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

 

Madonna House4
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

 

Madonna House11
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

 

Madonna House5
Views from Catherine Doherty’s island…So beautiful! (my photo)

madonna House3
Admiring the beauty of God’s creation…at Madonna House in Comberme, Ontario (my photo)

Madonna House10
Stations of the Cross in Catherine’s island (my photo)

Madonna House2
At Madonna House ❤ Our Lady of Combermere, pray for us! (my photo)

Find the Silence

 

poustinik2
Photo source unknown

 

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 Child Who Falls Asleep Saying His Prayers

 

guardianangelandchild
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.

 

Saint Anthony of Egypt

 

saint anthony the abbot
Saint Anthony the Abbot and Donors, 15th c (Provenance unknown) Museu Nacional d’ Art de Catalunya, Spain

 

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 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!

 

Giving Life to the World

Jesus Icon3
St. John The Baptist (unknown artist)

 

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.

 

Virgin Mary by ladislav Z
Virgin Mary, art by Ladislav Záborský