Doubt and despair have their deepest roots in a fundamental distrust of God. It is quite often a long journey before a human being is truly convinced that God really wants the very best for him or her.
As long as your heart remains unconvinced that the one who has created and sustains you, loves you and leads you, through whatever happens, you will not find lasting peace.
You have several resources with which you can help yourself toward a firm belief in love. You can try to confront your doubt by emphasizing trust and confidence; you can open your heart to receive testimony and preaching about God; most importantly, you can listen to God’s own word.
God’s preeminent message is that he is love. This message is in itself effective and active. If you listen to it openly, it will reach your innermost recesses.
Emotions of love will not reach the core of your being; only faith does that. The capacity for faith is like a small seed laid down in you. To some extent, it is up to you to decide whether weeds and drought are to suffocate the faith when it begins to sprout. You have within you an ability to turn your gaze toward God and turn yourself over to him with trust. Then the seed will flourish.
~ A Meditation by Father Wilfrid Stinissen, O.C.D.
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:
“God’s Providence is in all things, it’s always present.” ~ Saint Gianna Beretta Molla
The Road to Emmaus: A Meditation on the Eucharistic Life
The word “Eucharist” means literally “thanksgiving.” A Eucharistic life is one lived in gratitude. The story, which is also our story, of the two friends walking to Emmaus has shown that gratitude is not an obvious attitude toward life. Gratitude needs to be discovered and to be lived with great inner attentiveness. Our losses, our experiences of rejection and abandonment, and our many moments of disillusionment keep pulling us into anger, bitterness, and resentment. When we simply let the “facts” speak, there will always be enough facts to convince us that life, in the end, leads to nothing and that every attempt to beat fate is only a sign of profound naiveté.
Jesus gave us the Eucharist to enable us to choose gratitude. It is a choice we, ourselves, have to make. Nobody can make it for us. But the Eucharist prompts us to cry out to God for mercy, to listen to the words of Jesus, to invite him into our home, to enter into communion with him and proclaim good news to the world; it opens the possibility of gradually letting go of our many resentments and choosing to be grateful. The Eucharist celebration keeps inviting us to that attitude.
In our daily lives we have countless opportunities to be grateful instead of resentful. At first, we might not recognize these opportunities. Before we fully realized, we have already said: “This is too much for me. I have no choice but to be angry and to let my anger show. Life isn’t fair, and I can’t act as if it is.” However, there is always the voice that, ever again, suggests that we are blinded by our own understanding and pull ourselves and each other into a hole. It is the voice that calls us “foolish,” the voice that asks us to have a completely new look at our lives, a look not from below, where we count our losses, but from above, where God offers us his glory.
Eucharist—thanksgiving—in the end, comes from above. It is the gift that we cannot fabricate for ourselves. It is to be received. That is where the choice is! We can choose to let the stranger continue his journey and so remain a stranger. But we can also invite him into our inner lives, let him touch every part of our being and then transform our resentments into gratitude. We don’t have to do this. In fact, most people don’t. But as often as we make that choice, everything, even the most trivial things, become new. Our little lives become great—part of the mysterious work of God’s salvation.
Once that happens, nothing is accidental, casual, or futile any more. Even the most insignificant event speaks the language of faith, hope, and, above all, love.
That’s the Eucharistic life, the life in which everything becomes a way of saying, “Thank you” to him who joined us on the road.
~ By Henri J. M. Nouwen
Carmel: A Eucharistic Community
Disciples of Jesus had been celebrating the Eucharist in a variety of ways for centuries by the time the Carmelite hermits gathered on Mount Carmel at the Wadi- ‘ain-es-Siah about 1200 A.D. Since then, like other Christians, Carmelites, religious and lay, have celebrated the Eucharist in diverse ways. What is unvaried is this: Eucharist has been at the heart of Christian and Carmelite life from the origins of Christianity and from the inception of the Carmelite Order…
The Eucharist is the meal celebrated by the disciples of Jesus, a sacrificial meal that is the “Church’s entire spiritual wealth,” a meal that manifests the presence of the Church. Religious orders have long experimented with ways to follow Jesus, and the tension between community and solitude. The Eucharistic meal is at the center of this Carmelite tension, a place where the human and the divine encounter each other at the table of the Lord.
~ By Dr. Keith Egan, T.O.C.
Discalced Carmelite Hermit
THIS LITTLE HERMIT wishes to remain anonymous, but generously contributes these words about the Eucharist.
Oh, beloved I love to sit before you here Present in the Most Blessed Sacrament.
