Thank you so much to all my followers and readers for all of your interest and support! It’s been an incredible journey for me, I feel so grateful and humbled to be part of this amazing blogging community as I continue to learn so much from all of you.
Two years ago I felt inspired to start blogging about Carmelite Spirituality and I continue to love it!
As a Lay Carmelite (O.C.D.S.) I feel so blessed in sharing the inspirational writings of many great saints of Carmel and other great spiritual writers, prayers, meditations, my own reflections and poems about this rich spiritual treasure to the soul which is the Carmelite charism.
As I mentioned before, Carmel is an ancient path for today’s pilgrim. . .
“Carmel stands for the intimate encounter which God brings about between the person and God in the midst of all that is most ordinary in life. The expression and source of this encounter, God’s gift of contemplation, is the very heartbeat of what Carmel is and what it desires to be. Saint John of the Cross described contemplation as the inflowing of God’s grace into a human being. Carmelites speak of contemplation as a gift of God that can be nurtured by a life of prayer, community, and service.”
“Our Carmelite Spirituality is focussed on Christ, and inspired in a particular way by the patrons of the Order—the prophet Elijah and the Blessed Virgin Mary—as well as by the saints of the Carmelite Family over the centuries.”
“Our mission in life is to know and love God, and to make God known and loved. And share the Good News of Christ, that God loves humanity with a deep passion.”
I’m so excited for another great year of blogging and sharing with all of you!
Wishing you all peace, joy, much love. . .and abundant blessings!
I just got back from the Canadian Conference on Evangelization & Catechesis – He thirsts for you! in Ottawa from April 4th to 6th. It was a time of great fellowship among many friends from the different Dioceses in Canada. We all had the blessing to listen to great keynote speakers like Dr. Josephine Lombardi, presenting ‘At the well: The encounter that transforms’; Father Ron Rolheiser, OMI, presenting ‘From the well to the world’; and Most Rev. William McGrattan, Bishop of Calgary, presenting ‘Returning to the well: Ongoing transformation’. We also enjoyed the beautiful presentation of my dear friend and sister in Carmel Elisa Lollino, OCDS. She did her one-woman play ‘He thirsts for you’.
We also had the wonderful opportunity to attend a variety of educational and inspirational workshops. They helped us to expand our minds and hearts in the Christian faith so we can share it with others.
In the ‘Letter of Welcome’ of the Most Rev. Lionel Gendron, President of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, he stated: “Inspired by the Gospel of John 4: 5-42 the phrase He thirsts for you speaks of God’s desire that we experience deeply his love for us. Saint Teresa of Calcutta, in one of her letters, asks a very important question of the members of the Missionaries of Charity:
Why does Jesus say “I Thirst”? What does it mean? Something so hard to explain in words—if you remember anything from Mother’s letter, remember this—“I thirst” is something much deeper than Jesus saying “I love you.” Until you know deep inside that Jesus thirsts for you—you can’t begin to know who He wants to be for you. Or who He wants you to be for Him. (Mother Teresa, Letter to Her Spiritual Family, March 25, 1993)
It is this thirst that the Samaritan woman experiences in her encounter with Jesus at the well. It is this thirst which propels her to go and enthusiastically tell others about what she has learned from Him. It is this thirst that makes her a missionary disciple.
Like the Samaritan woman, we too are called and empowered to become ever more missionary disciples who, having encountered Christ, are filled with the Spirit and sent to spread the Good News. We are sent forth to share with our brothers and sisters that, by the death and resurrection of Jesus, we have been saved, we are loved deeply and in a transforming way for God.”
Walking in the searing sunlight. Glare stinging my eyes with sudden tears. Behind the fortress walls of surrounding houses They surely watch.
I can barely raise one foot after another. Dust chokes my dry mouth. This pot, my burden Unfilled, like a dead weight on my body.
I walk this daily walk of torment. I walk Alone. It has been for such a long time now. Must it always be so?
Today I met him such a man as I have longed to meet for all my life. Today I met him, I will never be the same again.
Today I talked to him such a man as I have longed to talk to all my life. A man who talked with me as if he had known me all my life.
Today he looked at me. He smiled at me as none else has ever done before. He knew my sin and yet he took my cup.
Joy unquenchable fills me, Messiah. I will speak his words throughout the land. I will never be the same. Because today I met Him.
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
“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!
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
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.
We are besieged with endless babbling, and we become too weary to listen; we need to set aside a time to encounter the Lord. He can be encountered in many places, but one way is to find him in the poustinia (the Russian word for “desert”).
A poustinia can be a room or a small cabin—simple, even stark, so that nothing takes away from meeting God there. It has plain walls, a crucifix without a corpus, a table, a chair, a Bible, paper and pen, a loaf of bread and a thermos of coffee or tea, or simply water. The bed will be hard, for anyone who wants to follow Christ into the desert needs to do some penance; prayer and penance are two arms one simultaneously lifts up to Christ.
The poustinia is a place of solitude and peace, exterior and also interior. Everything needs to “quiet down”: the wings of the intellect are folded so that speculation and intellectual evaluation are quiescent. The head enters the heart, and both are silent.
