Many people aren’t particularly interested in God. But there is probably no one who is not interested in love. This interest may be distorted—love can be sought where it can’t be found. Still, it is love which, more than anything, occupies us in all that we do and are.
Literature, art, theatre, movies—everything focuses on love, and it can’t be any other way. The human being has an innate longing for love; to be human is to long for love.
God is love. Where love is found, there is God. It is God who stirs this human hunger, and it is God alone who ultimately can satisfy it.
Even where God is not known, love between human beings can be deep, true, faithful. In this case, it is divine and has its origin in God. Still, the human heart can never find complete rest until it has come to know the source of love.
The source is inexhaustible. In God there is always more love to be had. And it is precisely God’s infinity that can satisfy our hunger for love. No matter how great and beautiful human love may be, it only attains its true value if we have found the origin of love.
God will not close our hearts to human love, friendship, tenderness, intimacy. But he will open your heart to the love that will never be extinguished or die, and that love exists in him.
And who is a flower gardener? A person who prays to God in beauty. A painter of the Lord. A musician of God. A poet of the Almighty. A person who makes beauty in the colors of flowers.
No one—atheist, communist, sinner, or saint—can pass a flower garden without stopping. In some places, raising flowers is an art almost beyond our understanding. A person’s soul, a nation’s soul, can be expressed in a garden.
Who is a flower gardener? An utterly dedicated person, who loves each flower tenderly, and knows intimately the ways, habits, likes and dislikes of each one. He is someone who gives beauty to everyone—not ordinary beauty, but God’s beauty. And if a gardener did not know God before he became interested in flowers, if he perseveres, he will know him soon, and know him intimately.
Who is a flower gardener? A person who sooner or later falls utterly in love with God, who approaches flowers reverently (you have to, otherwise they will not grow for you), and thus silently shouts his love of God. The one who grows flowers gives God to man, and becomes possessed by God themselves.
Gardeners grow beauty for the Lord, and to bring others closer to him. Each flower, tree, or bush, wild or tame, is God’s love letter to us; each reflects an infinitely small part of his beauty. Yet, this small part can be so enchanting, so overwhelming, so healing, that words can fail to describe it.
~ A Meditation by Catherine de Hueck Doherty
Some people, in order to discover God, read books. But there is a great book: the very appearance of created things. Look above you! Look below you! Read it. God, whom you want to discover, never wrote that book with ink. Instead, He set before your eyes the things that He had made. Can you ask for a louder voice than that?
~ Saint Augustine of Hippo
“Christ within us, Light above us, Earth beneath us, Love surrounds us.”
You are my private garden, my treasure, my bride, a secluded spring, a hidden fountain. ~ Song of Solomon 4:12
When you are eager in the tiny portion that is your garden, when you are tying strings to give the stalks of the sweet peas their balance so flowers may alight on them like wings of pastel butterflies; when you appraise with glowing face the lilies and carnations (scent is to charm and color to amaze), I think: she has not found the loveliest blossom.
There is a flower full of mystery between this wall and that, amid this green. I found it but to bear it back to secret. It is a flower God and I have seen, and I not till I looked at it with Him.
Hidden and unpredictable and shy, it was not given to be shared, not even with you, little lover of fragrance. (Oh, with you least of all!) Plucked from the soft soil of your unawareness, uprooted from my silence, it would die. I keep it then, God’s individual favor, the private bloom I scent my storerooms by.
~ A poem by Sister Miriam of the Holy Spirit (Jessica Powers), O.C.D.
“The artist affirmed that this portrait was drawn during one of Bernadette’s ecstasies. While the drawing bears little resemblance to the photographs of Bernadette, the expression is clearly one of rapture. Indeed, it might have been the rapture itself that made capturing the details of Bernadette’s face difficult. The drawing bears no signature but only these words of dedication: “To the Countess of Geoffre, Lecomte du Noüy.” It was given to the Museum of Bernadette at Nevers, by the Count de Certaines.” * * An excerpt from the book: Lourdes, Font of Faith, Hope and Charity by Elizabeth Ficocelli.
