Category Archives: Spirituality

Interior purification


-Virgin of Carmel Saving Souls from Purgatory, artist unknown, Circle of Diego Quispe Tito, Peruvian (Cuzco), 1611-1681, Potosi, Bolivia, 41 x 29 in. (104.1 x 73.7 cm), late 17th century, oil on canvas, Brooklyn Museum, please click on the image for greater detail.

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

Presence of God – Purify my soul, O Lord, so that it may be filled completely with Your light and Your love.

MEDITATION

St. John of the Cross compares the soul to a glass window with a ray of sunlight shining on it. If the glass is dirty, “the ray cannot illuminate it, nor transform it completely into its light; its illumination will be in proportion to its clearness. If, on the other hand, it is absolutely clean and spotless, it will be illuminated and transformed in such a way as to appear to be the luminous ray itself, and to give the same light” (Ascent of Mount Carmel II, 5,6). God is the divine Sun shining upon our souls, desiring to invade them and penetrate them, completely transforming them into His light and love. Before He does this, however, He waits until the soul resolves to free itself from every “creature stain,” that is, the stains of sin and inordinate attachments. As soon as God finds that a soul is free from mortal sin, He immediately fills it with His grace. This precious gift is the first step in the great transformation which the Lord desires to bring about in us. The more we become purified of all sin and imperfection, and of even the slightest attachment; that is, in proportion as we conform our will to the will of God, not only in serious matters of obligation but even in the least details of perfection, the more capable we become of being entirely penetrated and transformed by divine Grace.

Grace, the gift of God which makes the soul a participant in the divine nature, is poured forth into the soul in proportion to its degree of interior purity, which always corresponds to its degree of conformity with God’s will. Therefore, the soul that wishes to be totally possessed and transformed by divine Grace, must in practice strive to conform fully to the will of God, according to the teaching of St. John of the Cross, “so that there may be nothing in the soul that is contrary to the will of God, but that in all and through all its movement may be that of the will of God alone” (Ascent of Mount Carmel I, 11,2).

COLLOQUY

“O my Jesus, how great is the love that Thou hast for the children of men! The greatest service that we can render Thee is to leave Thee for love of them and for their advantage. By doing this, we possess Thee the more completely; for, although the will has less satisfaction in the enjoyment of Thee, the soul is glad that Thou art pleased, and sees that, while we live in this mortal life, earthly joys are unsure, even though they seem to be bestowed by Thee, unless they are accompanied by the love of our neighbor. He who loves not his neighbor, loves not Thee, my Lord; for in all the Blood Thou didst shed, we see the exceeding great love which Thou bearest for the children of Adam.” (Teresa of Jesus, Exclamations of the Soul to God, 2).

“O Lord, I beseech You, keep my faith pure and grant that, until my last sigh, I may feel the testimony of a good conscience. Grant that I, who have been baptized in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, may always believe what I professed in the Sacrament of my regeneration. Let me adore You, my Father, and Your Son with You; let me be worthy of the Holy Spirit Who proceeds from You and Your only-begotten Son. Truly I have a worthy pledge of faith to guarantee what I believe, and it is He Who said, ‘Father, all that is Mine is Yours, and all that is Yours is Mine,’ Jesus Christ, my Lord, Who lives in You and Who, remaining God, proceeds from You, is always near You, and is blessed forever and ever.” (St. Hilary).

“I renounce Satan! O my God, this was my baptismal promise, a solemn promise made in the presence of the Church, a promise so explicit that no one can dispense me from it, a promise recorded by angelic hands, a promise on which I shall be judged at the hour of my death.

O my God, I desire to renew very fervently that promise today. Therefore, with all my heart and all my strength, I renounce you, O Satan; I renounce you, abominable sin; I renounce you, detestable world!

O Lord Jesus Christ, I give myself entirely to You forever. I desire to adhere to Your holy doctrine by faith, to Your sacred promises by hope, to Your divine commandments and counsels by love and charity. I desire to follow You by the practice of all the virtues. I desire to follow You as my Head, as a living member of Your Body.” (St. John Eudes).

Love,
Matthew

Sacrament of the Present Moment – Rev Jean Pierre de Caussade, SJ

“The Sacrament of the Present Moment is a spiritual path outlined by one of the greatest spiritual directors in the history of the Church, Father J. P. de Caussade, S.J.

