse and my Mother. You wish to associate me with it also, Your member and a child of the Church. Grant that by participating in the prayer of the Church, I may likewise participate in Your prayer. Do not look upon the poverty of my personal prayer, but see it united with the sublime, unceasing prayer of Your Spouse; see it joined to the perpetual chorus of praise and petition which Your priests, the souls consecrated to You, and all Your elect, are continually sending up to Your throne. Grant that my voice may not be discordant in this magnificent chorus. Help me then to pray with a real spirit of piety and with an attentive, devout soul, so that my heart will always accompany the movement of my lips, and my interior sentiments vivify every action, every chant, and every word.”

Love,
Matthew

Spiritual Aridity

-by Rev Gabriel of St Mary Magdalen, OCD, Divine Intimacy, Baronius Press, (c) 1964

Presence of God – Draw me to You, O Lord, by the road You choose and in any way You will; I ask only for grace to know how to follow You always.

MEDITATION

“The aridity which comes from God not only has the advantage of making us go forward in virtue, but it also brings us to a higher form of prayer. St. John of the Cross teaches that it is by means of this kind of aridity that God calls souls to a simpler and more profound form of prayer which he terms “initial contemplation.” To distinguish this aridity from that which is caused by other things, he gives three signs.

The first sign is: “the soul finds no pleasure or consolation in the things of God, it also fails to find pleasure in anything created” (Dark Night of the Soul I, 9,2). This loss of delight in the things of God may occur, too, when aridity is caused by the soul’s own faults; but then it looks for human satisfactions, whereas in the former case, although it no longer experiences the joy of being with God, it does not return to creatures, but rather, remains firm in its decision to keep its heart detached from them.

The second sign is that, in spite of aridity, “the memory is ordinarily centered upon God with painful care and solicitude, fearing that it is not serving God” (Dark Night of the Soul I, 9 3). In other words, the soul suffers from its spiritual insensibility, fearing that it does not love God and is not serving Him; and at the same time, it continues to seek Him with the anxiety of one who does not succeed in finding its treasure. The soul remains then always occupied with God, although in a negative, painful way, as if suffering because of the absence of a loved one. On the contrary, when the aridity is culpable, especially if it is caused by a state of habitual lukewarmness, the soul is not at all grieved about not loving God; it has become indifferent.

The last sign consists in the fact that “the soul can no longer meditate or reflect in the imaginative sphere of sense as it was wont, however much it may of itself endeavor to do so” (Dark Night of the Soul I, 9,8). The soul would like to meditate; it applies itself, tries as hard as possible, and still does not succeed. When this state continues—for if it lasted only a short time it might have arisen from special conditions, either physical or moral—although it may have days of greater or less intensity, it tends to invade the whole soul in such a way as to make meditation habitually impossible. This aridity then means a call from God to more profound prayer.

COLLOQUY

“O Jesus, how burdensome and bitter is life when You hide Yourself from our love! What are You doing, my Friend? Do You not see my anguish and the weight which is crushing me? Where are You? Why do You not come to console me, since I have no friend but You?

“But if it pleases You to leave me in this state, help me to accept it for love of You. Make me love You enough to suffer for You whatever You choose—sorrow, aridity, anguish, or even, seeming coldness of heart. Ah! that is indeed a great love, to love You without feeling the sweetness of Your love.

“Many serve You, O Jesus, when You console them; but few are willing to keep You company when You sleep on the raging waters or suffer in the garden of agony. Who, then, will serve You for Yourself? Oh! grant that it may be I!

“The Gospel tells me, O divine Shepherd, that You leave the faithful sheep in the desert. What deep things that tells me!… You are sure of them, they cannot go astray now, for they are love’s captives; so You deprive them of Your visible presence to bring Your consolations to sinners; or even if You do meet them upon Mt. Thabor, it is only for a few moments. O Lord, do with me as You please. And if You seem to forget me, very well. You are free to, since I am no longer mine but Yours…. You will sooner weary of keeping me waiting than I of waiting for You” (cf. Thérèse of the Child Jesus Letters, 32,73,144,121,81).

