Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The Chambered Nautilus

Build thee more stately mansions, O my soul,
As the swift seasons roll!
Leave thy low-vaulted past!
Let each new temple, nobler than the last,
Shut thee from heaven with a dome more vast,
Till thou at length art free,
Leaving thine outgrown shell by life’s unresting sea!

Oliver Wendell Holmes

This morning I awakened to thoughts of the chambered nautilus. More specifically, the last stanza of Oliver Wendell Holmes' poem "The Chambered Nautilus" was foremost in my mind, thanks to Mrs. Cheeseman, my fourth-grade teacher who insisted that we memorize those immortal words above.

The chambered nautilus is a sea creature that lives in a shell shaped like a horn. As the nautilus increases in size, it creates new and larger chambers to inhabit, "more stately mansions" to accommodate its ongoing growth. Over its life span of 15 to 20 years, it builds approximately 30 rooms, each one "nobler than the last". Moving forward in spiral-fashion from chamber to chamber, the nautilus completely seals off each vacated one, which no longer serves its needs – "leave thy low-vaulted past!" Finally it completes its life span and leaves the imprisonment of its earthly home – "till thou at length art free!" After an open-ended life of perpetual evolution and change, the nautilus abandons its "outgrown shell by life’s unresting sea."

"In my Father's house, there are many mansions," our Lord Jesus tells us (Jn 14:2). As the swift seasons of my life roll, He is always inviting me to leave behind the past and move into the future. However, like the chambered nautilus that dwells only and totally in its current chamber, which perfectly accommodates it, I must live in the present moment, where the adorable will of God abides. "The will of God has only delights, favors and riches for all souls who are obedient to it," Fr. Jean-Pierre de Caussade writes in his time-honored classic Abandonment to Divine Providence. "We cannot trust it too much or abandon ourselves to it too completely." In the present moment, I find all that I could possibly need or want because HE is there.

Again I turn to de Caussade. "The present moment is always overflowing with immeasurable riches, far more than you are able to hold. Your faith will measure it out to you: as you believe, so you will receive.... Every moment the will of God is stretched out before us like a vast ocean which the desires of our hearts can never empty, but more and more of it will be ours as our souls grow in faith, in trust and in love.... The will of God alone can satisfy us."

O my soul! Today, through the grace of God, I will happily dwell in the stately mansion of the present moment yet I will gladly leave it behind for a new temple whenever my Lord beckons.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Little Things

Miss no single opportunity of making some small sacrifice, here by a smiling look, there by a kindly word; always doing the smaller right and doing it all for love. ~St. Thérèse of Lisieux

Dear Lord, let me never overlook the little things that so beautifully make for love. Amen.

Monday, June 28, 2010

The Adventure of Following Our Lord

In the Gospels for both today and yesterday (Mt. 8:18-22 and Lk 9:51-62, respectively), our Lord Jesus impresses upon us how we should respond to His most gracious call to follow Him. "To welcome this call, to respond to it, involves complete abandonment, without delay, without looking back, without being put off by the strangeness, the hardships, the difficulties of the road where we will not always find friends to receive us and lend us help. Might we not merely say that the adventure is not without risk, and that it is a frightening thing to fall into the hands of God?" (Days of the Lord, Volume 6, p111)

My heart quails when I consider that our Lord has "resolutely determined to journey to Jerusalem" (Lk 9:51), for there He will suffer and die. Persecution will be my lot as I journey with the Man of Sorrows. Like Him, I will be scorned and rejected. If Christ's only resting place on earth was the cross, what will mine be? If God, mighty and all-powerful, fell three times on the way to Calvary, how many times will this happen to me? What if there's no Simon to help me, no Veronica to comfort me?

But if it's terrifying to fall into the hands of God, it's also reassuring, for I hope, I believe, I know as only faith and love know…
You will show me the path of life,
the fullness of joy in your presence,
at your right hand happiness forever.
Psalm 16:11

Jesus, I trust in YOU!

Saturday, June 26, 2010

The Divine Presence

Morning Sweep by Ann L. Krumrein

Souls who try to live entirely in God
experience the divine presence
even in the smallest details of everyday life.
~Adrienne von Speyr in Lumina and New Lumina

Friday, June 25, 2010

I do not ask...

