Visions To Behold

 

San Jose y Jesus art
Saint Joseph and Child, art by Francisco Antonio de la Fuente – 18th century

 

Fatima, Portugal 1917

From May to October three shepherd children beheld apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary atop a small holm-oak tree. During theses visions, the seers Jacinta Marto, Francisco Marto and Lucia dos Santos were given secrets. They were instructed to pray the Rosary and to offer penance for the conversion of sinners. In the September apparition, Our Lady told them:

“Continue to pray the Rosary to obtain the end of the war. In October St. Joseph will appear with the Child Jesus in order to bless the world. God is satisfied with your sacrifices.”
(L. Santos, 2007, pg. 181)

On October 13th over 70,000 people gathered around the site of the apparitions. All night it had rained non-stop and up till the moment of the Virgin’s arrival, the people had stood in the water and mud. After Our Lady appeared to the three children the rain suddenly stopped and the dark clouds parted. Thousands of people from different walks of life (including atheists who had gone to mock the children) witnessed what is now famously known as the “Miracle of the Sun.”

During the Miracle of the Sun, the three shepherd children were witnessing what the Virgin had promised them in September. Lucia dos Santos recounts what they saw:

“Our Lady having disappeared in the immensity of the firmament, we saw, beside the sun, St. Joseph with the Child Jesus and Our Lady clothed in white with a blue mantle. St. Joseph and the Child Jesus appeared to bless the world, for they traced the Sign of the Cross with their hands.”
(L. Santos, 2007, pg. 183)

Here is St. Joseph, no words are spoken by him, but his actions speak. St. Joseph, holding his Son Jesus, blesses the world by tracing the sign of the cross with his hand. This is a powerful statement regarding his place as head of the Holy Family as well as his position in the Church. He holds Christ in his arms, making a statement about true fatherhood: “Fathers, love your children, take your place at the head of the family and protect those entrusted to your care.” The act of St. Joseph blessing the crowds shows his power in the Church, as intercessor and Patron of the Universal Church, as proclaimed in 1870 by Pope Pius IX. The glorious Saint Joseph is also patron saint of Canada, families and of all Carmelites.

 
~ Adapted from ‘The book of Joseph, God’s chosen father’ compiled by Jose A. Rodrigues

 

 

To St. Joseph

When the day was done
And all your work put by,
You saw the stars come one by one
Out in the violet sky.
You did not know the stars by name,
But there sat by your knee
One who had made the light and flame
And all things bright that be.
You heard with Him birds in the tree
Twitter “Good-night” o’erhead, —
The maker of the world must see
His little one to bed.
Then when the darkness settled round,
To Him your prayers were said;
No wonder that your sleep was ground
The angels loved to tread.

 

~ A poem by Father Charles L. O’Donnell

 

Saint Joseph and baby Jesus 1896
St. Joseph with Child Jesus, art by Ponziano Loverini, 1896

 

“I took for my advocate and comforter the glorious Saint Joseph, and commended myself fervently to him; … His aid has brought me more good than I ever desired to receive from him…. I am quite amazed at the great favors Our Lord has given me, and the many dangers, both of soul and body, from which He has delivered me through the intercession of this blessed saint!
~ Saint Teresa de Ávila

 

“When you invoke Saint Joseph, you don’t have to speak much. You know your Father in heaven knows what you need; well, so does, His friend Saint Joseph. Tell him, “If you were in my place, Saint Joseph, what would you do? Well, pray for this in my behalf.”
~ Saint André Bessette

 

 

Glorious Saint Joseph ❤ Master of the interior life, pray for us! 

 

 

 

My Island

 

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My visit to Madonna House in Combermere, Ontario ~ July 2015 (my photo)

 

Whenever I cross the bridge to my dark island, I see dimly, then quite clearly, my vigil light twinkling through the large window. It is the only moving sign of life on my island.

There is a deep mystery in “coming to the island.” One feels that one is coming into a place of quite or rest, leaving behind the hustle and bustle of the world. Yet, one has also the feeling that there is some very important task that will have to be attended to when one reaches the island, a task that cannot be done on the mainland with its constant, ever-increasing tempo of life, its demands on all of one’s attention, as well as its tendency to confuse and diffuse mind and soul, tiring them somehow.

As I cross the black, icebound river, I begin to understand that indeed I am going away from men to God, to rest in his silence, to pray at his feet. My task here is to recollect myself so that tomorrow I might return to men to love them and serve them for Christ’s sake, for God’s sake.

I begin to realize, too, that I have yet another task to perform on my island: I must set my mind at rest and quiet my heart—detaching it from all created things in order to turn it to God, the Creator and the Lover.