I ask only one thing, my God: in this aridity let my love increase, and grant that I may remain faithful to You at all cost. May I love You more by the reality of deeds as my love becomes less sensible. Grant that the less joy my love gives to me, the more glory it may give to You. And if, in order to increase in love, I need to suffer, blessed be this trial; since You strike me to teach me, You mortify me to cure me and to lead me to a higher life.”

Love,
Matthew

Jun 7 – Suffering & Abandonment, Bl Marie-Therese Soubiran of the Sacred Heart (1834-1889), Religious, Foundress, Sisters of Mary Help of Christians

-by Rev Gabriel of St Mary Magdalen, OCD, Divine Intimacy, Baronius Press, (c) 1964

Presence of God – O Lord, teach me to suffer with simplicity, without useless concentration on self, but in total abandonment to Your divine will.

MEDITATION

The secret of learning to suffer in a virtuous way consists chiefly in forgetting oneself and one’s sorrows and in abandoning oneself to God.

The soul that is absorbed in its own sufferings and concentrates its whole attention on them, becomes unable to bear them serenely and courageously. “Sufficient for the day is the evil thereof” (Matthew 6:34), said Jesus, thus teaching us to bear calmly, day by day, moment by moment, whatever sorrows and crosses God places in our path, with no thought of what we suffered yesterday, no worry about what we shall have to endure tomorrow. Even when our suffering is intense, let us not exaggerate it, nor attach too much importance to it; let us not foster a morbid tendency to nurture our sorrow, to ponder over it, weighing and analyzing it under every aspect. To act in this way would result in the paralysis of our spirit of sacrifice, of our ability to accept and to act, and would make us useless to ourselves and to others. One who is oversensitive and preoccupied with his own suffering, often becomes insensible and indifferent to the suffering of others.

In order to resist these selfish tendencies which have been rightly defined by Father Faber as “the worm of Christian sorrow,” we must forget ourselves, go out of ourselves and our own sufferings, become interested in the sufferings of others and endeavor to alleviate them. This is a very effective way to regain in times of discouragement the strength to bear our own crosses. We should be mindful of the truth that we are never alone in suffering; that if our sufferings are great, there are always those who suffer incomparably more than we. Our troubles, often enough, are but a drop compared to the sea of sorrows in which mankind is engulfed, and are practically nonentities in comparison with the Passion of Jesus.

Those who are overly concerned with their own troubles eventually become exasperated by them. Drowned in their sorrows, they stifle every impulse to generosity. By contrast, those who know how to forget themselves, maintain their equilibrium, and take greater thought for others than for themselves. They are always open to charity and generosity toward God and their neighbor. These are simple souls who, because they are unmindful of themselves, can bear suffering magnanimously and derive much profit for their own sanctification.


-plaque on the house of Bourges where Marie-Thérèse de Soubiran lived from 1871 to 1874. Please click on the image for greater detail.

COLLOQUY

“O Lord, grant that I may never cease to turn to You, and to look only at You. In consolation or desolation I shall run to You, stopping at nothing else; I shall run so quickly that I shall have no time to look at anything, nor to see the things of earth, because my pace will be so rapid. Therefore, out of love for You, I shall spurn pleasure, repose, dependence upon the judgment of men, satisfaction in their approval, dread of physical discomfort, sadness of spirit, and success or failure. In a word, I shall spurn everything that is not God.

I realize that my crosses have been permitted and willed by You, my God, to teach me to trust in You in spite of everything.

O God, be my sole strength in fear, weakness, and distress; be my confidant, or rather my confidence. Divine Guest, dwelling within me, on the throne of my heart, abide with me as my protector; You alone have dominion and power over my whole being; You alone are its love!

Why should I worry or fear? All is Yours, O God, and You will take care of my wants and provide for them. You are infinite Love, and You love the works of Your hands more than they can know and love themselves. Who would dare question Your power, or the loving, providential care You bestow on Your creatures from all eternity, and with the efficacy of Your love?

