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Archive for the ‘Carmelite Virtues’ Category

Meditation for December 31 from Divine Intimacy:

1.  Time passes and does not return.  God has assigned to each of us a definite time in which to fufill His divine plan for our soul; we have only this time and shall have no more.  Time ill spent is lost forever.  Our life is made up of this uninterrupted, continual flow of time, which never returns.  In eternity, on the contrary, time will be no more; we shall be established forever in the degree of love which we have reached now, in time.  If we have attained a high degree of love, we shall be fixed forever in that degree of love and glory; if we possess only a slight degree, that is all we shall have throughout eternity.  No further porgress will be possible when time has ended.  “Therefore, whilst we have time, let us work good to all men” (Gal 6:10).  “We must give every moment its full amount of love, and make each passing moment eternal, by giving it value for eternity” (Sr. Carmela of the Holy Spirit, O.C.D.).  This is the best way to use the time given us by God.  Charity allows us to adhere to God’s will with submission and love and thus at the close of life, we shall have realized God’s plan for our soul; we shall have reached the degree of love which God expects from each one of us and with which we shall love and glorify Him for all eternity.

2.  The growth of charity depends upon meritorious acts, that is, good works done under the influence of charity.  Every good act merits an increase of charity, which may be given to the soul at once or withheld until the end of life, according to whether the act had been performed with all the love of which the soul was capable, or whether, on the contrary, it was performed with less vigor, generoisity, and carefulness than was possible at that moment.  In the first case, the increase of charity comes like interest which is immediately accrued to the capital, and which then bears interest together with it. In the second case, it is like interest which is kept separate from the capital and hence does not increase with it, even though it remains the property of the one who has acquired it.

In order that the merit of our good works, that is, the increase of charity which we have merited by them, be granted immediately, it is necessary that these works be done with all the love possible, that is,with all the good will and generosity of which the soul is capable.  Then it is as if the soul opens to receive the increase of love it has merited, and this is added at once to the capital of charity already possessed, immediately increasing its degree and intensity.

We have only the short day of this earthly life in which to grow in love, and if we wish to derive from it the greatest possible profit, we must overcome our natural inertia and carry out our good works “with our whole heart.” Then love will increase immeasurably and we shall be able to say to Our Lord like St. Therese of the Child Jesus: “Your love has grown with me and now it is an abyss, the depth of which I am unable to sound.”  We must, then, make haste while we still ahve time, for “the night cometh when no man can work” (Jn 9:4).

Prayer:

O Lord, as I look back on the year just passed, a year given me by Your divine Providence in which to increase my love of You, I can only grieve over myself and say to You: “How little I have loved You, my God!  How badly I have spent my time!”

Restore the time I have lost, my God, by granting me Your grace both in the present and in the future, that I may appear before You wearing the wedding garment, for You can do this if You so will.

On my part, O Lord, I can think of no better way to make up for the time I have lost than to try with all my might to increase my love.   Yes, my love will grow if, for Your sake, I fulfill all my duties and perform all my good works “with all my heart” and “with all my good will.”  Alas! I am so weak, so careless, so indolent!  I am inclined to flee from exerting myself; I try to avoid making sacrifices.  My nature always seeks what is easiest, what is least tiring, and soon falls into negligence and laziness.  Help me, O Lord, and strengthen my love by Your almighty power.  What I do for You is so little, grant, O my God, that I may at least do it with all the love possible.

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Used with permission by author Kathryn Marcellino, OCDS  of  CatholicSpiritualDirection.org.

First of all, let me sincerely wish all of you celebrating Thanksgiving, a very Happy Thanksgiving. Whether spending Thanksgiving Day with family, friends or alone this year, we all have something very important to be thankful for and that is the greatest gift of all, God himself.
These are difficult times for many of us, but St. Teresa of Avila reminds us that, “God alone suffices.”


Even if our finances are failing, or family and friends are not around, or our health is not what it could be, we can still rightly give thanks for the greatest gift of all which is Jesus Christ, the Lord. And this gift can never be taken away from us.

St. Columba’s ancient Irish melody reminds us:
“The King of love my shepherd is,
Whose goodness faileth never;
I nothing lack if I am his, And he is mine forever.”