This is what islands are for. Not everyone has an island to live on, to come from, to go to. But all of us must make our islands within our hearts. Islands where fear cannot dwell. Islands where we can cross over the bridge of our days to rest at the feet of the Beloved, to drink of his silence, to be made whole again and ready for the battle of tomorrow.

Not everyone can be a contemplative religious. Not everyone is called to that very special and high vocation. But we all need a place to rest and be silent before God so as to hear his voice speak to us in that silence. All of us, if we really understand and desire, can make our own islands within us. One can nightly “cross over the bridge” to this place apart. If we do, our days will be full of the fruitfulness of the Lord and of his peace.

Yes, life should be a daily coming from our islands to the mainland, and of returning from the mainland to our islands. I thank God every day for my island.

~ A Reflection by Catherine de Hueck Doherty

 

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Visiting Catherine Doherty’s poustinia in her island at Madonna House in Combermere  (my photo)

 

Effortlessly

Effortlessly,
Love flows from God into man,
Like a bird
Who rivers the air 
Without moving her wings.
Thus we move in His world
One in body and soul,
Though outwardly separate in form.
As the Source strikes the note,
Humanity sings—
The Holy Spirit is our harpist,
And all strings
Which are touched in Love
Must sound.

~ A poem by Mechthild of Magdeburg

 

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Views from Catherine Doherty’s island…So beautiful! (my photo)

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Admiring the beauty of God’s creation…at Madonna House in Comberme, Ontario (my photo)

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Stations of the Cross in Catherine’s island (my photo)

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At Madonna House ❤ Our Lady of Combermere, pray for us! (my photo)

The Child Who Falls Asleep Saying His Prayers

 

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Art source unknown

 

The title of this reflection is taken from “The Mystery of the Holy Innocents” by Charles Péguy (1873-1914):

Nothing so beautiful as a child who falls asleep
while saying his prayers, God says.
I have seen the dark, deep sea, and the dark, deep forest,
and the dark, deep heart of man.
I have seen hearts devoured by love
throughout a lifetime.
And I have seen faces of prayer, faces of tenderness
Lost in charity.
Which will shine eternally through endless nights.
Yet, I tell you, God says, I know nothing so beautiful
in all the world 
As a little child who falls asleep while saying his prayers
Under the wing of his Guardian Angel
And who laughs to the angels as he goes to sleep.
And who is already confusing everything and
understanding nothing more
And who stuffs the words of the Our Father all awry,
pell-mell into the words of the Hail Mary
while a veil is already dropping on his eyelids
the veil of night on his face and his voice.

 

In this famous poem, in the form of a hymn rising from the child’s dreams, Péguy (“the theologian of hope”) effectively evokes the “prayer without words”. There is a distinction between active and non-active prayer. In a strange way, admittedly, the image of a child who falls asleep while saying his prayers is the epitome of the concept of non-active prayer.

There was a time, during traditional devotions in the Marian months of May and October, when families could often contemplate the charming sight of toddlers who, wishing to imitate their parents and older brothers and sisters, had fallen asleep clutching rosaries in their tiny hands. To Péguy, this child whose words at prayer fall away into a murmur, and who finally dozes off, is a perfect image of prayer.

Indeed, the value of prayer is not measured by the number of words we say (Mt 6:7). If praying means “remaining silent before God” or, better still, “remaining silent in God rather than conversing with God,” then the image of the innocent child who goes to sleep while praying corresponds, in a sense, to that fundamental attitude of prayer. And since “awake or sleep, we may live with him” (1 Thess 5:10), can’t we say that even sleep becomes prayer?

There is an old Japanese saying about “siesta in the capital.” “Capital” evidently referred to present-day Kyoto, the ancient capital. The expression points to the appreciation of a Kyoto siesta as different from a siesta enjoyed anywhere else. It’s the same with sleep: falling asleep during prayer, nestled in God’s arms, is very different from nodding off during class or in a train or some other place.

If prayer were merely a matter of sleeping, it would be easy for everybody. Sleep can come from fatigue, discouragement, or perhaps lack of fervor in prayer. Some people have even develop the marvelous habit of sleeping when it is time for mental prayer.
This is not the essence of the child who goes to sleep while praying, the sight that Péguy found so touching. The appearance of joy and security in being united to Christ, “whether awake or sleep,” is what makes the slumber beautiful when one is overcome by occasional bodily fatigue, drowsing in prayer, eventually falling asleep before the family altar.

