Nowadays there is a growing tendency to think of mysticism as a kind of Irish stew, made out of scrap-ends of Buddha, Muhammad, Tolstoy and Einstein, to believe that if we can only manage to sit still with the sole of our foot flat on our stomach and respect fleas, we shall reach perfections.
No, it is a mistake, the sacramental life which is indeed to the only true mysticism, the only pure contemplation, is the life that our Lady lived. It consisted in her daily self-giving of her life to make Christ's life, to give him birth, to give birth to him in all human beings. It was, and is, the life of sacramental love, the love which says and means: "I want to give you the marrow of my bones, every cell of my body, the pulsing of my blood. It is not enough to be with you, to look at you, I must be in you, must be you. I want to be your food, your flesh and blood, yourself. I give you my body and I give it in every split second of every moment that I live, awake or asleep, in all that I do, in my words, in my work, in eating, laughing, weeping, in sorrow and in joy, that you may have my life and have it abundantly." That is what our Lady's life said to our Lord Christ, that is what its tremendous littleness means. That is reality.
And she gave back to him the sort of love he had first given to her, for it is indeed her true son who says to all of us "Take this all of you, this is my body, this is my blood." That is our Lady, that is our Lord, that is reality, that is love.
Caryll Houselander in Lift Up Your Hearts
Saturday, October 31, 2009
Friday, October 30, 2009
By Your most bitter death give me a lively faith, firm hope and a perfect charity, that with my whole heart I may love You with all my soul and strength. Make me persevere in Your service, firm and steadfast in good works, so that I may be always able to please You, my Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
O how worthy of love is this great God who out of his infinite goodness has given his own Son for the redemption of all men. Yes, truly, for all men in general but for me in particular, who am the chief of sinners! Ah, he has loved me! I say he has loved even me, even me myself, I say, such as I am, and has delivered himself to his passion for me.
O God, what love can we have sufficiently worthy of the infinite goodness of our Creator, who from all eternity has determined to create, preserve, govern, redeem, save, and glorify all men in general and each man in particular? Ah, what was I when I was not? What was I, I who even now when I am something am still only a mere, pitiful worm of the earth? Yet from the depths of his eternity God thought thoughts of benediction in my behalf. He meditated and planned, yes, determined, the hour of my birth, of my baptism, of all the inspirations he would give me, and in sum, of all the benefits he would do me and offer to me. Ah, is there kindness like to such kindness?
~St. Francis de Sales, Treatise on the Love of God (Bk 12, Ch 12)
Thank you, dearest Lord, that Your kindness is everlasting, that Your love endures forever. Let my soul live to praise You! Amen.
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
“Forget not all his benefits.” Psalm 103:2
It is a delightful and profitable occupation to mark the hand of God in the lives of ancient saints, and to observe his goodness in delivering them, his mercy in pardoning them, and his faithfulness in keeping his covenant with them. But would it not be even more interesting and profitable for us to remark the hand of God in our own lives? Ought we not to look upon our own history as being at least as full of God, as full of his goodness and of his truth, as much a proof of his faithfulness and veracity, as the lives of any of the saints who have gone before? We do our Lord an injustice when we suppose that he wrought all his mighty acts, and showed himself strong for those in the early time, but doth not perform wonders or lay bare his arm for the saints who are now upon the earth. Let us review our own lives. Surely in these we may discover some happy incidents, refreshing to ourselves and glorifying to our God. Have you had no deliverances? Have you passed through no rivers, supported by the divine presence? Have you walked through no fires unharmed? Have you had no manifestations? Have you had no choice favors? The God who gave Solomon the desire of his heart, hath he never listened to you and answered your requests? That God of lavish bounty of whom David sang, “Who satisfieth thy mouth with good things”, hath he never satiated you with fatness? Have you never been made to lie down in green pastures? Have you never been led by the still waters? Surely the goodness of God has been the same to us as to the saints of old. Let us, then, weave his mercies into a song. Let us take the pure gold of thankfulness, and the jewels of praise and make them into another crown for the head of Jesus. Let our souls give forth music as sweet and as exhilarating as came from David’s harp, while we praise the Lord whose mercy endureth for ever.