On this path, we learn that Christ comes to us in a new and living way every day, and in every moment of every day. For this reason, our attention must remain focused on all of the events that occur, minute-by-minute, from the trivial to the sublime, because this is how God speaks to us.

This was the spirituality of the Blessed Virgin Mary and St. Joseph, who did not have access to spiritual directors, the guidance of hagiography, or volumes of theology.

“All their attention was focused on the present, minute by minute; like the hand of a clock that marks the minutes of each hour covering the distance along which it has to travel. Constantly prompted by divine impulsion, they found themselves imperceptibly turned toward the next task that God had ready for them at each hour of the day.”162

Their lives were guided by a pure and simple commitment to the will of God in whatever form it might present itself in each moment of the day. Even though, on the surface, Mary and Joseph were just ordinary people living an ordinary life in the village of Nazareth, we know that beneath this commonplace exterior, they were unparalleled in holiness. These heights of sanctity were acquired through a complete reliance on God’s grace and obedience to His Will in whatever way it chose to manifest in the everyday moments of their lives.

“But what is the secret of how to find this treasure — this minute grain of mustard seed? There is none. It is available to us always, everywhere. Like God, every creature, whether friend or foe, pours it out generously, making it flow through every part of our bodies and souls to the very center of our being. Divine action cleanses the universe, pervading and flowing over all creatures. Wherever they are it pursues them. It precedes them, accompanies them, follows them. We have only to allow ourselves to be borne along on its tide.”163

Those who abandon themselves to this way of life and who live to discover God’s will in the everyday moments of their life do so without the need to question, to judge, to consider the consequences or the causes or the reasons why this or that may happen.

Instead, “we leave God to act in everything, reserving for ourselves only love and obedience to the present moment.”164

And by doing so, God becomes the source of life for these souls, not through ideas or enlightenment or reasoning, but hidden in the operation and truth of his grace as it manifests in each moment of every day of our lives.

“And so God and His divine order must be cherished in all things, just as it is, without asking for anything more; whatever he may offer us is not our business but God’s, and what he ordains is best. How simple is this perfect and total surrender of self to the world of God! And there, in continual self-forgetfulness to be forever occupied in loving and obeying him, untroubled by all those doubts and perplexities, reverses and anxieties which attend the hope of his salvation and true perfection!”165

This brief expose of the Sacrament of the Present Moment should be enough to expose the similarities — and the immense differences — between this devotion and the practice of mindfulness. About the only thing the two practices have in common is that they both call for a non-judgmental focus on the now, but the underlying motives and end of this focus could not be further apart.

In mindfulness, one focuses on the present moment to become aware of it, to escape the doing mode and enter into the being mode in order to awaken to the experience of each moment.

In the Sacrament of the Present Moment, we dwell in the present not to enter into a state of awareness but into a state of abandonment to the will of God…Instead of being about moment-to-moment awareness, it’s about moment-to-moment surrender. Put simply, the Christian remains in the present moment not for the sake of the present moment, but for the sake of hearing the voice of the God Who speaks to it in that moment.”

-Brinkmann, Susan. A Catholic Guide to Mindfulness (pp. 95-98). Avila Institute for Spiritual Formation. Kindle Edition.

Love,
Matthew

162. de Caussade, Father J. P., S.J., The Sacrament of the Present Moment (New York, NY: Harper One), pg. 1
163. Ibid, pg. 3
164. Ibid, pg. 11
165. Ibid, pg. 25

Surrender

The idea of surrender to God is one of those “weird” moments in Matt’s life. Fear not, there are, tragically, not that many. Were that there were more! But, I recall some years ago being in the passenger seat of a car and either pulling out of a detached garage, I think it was my in-laws. They are the only ones I’ve known with a detached garage, very common in Chicago bungalows. But, I remember either pulling out of the garage forwards, or backing into the garage, God chooses when and where He will, and having what I call a grace, to be granted the insight and the commitment at the same time to surrender to God and to know this was right and desired by Him. And, have been convicted and blessed in that knowledge joyfully so ever since. Weird. I know.

-Donohue, Bill. The Catholic Advantage: Why Health, Happiness, and Heaven Await the Faithful (p. 171-174). The Crown Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

“…We can offer ourselves up to God as well, (Rev. Jean-Pierre de Caussade, SJ, Abandonment to Divine Providence) instructs, but to do so requires the combined exercise of faith, hope, and love. Our faith in God, our hope for eternal salvation, our love for God and neighbor, it is these virtues, when exercised in tandem, that constitute the makings of surrender. Absent their presence, true surrender is not possible.