Over the past few days, fragments of a poem I memorized in high school have been popping up in my consciousness. This morning I finally looked it up: "I Do Not Ask, O Lord, That Life May Be," written by Adelaide Anne Proctor. It was the next to the last verse that captivated me as a teenager. This was my first inkling that I do not have to understand the ways of the Lord -- "I do not ask my cross to understand, /My way to see." Rather, I only need trust in Him and cling to Him -- "Better in darkness just to feel Thy hand, /And follow Thee." A few years later I would read Proverbs 3:5-6 -- "Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight." -- and add it to my spiritual survival kit. It's still there, still nourishing me, comforting me, challenging me. Blessed be the most holy Word of God!

I do not ask, O Lord, that life may be
A pleasant road;
I do not ask that Thou wouldst take from me
Aught of its load.

I do not ask that flowers should always spring
Beneath my feet;
I know too well the poison and the sting
Of things too sweet.

For one thing, only Lord, dear Lord, I plead:
Lead me aright,
Though strength should falter and though heart should bleed,
Through peace to light.

I do not ask, O Lord, that Thou shouldst shed
Full radiance here
Give but a ray of peace, that I may tread
Without a fear.

I do not ask my cross to understand,
My way to see;
Better in darkness just to feel Thy hand,
And follow Thee.

Joy is like restless day; but peace divine
Like quiet night:
Lead me, O Lord, till perfect day shall shine,
Through peace to light.

~Adelaide Anne Proctor

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Nativity of St. John the Baptist

Almighty God, by whose providence your servant John the Baptist was wonderfully born, and sent to prepare the way of your Son our Savior by preaching repentance: Make us so to follow his teaching and holy life, that we may truly repent according to his preaching; and, following his example, constantly speak the truth, boldly rebuke vice, and patiently suffer for the truth's sake; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Collect for the Feast of the Birth of John the Baptist from The Book of Common Prayer

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

St. Thomas More

Yesterday we celebrated the feast of God's indomitable servant St. Thomas More. The second reading from the Office of Readings was the following letter that he wrote to his daughter Margaret while he imprisoned in the Tower of London. His absolute trust in God, particularly while awaiting his approaching death by execution, puts me to shame but also bolsters me in my weakness. St. Thomas More, help us never to mistrust the God who is all goodness and love!

Although I know well, Margaret, that because of my past wickedness I deserve to be abandoned by God, I cannot but trust in his merciful goodness. His grace has strengthened me until now and made me content to loose goods, land, and life as well, rather than to swear against my conscience. God’s grace has given the king a gracious frame of mind toward me, so that as yet he has taken from me nothing but my liberty. In doing this His Majesty has done me such great good with respect to spiritual profit that I trust that among all the great benefits he has heaped so abundantly upon me I count my imprisonment the very greatest. I cannot, therefore, mistrust the grace of God. Either he shall keep the king in that gracious frame of mind to continue to do me no harm, or else, if it be his pleasure that for my other sins I suffer in this case as I shall not deserve, then his grace shall give me the strength to bear it patiently, and perhaps even gladly.

By the merits of his bitter passion joined to mine and far surpassing in merit for me all that I can suffer myself, his bounteous goodness shall release me from the pains of purgatory and shall increase my reward in heaven besides.

I will not mistrust him, Meg, though I shall feel myself weakening and on the verge of being overcome with fear. I shall remember how Saint Peter at a blast of wind began to sink because of his lack of faith, and I shall do as he did: call upon Christ and pray to him for help. And then I trust he shall place his holy hand on me and in the stormy seas hold me up from drowning.

And if he permits me to play Saint Peter further and to fall to the ground and to swear and forswear, may God our Lord in his tender mercy keep me from this, and let me lose if it so happen, and never win thereby! Still, if this should happen, afterward I trust that in his goodness he will look on me with pity as he did upon Saint Peter, and make me stand up again and confess the truth of my conscience afresh and endure here the shame and harm of my own fault.

