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

 

Korean Cathedral 8

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

 

Korean Cathedral 3

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)

 

Korean Cathedral 9

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

 

Korean Cathedral 4

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)

 

Korean Cathedral.jpg

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).

 

Korean Cathedral 6

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)

 

Korea N tower

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

 

Korean Inchon airport

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

 

29.100.6

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

st-john-of-the-cross-in-the-dark-night-of-the-soul-290-william-hart-mcnichols

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). 


 

 

The Most Important Thing in Life

 

Sparrow art by jake weidman

Art by Jake Weidmann

 

When I was haltingly beginning to acknowledge both God and Christianity, I asked myself in the midst of my travail: “What is the most important thing in life?” The answer came without hesitation: “The kingdom of heaven within.” I was startled. I should never have expected a reply like that. But when I look back over my life, I see that this is precisely true. The times when I felt most alive, most real, most complete, were those when I experienced that state of being I had called “the kingdom of heaven within.” At these moments peace established itself in me.

Without being able to define anything. I had known I was one with God and through him one with all people. Without being able to understand the why and how of the chaos of the world or the chaos in my own heart, I had yet been sure that all things were ordered well and held safely in the hollow of God’s hand. Without being able to explain how, I had been filled with a tranquil joy.

Without any doctrinal background, I knew the truth—that God was love, that I lived and moved and had my being in him, that in some obscure fashion he was working out his will in me, and I might trust him and be at peace.

Yes, this was the kingdom of heaven within, and this was the most important thing in life for me. The times when I had entered into this state of soul had been the times when something enormous had happened to me. On my faith in this reality I could build the whole structure of my existence.

“Seek ye first the kingdom of heaven, and the rest shall be added unto you.”

This realization was one of the crucial happenings of my life. Now I had a focal point. I had a purpose for living—full of meaning for me because it was based on the reality of my own experience. I knew exactly what I wanted from life—I wanted to enter more and more frequently, more and more completely, into this state of being called the kingdom of heaven within. From a bewildering disorder, life became astonishingly simple.

I thought back carefully over the circumstances I was in when I attained this state. These were what I would seek to recapture and cultivate. Many of the items of everyday living were found useless for my purpose, and I put other things in their place. I still did not know why, how, when, or where. I simply relied blindly on an experiential truth to be the light in my darkness.

What I really did was entrust myself to God, and looking back, I can see now the unerring way long which he led me to my true destination once I put my hand in his. Now that he had brought me to the Church, everything was clear. This state called the kingdom of heaven within was the very presence of God in the soul who loved him. It was the Christ-life within. To enter into God in this way was to enter into something of the state that the blessed enjoy in heaven, to become submerged in Christ, to taste here and now the bliss of eternity.

This was the life of identification with Christ to which all Christians are called, and which the Church extols as its goal. As members of his mystical body, they were incorporated into him, sharing his divine life, and fed by his sanctifying grace. The more fully they merged themselves with him, the more completely they were the instruments of God’s will, the nearer they approached the state of the saints. Self still existed, but only as Christ’s vehicle for loving, working, and suffering, only as a husk inhabited by the fertile seed of the Holy Spirit.

At last I understood the life principle of my soul, the source of all my restless yearnings and mysterious, luminous peace over the years. Now it was clear—God had been calling me, as he calls each soul he sends into the world, to a share in his divine life, to identification with his Son, to sanctity.


How for his praise
to order my new ways?
I would be no more myself, but he
using my breath and blood and song
to his own end, my life long.

So do I say—Master, your way
in mystery and wonder has evolved
my safety, and my curse resolved.
Glory and honor and homage are your due.
After the refining fire I bow to you. 