Above all, surrender demands freedom from self-interest. “The free gifts He asks from us are self-denial, obedience, and love,” the French Jesuit tells us. Easier said than done, especially in our society today. American culture celebrates self-expression, self-autonomy, and narcissism, the exact opposite traits that are necessary to surrender to God. Indeed, we treat freedom from self-interest as a bizarre and completely unsatisfactory quality, something suited for masochists. But if we obsess with putting ourselves first, Father de Caussade writes, we have no room for God, and no capacity to love our neighbor.

…“Faith is never unhappy,”…“What is wonderful in the saints is their constancy of faith under every circumstance,”…saintly qualities have a way of capturing the hearts of all persons…

…there are obstacles to surrender, and they are formidable: unwise counsel; unjust judgments of others; interior humiliations; and distrust of self.

…We can learn from the saints how to perfect the practice of surrendering to God,…that their holiness is found in “their surrender to the will of God.”…Surrender also brings joy. What cannot be doubted is that we will be tested. “The state of full surrender is full of consolation for those who have reached it,” he says, “but in order to reach it we must pass through much anguish.”…

…On the Feast of All Saints in 2013, Pope Francis noted that saints are not “supermen” who were born “perfect.” No, he insists, they lived lives much like ours, full of “joy and griefs, struggles and hopes.” So what made them different? “They spent their lives in the service of others,” he says; “they endured suffering and adversity without hatred and responded to evil with good, spreading joy and peace.”

Love, surrendering always to Him, or trying,
Matthew

 

Sell EVERYTHING!! Give to the poor. Follow Me. – Mt 19:16–30, Mk 10:17–31, Lk 18:18–30


-“Christ and the rich, young ruler”, Heinrich Hoffman, 1889, purchased by John D Rockefeller Jr, now residing at Riverside Church in New York. Please click on the image for greater detail.

There can be nothing more important than Him. NOTHING. Mt 5:29-30

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

Presence of God– O Jesus, obedient even unto the death of the Cross, teach us to follow Your example.

MEDITATION

Jesus said to the young man who was aspiring to perfection, “If thou wilt be perfect, go sell what thou hast, and give to the poor,”—the evangelical counsel of poverty — “and come follow Me” (Matthew 19:21)—the counsel of voluntary obedience, according to St. Thomas. To follow Jesus means to imitate His virtues, among which obedience certainly ranks first. Jesus came into the world to accomplish the will of His Father: “It is written of Me that I should do Thy will, O God” (Hebrews 10:7). Several times during His life He said it expressly: “I came down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him that sent Me” (John 6:38); and He declared that His food, His sustenance, the support of His life, was the fulfilling of His Father’s will (cf. John 4:34). But Jesus also wanted to express concretely His dependence on His heavenly Father, by submitting Himself to those creatures who in the natural order had authority over Him as man. Thus he lived for thirty years subject in all things to Mary and Joseph, recognizing His Father’s authority in theirs. “He was subject to them,” the Gospel says (Luke 2:51), as it summarizes in these few words the long years of the private life of the Savior. Later, during His public life, and especially during His Passion, Jesus always gave an example of obedience to constituted authority, civil as well as religious, even subjecting Himself to His judges and executioners and making Himself, according to the words of St. Paul, “obedient unto death, even to the death of the Cross” (Philippians 2:8). Having come into the world through obedience, Jesus wanted to live in obedience and through obedience. He embraced death, repeating in the Garden of Olives: “Father … not My will but Thine be done” (Luke 22:42). To follow Jesus in the life of perfection means that we must voluntarily embrace a life of total dependence. St. Thomas concludes from this that obedience belongs to the essence of the state of perfection.

COLLOQUY

“O Jesus, You would not have one that loves You well take any other road than that which You Yourself took” (cf. Teresa of Jesus Foundations, 5). And now I have decided to follow You, to walk in Your footsteps on the path of holy obedience, a way hollowed out in the solid rock of Your example, of Your most humble submission, of Your ineffable subjection. “O God, You who reign over the angels, You whom the principalities and powers obey, were subject to Mary, and not only to Mary but also to Joseph because of Mary. For God to obey a creature is humility without a parallel. O Lord, You abase Yourself, and I, shall I exalt myself? O my soul, if you disdain to imitate the example of a man, it will certainly not be unworthy of you to imitate your Creator. If perhaps you cannot follow Him wherever He goes, at least follow Him to the point to which He willed to descend for you” (cf. St. Bernard).