And finally, Margaret, I know this well: that without my fault he will not let me be lost. I shall, therefore, with good hope commit myself wholly to him. And if he permits me to perish for my faults, then I shall serve as praise for his justice. But in good faith, Meg, I trust that his tender pity shall keep my poor soul safe and make me commend his mercy.

And, therefore, my own good daughter, do not let your mind be troubled over anything that shall happen to me in this world. Nothing can come but what God wills. And I am very sure that whatever that be, however bad it may seem, it shall indeed be the best.

~St. Thomas More

Monday, June 21, 2010

Surrendering Thoughts of Judgment

Stop judging, that you may not be judged. For as you judge, so will you be judged, and the measure with which you measure will be measured out to you. ~Matthew 7:1-2

There are times when judging someone comes all too easily to me. Then I pull out my old copy of Marianne Williamson's book Illuminata, A Return to Prayer (reviews here and here), turn to page 130, and slowly, line by line, make this powerful supplication of hers my own. By the time I reach the end, I am filled with remorse for my harshness and am resolved, with the help of God's grace, to "be of love a little more careful than of anything" (e e cummings).

Dear God, I surrender to You my thoughts of judgment.

Please heal me of my temptation to blame Your children whom You adore.

Teach me to love as You do.

Teach me to see the reality behind the superficial masks, the truth in the hearts of all Your children.

May I see the innocence in all humanity, that I may see the world of Your creation, the world anew, the world that shall be.

I relinquish my miscreations.

I surrender my belief in guilt.

Bring me home to the truth at last.

May all God’s children be innocent in my eyes, for they are all my brothers.

May I see this that the world might heal.

Dear God, give me new eyes, Your eyes.


Sunday, June 20, 2010

Taking up our cross

If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. ~Luke 9:23

Whenever I see a picture of the Hill of Crosses in Siauliai, Lithuania, I automatically think of my Lithuanian mother and her parents and all our many Lithuanian relatives. I especially remember those who suffered for our Catholic beliefs and remained faithful in spite of great opposition and persecution.

I also think of my loving Father casting His eyes over all these myriad crosses as if to select one just for me. "Not that one, it's too heavy for my girl ... no, not this one either, it's too unwieldy for her ..." and so on until He finds the single cross that will be just perfect for me and me alone. And when He presents it to me, why then I must do as Father Dom Lorenzo Scupoli advises: "Every morning, receive thine own special cross from the hands of thy heavenly Father."

My cross is my Father's gift to me. It is my share in the saving cross of His Beloved Son, my participation in His suffering and death as well as in His resurrection and life. My cross is not a burden or a nuisance but a glory and a joy. Through it, I am crucified with Christ, who loved me and gave himself for me. And I live now, not I, but Christ in me! (Gal 2:20) Glory hallelujah!

Friday, June 18, 2010

The Heart of Christ and Peace

The Christian "knows where to find the inexhaustible source from which he can draw the necessary energy to be an authentic 'peacemaker.' It flows from the Heart of him whom came into the world so that men 'may have life and have it more abundantly' (Jn 10:10). From the Heart of Christ peace is waiting to well up into a stream of new life in the hearts of all persons of good will." ~Pope John Paul II, Angelus Message of 9/22/91

Heart of Christ,
our peace and reconciliation,
have mercy on us!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Our Father

"Pray then like this: Our Father..." ~Mt. 6:9


To know you and to know myself, I must say, "Father"… Your fatherliness is likened to the woman looking for a lost coin, to the shepherd searching for a strayed sheep, above all to the father running out to embrace the selfish, sin-soiled prodigal child…

You are not the impersonal maker of something outside you: not just a ruler and judge, exacting, assessing. You are Father giving life: Father and Mother of life, with the love of a father and mother combined. Shall a mother forget her child? Yet will you not forget.

Father, in giving me origin; in giving me life shared in your Son, who shared our life. Life given in such outpoured love; you so loved that you gave your only begotten Son, that we might live by his life.

Father, in sustaining me; in all your care over me; watching not to find fault and punish, but to provide for me, to guard and cherish me; knowing all my secret needs and loving to answer them so lavishly.

Father, in my final destiny. Not a harsh, exacting judge. Fear not little flock; it hath pleased your Father to give you a kingdom; the Father himself loveth you. Father, in fulfilling my life and love.