There is a kind of prayer we could call “sleeping in God” because in its depths lies total abandonment to God with complete confidence and peace of heart. Moreover, if faith and love mean to close one’s eyes to the things of this world and to die to self, doesn’t this confident abandonment into God’s loving hands lead to self-forgetfulness? This is what is meant by “sleeping in God” or ” sleep as prayer.” Just as sleep, by nature of its inactivity, restores bodily strength for action, so does prayer generate the strength to wake in God and accomplish God’s will. Prayer is the mysterious union of the two poles, the sleeping and the waking in God. The words of the renowned Zen master Sawaki, that “zazen is to hibernate in order to perceive an entirely new world beyond earthly reality,” may perhaps be pertinent to the matter in question.

This type of prayer can be compared, on the one hand, to Jesus asleep in the boat during the storm (cf. Mk 4:38) and, on the other, to Jesus awake and attentive to others’ needs, even to the obligation to give a cup of water to a poor person, “one of these little ones” (Mt 10:42). If the former type of prayer is to be called non-active or passive prayer (mui-no-inori), the result becomes “prayer that accomplished everything through nonactivity.” Here, then, is a difference: If Zen practice involves “hibernating to perceive a new world,” Christian prayer, by hibernating, receives from God the power to continually re-create the world anew.

 
~ Excerpted and slightly adapted reflection by Augustine Ichiro Okumura, O.C.D.

 

The Most Incredible

Baby Jesus EL SUEÑO DEL NIÑO Barroco Cusqueño Siglo XVIII Óleo sobre lienzo
EL SUEÑO DEL NIÑO: Barroco Cusqueño Siglo XVIII, pintura virreinal peruana

 

The birth of Jesus in Bethlehem is the birth given most attention at Christmas. But if you don’t see this birth in connection with the eternal birth of the Word from the Father, then you miss what is essential. Then all that is left is a little romantic mood-making: a sweet child who for a few moments may touch your heart, but who is really not allowed to seize your heart.

God’s Incarnation is the greatest mystery in Christianity, the most incomprehensible and unfathomable. How can this vulnerable, crying baby be “my Lord and my God”?

It is precisely this mystery that is the great stumbling block for non-Christians. But if you believe this, you have the solution to all the riddles and difficulties in the world. Then you can no longer doubt that God loves his creation. That the Almighty God has become a little child, for our sake, is a definitive proof of the definitive victory of his love. To doubt that you are loved by God is only possible if you forget the manger.

~ A Reflection by Father Wilfrid Stinissen, O.C.D.

Christmas in My Heart

Dear Father, I receive your gift so kindly
given—the gift of Your Son, born of a virgin,
crucified, dead, buried, and risen from the
grave—for me. In return I give You my love
and devotion, and I will carry Christmas
in my heart all year long. Amen!

~ A Christmas prayer by HSR

 

Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas filled with many blessings all year long!

 

My Visit to Seoul

 

Korean Orchids
Beautiful Orchids at Incheon International Airport in Seoul, South Korea (photo taken by me) November 2018

 

I just got back from a week trip to Seoul, South Korea with a group of friends. Seoul is an amazing city with a rich culture and wonderful people. It was my first time in Asia and I didn’t know what to expect. It was a magnificent experience! I was in awe at every place I visited during those days in Seoul. I also celebrated my 58th birthday there with my group of friends enjoying a delicious Korean BBQ and touring the city. There is so much to see while you are there. Koreans are very hospitable and welcoming. The days passed by so fast but left an everlasting memory in my heart for which I am very grateful.

Here I share a few photos I took and also a bit of the history of the Myeong-dong Cathedral in Seoul I had the blessing to visit.

*For more information please check ‘Catholicism flourishing in South Korea’ at:            http://www.catholicdigest.com/news/nationworld/catholicism-flourishing-south-korea/

The Cathedral Church of the Virgin Mary of the Immaculate Conception (also known as the Myeong-dong Cathedral in Seoul 

Is located in the heart of downtown Seoul, the cathedral is not only the first parish church in Korea but also an important symbol of the Korean Catholic Church.
Myeong-dong was called “Myeong-rye-bang” during the Joseon Dynasty. It was the place where the first Catholic community was formed in 1784.
Fr. Eugene Coste of the Paris Foreign Missions Society began planning the construction of Myeong-dong Cathedral in 1892. The Cathedral was consecrated on May 29, 1898, to Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception as its patron saint.
In 1900, the relics of the martyrs who were killed during Kihae  Persecution (1839) and Byungin Persecution (1866) were moved to the crypt of the cathedral from Yong-san Seminary. In 1942, Korean priest Fr. Rhee Ki-jun was appointed pastor of Seoul, making him the first Korean bishop in history. In 1945, the name of the cathedral was changed from Jong-hyeon to Myeong-dong, in celebration of the Liberation Day of Korea.