O Jesus, grant that I may follow You in the way of obedience; give me a profound spirit of faith so that I shall always be able to recognize Your voice and will in the command of obedience. “Teach me, O Lord, to abandon myself with confidence to Your words: ‘He who hears you, hears Me.’ Teach me to forget my own will; You appreciate this sacrifice very greatly because it makes You Master of the free will which You Yourself have given me. I wish to offer You this gift in its plenitude, with no reservation whatever. Grant that I may be faithful to this resolution and then, in spite of the repugnances and opposition of nature, I shall succeed in conforming myself to what You command; in short, whether it costs me pain or not, I shall succeed in submitting myself. I know indeed, O Lord, that You will not fail to help me, and in subjecting my reason and will for love of You, You will teach me how to become master of them. Once I am master of myself, I shall be able to consecrate myself perfectly to You by offering You a pure will, for You to unite to Your own” (cf. Teresa of Jesus Foundations, 5).

Love, pray for me,
Matthew

God’s will


-please click on the image for greater detail.

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

Presence of God – I place myself in the presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, asking Him to penetrate my soul with His words, “He that does the will of My Father Who is in Heaven, he shall enter into the kingdom of heaven.” (Mt 7:21).

MEDITATION

The path which leads to sanctity, that is, to God, can be marked out only by God Himself, by His will. Jesus expressed this very strongly when He said, “Not everyone that says to Me “Lord, Lord” shall enter into the kingdom of Heaven, but he that does the will of My Father Who is in Heaven, he shall enter into the kingdom of Heaven.” (Mt 7:21). And to show that the souls who are most closely united to Him, the ones He loves most, are precisely those who do the will of God, He does not hesitate to say: “Whosoever shall do the will of My Father, that is in Heaven, he is my brother, and sister, and mother.” (Mt 12:50).

The saints learned in the school of Jesus. St. Teresa of Avila, after having received the most sublime mystical communications, did not hesitate to declare, “The highest perfection consists not in interior favors, or in great raptures, or in visions, or in the spirit of prophecy, but in the bringing of our wills so closely into conformity with the will of God that, as soon as we realize He wills anything, we desire it ourselves with all our might, and take the bitter with the sweet” (Foundations, 5). St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus echoes this statement, “The more joyfully [souls] do His will, the greater is their perfection” (Story of a Soul, 1).

True love of God consists in adhering perfectly to His holy will, not desiring to do or be other than what God indicates for each of us, to the point of becoming, as it were, “a living will of God.” Seen in this light, sanctity is possible for every soul of good will; it is not impossible that a soul which leads a humble, hidden life, may adhere to the divine will as well and perhaps even better than a “great” saint who has received from God an exterior mission and has been enriched with mystical graces. The perfection of a soul may be measured by the degree to which it does the will of God, and finds its happiness in doing it.

COLLOQUY

O my God, You make me understand that the only thing necessary is Your holy will, that it is my one and only treasure. In this life, what can be more beautiful, more safe, more perfect and more holy than to do Your will? You have given me free will; to what better use can I put it than to make it adhere to Your divine will? If I should perform great works and carry out marvelous undertakings which are not fully in accordance with Your will, they would have no value for eternity and would, therefore, be destined to perish; whereas the slightest works done according to Your will have an eternal value.

O Lord, I know that I am nothing, I acknowledge the weakness of my poor will which now turns to one good, now to another, and considers as good what is really imperfection, fault, sin. But Your will is indefectible; You can desire nothing but the true, sovereign good; hence, You desire only my good, my salvation, my sanctification. Nothing, then, can be more advantageous to me than to consecrate my will to Yours, O my God.

“At this moment, O Lord, I freely consecrate my will to You without reserve…. Grant that Your will may always be fulfilled in me, in the way which is most pleasing to You. If You wish me to do this by means of trials, give me strength and let them come. If by means of persecutions and sickness and dishonor and need, here I am, my Father, I shall not turn my face away.” (Teresa of Jesus, Way of Perfection, 32).