…if I realize one tiny little bit how much you love, with what tenderness and with what unfailing strength, with what unalterable fidelity, my past and present and future will be lightened by that love. My eyes and heart will be lifted up always. I shall live so uplifted, borne from life to Life within my Father's arm.

H. P. C. Lyons, S.J. in Praying Our Prayers

Father, I adore You
Lay my life before You
How I love You!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

God loves me!

"God personally looks after me, after us, after all mankind. I am not abandoned, adrift in the universe and in a society which leaves me ever more lost and bewildered. God looks after me. He is not a distant God, for whom my life is worthless.... It is fine and consoling to know that there is someone who loves me and looks after me. But it is far more important that there is a God who knows me, loves me and is concerned about me. "I know my own and my own know me" (Jn 10:14)... God knows me, he is concerned about me. This thought should make us truly joyful. Let us allow it to penetrate the depths of our being...." ~Pope Benedict XVI, Homily on the Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, June 11, 2010

The above words of our Holy Father, which he spoke in his homily at the closing Mass of the Year for Priests, make my heart sing! God knows me and loves me! This knowledge, this reality, is a rock for me, just as the Lord Himself is my rock. "I love you, Lord, my strength, my rock, my fortress, my savior. My God is the rock where I take refuge; my shield, my mighty help, my stronghold!" (Ps 18:2-3)

It is in the Sacred Heart of Jesus that I have always found the surest sign of God's deep, enduring love for me and for all. "Behold this heart which has so loved men," our Lord said to St. Margaret Mary when he revealed His Sacred Heart to her. The apparitions of this Visitandine nun were private revelations that took place during the years 1673-1675 at the Visitation Convent in Paray-le-Monial. Three hundred and thirty-five years later, the devotion generated by these apparitions still attracts the hearts of men, women and children throughout the world. Actually, it's not the devotion that so attracts our poor, feeble hearts but the love of God revealed to us in and through the heart of His Beloved Son.
Heart deep as the nights that have no face...
Heart strong as the waves that have no shores...
Heart tender as little children that have no bitterness...
Royal Heart in the flowing mantle of Thy blood...
Brother-Heart in the wild mockery of the thorny crown...
Breaking Heart in the stark ornament of Thy death wounds...
Heart dethroned, Heart betrayed, Heart cruelly martyred...
Heart before whom the mighty find their knees...
Heart before whom the careless find their tears...
Heart in whom thieves and murderers yet find forgiveness...
Great Heart, Heart of mercy, Heart of glory...
Whispering nearness in which parted friends may meet...
Comforting lamp of the distressed...
Lighthouse of the persecuted and the disgraced...
Hidden chamber in which the gentle dead may yet breathe...
All-knowing Heart, all-guiding Heart, ultimate Heart...
Heart that takes us all to itself...
Heart that strikes the center of all our hearts...
Heart that breaks the proud hearts of us all...
Heart that makes solitude into a great people...
Heart that makes discord into a united people...
Heart in which the whole world becomes Thy people...
Heart from which the heavens draw their glory...
Heart from which suns and constellations draw their beginning and their end...
Heart from which the souls of the blessed draw their blessedness...
Mighty Heart, ineluctable Heart, all-consuming Heart...
World-ordering Heart, world-conquering Heart, Thou only Heart of hearts...

That Thy Dawn may break with kindling light,
We consecrate ourselves to Thy love.
That Thy day may bring fire to our hearts,
We consecrate ourselves to Thy love.
That Thy day may burn all our hearts into Thine,
We consecrate ourselves to Thy love...
Amen. Amen.
May the day of Thine infinite love come quickly.

Gertrude von le Fort, Litany of the Sacred Heart

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Love Your Enemies

But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you. ~Mt 5:44
"Give me Your grace, good think my greatest enemies my best friends; for the brothers of Joseph could never have done him so much good with their love and favor as they did him with their malice and hatred." ~Prayer of St. Thomas More (written while he was in the Tower of London awaiting his execution)

Monday, June 14, 2010

The Truck Driver

Did you hear the one about the truck driver...?