 

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

 

 

Reflections on Peace

Peace winter

 

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons and daughters of God” (Mt 5, 9). These are the words of Jesus from his sermon on the mount. They tell us something about ourselves, and they tell us something about God’s Kingdom. By our baptism, we are called to live in Christ’s peace, and this peace is at the heart of God’s Kingdom.
Before his passion and death, Jesus said to his disciples: “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you.” . . . He told them to trust in God and to trust in him as he went away to prepare a place for them (see John 14, 1-3). After his resurrection, he appeared to his disciples saying “peace be with you.” The disciples were fearful and in hiding. They had abandoned Jesus in his moment of greatest need. Still, Jesus returned to them with love, understanding and compassion to give them his peace.
We are followers of Jesus. He calls us to trust him, and to trust that God the Father has a wonderful plan for us. Jesus gives us his peace – a peace that is beyond all understanding, a kind of peace that only he can give – so that we can become all that he has called us to be.
We are all members of his body: the hands, the feet, the voice and face of Jesus. We are called to share his peace – in the classroom, the schoolyard, in our communities, and in the world. Each time we forgive, share with, help, comfort and care for one another, the peace of Jesus and of God’s Kingdom becomes more real for everyone to see.
As we go out into the world, let us remember Jesus’ words “peace be with you” and carry them in our hearts. We ask the Holy Spirit for the courage to share Jesus’ gift of peace through acts of kindness, as a sign of his kingdom’s everlasting peace, where the Father has prepared a place for each of us, beloved sons and daughters of God.

~ A Reflection by Tony Consentino, RCCDSB

 

a winters tale poppy collection

A Winter’s Tale by Jacqueline Hurley from the War Poppy Collection 1914-1918 Remembrance Day

 

God our Father, your Son Jesus gave up His life to free us from the power of sin and death.
He showed us that the greatest love is in giving up one’s life for others.
Today we remember those who fought and died for our freedom. We ask you to bless and console them together with their families.
Help us to understand the sacrifices they made in leaving their loved ones to face the horrors of war. May we never forget their generosity.
May your Holy Spirit give us the courage to resist evil in all its forms and show us how to be peacemakers through prayer and action, lest we forget those who fought, suffered and died that we might have the freedom and peace we enjoy today.
We ask this through Christ, our Lord.
Amen!

~ A prayer for Remembrance Day by Tony Cosentino, RCCDSB 

 


“A single poppy has the soul of a thousand heroes and the tears of a million loved ones ❤ Let us always remember them! Let us always pray for peace!


 

 

 

Does God Really Speak?

mountain bounty by jeremy cram

Photo credit to Jeremy Cram

 


It is only meaningful to listen to the Holy Spirit and obey him if he speaks.


Does God really speak to us? Are there not many people who, instead of hearing God speak, feel they are encountering absolute silence? And among those who do hear him speak, are there not a good many who are merely hearing themselves, their own thoughts and fantasies?

There are people who, no matter what they do, feel affirmed by God. If they have success, it is clear that God is with them and blessing their plans. If they have opposition, it is even more clear that they are doing right. Everything that comes from God should be marked by the Cross, they say. Did not Jesus himself fail . . . ?

Are you hearing your own voice or the voice of God? Is it you who are speaking to yourself, or are you listening to God speaking to you? Perhaps the question is not nuanced enough. It need not be a question of either/or. God can speak through your own self. And that is usually what he does, provided that you stand before him in all honesty and live from the basic attitude of wanting to do his will. As soon as you want to listen to the Holy Spirit, he becomes active in you, for no one can begin to listen to God on his own initiative. The will to listen is already a work of the Holy Spirit. “It is the Spirit himself bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God” (Rom 8:16), so the Spirit speaks together with our spirit about what God’s will is. The Spirit uses our deep, true self to make understand what God wills.

I am often asked the question: “Does God want me to enter a monastery?” My immediate reply is: Do you want it? Do you have the desire to enter a monastery, not only with a theoretical, abstract desire, but are you drawn there, do you believe you will be happy and find your home there? If you truly want it, it is likely that God wants it also, that he wills it through you. Then it remains to be seen if you have the necessary qualities of physical and psychological health, common sense, and a certain spiritual maturity, and if the religious community to which you are drawn wishes to accept you. A vocation consists mainly of these three elements:
(1) a personal desire; (2) the capacity to live the life; (3) a religious community that opens its doors to you.

God seldom speaks directly with audible, perceptible words. He speaks, for the most part, indirectly, via your own deep, truth-seeking will. I say “deep” will. For alongside the deep will there are many superficial “wills” , namely, all the small opposing desires that often drown out the deep will.

God also speaks through events, circumstances, encounters with other people, and through books. Much of what is happening around you contains a secret message from God. It is a question of deciphering and interpreting it. In everything that happens, you can gradually learn to recognize a You. The impersonal becomes personal. Apparently random events become personal messages from God.