So many times I have made You the offering of my will, consecrating it to You and declaring that I wanted nothing but Your divine will. But an equal number of times, alas, I have taken back my offering, and in my actions, labors, and apostolic works, instead of allowing myself to be guided by You, I have been led more or less by pride and personal satisfaction. How far I am, O Lord, from losing my will in Yours! How attached I still am to my own ideas and tastes! How many things still remain in me which are contrary to Your will! Give me light to recognize them, and strength to free myself from them! I confess that every time I draw away from Your will, even if only in little things, to act according to my own will, I feel remorse, and a lessening of peace in my soul. Only in Your will is my good, my peace, my salvation, my sanctification.

O Lord, hear my poor prayer: once more I offer You my will; take it, keep it a prisoner, so that I shall never be able to withdraw my offering.

With St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus, I repeat, “My God … I will not be a saint by halves, I am not afraid of suffering for You. One thing only do I fear, and that is to follow my own will. Accept, then, the offering I make of it, for I choose all that You will.” (Therésè of the Child Jesus, Story of a Soul, 1).

Love, pray for me,
Matthew

Peace

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

Presence of God – O Holy Spirit, help me to establish my heart in peace.

MEDITATION

A soul who has tasted God, under the influence of the gift of wisdom, looks at the world with the eyes of God, and therefore is able to judge all things “secundum rationes divinae” (St. Thomas IIa IIae, q.45, a.3, ad 3) by divine principles, according to supernatural motives, and not according to limited human reasoning. These are the truly “wise” judgments that we can never formulate without the help of the Holy Spirit. In fact, “the sensual man [the man of the senses and of natural reason] perceiveth not these things that are of the Spirit of God; for it is foolishness to him, and he cannot understand, because it is spiritually examined. But the spiritual man [the man of faith guided by the Holy Spirit] judgeth all things” (1 Corinthians 2:14,15). He judges all things in relation to their supreme Cause, God; therefore, he directs all his acts and orders everything in his life according to God. From this order – the only true order – comes peace, the fruit of the wise direction of the gift of wisdom; hence, the man who habitually lives under the influence of this gift is a peaceful man par excellence. His heart is established in peace, there is no longer anything disordered in it; all his affections and desires, all his thoughts and acts, are completely ordered according to God, being wholly submitted and conformed to His laws, to His will, to His good pleasure. One who possesses peace, disseminates peace. A peacemaker, in the etymological sense, is one who makes peace, cultivates peace, and spreads it about him. This is why the gift of wisdom corresponds to the beatitude of peace, “Blessed are the peacemakers.” Only one who lives under the influence of this gift can truly judge and regulate everything according to God, so that nothing, not even suffering, can disturb his interior peace, for he knows that even the most painful happenings are permitted and ordered by God for the good of His elect. “To them that love God, all things work together unto good” (Romans 8:28).

In this way the gift of wisdom gives a note of sweetness, not only to our prayer, but also to our practical life:
“Under the influence of this gift,” says St. Thomas, “what is bitter becomes sweet, and weariness becomes repose” (IIa IIae, q.45, a.3, ad 3).

COLLOQUY

“O Holy Spirit, give us Your wisdom to teach and guide us and to bring all things back to You, from whom they came. Oh! if we could really return to You as we came out from You, like waves returning to the ocean whence they came! Oh! if we could only make this complete return to You, we should be in perpetual happiness and perpetual peace!

Your wisdom is the perfection which orders all things in relation to You who are their end. It considers the past, looks at the present and scans the future always in relation to You. From this orientation, peace, the sweet fruit of wisdom, is born in our hearts. He who possesses this peace is always serene: he is not troubled by the past or the present, and he looks peacefully toward the future, because he knows that everything is permitted and arranged by Your sovereign goodness.

O eternal Father, give us light to know this peace, the cause of so many blessings, and without which we fall into so many faults and evils!

Oh! why can I not communicate this peace to every creature? If I were what I should be, I certainly could diffuse it everywhere! O Lord, give me Your peace, the peace of a heart which lives united to You, for of myself I can have no good, and without You, I cannot have peace.” (St. Mary Magdalen dei Pazzi).

“O most benign Jesus, give me above all desires the desire to rest in You, and in You let my heart find peace. You are the true peace of the heart; You are its only refuge; without You, all things are difficult and troubled. In this peace, then, that is, in You, the one sovereign eternal Good, I will sleep and take my rest.”-(Thomas à Kempis, The Imitation of Christ, III, 15:4).

Love, and the peace only He can give,
Matthew

To love greatly

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

Presence of God – O Lord, give me a generous heart, capable of undertaking great things for You.