I believe that all You do and permit is for my good and my salvation, and I abandon myself to Your guidance with love and trust, and without anxiety, fear, or calculation.” (Bl. M. Thérèse Soubiran). Read her story. The order she founded and was calumniously expelled from, Sisters of Marie-Auxiliatrice, Sisters of Mary Help of Christians, endures to this day, under the patronage of their foundress, Bl M. Therese Soubiran of the Sacred Heart.

The Sisters of Mary Help of Christians are dedicated to various projects of assistance, especially for the poor, and young women, and the adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.

They are present in:

Europe: France , Ireland , Italy , United Kingdom
Africa: Cameroon
Asia: South Korea , Japan , Philippines
Oceania: Micronesia

“Now, in the oblivion, inactivity, the most complete nullity, I shall be passionate about Our Lord Himself.” – Bl M. Therese Soubiran

“Be able to emerge life from death!” -Bl M. Therese Soubiran

Love,
Matthew

Patience

Why does the most necessary spiritual reading appear when I need it most? Holy Spirit, help us!!!

-by Rev Gabriel of St Mary Magdalen, OCD, Divine Intimacy, Baronius Press, (c) 1964

“Presence of God – O Jesus, meek and divinely patient, teach me the secret of true patience.

MEDITATION

Patience is the virtue which makes us accept for love of God, generously and peacefully, everything that is displeasing to our nature, without allowing ourselves to be depressed by the sadness which easily comes over us when we meet with disagreeable things.

Patience is a special aspect of the virtue of fortitude which prevents our deviating from the right road when we encounter obstacles. It is an illusion to believe in a life without difficulties. These are usually all the greater and the more frequent as our undertakings are more generous. Great works, magnanimous and heroic virtues, always grow in the midst of difficulties. In the presence of these, fortitude has a double function: to face them and to bear them. Many difficulties are surmounted and overcome by an act of courage; others, on the contrary, cannot be mastered. We must learn to bear with them, and this is the role of patience—an arduous task, because it is easier to face obstacles directly, than to support the inevitable oppositions and sufferings of life, which, in time, tend to discourage and sadden us.

Only by fixing our glance on Jesus, the divinely patient One, can we learn to practice patience. When we see Him Who came into the world to save us, living from the first moment of His earthly existence in want, privation, and poverty, and later in the midst of misunderstanding and persecution; when we see Him become the object of the hatred of His own fellow citizens, calumniated, doomed to death, betrayed by a friend, and tried and condemned as a malefactor, our souls are stirred: we realize that we cannot be His disciples unless we follow the same road. If Jesus, the Innocent One par excellence, bore so much for love of us, can we, sinners who are deserving to suffer, not endure something for love of Him? Whatever the total of suffering in our lives, it will always be very small, and even nothing, compared with the infinite sufferings of Jesus; for in His Passion Christ not only endured the suffering of one life or of several human lives, but that of all mankind.

COLLOQUY

O Jesus, for love of You and with Your help, I wish to suffer in peace all the contradictions of my life. “Your thoughts are not our thoughts, Your ways are not our ways. You offer us a cup so bitter that our feeble nature cannot bear it. But I do not want to draw back my lips from the cup prepared by Your hand. You have taught me the secret of suffering in peace. Peace does not mean joy, at least not sensible joy; to suffer in peace, all I have to do is to will all that You will.

To be Your spouse, I must be like You; and You are all covered with blood and crowned with thorns. You wish to make me like You; then, should I fear that I cannot carry the Cross without weakening? On the way to Calvary, You fell three times; and I, a poor little child, do I not wish to be like You? Should I not wish to fall a hundred times to prove to You my love, rising up again with more strength than before my fall?

It is very consoling for me to remember that You, the God of might, knew our weaknesses, that You shuddered at the sight of the bitter cup which earlier You had so ardently desired to drink.