Dearest Lord, forgive me my forgetfulness. Thank You for Your many benefits to me, so far beyond measure, and help me to remember them always so that I may spend my life weaving Your mercies into song. Amen.
Sunday, October 25, 2009
In today's gospel (Mk 10:46-52), we meet up with the blind beggar Bartimaeus. Despite people telling him to pipe down, Bartimaeus persists in crying out to Jesus and finally manages to attract His attention. Upon calling Bartimaeus over to him, Jesus asks him, "What do you want me to do for you?"
"Lord," he replies, "I want to see."
What a wonderful prayer! Straight from the heart! It gives me confidence and hope in my own feeble attempts at prayer. I also yearn to see. But what exactly do I desire to see?
Lord, I want to see your splendor shining throughout your universe. I want to see your goodness inherent in all of your creation. I want to see the radiance of your life incarnated in every person I meet. I want to see the beauty of your truth, which alone sets us free.
Lord, I want to see the endless possibilities of growth and conversion that surround us each day. I want to see the wonders of your love enfolding us wherever we go, whatever we do. I want to see the wisdom of your ways, so far beyond our comprehension. I want to see our sufferings and deaths redeemed and transformed by your passion and resurrection.
Lord, I want to see the magnificent liberty that is ours as the children of God. I want to see the myriad marvels that unite us into one family, one heart, one soul, one body in you. I want to see the countless opportunities you give us day after day to love and serve each other, especially the least of our brothers and sisters. I want to see your grace and mercy at work in my life and the lives of others.
O Lord, I want to see with the eyes of faith for only then can I see you, present everywhere in quiet, hidden joy, even in our brokenness, pain and sorrow. And this above all is my greatest longing -- to see you. I do already, but through a glass, darkly. Help me to live here and now in such a way that when my life on this earth ends, I will indeed see you face-to-face, my Lord and God.
Saturday, October 24, 2009
make the peace we pray for a reality:
may we live our days in quiet joy
and, with the help of the Virgin Mary's prayers,
safely reach your kingdom.
Grant this through Christ our Lord.
from The Liturgy of the Hours, Saturday Daytime Prayer
Friday, October 23, 2009
O God of Loveliness, Your beauty shines forth in the autumn fire and every flaming leaf proclaims Your glory. The splendor of Your creation dazzles us with Your radiance. "What then must you be like, dear God, eternal loveliness!"
Thursday, October 22, 2009
Everything in the world has a hidden meaning…Men, animals, trees, stars, they are all hieroglyphics. When you see them you do not understand them. You think they are really men, animals, trees, stars. It is only years later that you understand. ~Nikos Kazantzakis
Dear God, may I always have reverence for Your creation and patience with myself when I understand neither it nor You, our Creator. Amen.
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
Keep us, O God, from all pettiness;
let us be large in thought, in word, in deed.
Let us be done with fault-finding
and leave off all self-seeking.
May we put away all pretense and meet each other
face-to-face without self-pity and without prejudice.
May we never be hasty in judgment
and always generous.
Let us take time for all things,
and make us to grow calm, serene, and gentle.
Teach us to put into action our better impulses,
straightforward and unafraid.
Grant that we may realize that it is
the little things of life that create differences,
that in the big things of life, we are as one.
And, O Lord, God, let us not forget to be kind!
Mary Stuart, Queen of Scotland, 1542-1587
Monday, October 19, 2009
This ethereal image that my sister Annie captured recently has been sitting on my prayer altar since she sent it to me. It reminds me of St. Paul's letter to the Philippians where he says that one thing he does is, "forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus" (Phil 3:13-14). Today I am especially thinking of and praying with this passage (Phil 3:7-16) because it's my birthday, a time I like to use to assess with gratitude and repentance the past year and to spiritually prepare for the new one opening up before me. I find that life can often be murky for, as St. Paul readily admits, "we see through a glass, darkly" (1 Cor 13:12). Yet the light of faith reveals to me the knowledge of Christ and the power of His resurrection, so that my sharing in His sufferings do not overwhelm me but become a source of joy as I am being conformed to His death (Phil 3:10-11).