You pierce through the veil that separates Us. You penetrate my very being.
My soul is aflame with your love, Your healing touch, You fill me with your love, your joy, and Your peace.
I thirst for you, I long for you, more, my Beloved one.
So still, in this stillness ALL stops, nothing exists but you.
No time, no space. The stillness is you, the stillness is love.
In this profound silence and solitude I have been loved by LOVE itself.
I have found my beloved one Keep me in the stillness of your love.
On Monday night I attended a public lecture with His Eminence Cardinal Robert Sarah, at St. Michael’s Cathedral Basilica in Toronto, Ontario.
Cardinal Sarah was born in Guinea, West Africa. Made an Archbishop by Pope Saint John Paul II and a Cardinal by Pope Benedict XVI, he was named the Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments by Pope Francis in 2014. He is the author of such books as God or Nothing and, more recently, The Power of Silence ~ Against the Dictatorship of Noise.
Cardinal Sarah’s talk was about how to live our faith authentically and the importance of the strength of silence in our lives. “The modern world generates so much noise, he says, that seeking moments of silence has become both harder and more necessary than ever before.” “Silence is an attitude of the soul.”
Silence is the space that allows God into our lives, said Cardinal Sarah. In his most recent book The Power of Silence he writes:
“There is one great question: how can man really be in the image of God? He must enter into silence. When he drapes himself in silence, as God himself dwells in a great silence, man is close to heaven, or, rather, he allows God to manifest himself in him. We encounter God only in the eternal silence in which he abides. Have you ever heard the voice of God as you hear mine?
God’s voice is silent. Indeed, man, too, must seek to become silence.
In his book I Want to See God, Blessed Marie-Eugene de L’Enfant-Jésus O.C.D. writes:
God speaks in silence, and silence alone seems able to express Him. For the spiritual person who has known the touch of God, silence and God seem to be identified. And so, to find God again, where would he go, if not to the most silent depths of his soul, into those regions that are so hidden that nothing can any longer disturb them?
When he has reached there, he preserves with jealous care the silence that gives him God.
He defends it against any agitation, even that of his own powers.
At the heart of man there is an innate silence, for God abides in the innermost part of every person. God is silence, and this divine silence dwells in man. In God we are inseparably bound up with silence. The Church can affirm that mankind is the daughter of a silent God; for men are the sons of silence.
God carries us, and we live with him at every moment by keeping silence. Nothing will make us discover God better than his silence inscribed in the center of our being. If we do not cultivate this silence, how can we find God? Man likes to travel, create, make great discoveries. But he remains outside of himself, far from God, who is silently in his soul. I want to recall how important it is to cultivate silence in order to be truly with God. Saint Paul, drawing on the Book of Deuteronomy, explains that we will not encounter God by crossing the seas, because he is in our heart:
Do not say in your heart, “Who will ascend into heaven?” (that is to bring Christ down) or “Who will descend into the abyss?” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). But what does [the law] say? The word is near you, on your lips and in your heart (that is, the word of faith which we preach); because, if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. (Rom 10:6-9; Deut 30:12-14, 16)
It is necessary to leave our interior turmoil in order to find God. Despite the agitations, the busyness, the easy pleasures, God remains silently present. He is in us like a thought, a word, and a presence whose secret sources are buried in God himself, inaccessible to human inspection.
Solitude is the best state in which to hear God’s silence. For someone who wants to find silence, solitude is the mountain that he must climb. if a person isolates himself by going away to a monastery, he comes first to seek silence. And yet, the goal of his search is within him. God’s silent presence already dwells in his heart. The silence that we pursue confusedly is found in our own hearts and reveals God to us.”
“When we retreat from the noise of the world in silence, we gain a new perspective on the noise of the world,” he said. “To retreat into silence is to come to know ourselves, to know our dignity.”
“Marvels of technology have made it more difficult to know and to learn the value of silence. Cardinal Sarah urged his audience to keep technology in its proper place. “Technology is only ever a means. Technological development is never an end in itself. Technology does not satisfy our deepest desires.” he said.”
And I would like to conclude with this quote from the Cardinal, “Let us seek silence, for in silence we come to know God and to know ourselves.”