Do not worry or be afraid

Jesus reassures us in our struggles and tells us we do not need to worry. Matt 6:31-34, “So do not worry and say, ‘What are we to eat?’ or ‘What are we to drink?’ or ‘What are we to wear?’ All these things the pagans seek. Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom (of God) and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides. Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself. Sufficient for a day is its own evil.”
To experience the benefits of the greatest gift of all, who is God himself, we need to take time to raise our mind and hearts to God in prayer, thanksgiving and praise. We can do this by spending some quality time alone with God in prayer, meditation, spiritual reading and daily Mass if possible. We also need to seek God’s kingship over us (Matt. 6) by learning God’s will and doing it.
We often have many challenges in life. Prayer can be like a little vacation that gives us the power, strength and grace to face all that comes our way. In prayer we not only speak to God, but can listen to God to hear any directions or inspirations. We are never really alone because God is always with us. He is as accessible as a prayer and opening our heart to him.

Be thankful in all circumstances

Every day, but especially on Thanksgiving Day, let’s take time to “be thankful in all circumstances” as St. Paul tells us. Our true home and family is the Kingdom of God. All that we are now going through is passing and changeable, but inside we can be at peace as God is there. He is knocking at the door of our heart waiting for us to open it and let him in. He loves us and wants to be with us.
Do you focus on what is not going well (either your own problems or in the news)? One idea is turn off the TV or internet and spend some of that time in pray and focusing on God and good things. Having a spiritual rule of life is a good idea. (If interested this is covered in the “Seeking Union with God” Online Personal Spiritual Formation Course.)
Keeping our focus on God and the ultimate perspective of life will keep us on the right track. And if we have gotten off-track, and are not experiencing God’s peace inside, God is inviting us at this very moment with open arms to return to him as in the story of the Prodigal Son. Making a good confession can be a new beginning if we’ve been away. There is nothing that can give us as much peace as making a good confession and hearing the words of the Prayer of Absolution from the priest: “God, the Father of mercies, through the death and resurrection of His Son has reconciled the world to Himself and sent the Holy Spirit among us for the forgiveness of sins; Through the ministry of the Church may God give you pardon and peace, and I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”

Experiencing God’s peace includes giving thanks

Experiencing inner peace is possible even when times are tough. We know that St. Paul did not always have things easy. In fact he was severely beaten for proclaiming the Gospel, and experienced hunger and other discomforts including martyrdom, and yet he could write in the midst of his sufferings the following passage. (By the way, the Scripture passage below if one of my favorites. It has a lot of great wisdom in almost every line, so I encourage you to read it and really think about what it says.)
“Rejoice in the Lord always. I shall say it again: rejoice! Your kindness should be known to all. The Lord is near. Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Keep on doing what you have learned and received and heard and seen in me. Then the God of peace will be with you. I rejoice greatly in the Lord that now at last you revived your concern for me. You were, of course, concerned about me but lacked an opportunity. Not that I say this because of need, for I have learned, in whatever situation I find myself, to be self-sufficient. I know indeed how to live in humble circumstances; I know also how to live with abundance. In every circumstance and in all things I have learned the secret of being well fed and of going hungry, of living in abundance and of being in need. I have the strength for everything through him who empowers me. Still, it was kind of you to share in my distress.” Philippians 4:4-14

The Catechism of the Catholic Church also says in #2638 “As in the prayer of petition, every event and need can become an offering of thanksgiving. The letters of St. Paul often begin and end with thanksgiving, and the Lord Jesus is always present in it: ‘Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you’; ‘Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.’ ”

Inner peace is not only a gift but a decision

What I learn from the above teachings is that even if things are seemingly not going well outside of me, I can decide and learn with the help of God’s grace to get things together inside of me, to give thanks to God and have inner peace even to the point of giving thanks and rejoicing. It reminds me of what a Carmelite priest once said, “If you’ve left peace, you’ve left God.”
Jesus came to give us his peace, love and joy and these cannot be taken from us by anything if we don’t let them. An example of this is St. Ignatius of Loyola, who struggled hard to found the Jesuits. He said that if the pope ordered him disband his Society, he would need only fifteen minutes in prayer to compose himself and be on his way.
One secret of staying in God’s peace, is to not selfishly cling to anything including needing things our way. This is called detachment. Sometimes we need to let things go in order to have what God might want to give in their place. And sometimes we need to stay where we are but just change our inner attitude. St. Catherine of Siena found a refuge inside of her heart where God dwells, a cell in her heart, which she described as like being in the calmness of a depths of the ocean even when the waves on the surface were rough and choppy.