Late one summer evening in Broken Bow, Nebraska, a weary truck driver pulled his rig into an all-night truck stop. The waitress had just served him when three tough looking, leather jacketed motorcyclists -- of the Hell’s Angels type -- decided to give him a hard time. Not only did they verbally abuse him, one grabbed the hamburger off his plate, another took a handful of his French fries, and the third picked up his coffee and began to drink it.

How would you respond? Well, this trucker did not respond as one might expect. Instead, he calmly rose, picked up his check, walked to the front of the room, put the check and his money on the cash register, and went out the door. The waitress followed him to put the money in the till and stood watching out the door as the big truck drove away into the night.

When she returned, one of the bikers said to her, "Well, he’s not much of a man, is he?" She replied, "I don’t know about that, but he sure ain’t much of a truck driver. He just ran over three motorcycles on his way out of the parking lot."
Now that's the antithesis of our Lord's instructions to love rather than retaliate! Revenge has no place in the heart and life of the follower of Jesus. We are to turn the other cheek and go the extra mile, Christ tells us in His Sermon on the Mount (see today's gospel, Mt 5:38-42). Human nature by itself cannot do this. Only grace can accomplish this. I must give my poor, weak heart, so naturally inclined to strike back and cause pain, to the One who alone can heal and transform me. Of Him, Peter says, "When he was insulted, he returned no insult; when he suffered, he did not threaten; instead, he handed himself over to the one who judges justly" (1 Pt 2:23). I must continually hand myself over to Him for by His wounds I am healed (1 Pet 2:24).

Jesus, meek and humble of heart,
make our hearts like unto Thine!

P.S. I know that truck driver. He lives in my heart. Dear Lord, protect and deliver me from myself!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Conclusion of The Year for Priests

The Year for Priests concluded this past Friday, June 11, which was also the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. On this occasion, Pope Benedict XVI celebrated Mass at St. Peter's Square in Rome, where thousands of priests had gathered for the closing ceremonies of this holy year. In his homily at this Mass, the Holy Father spoke simply but profoundly of the sacrament of the priesthood.

The priest is not a mere office-holder, like those which every society needs in order to carry out certain functions. Instead, he does something which no human being can do of his own power: in Christ’s name he speaks the words which absolve us of our sins and in this way he changes, starting with God, our entire life. Over the offerings of bread and wine he speaks Christ’s words of thanksgiving, which are words of transubstantiation – words which make Christ himself present, the Risen One, his Body and Blood – words which thus transform the elements of the world, which open the world to God and unite it to him.

The priesthood, then, is not simply "office" but sacrament: God makes use of us poor men in order to be, through us, present to all men and women, and to act on their behalf. This audacity of God who entrusts himself to human beings – who, conscious of our weaknesses, nonetheless considers men capable of acting and being present in his stead – this audacity of God is the true grandeur concealed in the word "priesthood".
The "audacity of God" is most astonishing. Indeed, it's almost shocking. The logical mind cannot grasp it. Only the believing heart can accept it. Our faith as Catholics is not in the priesthood or in any of the sacraments as such. Rather, our faith is in God, who works in ways the world neither knows nor understands. But we know the One in whom we have believed, and we rejoice that through the sacrament of holy orders, Christ Himself becomes our forgiveness and our Eucharist. Thanks be to God for our many dedicated priests, who daily lay down their lives for us in faith, love, and service. The Year for Priests has ended, but may our prayers of gratitude and petition for them never cease! Amen! Alleluia!

My dear people,
let us pray that God the all-powerful Father

will pour out abundantly the gifts of heaven
on these, his servants,
whom he has chosen for the office of priest.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Today's Feast: The Immaculate Heart of Mary

Litany of the Immaculate Heart of Mary
by Venerable Cardinal John Henry Newman

Lord, have mercy. Lord, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy. Christ, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy. Lord, have mercy.
Christ, hear us. Christ, graciously hear us.

God the Father of Heaven, have mercy on us.
God the Son, redeemer of the world...
God the Holy Spirit...
Holy Trinity, one God...