Psalm 139 is also my special prayer and meditation today as I praise and thank God for His astounding, everlasting love for me. The Grail Psalter entitles this psalm "The Hound of Heaven," and I am so happy that God has always hounded me and continues to do so. He never leaves me high and dry, even when I've brought such misery upon myself. Sometimes I get stuck in the murkiness of life and either can't find my way out or just prefer to stay there and wallow, but for Him, even darkness is not dark and the night shines as the day (vs 12). God, who truly knows my heart and its deepest desires, lovingly keeps me from following the crooked way and leads me in the path of life eternal (vs 23-24). Truly, "I praise you for you are fearful and wonderful. Wonderful are your works!" (vs 14)
Thank you, so kind and gracious Lord, for the joy of birthdays, the wonder of my being, and the glory of YOU! Amen. Alleluia!
Sunday, October 18, 2009
PRAYER OF ABANDONMENT
by Charles de Foucauld
I abandon myself into your hands;
do with me what you will.
Whatever you may do, I thank you:
I am ready for all, I accept all.
Let only your will be done in me,
and in all your creatures.
I ask no more than this, O Lord.
Into your hands I commend my spirit;
I offer it to you with all the love of my heart,
for I love you, Lord,
and so need to give myself,
to surrender myself into your hands,
and with boundless confidence,
for you are my Father.
As much as I like this prayer, and as frequently as I have prayed it over the past 40 some years, it's not an easy prayer for me. More often that not, the words stick in my throat. In truth, I do not always thank my Father for whatever He does, no more than I am ready for all and I accept all. I am still a rebellious enough child to want that my will rather than my Father's will be done. And because most of the time I am selfish and afraid, I don't always give my Father all the love of my heart. Yet I can and do say with sincerity and honesty the first and last lines of this prayer: "Father, I abandon myself into Your hands...for You are my Father." These two lines are like bookends that hold together my fragmented desires to be all and only my Father's child and to seek nothing but His will, for He alone is Infinite Love. With Blessed Charles of Jesus, I also have discovered that "As soon as I believed there was a God, I understood that I could not do anything other than live for him."
Other articles on the Web about Brother Charles of Jesus are Blessed Charles de Foucauld: seeking nothing but God's will, Venerable Charles de Foucauld, Charles de Foucauld, and Charles de Foucauld: From Playboy to Beatified Hermit.
Saturday, October 17, 2009
"Litany To Our Lady"
by Caryll Houselander
Lady, Giver of bread,
Give us the Bread of Life!
Fallow land for the sowing:
Darkness over the seed:
Secrecy for the growing:
Give us the living Bread.
Empty cup for the wine.
White linen spread
Without fold for the Feast,
Give us the Bread of Heaven.
Yeast and leaven,
Give us to eat.
Give us the bread in the wheat.
Lady, giver of bread.
Full grape in the vine,
Give us the strong wine
Poured into the chalice
And lifted up.
Give us the broken bread,
Give us the crust of sorrow
Hard as rye,
Give us the emptiness
Of the dark furrow,
While the great wind
Of the Spirit is blowing
and sowing seed.
Lady, giver of bread,
Field sown by the wind.
Snow white on the field.
Darkness under the snow,
The Bread of Life!