MEDITATION

Whoever aspires to sanctity should have a generous, magnanimous heart, which is not satisfied with doing little things for God, and tiny acts of virtue, but is eager to do great things and give great proofs of love.  Just as there is no sanctity without heroic virtue, so it is impossible to attain to heroism without performing great acts of virtue.

Some think there is pride and delusion of the devil in fostering great desires, or in wanting to do great things for God.  There would be, certainly, if in this we sought honor for ourselves, or praise from others, or if, in trying to do great things, we were to neglect the small details of our daily duties.  The virtue of magnanimity, on the contrary, inclines the soul to do great things for God, but never to the detriment of obedience, humility, or the fulfillment of duty. Generous souls, precisely in this domain, will often meet with arduous, difficult things which call for much virtue, but which usually remain hidden from the eyes of others. In circumstances such as these we are often tempted to give up, under the pretext that it is not necessary to push virtue to such extremes; we excuse ourselves, saying that we are neither angels nor saints. St. Teresa of Jesus says, “We may not be; but what a good thing it is for us to reflect that we can be if we will only try, and if God gives us His hand!” (Way of Perfection, 16).  The Saint strongly insists that those who have dedicated themselves to the spiritual life should not nourish petty desires, but generous ones, nor should they fear to emulate the saints; she affirms with authority, “I have never seen any courageous person hanging back on this road, nor any soul that, under the guise of humility, acted like a coward, go as far in many years as the courageous soul can in a few.”

COLLOQUY

“O strong love of God! I really think that nothing seems impossible to one who loves! O happy soul that has obtained Your peace, O my God! It has become mistress over all the trials and perils of the world, and it fears none of them when there is a question of serving You.

It is a characteristic of the true servant of God, to whom His Majesty has given light to follow the true path, that when beset by these fears, his desire not to stop only increases. Teach me, then, O my God, always to go straight ahead, to fight with courage, and to parry the blows of the devil who is trying to frighten me.

For what can a man accomplish, my Lord, who does not wholly abase himself for Your sake? How far, O, how far, how very far—I could repeat it a thousand times—am I from doing this! How many imperfections do I find in myself! How feebly do I serve You! Sometimes I could really wish I were devoid of sense, for then I should not understand how much evil is in me. May He who is able to do so, grant me succor! We must have great confidence for it is most important that we should not cramp our good desires but should believe that, with God’s help, if we make continual efforts to do so, we shall attain, though perhaps not at once, to that which many saints have reached through His favor.

“How true it is, O Lord, that everything is possible in You; I realize too, that of myself I can do nothing. Therefore, I beseech You with St. Augustine: ‘Give me, Lord, what You command me and then command what You will’” (Teresa of Jesus, Conceptions of the Love of God, 3 – Way of Perfection, 21 – Life, 39 – 13).

Love, greatly,
Matthew

Interior Trials

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

Presence of God – O Lord, purify me as gold in the crucible; purify me and do not spare me, that I may attain to union with You.

MEDITATION

If Our Lord finds you strong and faithful, humble and patient in accepting exterior trials, He will go on little by little to others that are more inward and spiritual “to purge and cleanse you more inwardly … to give you more interior blessings” (-St John of the Cross, Living Flame of Love 2, 28). The passive night of the spirit culminates precisely in these interior sufferings of the soul, by which God “destroys and consumes its spiritual substance and absorbs it in deep and profound darkness” (-St John of the Cross, Dark Night of the Soul II, 6, 1) in order that it may be completely reborn to divine Life. We are, in fact, so steeped in miseries and faults, which adhere so closely to our nature, that if God Himself did not take our purification in hand, renewing us from head to foot, we should never be delivered from them. Jesus, too, spoke of this total renovation, of this profound spiritual rebirth: “Unless a man be born again of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God” (John 3:5); the kingdom of God here below is the state of perfect union with Him, to which no one attains if he be not first totally purified.