In this wonderful video presentation by Fr. Marc Foley, O.C.D. about the life of St. Thérèse of Lisieux, and his book, The Context of Holiness., he explores both the psychological and spiritual dimensions of her life. As Fr. Foley tell us “that the spiritual life is not an encapsulated sphere, cloistered from the realities of our human existence. Rather, it is our response to God within the physical, psychological, social and emotional dimensions of life.” “St. Therese did not grow in holiness apart from the human condition. Like all of us, she was emotionally scarred by the fragileness of life. She was deeply wounded by the death of her mother at the age of four, bedridden as the result of a neurotic episode when she was ten, struggled with debilitating scruples most of her life, and suffered an agonizing dark night of faith. “St. Thérèse was no plaster statue saint. Her life was a real life. As it unfolds before us on the pages of Story of a Soul, we see a pilgrim soul who made its way home to God through many raging storms and dark nights. The specific nature of Thérèse’s trials may differ from our own, but psychological and emotional suffering are our common lot. For example, we may not have known the pain of our mother dying when we were four, but most of us have known the pain of the loss of a loved one. The sufferings that we share with Thérèse are universal—physical pain, anxiety, anger, sadness, depression, loneliness, doubts of faith, to name a few. These sufferings make doing the will of God difficult, but they are the context of our choices. They are the context of holiness.”
I find this presentation very useful for meditation and personal reflection, especially during this season of Lent. Hope you enjoy it!
In the Gospel [Jesus said] … where two or three are gathered to consider what is for the greater honor and glory of My name, there I am in the midst of them… that is, clarifying and confirming truths in their hearts, It is noteworthy that He did not say: Where there is one alone, there I am: rather, He said: Where there are at least two. Thus God announces that He does not want the soul to believe only by itself the communications it thinks are of divine origin, or for anyone to be assured or confirmed in them without the Church or her ministers. God will not bring clarification and confirmation of the truth to the heart of one who is alone. Such a person would remain weak and cold in regard to the truth. (The Ascent of Mount Carmel by St. John of the Cross)
This passage, even though it deals specifically with souls who have received visions and revelations, is pertinent to all of us, for it contains a basic truth, namely, that we are not always the best interpreters of our own experience. St. Teresa of Jesus taught that it is one grace to receive a grace from God and another grace to correctly understand the grace that one has received (The Book of Her life. 154). And the grace of understanding is often communicated to us through another person.
St. John of the Cross does not say that we need someone to tell us the truth but we need a trusted guide who is able to assist us in “clarifying (aclarando) and confirming (confirmando) truths [that] are in [our] hearts.” Aclarando is the process of clearing up obscurity or shedding light upon things that are unclear, whereas confirmando means to confirm and give support.
Good spiritual directors are hard to come by, you may say. This is true. However, the guidance of which St. John of the Cross speaks can come to us through many sources. We can receive clarification and confirmation about truths that are in our hearts from our spouse, a coworker, a support group, a friend, or even a book.
So we may ask ourselves and reflect:
What are the channels through which I receive spiritual guidance? What or who is most helpful in clarifying or shedding light upon my experiences?
~ By Marc Foley, O.C.D ~ The Ascent of Mount Carmel Reflections
Prayer. We take the word for granted but ought we to do so? What do we mean by prayer? What does the word mean in the Christian context? Almost always when we talk about prayer we are thinking of something we do and, from that standpoint, questions, problems, confusion, discouragement, illusions multiply. For me, it is of fundamental importance to correct this view. Our Christian knowledge assures us that prayer is essentially what God does, how God addresses us, looks at us. It is not primarily something we are doing to God, something we are giving to God but what God is doing for us. And what God is doing for us is giving us the divine Self in love.
Any talk about prayer, if we are to stand in the clear, pure atmosphere of truth, must begin by reflecting in firm belief on what Jesus shows us of God. Let us push straight to the heart of the matter. What is the core, the central message of the revelation of Jesus? Surely it is of the unconditional love of God for us, for each one of us: God, the unutterable, incomprehensible Mystery, the Reality of all reality, the Life of all life. And this means the divine Love desires to communicate Its Holy Self to us. Nothing less! This is God’s irrevocable will and purpose; it is the reason why everything that is, and why each of us exists. We are here to receive this ineffable, all-transforming, all beatifying Love. Well-instructed Christians know this notionally but, alas, few know it really. And here I must add an important reminder that knowing it ‘really’ does imply ‘feelingly’. To know really – or really to know – means living that knowledge, living out of it. It means that our way of looking at things, our attitudes, our actions arise from this knowledge. Of this real knowledge we use the word faith. This must give us pause and make us very cautious of claims to faith. ‘Of course I have faith!’ We can feel quite indignant if someone implies otherwise! My experience tells me that real faith is rare and it is best we acknowledge this so that we may really work at believing.