God speaks uninterruptedly. He instructs, encourages, challenges, and comforts. He truly walks in our garden of Eden (cf. Gen 3:8). Yes, our life becomes again something of a paradise when we continually meet God.

If we read the Bible, it is, among other things, to learn this fact: that God is constantly speaking to us. “And God spoke to Moses and said. . . ” How often we read that phrase! It does not mean, of course, that Moses constantly heard God’s voice. But he was so in harmony with God, so completely on the same wave-length, that he thought the same thoughts as God. For the most part, we deserve this mild reproach from God: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts” (Is 55:8). But that can change! We can come to the point where we think God’s thoughts, where God thinks with our understanding and loves with our heart.

We can eventually receive “the mind of Christ” (see Phil 2:5) and, like him, encounter the Father in all things. When he admired the lilies of the field and saw how the birds were fed without sowing or reaping, he saw in this the Father’s love and care (Mt 6:26-29).
When he heard talk of the collapse of the Tower of Siloam (Lk 13:4-5), he saw it as a call to conversion. In everything he met a You.

It would be wise to take few minutes each day to examine one’s conscience and ask oneself: What has God wanted to teach me today? Where have I encountered him, or where should I have encountered him?

If you object that one should consider one’s sins during the examination of conscience, I can answer that this is one of our greatest sins: that we do not recognize God, who walks in our garden.

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

 

 

Your Spiritual Director

 


Many complain and lament that they have not succeeded in finding a spiritual director. But it is the Holy Spirit who is our spiritual director, and apart from him no one else is.


 

Holy Spirit art by Ladislav Zaborsky

The Paraclete, art by Ladislav Záborský

 

Director and “Companion”

These directors {says Saint John of the Cross} should reflect that they themselves are not the chief agent, guide, and mover of souls in this matter, but that the principal guide is the Holy Spirit, Who is never neglectful of souls, and that they are instruments for directing them to perfection through faith and the law of God, according to the spirit God gives each one.

Thus the director’s whole concern should not be to accommodate souls to his own method and condition, but he should observe the road along which God is leading them, and if he does not recognize it, he should leave them alone and not bother them.
It would be more correct to speak of a spiritual “companion”. His task is not to lead—that is the work of the Holy Spirit—but rather to accompany the person who has confided in him and help him listen to the Spirit and recognize his impulses. It is truly a difficult task, and it demands much self-denial on the part of the spiritual “companion”. It is tempting to think that one’s won path will be suitable for others and that the methods that have been helpful on one’s own life will also be helpful to others. But this is not so. What is helpful for one may be harmful to another.

For this reason, the “companion” finds himself in a very delicate position and can feel extremely poor. There are no ready-made ideas or recipes on which to fall back. When  he goes to the confessional or the visiting room, he ought to be completely empty. He knows nothing except this: that now it is a question of listening attentively to what the Spirit wants with just this person.

True Freedom: To Be Bound by the Spirit

“For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God”, writes Saint Paul (Rom 8:14). One is not living as a child of God if he does not allow himself to be led by the Spirit.

Perhaps this is difficult  to understand in our day when freedom and liberty are spoken of so ardently. And rightly so! Even the Second Vatican Council speaks enthusiastically about man’s freedom:

For its part, authentic freedom is an exceptional sign of the divine image within man. For God has willed that man remain “under the control of his own decisions,” so that he can seek his Creator spontaneously, and come freely to utter and blissful perfection through loyalty to Him. Hence man’s dignity demands that he act according to a knowing and free choice that is personally motivated and prompted from within, not under blind internal impulse nor by mere external pressure.

True freedom does not exclude the fact that one is led by another. The decisive question is: By whom or by what are we led? Are we led by blind impulses, or are we led from within, from a level that lies even deeper than what we usually call the unconscious? “The soul’s center is God”, writes Saint John of the Cross. No one is so truly himself, no one lives so authentically, genuinely, and freely as the one who lets himself be led by God, who lives in the center of the soul. To live from one’s center is the greatest freedom.

A Wholehearted Yes

If the Holy Spirit is your director, then it is up to you to let yourself be led, to say Yes to his inspirations.
In connection with this Yes, I would like to point out three things.