Summary

St. Paul tells us to rejoice always and giving thanks to God no matter what is happening outside of us. He says to, “Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” To have God’s peace includes putting our focus and attention on “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise”.
When I take time to pray, to be thankful and focus on good things, I do experience more of God’s peace inside. It helps me to realize that no matter what is happening at the moment, seemingly good or bad, that it is temporary and passing. What lasts forever is God and his Kingdom of which Jesus invites us to be a part. St. Catherine of Siena is an example of what we can aspire to when she said, “All the way to heaven is heaven because He said I am the Way.”
I hope and pray that we will all experience God’s love, peace, and joy to a greater degree this Thanksgiving and every day!

Kathryn Marcellino is a member of the Secular Order of Discalced Carmelites (OCDS). She is the author of How to Pray the Rosary as a Pathway to Contemplation. She offers instruction and resources on the Catholic faith through her website at http://www.CatholicSpiritualDirection.org as well as offering spiritual direction and answering questions on the Catholic faith via e-mail. She is married to author, speaker and musician, Dennis Marcellino.

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I have recently been reading Time for God by Fr. Jacques Philippe, a book on mental prayer which I’ve found helpful.   In one chapter, he speaks of the importance of recollecting God’s presence in our hearts, and how recollection profoundly transformed the prayer life of St. Teresa of Avila.  He quotes St. Teresa’s Way of Perfection:

It is clear to me that if I had understood, as I do today, that in this tiny palace of my soul, such a great King is living, I would not have left him alone so often, I would have gone to seek him out from time to time, and I would have taken steps to ensure that the palace was less dirty.  How admirable it is, then, to think that he whose greatness would fill a thousand worlds and much more, shuts himself into such a little thing! In truth, since he is the Master, he is free and since he loves us, he reduces himself to the measure of our smallness.

Fr. Phillipe gives this advice:  “When we don’t know how to pray, the simplest thing to do is recollect ourselves, keep silence, and enter into our own heart, go down into ourselves and, by faith, rejoin the presence of Jesus who dwells within us, and stay peacefully with him. Don’t leave him alone, keep him company.  Someone who perseveres in doing this will soon discover the reality of what Easter Christians call the “place of the heart” –the “inner cell,” as St. Catherine of Siena called it.  This is the center of our being, where God has taken up his abode and we can always be with him.  Yet many men and women do not know about this inner space of communion with God because they have never gone there, never visited this garden to gather its fruits.  Happy are they who make the discover of the Kingdom of God within themselves.  It will change their lives.”  (Phillipe, Time for God pp. 63-64)

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 In her famous teaching of “little way”, St. Therese said, “God does not expect that we all do great things, but only that we do little things with great love.”

How do we do little things with great love? I think to live and love each present moment is a good starting point. The present moment is the very true reality of life. Once this moment slips by, it never comes back. Therefore, giving our best to each moment is a good response to God’s call, a little way to remain faithful. I write this down to remind myself. Most of the time I don’t consciously think about this; therefore, I could easily let the precious moment go by without giving it a meaningful attention or simply allowe it to be wasted.

 It will be nice if I am supposed to cook dinner, I cook it with love. If I am supposed to clean the house, I clean it gladly. If I am supposed to listen to a friend or relative, listen with patience, even she has already repeated herself multiple times. If I am to pray, pray with attention, not distraction. If I am to perform a dreadful task, do it without procrastination. If I am to exercise, just keep on moving, not keep on thinking about quitting …….

The story of Martha and Mary comes to my mind. Sitting under Jesus’ feet, Mary was enjoying her present moment with the master. Martha, instead of preparing dinner with love, complained. If only Martha took a different perspective – let the fact that Jesus was near in the house to comfort her, and did her chores happily for Jesus’ sake, wouldn’t it be all better? She could still enjoy the conversation and listening at the dinner table.

The Bible says, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Clinging to God and doing things in his presence make it all easier. Knowing Jesus is with me can bring me better patience. I want to remain faithful to each moment of life, to consciously live and love it.

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This is one of Blessed Elizabeth’s inspiring letters in my opinion.  She believed that silence is not a privilege of a few but an essential ingredient for holiness.  Since we have a universal vocation to holiness, then silence even in the world, is possible.  I think part of the challenge for us is to redefine  silence  and expand it to not just mean the absence of noise and sounds, but possessing that “single eye” or focus in everything- pleasing God wherever we are in whatever we find ourselves doing.