St. John of the Cross explains at length how this work of purification is accomplished by the Holy Spirit, who, invading the soul with the living flame of His Love, destroys and consumes all its imperfections. So long as this divine flame purifies and disposes the soul, says the Saint, it “is very oppressive … the flame is not bright to it, but dark, and if it gives any light at all, it is only that the soul may see and feel its own faults and miseries” (John of the Cross, Living Flame of Love 1,19). Although the soul finds itself under the direct action of the Holy Spirit, this action is not agreeable but painful, because its first fruit is precisely to show it all its weaknesses and miseries that it may conceive a horror for them, detest them, humble itself for them and be sorry for them. The penetrating light of the “living flame of Love” lifts the thick veil which hides from the soul the roots of its evil habits. The soul suffers at such a sight, not only because it feels humbled, but also because it fears being rejected by God; indeed, seeing itself so miserable, it feels itself dreadfully unworthy of divine love, and, at certain times, it even seems as if God in anger had cast it off from Himself. This is the greatest torment the soul can suffer, but a precious one, because it purifies the soul of all residue of self-love and pride, and deepens within it the profound abyss of humility which calls to and draws down the abyss of divine mercy.

COLLOQUY

“O my soul, if you are wounded by sin, behold your physician, ready to cure you. His mercy is infinitely greater than all your iniquities. This I say, not that you may remain in your misery, but that by doing your utmost to overcome it, you may not despair of His clemency and pardon.

Your God is sweetness itself, mildness itself; whom will you love, whom will you desire except Him?

Let not your imperfections discourage you; your God does not despise you because you are imperfect and infirm; on the contrary, He loves you because you desire to cure your ills. He will come to your assistance and make you more perfect than you would have dared to hope, and adorned by His own hand, your beauty will be unequalled, like His own goodness.

O my Jesus, tender Shepherd, gentle Master, help me, lift up Your dejected sheep, extend Your hand to sustain me, heal my wounds, strengthen my weakness, save me; otherwise I shall perish. I am unworthy of life, I confess, unworthy of Your light and help; for my ingratitude has been so great; Your mercy, however, is greater still. Have pity upon me, then, O God, You who love men so much! Oh, my only hope! Have pity upon me according to the greatness of your mercy.” (-Blessed Louis de Blois).

“One abyss calleth upon another. It is there, my God, at the bottom that I shall meet You: the abyss of my poverty, of my nothingness, will be confronted with the abyss of Your mercy, the immensity of Your All. There I shall find strength to die to myself and, losing every trace of self, I shall be changed into love.” (St Elisabeth of the Trinity, First Retreat [Heaven on Earth] 1).

Love & deepest empathy & affection,
Matthew

excuses…

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

Presence of God – O Jesus, Who willed to be silent before him who condemned You to death, teach me the art of not excusing myself.

MEDITATION

In any failure, fault, or personal error, our ego instinctively tries to excuse itself. It is the tactic of pride–which is not willing to admit its mistakes and schemes–to hide them under more or less false pretexts, always finding some way to blame them on other people or on circumstances. Adam and Eve acted in this way after their sin; it is also the instinct of anyone who commits a fault. Herein lies great danger for the soul, because it is impossible for us to correct our faults if we are not willing to acknowledge them. It requires great courage to tear down these ingenious but inconsistent constructions of self-love, to expose our failings and look them squarely in the face, just as they are, without blaming them on anyone but ourselves. “When we commit a fault,” said St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus, Doctor of the Church, “we must not attribute it to a physical cause, such as illness or the weather, but we must attribute it to our own lack of perfection…. Occasions do not make man weak, but they do show what he is” (Counsels and Souvenirs).

Excusing our faults may satisfy our pride; but in reality, it is voluntarily blinding oneself and making oneself incapable of seeing the true situation. Thus our poor soul is not only unable to advance, but is condemned to grope in the dark with no possibility of escape. On the other hand, if we sincerely recognize our faults, we have already taken the first step toward correcting them. Yet it is not enough to avoid excusing ourselves interiorly; we must also guard against exonerating ourselves before others. In other words, after acknowledging our failings before God, we must also confess them before men, accept a correction humbly, and repair the bad example we may have given. At the same time, it would be of little value to receive an accusation or a reproach silently, if the soul–even at the cost of great struggle and effort–did not also avoid excusing itself interiorly.

COLLOQUY

O Lord, I pray that Your light will be so abundant in me that it will disperse, like fog before the sun, all those excuses by means of which my self-love tries to cover my failings and faults. Enable me to recognize all my defects and to judge them as You do. Rule over my heart so that it will not try to find subtle reasons for manufacturing excuses for my faults. And if, because of my weakness, I fall easily, grant that I may at least confess it humbly to You and to others. Take away from my conscience the mask of vain, pitiful excuses which prevents me from seeing myself as You see me and know me, as I really am in Your eyes. Then, O Lord, give me the humility necessary to accept with good will the corrections of others. With Your gentleness extinguish my sensitiveness which is ever ready to burst into flame and to be resentful, and grant me the grace to imitate Your meekness and humility in the presence of Your judges.