The Bible is the only book found in the poustinia. The Scriptures become a million love letters from God, to be savored and meditated upon, absorbed so that you almost become one with those eternal, fiery, yet gentle words. Reading Scripture is a conversation with God.
When you enter the poustinia, you take humanity with you. You lift everyone before God, with their pain, sorrows, joy. The poustinik walks immersed in the silence of God. Our life of service and love to our fellow men is simply the echo of this silence, this solitude.
Then your own heart becomes a poustinia. You are there when you are travelling the subway and hanging onto a strap with your arms full. You go to a dance and you are in a poustinia. You play cards, wash dishes, you talk to people. That does not interfere with your poustinia, because the poustinia is the secret place where the Lover meets his beloved. God meets man!
~ A Reflection by Catherine de Hueck Doherty
Counsel for Silence
Go without ceremony of departure and shade no subtlest word with your farewell. Let the air speak the mystery of your absence, and the discerning have their minor feast on savory possible or probable. Seeing the body present, they will wonder where went the secret soul, by then secure out past your grief beside some torrent’s pure refreshment. Do not wait to copy down the name, much less the address, of who might need you. Here you are pilgrim with no ties of earth. Walk out alone and make the never-told your healing distance and your anchorhold. And let the ravens feed you.
~ A poem by Sister Miriam of the Holy Spirit (Jessica Powers), O.C.D.
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.
Early on in my conversion the Lord placed in my heart the desire to learn about the Desert Fathers. I read about the life of Saint Anthony the Great, also called St. Anthony of Egypt, whose feast day we celebrate today. He became known as both the father and founder of desert monasticism. Along the way, I also learned about the Desert Mothers and the vast treasure of information they have left to us through their words and written instructions for our spiritual formation. I learned about them through books, films, and talking to spiritual mentors. That period of my life came before I joined my Lay Carmelite community. I had this deep intense desire to learn more about the lives of these champions of the faith—the Desert Fathers and Mothers . Their lives and wisdom were so inspiring to me. At one point I felt a deep calling to go to the desert, to live in solitude for awhile. I didn’t understand why I felt this intense calling in my heart. I did ask the Lord, how can this be possible? I’m married and have children. I live in the world but I felt I was not part of it, everything was a distraction to me. I had this constant desire of being alone with God. Little did I know that the Lord was calling me to be part of the spiritual family of Lay Carmelites. It wasn’t clear to me at that time, God was transforming me and preparing me for that. I began to attend spiritual retreats regularly, and found myself immerse in His presence all the time. My soul was being fed and my relationship with God grew stronger every day. Later on I found this treasure of infinite grace in Carmel. He was leading me by the hand to His own garden, to His solitude, to His heart. So then I can live in the world—in the ‘market place’ and by His grace reflect His light to others.
Praise the Lord forever! To Him be the glory for ever and ever!
Here I share a short documentary of Father Lazarus, a Coptic monk living in solitude inspired by the life of Saint Anthony The Great. The cave he lives is very close in proximity of St. Antony’s cave and Saint Anthony’s monastery in Egypt.
I hope you enjoy it!
“The truly intelligent man pursues one sole objective: to obey and to conform to the God of all. With this single aim in view, he disciplines his soul, and whatever he may encounter in the course of his life, he gives thanks to God for the compass and depth of His providential ordering of all things. For it is absurd to be grateful to doctors who give us bitter and unpleasant medicines to cure our bodies, and yet to be ungrateful to God for what appears to us to be harsh, not grasping that all we encounter is for our benefit and in accordance with His providence. For knowledge of God and faith in Him is the salvation and perfection of the soul.”
~ Saint Anthony the Great
“When you close the doors to your dwelling and are alone you should know that there is present with you the angel whom God has appointed for each man…This angel, who is sleepless and cannot be deceived, is always present with you; he sees all things and is not hindered by darkness. You should know, too, that with him is God, who is in every place; for there is no place and nothing material in which God is not, since He is greater than all things and holds all men in His hand.”
~ Saint Anthony the Great
“One who knows oneself, knows God: and one who knows God is worthy to worship Him as is right. Therefore, my beloveds in the Lord, know yourselves.”
~ Saint Anthony the Great
Saint Anthony the Great, pray for us and the whole world!
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!
John the Baptizer exhorts us to conversion. No one better than Mary can tell us what this conversion entails.
Conversion means turning away from yourself and turning to God instead. So, conversion is beginning to live as Mary did. She is so overwhelmed by the life growing in her body that she is not at all concerned about her own. Her center is not in herself, but in the life she is to give birth for the salvation of the world.
If you live along with Mary, turned away from yourself and turned toward God, then even you will give life to the world. You get to give birth to Christ. He has himself said: “Whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother” (Mt 12:50).
If Christmas were only a celebration of an unusual child born two thousand years ago, then we wouldn’t need a long season of Advent to prepare for it. But Jesus is born within you, and preparation for this birth must be made.
John of the Cross writes in a small poem:
The Virgin with God’s Word Carried in her womb Comes toward you If only you had room.
If you prepare a room for God, God will become real in you as he was in Mary.
~ An Advent Meditation by Father Wilfrid Stinissen, O.C.D.
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.
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