Throughout the 70’s and 80’s, Myeong-dong Cathedral became the center for democratic movements in the country while the Korean Catholic Church played an important role in the expansion of human rights. Until now, Myeong-dong Cathedral continues to stand as the community landmark and it is reaching toward the world through prayers and missionary work.

Besides its historical value, Myeong-dong Cathedral was designated National Historic Site #258 for being one of the earliest and most notable examples of Gothic Revival architecture in Korea. The cathedral floor plan is cross-shaped, with the main building rising to 23m and the bell tower to 46.7m. The cathedral retains the pure Gothic style without architectural adornments.

~ Information taken from the Myeong-dong Cathedral parish office

 

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Myeong-dong Cathedral in Seoul (photo taken by me) November 2018

 

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The façade of the Cathedral is pure Gothic style with no architectural adornments; the interior design of the building, however, shows aesthetic beauty with arched side aisles, stained glass and other artworks. The altars, religious paintings and statues also add religious and aesthetic value to the church. (photo taken by me)

 

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Myeong-dong Cathedral Main Altar (photo taken by me)

 

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Statue of St. Andrew Kim Dae-geon/Side Altar, He was the first native Korean priest to die for the faith. (photo taken by me)

 

Korean Cathedral Martyrs
Painting of the 79 Blessed Martyrs of Korea/Side Altar (photo taken by me)

 

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The Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes was consecrated by Archbishop Paul Rho Ki-nam on August 27, 1960, with the intention to pray for peace on the Korean Peninsula. In 2014, the grotto was relocated to the left side of the entry stairway of Myeong-dong Cathedral. (photo taken by me).

 

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The Stable is ready for Christmas Eve ❤ (photo taken by me)

 

Korea destinations
At the N Tower in Seoul… (photo taken by me)                   “Love knows not distance; it hath no continent; its eyes are for the stars.” ~ Gilbert Parker

 

Korea views
Views of Seoul… (photo taken by me)

 

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A bit hazy today in Seoul but nevertheless beautiful views…         (my photo)

 

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Christmas Tree at Incheon Airport ❤ The Best Gift is the Gift of Love!                                            December 2018 (photo taken by me)

 

Holy Martyrs of Korea, pray for us!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reflections on the Dark Night ~ Part Two

 

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El Greco painting of the Carmelite Monastery in Toledo, where St. John of the Cross was kept prisoner (It has been proposed that the Dark Night of the Soul was composed while John was imprisoned in Toledo, between 1577 and 1579).

 

A Pure Heart Create in Me, O God (Ps. 51:12)

The purified heart has been finally and fully claimed by God can, paradoxically, become progressively purer and more fulfilled in him right till the moment of death. This is because God himself expands its capacity with his inpouring love, fills the enlarged space with more love, which expands it further—and so the process goes on. But never without our full consent. A helpful prayer is “My God, penetrate and possess me to the uttermost—and don’t take notice when I squeal in pain.”

It is fear of suffering that holds back so many from the unqualified gift of themselves to God, so that he can do whatever he likes with them. But has he not promised he will match every trial with enough grace to bear it? Of course this may well mean that part of the trial will be the experience of desperately needing more, and more, and more grace.

However, this in itself provokes a constant plea for what we know we cannot endure without. It engenders intimate knowledge of our own helplessness—“Without Christ I can do nothing” (cf. John 15:5)—coupled with a reckless confidence—“With God all things are possible” (Mark 10:27). “I can do all things in Christ who strengthens me.”

The truth is that grace can be flooding into us while we remain unaware of it and experience no comfort. This happens because we are only too prone to think, as soon as we realize we are over-coming, “Aha! I’m getting somewhere! I’ve conquered! How brave and strong I am! How far I’ve advanced in virtue! I hope everyone else is noticing this!”

Such self-congratulations and the tendency to various forms of self-exaltation arise from those buried roots that only the passive purgations can eradicate. So God’s work progresses in direct relation to our humble receptivity to grace, and humility, as is well known by the humble, comes above all through dire humilations. What appears to be the curse of being refused the grace we need is really the blessing of being given it in abundance, but minus the extra grace of the awareness to enjoy it. Being what we are, this last grace would engender pride. Only those with great humility dare say, “He who is mighty has done great things to me” (Luke 1:49).

 

beauty-and-fire-vesna-delevska
Art by Vesna Delevska

 


Candle and Pinecone Sequence

This flame’s shape is like a spear—
or else a dagger—leaving wounds concealed
behind the bulwark of the living flames of love,
which do not burn.