O Jesus, what it costs to give You what You ask! But what happiness that it does cost! Far from complaining to You of the crosses You send me, I cannot fathom the infinite love which has moved You to treat me so. O Lord, do not let me waste the trial You send me, it is a gold mine I must exploit. I, a little grain of sand, want to set myself to the task, without joy, without courage, without strength, and all these conditions will make the enterprise easier; I want to work for love.

In spite of this trial which robs me of all sense of enjoyment, I can still say: ‘You have given me, O Lord, a delight in Your doings.’ For is there any greater joy than to suffer for Your love, O my God? The more intense and the more hidden the suffering, the more do You value it. And even if, by an impossibility, You should not be aware of my affliction, I should still be happy to bear it, in the hope that by my tears I might prevent or atone for one sin against faith” (Thérèse of the Child Jesus Letters 63,51,184,59; Story of a Soul 9).””

Love,
Matthew

Jun 28 – St Ireneaus of Lyons, (130-202 AD), Bishop & Martyr, Father of the Church

The writings of St. Irenaeus entitle him to a high place among the fathers of the Church, for they not only laid the foundations of Christian theology but, by exposing and refuting the errors  of the gnostics, they delivered the Catholic Faith from the real danger of the doctrines of those heretics.   It was Irenaeus who first proposed the four Gospels we revere today be accepted as canonical, and the doctrine of apostolic succession.

He was probably born about the year 125, in one of those maritime provinces of Asia Minor where the memory of the apostles was still cherished and where Christians were numerous. He was most influenced by St. Polycarp who had known the apostles or their immediate disciples

Many Asian priests and missionaries brought the gospel to the pagan Gauls and founded a local church. To this church of Lugdunum (Lyon), Irenaeus came to serve as a priest under its first bishop, St. Pothinus, an oriental like himself.

During the persecution of Marcus Aurelius, the Roman Emperor from 161–180, the  clergy of that city, many of whom were suffering imprisonment for the faith, sent him in 177 to Rome with a letter to Pope Eleutherius concerning the heresy of Montanism and that occasion bore emphatic testimony to his merits.

This mission explains how it was that he was not called upon to share in the martyrdom of St Pothinus during the terrible persecution in Lyons. When he returned to Lyons it was to occupy the vacant bishopric. By this time, the persecution was over. It was the spread of gnosticism in Gaul, and the ravages it was making among the Christians of his diocese, that inspired him to undertake the task of exposing its errors. He produced a treatise in five books in which he sets forth fully the inner doctrines of the various sects, and afterwards contrasts them with the teaching of the Apostles and the text of the Holy Scripture. His work, written in Greek but quickly translated to Latin, was widely circulated and succeeded in dealing a death-blow to gnosticism. At any rate, from that time onwards, it ceased to offer a serious menace to the Catholic faith.

The date of death of St. Irenaeus is not known, but it is believed to be in the year 202. The bodily remains of St. Irenaeus were buried in a crypt under the altar of what was then called the church of St. John, but was later known by the name of St. Irenaeus himself. This tomb or shrine was destroyed by the Calvinists (Huegenots) in 1562, and all trace of his relics seems to have perished.

St. Irenaeus, was a pupil of Polycarp, and in a letter to Florinus, he recounts learning from his teacher:

“I remember the events of that time more clearly than those of recent years. . . . I am able to describe the very place in which the blessed Polycarp sat as he discoursed, and his goings out and his comings in, and the manner of his life, and his physical appearance, and his discourses to the people, and the accounts which he gave of his intercourse with John and with the others who had seen the Lord. And as he remembered their words, and what he heard from them concerning the Lord, and concerning his miracles and his teaching, having received them from eyewitnesses of the “Word of life” (1 John 1:1), Polycarp related all things in harmony with the Scriptures.”. (-Eusebius, Church History, V.20)

St. Irenaeus had the great gift of sitting at the feet of a theologian and bishop trained by the Theologian—the one Apostle who was with Mary at the Crucifixion of our Lord! And what a great gift we have in the writings of Irenaeus, Polycarp, Ignatius, Clement, and many other early Fathers of the Church.