Today the Church commemorates the feast of Saint Bernadette Soubirous, visionary of Lourdes, whose visions of the Blessed Virgin Mary in 1858 paved the way for the worldwide devotion to Our Lady of Lourdes. A devotion that is very close to my heart.
St. Bernadette was canonized in 1933 by Pope Pius XI. The little town of Lourdes became the site of pilgrimages, attracting millions of faithful Catholics every year. Astonishing healings began almost immediately in the miraculous water at the shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes.
Last summer I travelled to Lourdes, France and visited the Sanctuary of Notre-Dame-de-Lourdes. It was on my bucket list for a very long time. I’m so grateful that the opportunity came my way and I took it without thinking much. It was a trip filled with so many graces.
For us Carmelites, Lourdes is a very important place in the history of the apparitions.
“The Carmelite Monastery in Lourdes occupies a spiritually significant site. The 18th and final apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary to Saint Bernadette Soubirous took place on July 16th, 1858, the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. At that time the civil authorities in Lourdes had prohibitted access to Massabielle Grotto, and so instead Bernadette saw Our Lady from ‘La Ribère’, the slope overlooking the cave from the other side of the River Gave.
Despite being physically far away, the encounter between Bernadette and Our Lady was more intimate than ever. Bernadette said that on this occasion Our Lady, who appeared in silence, smiled and looked “more beautiful than ever”. One of the ancient titles under which the Carmelite Order reveres Mary is “Beauty of Carmel”.
Since that day in 1858, the site of ‘La Ribère’ has been of particular significance, linking the ‘Message of Lourdes’ and the spirituality of Carmel.
The site where Bernadette prayed on her knees before Our Lady on July 16th is now in the garden of the Carmelite Monastery. The nuns consider it their vocation to continue Bernadette’s prayer, and to pray for the millions of pilgrims who come to Lourdes today. The Grotto of Massabielle which the Carmel overlooks is reminiscent of the cave where the prophet Saint Elijah, spiritual Father of Carmelites, burned with zeal for the Lord.
When considering her vocation to the religious life, Bernadette Soubirous had wanted to join the Carmelite Order, but was told that her poor health precluded this possibility. There was no Carmel in Lourdes at the time of the apparitions.
The Carmelite Monastery in Lourdes was founded 18 years after the apparitions on 16th July 1876 by nuns from the Carmel of Tulle in central France. The Mother Foundress, coming to Lourdes to find a suitable site for the future monastery, was very attracted by the land facing the Grotto on the other side of the River Gave. However, the terrain was on a narrow band of rock where any construction would be very difficult. Despite its proximity to the Grotto, previous visitors to the site had decided against anything being built there. The Mother Foundress had the idea of transporting soil to even out the level of the slope. This idea was accepted by the building contractors, and so the Monastery was built in a very privileged location overlooking the Grotto.
In the years following the foundation, the number of vocations grew considerably. The community swelled to such a size that in 1893 a number of sisters went to found a Carmel at Le Havre in northern France.” *
*Retrieved from The British Province of Carmelite Friars website: http://www.laycarmel.org/index.php?nuc=content&id=367
Prayer of St. Bernadette
Dearest Mother, how happy was my soul those heavenly moments when I gaze upon you. How I love to remember those sweet moments spent in your presence, your eyes filled with kindness and mercy for us! Yes, dear Mother, your heart is so full of love for us that you came down to earth to appear to a poor, weak child and conveyed certain things to her despite her great unworthiness. How humbled she is. You, the Queen of Heaven and Earth, chose to use what is weakest in the eyes of men. O Mary, give the precious virtue of humility to she who dares to call herself your child. O Loving Mother, help your child resemble you in everything and in every way. In a word, grant that I may be a child according to your heart and the heart of your dear Son.
~ Bernadette, 1866
“Note: This prayer is from Bernadette’s journal, dedicated to the Queen of Heaven and written during her days as a member of the Sisters of Nevers. This is not the personal prayer that Bernadette received during the fifth apparition.”
Courage my soul, through prayer we can do all that is asked of us.
The heart of Jesus is there, let us knock!