Lights illuminate our darknesses
and flames give warmth—though the uncircumspect
receive what could be stigmata, exposed
or else concealed in heart, or brain, or bloodless hands.

This flame’s symmetry is like a spear’s keen blade
or else a dagger, small but dangerous,
shaped to deal out penetrating wounds
mysteriously secret, all of them
deep buried in the heart’s blind fastnesses
spousal gifts from those living flames of love.

 

~ A reflection and poem by  Barbara Dent, O.C.D.S.

 

 

 

Reflections on the Dark Night

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St. John of the Cross in the Dark Night, art by William Hart McNichols 

 

The purpose of the dark night, according to St. John of the cross, is to lead us into the full day of perfect loving union with the Trinity. This means that we merge with Christ in all his resurrection glory and joy, though in this life these attributes will manifest themselves only intermittently and mutedly, for we are still confined by the limitations of our physical existence. Faith in the reality of this full union, hope that Jesus will lead us into it if only we follow him trustingly all the way to the tomb, and the unconditional love of our as yet imperfect hearts—these are the attributes that through the dark night “join Beloved with lover, lover transformed in the Beloved,” as John puts it in his poem, “In one dark night.”

During these necessarily passive nights, grace penetrates all levels of our inner being to eliminate every trace of sin. It invades—as long as we stay receptive—those deeply rooted, perverted tendencies for which we are not personally responsible, but which do influence our behavior and attitudes in numerous unloving and even evil ways (At this stage of the spiritual journey there is no deliberate evil action, but indeliberate blindness to others’ serious needs can well operate because of some hidden complex of insecurity, anxiety, or the like).

Pulling Up Roots

In the so-called “active nights,” we purposefully do what we can, with the help of grace, to accomplish the cleansing, and in fact we must persevere in such activity till death. In the passive nights, divine help and activity penetrate where we cannot to reach those stubbornly embedded roots of sin so that they are either wrenched out or dissolved away.

To use a gardening analogy—we can easily deal with bedding plants, whether flowers or vegetables, using handforks and trowels or larger forks and spades. If we labor hard enough, we can even dig up some of the bigger shrubs and small tress with perhaps a heavier shovel and fork and a grubbing tool.

But what do we do about an oak or pine tree? True, it can be cut down and the stump burned out, using more advanced power tools and a number of skilled helpers. But say for some good reason we want to have the whole tree taken out by the roots. In that case, outside help and implements like tractors, mechanical diggers, and maybe explosives, together with experts to use them, have to be employed. We can only stand back and let it happen, though it is true we ourselves have initiated the procedure. For whatever reason, we want it done.

Similarly, in the deeper passive nights, we have to invite God in to do the work for us, because our own tools and strength are inadequate. This invitation may itself be more passive than active, in that we may not clearly realize in the intellect what our heart is saying to God, but its motive is always love and only love.

This means we do not want to be cleansed just so we can self-righteously admire our own virtues and, satisfied with what we see, set about planning our exact place in heaven (near the throne, of course), much as we would choose prime site for our palatial new home with all modern conveniences. Nor does it mean our chief motive is an urgent desire to escape the pains of hell.

Rather, the love motive wants the ultimate cleansing for quite different ends. It longs to be used by God to give him honor and glory and to share in Christ’s redemptive work for others, to become perfectly adaptable tool for Jesus to use in his ongoing work in the world. It wants to be a channel cleared of all debris and pollution so that, through it, divine love can pour living waters into the world for healing of humanity’s wounds. It longs for every obstruction to this in-and-out flowing to be removed, if need be by divine force and through its own agony.

It wants to be made a kind of compelling advertisement for the power of divine grace over human weakness. In its humility and self-awareness of its own inadequacy and unworthiness, it wants others to see it as it is and exclaim. “If God can do that for her—and we all know what she’s like—then there is hope for me!” It wants these others to catch its own insatiable thirst for grace and so become reckless in their longing for God and their readiness to suffer all and even die in order to be purged and so reach full love-union with him.

~ A Reflection by Barbara Dent, O.C.D.S.

 


The soul cannot come to this union without great purity, and this purity is not gained without great detachment from every created thing and sharp mortification. This is signified by the stripping of the Bride of her mantle and by her being wounded by night as she sought and went after her Spouse; for the new mantle which belonged to the betrothal could not be put on until the old mantle was stripped off. Wherefore, he that refuses to go forth in the night aforementioned to seek the Beloved, and to be stripped of his own will and to be mortified, but seeks him upon his bed and at his own convenience, as did the Bride, will not succeed in finding him. For this soul says of itself that it found him by going forth in the dark and with yearnings of love.
(Dark Night 2:24:4).