We learn another important fact from St. Irenaeus: these Fathers were not just Christian intellectuals, leaders, or martyrs; they were successors of the Twelve.

“It is within the power of all . . . who may wish to see the truth, to contemplate clearly the tradition of the apostles manifested throughout the whole world; and we are in a position to reckon up those who were by the apostles instituted bishops in the Churches, and [to demonstrate] the succession of these men to our own times. (-Against Heresies, III.3.1)

Already in the second century, St. Irenaeus was encountering a great number of people who were distorting the Scriptures and the Gospel message.

It is not thou that shapest God
it is God that shapest thee.
If thou art the work of God
await the hand of the artist
Who does all things in due season.
Offer Him thy heart,
soft and tractable,
and keep the form
in which the artist has fashioned thee.
Let thy clay be moist,
lest thou grow hard
and lose the imprint of his fingers.
-St Ireneaus

“Irenaeus did not stop at defining the concept of Tradition. His tradition, uninterrupted Tradition, is not traditionalism, because this Tradition is always enlivened from within by the Holy Spirit, Who makes it live anew, causes it to be interpreted and understood in the vitality of the Church.” —Pope Benedict XVI

Prayer

O God, who called the Bishop Saint Irenaeus
to confirm true doctrine and the peace of the Church,
grant, we pray, through his intercession,
that, being renewed in faith and charity,
we may always be intent on fostering unity and concord.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
Who lives and reigns with You in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
-from The Roman Missal

Love,
Matthew

Supernatural Obedience

When considering religious life, especially in the Order of Preachers, who only take one vow, obedience, it was this vow that freaked me out. It still does. In fact, my fear of this vow, very justifiably so, has gotten worse with thirty years of experience of human beings in organizations.

Let me be clear, if you think this vow, obedience, at the end of the day, is taken in any metaphorical sense by the Dominicans or any other Catholic religious order, allow me to disabuse you in kindness and Christian charity of that delusion. They do not. They do not.

Everything else is generally light and happiness, but this moment is most solemn, most solemn. And, in the time one spends in religious life, in general, by the default of time elapsed, disqualifies one from a career external to religious life, so the sacrifice is real and permanent as time progresses. It is. No do-overs. They play for keeps.

Catholicism, I have found, in general, if taken seriously, disqualifies you somewhat from many practical careers, by definition. Or, at least it makes them harder to practice in the way they are secularly practiced. Deo gratias!!! And, a decade or more of religious life, means mainly Church employment, or entry level roles if not.

Religious superiors are human, too. They have all the foibles, temptations, errors any of us do. And, so my apprehension not only remains after thirty years, it has become worse.

Ego N. spondeo obtemperat praecipienti Deo et beatae virgini, et beato Dominico et tibi famulam tuam N., et ad posteros, secundum Regulam Sancti Augustini ordo et institutum, usque ad mortem.

I, N., pledge obedience to God, the Blessed Virgin, to Blessed Dominic, and to you, N., and your successors, according to the Rule of Saint Augustine, and the institute of the order, until death.

This isn’t why I left. As I mentioned in prior posts, “God spoke to me” in my sleep Holy Thursday evening, the anniversary of the priesthood, and awoke with conviction, unreasoned, Good Friday morning. Who says God does not an ironic sense of timing?

Even as a Lay Dominican, the errors of human superiors is too painfully evident, and I don’t play well with such. I just don’t. This would be a cross had I pursued religious life. But, crosses, as Christians, are to be embraced through supernatural grace, never our own efforts. It is impossible, impossible.

It is not possible, as well, in reality, now, I realize to revisit this moment now in life. His will has been done. And, I am sanguine, and grateful. May it always be so, Lord. May it always be so, regardless of events, regardless. However, I sometimes now consider how I might approach this moment given thirty years of experience. Being young, and all the limitations lack of experience provides, I was decidedly and only relying on my own powers, quite understandably so. And, knowing myself to the extent, not incorrectly, as I did, my fears were reasonable and correct. It is ONLY through supernatural grace, never, never, our own efforts is this commitment possible to be lived out.