~ St. Bernadette Soubirous
The Road to Emmaus: A Meditation on the Eucharistic Life
The word “Eucharist” means literally “thanksgiving.” A Eucharistic life is one lived in gratitude. The story, which is also our story, of the two friends walking to Emmaus has shown that gratitude is not an obvious attitude toward life. Gratitude needs to be discovered and to be lived with great inner attentiveness. Our losses, our experiences of rejection and abandonment, and our many moments of disillusionment keep pulling us into anger, bitterness, and resentment. When we simply let the “facts” speak, there will always be enough facts to convince us that life, in the end, leads to nothing and that every attempt to beat fate is only a sign of profound naiveté.
Jesus gave us the Eucharist to enable us to choose gratitude. It is a choice we, ourselves, have to make. Nobody can make it for us. But the Eucharist prompts us to cry out to God for mercy, to listen to the words of Jesus, to invite him into our home, to enter into communion with him and proclaim good news to the world; it opens the possibility of gradually letting go of our many resentments and choosing to be grateful. The Eucharist celebration keeps inviting us to that attitude.
In our daily lives we have countless opportunities to be grateful instead of resentful. At first, we might not recognize these opportunities. Before we fully realized, we have already said: “This is too much for me. I have no choice but to be angry and to let my anger show. Life isn’t fair, and I can’t act as if it is.” However, there is always the voice that, ever again, suggests that we are blinded by our own understanding and pull ourselves and each other into a hole. It is the voice that calls us “foolish,” the voice that asks us to have a completely new look at our lives, a look not from below, where we count our losses, but from above, where God offers us his glory.
Eucharist—thanksgiving—in the end, comes from above. It is the gift that we cannot fabricate for ourselves. It is to be received. That is where the choice is! We can choose to let the stranger continue his journey and so remain a stranger. But we can also invite him into our inner lives, let him touch every part of our being and then transform our resentments into gratitude. We don’t have to do this. In fact, most people don’t. But as often as we make that choice, everything, even the most trivial things, become new. Our little lives become great—part of the mysterious work of God’s salvation.
Once that happens, nothing is accidental, casual, or futile any more. Even the most insignificant event speaks the language of faith, hope, and, above all, love.
That’s the Eucharistic life, the life in which everything becomes a way of saying, “Thank you” to him who joined us on the road.
~ By Henri J. M. Nouwen
Carmel: A Eucharistic Community
Disciples of Jesus had been celebrating the Eucharist in a variety of ways for centuries by the time the Carmelite hermits gathered on Mount Carmel at the Wadi- ‘ain-es-Siah about 1200 A.D. Since then, like other Christians, Carmelites, religious and lay, have celebrated the Eucharist in diverse ways. What is unvaried is this: Eucharist has been at the heart of Christian and Carmelite life from the origins of Christianity and from the inception of the Carmelite Order…
The Eucharist is the meal celebrated by the disciples of Jesus, a sacrificial meal that is the “Church’s entire spiritual wealth,” a meal that manifests the presence of the Church. Religious orders have long experimented with ways to follow Jesus, and the tension between community and solitude. The Eucharistic meal is at the center of this Carmelite tension, a place where the human and the divine encounter each other at the table of the Lord.
~ By Dr. Keith Egan, T.O.C.
Discalced Carmelite Hermit
THIS LITTLE HERMIT wishes to remain anonymous, but generously contributes these words about the Eucharist.
Oh, beloved I love to sit before you here Present in the Most Blessed Sacrament.
You pierce through the veil that separates Us. You penetrate my very being.
My soul is aflame with your love, Your healing touch, You fill me with your love, your joy, and Your peace.
I thirst for you, I long for you, more, my Beloved one.
So still, in this stillness ALL stops, nothing exists but you.
No time, no space. The stillness is you, the stillness is love.
In this profound silence and solitude I have been loved by LOVE itself.
I have found my beloved one Keep me in the stillness of your love.
A few years ago I visited Gaudí’s masterpiece the Basilica De La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona. It was so awe inspiring to see the beauty of this unique Basilica. Its stained glass windows are magnificent. I was marveled by seeing the light coming through these windows and not only was I completely awed by their beauty but it also gave me an “illumination” inviting me to enter into a profound inner reflection about my spiritual life. It was an unforgettable experience.
“Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness.”
~ Desmond Tutu
Here are a few photos I took during my visit to La Sagrada Familia
“But man does not create…he discovers.” ~ Antoni Gaudí
“The amount of light should be just right, not too much, not too little, since having too much or too little light can both cause blindness.” ~ Antoni Gaudí
Gaudí was a devout man. He went to church twice a day. He believed with conviction his architectural ability was a gift from God.
Gaudí famously insisted: “My client is not in a hurry”. His client, of course, was God.
The human being is like a field. In this field a treasure is hidden (Mt 13:44). Deep within you, you carry enormous riches, you carry divine life. Before you can get to the treasure, you must work your way through many layers where you are confronted with many different things which may appear to be completely different than the treasure you are seeking. You may be surprised that so much disorder and impurity exist within you.
It is important that you understand what it is you seek, so that you don’t lose courage in face of what you must confront. You are seeking the light within you, but you can’t avoid meeting your darkness as well. It is through allowing some of the light to enter you that you become conscious of your darkness.
When you seriously strive to be good and loving, then it will be revealed how much evil and lovelessness there is within you. The more you take pains to be true, the more your untruthfulness shows.
You don’t have to focus on your mistakes. If you seek God with your whole heart, the mistakes will show themselves. Then it is important not to close your eyes to them, but rather observe them in all their misery.
It is not particularly encouraging to be face to face with all the impurity we carry within. it can be heartbreaking. But it is in a broken heart that we find the way to the treasure. But don’t get stuck in your misery, keep your eyes on God. He is your treasure.
You go to Jesus through his Mother. She possesses the secret of prayer and wisdom, for she is the Mother of God. Who else can teach you to burn with love, but the Mother of Love? Who else can teach you to pray, but the Woman of prayer? Who else can teach you to go into the silence of deserts and nights, the silence of pain and sorrow, the solitude of joy and gladness, except the Woman wrapped in silence? Who can span the bridge between the old and the new, the “converted you” and the “unconverted you,” except the Blessed Virgin Mary, the bridge between the Old and New Testaments, the Jewish girl who brought for the Messiah, Son of the Almighty?
~ A Meditation by Catherine de Hueck Doherty
This prayer, found in Egypt, was chiseled by an anonymous hand on a terra-cotta. It derives from the 3rd or 4th century. The text is inspired by the angel’s salutation to Mary.
You Surpass All Praise
O immaculate Virgin, Mother of God, full of grace, the One Whom you brought forth, Emmanuel, is the fruit of your womb.
In your Motherhood you have nurtured all human beings. You surpass all praise and all glory.
I salute you, Mother of God, joy of the Angels, because you surpass in fullness what the Prophets have said about you.
The Lord is with you: you gave life to the Savior of the world.
Wishing you all a blessed Feast of The Annunciation of the Lord!
Solitude — my favorite moments, Solitude — but always with You, Jesus and Lord, Close to Your Heart, time passes pleasantly for me, And, close to Him, my soul finds its repose.
When the heart is filled with You and overflowing with love, And the soul burns with pure fire, Then, amidst the utmost desolation, the soul will not experience loneliness, Because it rests on Your bosom.
O Solitude — moments of supreme companionship, Though I be abandoned by all creatures, I immerse myself totally in the ocean of Your Godhead, And You listen sweetly to my confidences.
Jesus, I trust in You!
~ A Meditation from the Diary of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska
You drench me in your blessedness— pressed down, compacted, flowing over, till here I am, a child caught in a storm of love, saturated with these discarnate ecstasies.
Your ways are masterful. Your generosity, now captive in my starveling heart, loads me with luxurious garments, crown and jewels— treasures gained by you in times long past, and yet enduring into our eternal now.
You are willing captive to my abject, but trustingly prosaic, homeliness.
Where do we go from here? Into some fastness of delight and fortitude, a refuge for those wanderers, besotted by your love?
I cannot conceive (nor do I try) what you have in store for me, but rest in faith’s patient hope, and love’s fierce faith.
It is you who taught me how to love— assiduous, recklessly adventurous and all the while imprisoned deep within your mighty stronghold of a heart.