1. It is important that your Yes be wholehearted. If every time you say Yes, you add many “Buts’ , and if you have many reservations, you cannot expect the Spirit to lead you where he wills. Saint Teresa of Avila (1515-1582) speaks of a “great and very resolute determination” not to stop before one has reached the goal. In the Bible this is called a “pure” heart. Pure honey is honey that is not mixed with anything else. In the same way, the heart is pure when it does only what it was made to do, namely, love.
Experience teaches us that life becomes easier and simpler when we say a wholehearted Yes to God. We have a need for what is clear and unambiguous and are content with this. To know what one wants and to want what one knows gives rise to a special joy. The opposite gives a particular weariness and repugnance. We all know how it feels when we cannot make a decision, when we continually waver back and forth, and when, after finally deciding, we immediately question what we have decided. Indecision consumes an unbelievable amount of energy.

2. It is good to remember that your actions have a tendency to release a chain reaction, for good or for ill. If you say a wholehearted Yes to the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, it will be easier to say Yes to him the next moment. If you say No to him now, it will be more difficult to say Yes tomorrow. That is why it is so urgent to come over the threshold and break through the barrier that has been built up by a bad habit. When the first step is taken, everything goes more smoothly.

3. We live more or less in cycles. We are all a bit “cyclothymic”. We often have mild mood swings, also in the spiritual realm. When we discover a new way, such as the way of confidence and trust shown by Saint Thérèse, for example, we become very enthusiastic. We may sail forward for a few days or weeks, but later on the feelings cool down, and we become weary and tired and drag ourselves along. A machine works always in the same way. One can estimate exactly how much it will produce. But a living being has its seasons, its summer and its winter. God does not expect the same from us in the winter as in the summer.
It is extremely liberating to know that God never demands more of us than we can give him. He is always content when we do what we can. The only important thing is that we never give up, that with a holy stubbornness we do what we can.
In practice, our spiritual journey will probably be like the famous procession in Echternach (Luxembourg), where after every third step, one takes a step backward. It goes more slowly, but, nevertheless, one arrives.

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

 

 

 

 

A Reflection: “What Makes You Happy?”

summer at the cottage

Summer days in Canada (photo source unknown)

It’s June and the summer heat is starting to make its presence felt here on this side of the world where I live—my beautiful Canada! All is green and flowers are blooming with beautiful hues and aromas that are so soothing to the senses.

The ducks are back and it’s so sweet to see them out and about walking around with their babies in tow. The warm breeze feels so good and the sunrays are beaming.
Oh, summer how much I like you! You make me happy!

I live close to the lake and I love going for walks by the shore. There is a lot of activity over there—seagulls playfully flying over the calm waters, searching for food. Nature is so alive at this time of the year. Locals peacefully walking their dogs enjoying the nice warm weather. As I sat in one of the benches overlooking the lake, I was overcome with a deep emotion of thanksgiving, my heart full of gratitude. I’m so much in awe admiring all the magnificent art of God’s creation. Indeed, God is an artist!

Every second of summer is precious. It is a season of plenty, especially for the birds. They enjoy it so much singing joyfully and loudly to the Creator. It’s a heavenly melody thanking Him for everything. Am I that grateful? Am I that loving to you, Oh Lord? I pray that I am. Many times I want to shout in joy for the precious gift of being alive and get to appreciate all these marvelous things that God has done for me and for each one of us. I thank you Lord, for this awesome gift. I thank you for this awareness that flows from my heart and allows me to contemplate your grace. Beloved, I thank you for your daily blessings in my life.

Neighbours burning wood in their backyard fire pits brings me great memories of past summers. With the smoke that rises, let it come up to you as incense and let me offer a prayer of thanksgiving and abundant joy for the gift of your presence in my life, beloved Lord. I offer a prayer for peace in the world, for love in man’s heart, for the gift of faith, for healing of body and soul, for strength and patience in tribulation, for perseverance in the way, for the blessing of nurturing a joyful heart and for endless hope for all of your human family.

Fr. Eddie Doherty asks, “What do we need to make us happy?” For me, I wonder: is it a new and bigger house? A new SUV? No debts? A good stable job or a promotion with better salary? A new wardrobe? A savory filet mignon with the most expensive vintage wine? A fancy holiday or the latest model of a mobile phone?