Basing ourselves, therefore, on what Jesus shows us of God (and we Christians have only one teacher, Jesus the Christ, who is our Way), we must realize that what we have to do is allow ourselves to be loved, to be there for Love to love us. It cannot be a matter of our finding some way of contacting God, of making God real to us, of getting hold of a secret key with which to open the mystic door. Nor is this faith in Jesus our Way compatible with such distressed meaning as: ‘I can’t pray’ or ‘my prayer is hopeless’ or ‘I have never had anyone to teach me how to pray and therefore I don’t pray.’ When we find ourselves dissatisfied or anxious about our prayer it is worth asking ourselves the question: ‘What do I really want?’ and trying to listen honestly to the answer. We can be fairly certain that it will be some kind of ego-satisfaction. I may want to feel I am making progress, that my prayer is ‘working’ or that I am a spiritual adept. I may want to feel I am getting something for my money! True prayer means wanting GOD not ego. The great thing is to lay down this ego-drive. This is the ‘life’ we must lose, this the ‘self’ we must abandon if we are to have true life and become that self God wants us to be, which only God can know and ultimately only God can bring into being. We have to recognize that a great deal that goes for interest in and longing for prayer is a subtle form of self-seeking. To give ourselves seriously to prayer is to recognize this and face up to the choice it presents: will we cast aside our egotism, allow God’s love to purify it more and more whatever the cost, or will we camouflage it, give it other, more spiritual names, and look around for so-called spiritual guides who will offer us ego-satisfying techniques with the promise of an ‘experience’. Perhaps we give up the prayer-project altogether with the reflection that, after all, what matters is living and loving and serving our neighbour. Another very popular form of evasion is just to go on worrying and asking endless questions about prayer with the illusory aim that one fine day we will be shown ‘how to do it.’ The thing to do is, of course, to get down to praying! That will answer our questions.
What is faith? What does it mean to have it or lack it?
Faith is a profound mystery that we can never adequately explain. It is an interplay between divine grace and the human mind and will. We are speaking of Christian faith, and that is faith in Jesus Christ as the incarnate Word of God. The object of our Christian faith is the God revealed in Jesus Christ.
Faith is never a mere intellectual assent but always involves commitment. It is always in action, more a verb than a noun. Faith cannot be one facet or a particular aspect of my life, but my whole life. As St. Paul says, “My real life is the faith I have in the Son of God who loved me and delivered himself for me.”
It is the Holy Spirit who enables us to believe…”No one can come to me except the Father draw him”… but we must cooperate with all our powers. And this means we must “labor for the food which endures to eternal life” (John 6:27). “This is the labor of God that you believe in him whom he has sent” (John 6:29). What can be more important?
Many people think they have no faith because they feel they haven’t. They do not realize that they must make a choice to believe, take the risk of believing, of committing themselves and setting themselves to live out the commitment. Never mind that they continue to feel that they do not believe. Under cover of being “authentic” we can spend our lives waiting for the kind of certainty we cannot have.
What, then, is doubt?
I do not see how we can talk of faith if we eliminate the possibility of doubt. We cannot have the certainties that our nature craves and finds in the evidence of the senses. Perhaps most of the time we do not advert to doubt, but at times it can press heavily. As far as I am concerned, troublesome feelings of doubt seem a matter of the imagination failing to cope. Although we have no scientific verification for what we believe, there is nothing irrational in Christian faith but an enormous amount of data to support it.
In times of difficulty my anchorage is the Gospels. There I encounter Christ, “Light most beautiful,” who overcomes the darkness of doubt. My faith is essentially faith in Jesus Christ: “You are truth. Your word is truth and what is troubling me is a lie.” I believe that there comes a point when a person is so held by God that, no matter how assaulted that person may be, faith stands firm, for “no one can snatch them from the hand of my Father” (John 10:29).
~ A Reflection by Sister Rachel of the Carmelite community in Norfolk, UK
Come and visit me in my garden, the flowers are wild and unkempt, but they like to grow freely in your space, breathing from your air and soaked in your warm rays.
Come and stay my Beloved, the birds greet you with reverence, and I am still, sinking everything in.
My garden is your abode. It’s our meeting place…Oh how much I thank you my Jesus! I thank you for this space filled with the joy of you. This is my place of retreat, where I come to learn all your mysteries and rejoice in your unfailing love.
My Rabonni, your eyes seek me and I encounter yours in an unending song of praise! How do you love me so much? How do you seek me so much? I am breathless…my heartbeat stop at your majesty. I close my eyes, and I lay in your arms, and my garden transforms into an eternal bliss of me in you and you in me.