“O Lord, when I think in how many ways Thou didst suffer, and in all of them undeservedly, I know not what to say for myself or what I am doing when I make excuses for myself. Thou knowest, my God, that if there is anything good in me it comes from no other hands than Thine own. Should I desire that no evil be spoken of a thing so evil as myself, when they have said such wicked things of Thee, Who art good above all other good? It is intolerable, my God; nor would I that Thou shouldst have to tolerate anything displeasing to Thine eyes being found in Thy handmaiden. For see, Lord, I am blind, and I content myself with very little. Do Thou give me light and make me truly desire that all should hate me, since I have so often left Thee, Who hast loved me with such faithfulness.

What is this, my God? What does it matter to us if we are blamed by all, provided we are without blame in the sight of the Lord?” (Teresa of Jesus, Doctor of the Church, Way of Perfection, 15).

Love,
Matthew

Life of Love

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

Presence of God – Grant, O Lord, that even while I am here on earth, I may love You as I shall love You in heaven.

MEDITATION

If it may be said that by faith “eternal life begins in us” (St. Thomas, Summa, IIa IIae, q.4, a.1, co.), the same may be said–and with greater reason–of charity, which will remain unchanged even in heaven. Eternal life will be essentially a life of love, of love which has reached its greatest height, for when we know God perfectly by the beatific vision, we shall finally be able to fulfill with absolute perfection the precept of loving God with all our strength. On this earth such perfection is possible only relatively; nevertheless, even now we possess the same charity with which we shall love God in heaven. Therefore, we can begin even now that life of love which will flower completely in eternity. Our love in heaven will have the characteristics of completeness and absolute continuity, with the impossibility of its ever failing. We cannot attain this while we are on earth, but we can strive for it by the exercise of a pure, intense love, a love that is, as far as possible, always in action. These, then, are the qualities our love for God should have: purity, intensity, continuity.

Our love for God will be pure when we love Him so much that we seek only His glory and the accomplishment of His will: “Hallowed be Thy name … Thy will be done” (Mt 6:9-10). This is the only real good that we, poor creatures, can wish for our God. All the glory we can possibly give Him consists in saying a wholehearted yes to His holy will, in rivaling the angels and blessed in heaven by carrying out His will here on earth with such great love and completeness: “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (ibid.). The purity of our love should consist in seeking God’s glory alone, His will alone, completely forgetting ourself, in being ready to sacrifice every wish, desire, and interest for Him.

Therefore, even in the spiritual life, our first thought should be, not our own perfection, progress, and consolation, but always God’s delight, good pleasure, and glory. It is thus that we will serve our own interests better, for he who gives himself to God, completely forgetting himself, draws down upon himself the fullness of divine love. What greater good could come to us than being loved by Infinite Love?

COLLOQUY

“O Lord, You teach me that without love even the most perfect gifts are as nothing, that charity is the most excellent way, for it leads directly to You. That is why I wish for no science but the science of love, and having given all the substance of my house for love, I count it as nothing. I understand so clearly that love alone can make me pleasing in Your sight, that my sole ambition is to acquire it.

My occupation is to gather flowers, the flowers of love and sacrifice, and to offer them to You, my God, to give You pleasure. I wish to labor for Your love alone–with the sole aim of pleasing You, of consoling Your Sacred Heart, and of saving souls who will love You through eternity.” (Thérèse of the Child Jesus, Story of a Soul 13 – Act of Oblation).

“O God, my love for You ought to be total, infinite in desire, because You will not give Yourself entirely to a soul unless it gives itself wholly to You. I must not cling to any attachment, nor admit even a single voluntary imperfection, nor refuse You anything. Grant that I may give myself to You in a continual, uninterrupted donation, moment by moment, seeking in all things Your greater glory, always trying to please You, always wanting Your will alone, doing each action with all my heart and with all my love.

My love for You must be delicate. Help me to reach that exquisiteness and delicacy, that regard for details which You appreciate so much, which delights You.

My love for You should be strong and generous, and prove itself in sacrifice, in seeking sacrifice in the offering and the smiling acceptance of suffering. O God, for love of You, I want to take advantage of the little opportunities so that I may be strong in the big ones.” (Sr. Carmela of the Holy Spirit, OCD.).

Love,
Matthew