Once I dreamt these things would bring me happiness. What brings me happiness now, though, is experienced through a new set of eyes and a heart that is newly transformed: admiring a beautiful sunrise, a lavender field in full bloom, listening to the birds singing joyfully in the early morning for a new day has come, looking at the different cloud formations in the sky. My tabby cat Ruby lying peacefully next to me.

A shared family meal, filled with laughter and wholesome dishes with local wine and with my favorite home made lemon meringue pie for dessert.

Flowers makes me happy. A bunch of summer bloom flowers my husband brings me without any particular occasion, because really every day is a special occasion.

I love sunsets and the sky full of evening stars. I love my family, my husband and our two lovely daughters. I cherish the time we spent together, enjoying each other’s company. The faces of cheerful friends. And the smile of a stranger, which is really a new friend not yet known—that will make me happy.

I also share the same sentiment as Fr. Eddie. I quote him here:

“I walked leisurely, thinking of your words, thinking of your Son who also loved to walk upon your hills and of his mother Mary. She passed through hilly country as she hurried to Elizabeth, her cousin. Did she too stoop, now and then, because she saw your glory in a stone? I think she did.

I think she also knelt here and there along some road to smell the aroma of your presence in a flower; or to meditate on your concern for even the least of your creatures as she watched the orderly chaos in an ant’s nest; or to thank you for the gracious cool shade of a tree; or to praise you for the color of your sky and the contour and the texture and the splendor of your clouds.”

Dear God, I give you thanks and praise you for the beauty of this season and every season. For all your creation has a mark of your love for us ❤

Pax et Bonum!

 

~ My Reflection is inspired by Fr. Eddie Doherty’s piece “What Makes You Happy?” in his book I Cover God (1962) currently out of print.


Here I share some photos I took during the month of May and early June this year:

 

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“I can’t find words to express my happiness. Here there is no longer anything but God. He is All; He suffices and we live by Him alone.”
~ St. Elizabeth of the Trinity, O.C.D. 

 

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“Just as the sun shines on all the trees and flowers as if each were the only one on earth, so does God care for all souls in a special manner.”
~ St. Thérèse de Lisieux, O.C.D.

 

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“God’s Providence is in all things, it’s always present.” ~ Saint Gianna Beretta Molla

 

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“If a little flower could speak, it seems to me that it would tell us quite simply all that God has done for it, without hiding any of its gifts. It would not, under the pretext of humility, say that it was not pretty, or that it had not a sweet scent, that the sun had withered its petals, or the storm bruised its stem, if it knew that such were not the case.”
~ St. Thérèse de Lisieux, O.C.D.

 

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“If every tiny flower wanted to be a rose, spring would lose its loveliness.” ~ St. Thérèse de Lisieux, O.C.D.

 

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“How I’d love to show you the lovely infinite horizon beyond creation that I experience and contemplate. I love God now a thousand times more than I did before…He reveals and makes Himself known to souls that really seek to know and love Him. Everything on earth…seems to shrink, to lose value before the Divinity which, like an infinite Sun, continues to shine upon my miserable soul with its rays.”
~ St. Teresa of Jesus of the Andes, O.C.D.

 

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“Enjoy Nature: take a walk, study a leaf, smell a flower, enjoy a sunset, ravish God’s natural beauty.”  (Quote from Carmelite Conversations-OCDS)

 

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And this is Rubyshe likes to smell the roses too!

 

Sainte Bernadette de Lourdes

 

Bernadette de Lourdes

Bernadette in Ecstasy


“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.

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Relics of St. Bernadette, Crypt Church, Lourdes, France ~ Photo taken by me

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

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The final apparition of Our Lady to St. Bernadette, depicted in the ‘Gemmail’ style of layered stained glass typically found in Lourdes.


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.”

 

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The Statue in the niche where Bernadette first saw Our Lady, photo taken by me

 

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The Rosary Basilica and Rosary Square and the crowned statue of Mary in the Esplanade, photo taken by me during the candlelight procession.

 

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Votive candles burn continually in the grotto area…Praying for all the sick and suffering. Photo taken by me.

 

 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