“Saint Teresa says that the soul is like a crystal in which the Divinity is reflected. I so love this comparison, and when I see the sun invade our cloisters with its rays, I think that God invades the soul that seeks only Him in the same way! Listen to what St. John of the Cross says: “O soul, most beautiful of creatures, who desire so ardently to know that place where your Beloved dwells in order to seek Him and unite yourself to Him; you yourself are the retreat where He takes refuge, the dwelling where He hides Himself.” That is the whole life of Carmel; to live in Him, then, all sacrifices, all immolation become divine, for through everything the soul sees Him whom it loves and everything leads it to Him; it is a continual heart to heart exchange! You see that you can already be a Carmelite in your heart. Love silence and prayer for this is the essence of the life of Carmel. Ask the Queen of Carmel to teach you to adore Jesus in profound recollection.”

Blessed Elizabeth to Germaine de Gemeaux
September 14, 1902

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Humility

Today’s gospel inspired me to open discussion on humility, as I reflected on Jesus’ parable concerning those who were seeking the first  place at table when invited to a feast.   St. Teresa wrote in  Way of Perfection, that the virtue of humility and detachment are two sisters we should never be seen without.   

 “O sovereign virtues, rulers over all creation, emperors of the world, deliverers from all snares and entanglements laid by the devil, virtues so loved by our teacher Christ.”

St. Paul instructed Timothy (1 Tim. 3:6) that in examining qualities for a Bishop, he should not be a new convert, lest he be puffed up into pride.   Many seek the office, such as those in today’s scripture reading, but have not watered the ground  in humility.  I’m remembering also the Princess who demanded a convent be founded with herself as prioress.  Last Saturday’s film showed that St. Teresa removed her nuns at night and left the Princess to her own reign. 

 

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Solitude

We are so fortunate in Carmel to have so many Saints and Blesseds to draw inspiration from!  Here is a wonderful extract from one of the lesser known Carmelites . . . Pere Jacques Bunel.  It comes from one of his spiritual conferences and speaks so wonderfully to solitude as one of the key foundation blocks of deep, interior prayer:

Let us now place ourselves in God’s presence, so that he can speak personally to each one of you.  Let us all do our duty.  I want to fulfill my duty to let God speak to you through the words he puts on my lips and the ideas he places in my mind, without mincing his message.  Likewise, it is your duty to welcome the message as coming not from a man, but from God.  Together, let us be totally honest and straightforward in our shared search for truth.
 
    The one, authentic Carmel consists of a quiet, uninterrupted conversation with God.  That is the true Carmel that our Carmelite forebears sought.  We can neither find nor embrace God, just as we cannot sit at his feet in order to gaze lovingly upon him, if we are immersed in noise and activity.  We cannot hear the voice of God, who speaks without words, except in silence.  
 
    Consider the example of our spiritual father, Elijah.  Note these eagerness with which he returned from his apostolic activities to his beloved cave at Carmel.  It was solitude that he sought in order to replenish his spirit through silent intimacy with God.
 
    Likewise, consider Saint Therese of Lisieux.  The need for silence and solitude burned within her.  
 
    We, too, submitted to that deep spiritual impulse on the day God touched our life, perhaps after receiving Communion or during an hour of deep prayer.  At that moment we felt, understood, and lived the truth that God is not a word, but rather a living being, who envelops us.  He made us aware in the depths of our souls that this first living personal contact was with the very being of God.
 
    Do you remember the instructions of our holy father Saint John of the Cross, when he depicted Carmel using the symbol of a mountain?  At the summit, he put the goal of our life; he mapped our the withdrawal from the world that we must undertake to arrive at this point of all-embracing union with God.  In the middle was a steep path; on each side, he sketched the easier routes, which were makeshift and incomplete.  Then, between them, with a quick stroke, he drew an exacting road on which one hears the refrain “Nothing, nothing, absolutely nothing but God alone.”
 
    A person does not withdraw to Carmel because of weariness, or to know tranquility, or to live a mediocre life, or to flee the cares of keeping a home and family, or to have a more comfortable existence.  One comes here because she is athirst for God, because she desires to find God and to reveal God to the whole world.”

This passage was was specifically addressed to cloistered nuns so the concept of solitude presented might be a bit different than how we seek it in the world. For me, solitude is not so much a place we go or even a physical aloneness . . . but an attitude of the heart.

Con-templation . . . with God in His temple. The temple, of course, is our very hearts. A hermitage we can take with us anywhere we go!

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