Wheat, leaven and yeast
And wine for the Feast
Give us the Bread of Life,
Lady, giver of bread,
Friday, October 16, 2009
Thursday, October 15, 2009
I was a newly-clothed, starry-eyed novice when St. Teresa brought me back to earth with a huge thud. I was given kitchen duty, which I didn't like because it prevented me from getting to some community prayers on time, plus it meant I had to leave Vespers early to take care of last-minute supper details. I wanted to spend as much time as I could in the chapel with my Beloved Jesus. "God walks amid the pots and pans," Teresa told her sisters, thus nipping in the bud all my silly little complaints and expanding my understanding of prayer and obedience.
Being a postulant was easy. We were the darlings of the community. The novices welcomed us with great enthusiasm, and the professed sisters doted upon us. Everything was new and exciting that first year in the convent. Then we received the habit, and, once the honeymoon was over, -- which was all too soon -- it was hard. More was expected of us, both interiorly and exteriorly, and rightfully so. We had been given our rule of life, not only to study but also to follow -- or, more precisely, to live. The new class of postulants looked up to us, and we had an example to set. We were not just testing the waters any longer . We had definitely set out on the waters of vowed life in community and all that it entailed -- and we were finding out that it entailed a lot, especially a lot of dying to self. Teresa spoke to me again. "It is certain that the love of God does not consist in tears, nor in this sweetness and tenderness which we for the most part desire, and with which we console ourselves; but rather in serving Him in justice, fortitude, and humility." Justice, fortitude and humility! What did I know about them? Not much, apparently -- but I could and did learn -- and am still learning.
That first year as a novice was our canoncial year, required by church law. It meant that we were secluded in the novitiate at the motherhouse except for something like an emergency trip to the hospital. We no longer had the distractions of outside activities such as taking classes at the local college in town. It was a tremendously serious and intense time of prayer, study and reflection. A wondrous time which I look back upon with much gratitude, yet also a trying time because I all I wanted to do was to pray, but I kept running into myself. I didn't always like what I saw, and I couldn't run away from myself because I had nowhere to go. Once again Teresa taught me. "A day of humble recognition of self, although there may have been many afflictions and pains, is a greater grace of God than many days of prayer."
My year as a canonical novice passed, a special time I will cherish until the day I die as I do my entire experience with the Springfield Franciscans. I left the convent the following spring when I realized that my vocation was not to religious life. But the lessons I learned from Teresa of Jesus as well as from these beautiful sisters have served me well throughout the years and continue to form me in the way of our Beloved Lord.
Thank you, St. Teresa, for showing me that prayer and love are always possible, no matter what God asks of us in the present moment!
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
Monday, October 12, 2009
But you, God of mercy and compassion, slow to anger, O Lord, abounding in love and truth, turn and take pity on me. Ps 86(85):15-16
As moderator of an online discussion group on Salesian spirituality, I post "Salesian Seeds" daily to our cyberspace spiritual family. Today I posted the above seeds with this added note: "Dear Friends, after reading the above passage from St. Francis de Sales this morning, that succinct prayer of our Salesian sister St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, whose feast we celebrate later this week on October 16, came to my mind: 'O Heart of Love, I place all my trust in Thee, for I fear all things from my own weakness, but I hope for all things from Thy goodness.' Blessed be our good Jesus, so rich in love and mercy!
I walk in a cloud of angels.
God has a throne in the secret of my soul.
I move, encircled by light,
blinded by glowing faces,
lost and bewildered in the motion of wings,
stricken by music too sublime to bear.
Splendor is everywhere.
God is always enthroned on the cherubim,
circled by seraphim.
Holy, holy, holy,
wave upon wave of endless adoration.
I walk in a cloud of angels that worship Him.
"In a Cloud of Angels "by Jessica Powers, aka Sr. Miriam of the Holy Spirit, O.C.D.