Marriage has its own vow/form of obedience, in love. It is not the fear of the reality and pain being subject to human superiors in religious life or even marriage, rather it is the love of Christ, intense enough, relying enough upon Him alone, His grace, His will, our total, complete surrender to Him, through Him & His supernatural grace, that permits living these faithfully.

-by Rev Gabriel of St Mary Magdalen, OCD, Divine Intimacy, Baronius Press, (c) 1964

Presence of God – O Jesus, teach me to see only You in my superiors.

MEDITATION

An excellent instruction from St. John of the Cross says: “Never look upon your superior, whoever he may be, with less regard than upon God Himself” (Precautions). If we do not have this supernatural spirit which makes us see God in the person of our superior, our obedience cannot be supernatural. It is necessary to be a soul animated by this motive alone: I obey because my superior represents God for me and speaks to me in His Name; my superior is another Christ to me: Hic est Christus mens. This is my Christ.

We should not obey through the motive of human confidence in the person of our superior: because he is intelligent, prudent, capable, because he understands or likes you, and so forth. That is human obedience, the fruit of human prudence—a good act in itself but not supernatural. Neither should we obey because what we are told to do is the most perfect; again this is not the real reason for obedience. We must obey only because God wills whatever our superior commands. The one exception is an order involving sin, which of course God cannot want, or a command not conformable to the Rule or Constitutions which we have embraced. In either case, obedience would be unlawful. Apart from these exceptions no limit should be put to our obedience. We need not hesitate through fear that the superior is asking something less perfect. Even if he commands what is objectively less perfect than its alternative (for instance, to take some rest instead of working), it would nevertheless be the more perfect thing for us. By the simple fact that the superior has expressed an order, it is clearly the fulfillment of that, and not something else, that God wants from us at the moment. It could very well be that in the abstract we see the possibility of performing an action more perfect than what we have been told to do, and that our idea is better than our superior’s. But in reality there is no doubt about it: nothing can be more perfect for us than what God commands by means of our superior.

COLLOQUY

O Lord, increase my spirit of faith, so that I will see You in the soul of my superior. May I repeat, spontaneously and sincerely, in his presence, Hic est Christus mens! Only by this way of obedience will a life of continual contact and uninterrupted for “Supernatural Obedience” postintimacy with You be possible. If I find You present and living in the Sacrament of the Altar under the veil of the Eucharistic species, always ready to welcome and nourish my soul, I can also, but in a different way, find You hidden in the person of my superior, through whom You speak to me, always ready to disperse my doubts, to manifest Your holy will, and to direct and guide me along the road You have chosen from all eternity for my sanctification.

O Lord, why should I stop at the human appearances of my superiors? Such an attitude will only serve to keep me from finding You in them and recognizing Your will in theirs. Help me, O God, to pass over all the human aspects of obedience and to put myself in contact with You and Your divine will. Just as in the Eucharist I do not halt at the created species of bread and wine, so I ought not in obeying to consider the person of my superior, but only Your will, which reaches me under the appearance of a human order or command. O Jesus, what a great mystery! The Eucharist gives me Your Body, Your Blood, Your divinity—such is the power of the Sacrament which You have instituted. Obedience gives me Your will and makes me communicate with it—such is the power of the authority which You have established.

Once I have understood this profound truth, how can I still dare to argue or hesitate at the commands of my superiors? “It would be a terrible thing if God were to be telling us plainly to go about His business in some way, and we would not do it but stood looking at Him because that gave us greater pleasure. A fine way it is of advancing in the love of God to tie His hands by thinking that there is only one way in which He can benefit us” (Teresa of Jesus Foundations, 5). No, Lord, grant that I may never act thus. I shall follow You wherever You lead me by means of holy obedience.”

Love, pray for me,
Matthew