I have been savoring the poems of Jessica Powers since I discovered her in the late 80s and am always checking the Web for new articles and publications about her. There's not much out there, which makes sense in a way because her poetry says everything. Of course, it's nice to know some of the specific details of her life as well as insights others have garnered into her beautiful, luminous soul. So here are three excellent articles about her that can be found on the Web:
http://www.helpfellowship.org/OCDS%20Lessons/Lesson%2019.htm, a brief biography
http://www.helpfellowship.org/OCDS%20Lessons/Lesson%2018.htm, an article by Kieran Kavanaugh, O.C.D.
http://www.helpfellowship.org/OCDS%20Lessons/Lesson%2020.htm, an article on her spirituality by Bishop Robert Morneau, who edited the book Selected Poetry of Jessica Powers swith Regina Siegfried
Sunday, October 11, 2009
~St. Jeanne Jugan, foundress of the Little Sisters of the Poor
In St. Peter's Basicala yesterday morning, October 11, Pope Benedict XVI canonized Jeanne Jugan along with Damien de Veuster, Rafael Arnáiz Barón, Zygmunt Szczesny Felinski, and Francesc Coll y Guitart.
Saturday, October 10, 2009
Friday, October 9, 2009
"I see you're a Catholic," the priest said, smiling.
"No, Father, I'm not," the old man replied, "but someone give me these here beads and I'm tryin' to say 'em."
"Do you know the prayers?"
"Well, I know the Our Father, but on these here Hail Mary beads, I just been makin' it up."
"Oh? What have you been saying?" the young priest asked curiously.
The old man looked embarrassed. "If it ain't right, maybe you could tell me the words, Father. I just been sayin', 'Hail, Mary, you was so sweet.'"
"Keep on saying it that way," the priest said gently. "She likes it."
"And who is to say she doesn't," Sr. Maryanna wisely concludes, "this Lady who is our sweetness and our hope?"
Hail Mary, you was so sweet!
You whose branches are so bright and graceful ... who bud forth delights like the vine ... whose blossoms have become fruit fair and rich for us, your hungry children in exile ... Hail Mary, you was so sweet!
You who give forth perfume and sweet spices, like the odor of incense in the holy place .. Hail Mary, you was so sweet!
You who are sweeter than honey, better to have than honeycomb ... Hail Mary, you was so sweet!
In this valley of tears, we who eat of you hunger still, we who drink of you thirst for more ... Hail Mary, you was so sweet!
You turn your eyes of mercy toward us and give us Your Beloved Son Jesus to be our food and our drink, our strength and our glory, our way, our truth and our life ... Hail Mary, you was so sweet!
May we who yearn for you come to you and be filled with the blessed fruit of your womb, Jesus ... Hail Mary, dearest Mother, thank you for always being our life, our sweetness and our hope!
Hail Mary, you was so sweet!
(cf. Sirach 24)
Wednesday, October 7, 2009
Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you! Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.
Monday, October 5, 2009
"Who is the other? The other -- whomever you meet on the road of life, the man who lives next door, who works with you, who knows, as do you, the meaning of joy and sorrow, the fellow whom you can't stand, the one you never speak to because you never bother to look at him on the street, the one you never think of because you've never seen him...
"The other's name? John, Peter, Mary, Mr. Smith, Mrs. Jones. He lives in the same house with you, works in the same office, rides the same bus, sits next to you at the show. The other's name? Jesus Christ. Jesus lives in the same house with you, works in the same office, rides the same bus, sits next to you at the show...the other...!"
~from The Meaning of Success, by Fr. Michel Quoist
When I look into the future, I am frightened. But why plunge into the future? Only the present moment is precious to me, as the future may never enter my soul at all.
It is no longer in my power to change, correct or add to the past; for neither sages nor prophets could do that. And so, what the past has embraced I must entrust to God.
O present moment, you belong to me, whole and entire. I desire to use you as best I can. And although I am weak and small, you grant me the grace of your omnipotence.
And so, trusting in Your mercy, I walk through life a little child, offering You each day this heart burning with love for Your greater glory.
~St. Maria Faustina Kowalska, Divine Mercy In My Soul
Dear Lord, how greatly I exult in the gift, the wonder, the utter joy of this and every present moment! May I live them well for You. Thank you, my Jesus, for your divine mercy in my soul. Amen.