Heart of Mary, pray for us.
Heart of Mary, after God’s own Heart...
Heart of Mary, in union with the Heart of Jesus...
Heart of Mary, the vessel of the Holy Spirit...
Heart of Mary, shrine of the Trinity...
Heart of Mary, home of the Word...
Heart of Mary, immaculate in your creation...
Heart of Mary, flooded with grace...
Heart of Mary, blessed of all hearts...
Heart of Mary, Throne of glory...
Heart of Mary, Abyss of humbleness...
Heart of Mary, Victim of love...
Heart of Mary, nailed to the cross...
Heart of Mary, comfort of the sad...
Heart of Mary, refuge of the sinner...
Heart of Mary, hope of the dying...
Heart of Mary, seat of mercy...

Lamb of God, who take away the sins of the world, Spare us, O Lord.
Lamb of God, who take away the sins of the world, Graciously hear us, O Lord.
Lamb of God, who take away the sins of the world, Have mercy on us.

L: Immaculate Mary, meek and humble of heart.
A: Conform our hearts to the heart of Jesus.

Let us pray: O most merciful God, who for the salvation of sinners and the refuge of the wretched, has made the Immaculate Heart of Mary most like in tenderness and pity to the Heart of Jesus, grant that we, who now commemorate her most sweet and loving heart, may by her merits and intercession, ever live in the fellowship of the hearts of both Mother and Son, through the same Christ our Lord. Amen.

According to Catholic Culture, "The saintly John Henry Newman, in filial devotion to the Mother of God and of man, composed this litany in honor of the Immaculate Heart soon after his reception into the Catholic Church (1845). A garbled version, without giving the convert the credit of its creation, was included in the Golden Manual of 1851, under title of 'The Sacred Heart of Mary'; a 'Litany of the Heart of Mary,' either adapted from this or written by a coincidence in very similar language, was published in Help of Christians (1863, 1875). " This particular litany, like so many of the 200+ litanies of the Catholic Church (for further information and inspiration, see "A Treasure of 206 Litanies") , is for private devotion only. Aquinas and More in its article on litanies, "an old and deeply spiritual form of prayer," lists the six litanies that the Church has officially proved for public recitation.

During the nine months of preparation immediately preceding my consecration as a virgin living in the world, I made a point of praying each day Cardinal Newman's Litany to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. The consecrated virgin has a special love for and devotion to Our Lady, whose immaculate heart God made the home of the eternal Word and the sanctuary of the Holy Spirit (see Opening Prayer, Mass of the Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary). As Pope Benedict XVI explains, "The heart that resembles that of Christ more than any other is without a doubt the Heart of Mary, his Immaculate Mother" (6/5/05).

Those nine months of intense preparation were like a pregnancy to me. I spent them in Mary's womb and heart as the life of her Beloved Son, my Beloved Bridegroom, took new form within me. The rite of consecration that Archbishop Joseph Fiorenza bestowed upon me on that grand and glorious day six years ago was both wedding and birth, and Our Lady was my mother of the bride and my midwife.

To live in and from the Immaculate Heart of Mary is to live in and from the Sacred Heart of her Beloved Son Jesus. According to the French missionary St. John Eudes, the Hearts of Jesus and Mary were and are so identical in their spirit, affection and will that they were and are but one single heart: "You must never separate what God has so perfectly united. So closely are Jesus and Mary bound up with each other that whoever beholds Jesus sees Mary; whoever loves Jesus, loves Mary; whoever has devotion to Jesus, has devotion to Mary."

Immaculate Heart of Mary, may we always love and praise you!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus

Today we celebrate the Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus. Again I turn to Pope John Paul II who, Carl J. Moell, S.J. wrote in Holy Father, Sacred Heart, "among his many achievements, merits the title 'Pope of the Sacred Heart'". Pope John Paul II wrote and spoke more on the Heart of Jesus than any other pope in history. Fr. Moell's book Holy Father, Sacred Heart: The Wisdom of John Paul II on the Greatest Catholic Devotion, is a wonderful compilation of and excellent commentary on his complete writings on the Sacred Heart. This book belongs in the home of every Catholic devoted to the Sacred Heart!

Today I quote from the homily that Pope John Paul II gave during Sacred Heart Devotions in Elbag, Poland on June 6, 1999. He begins by stating that "Everything that God wanted to tell us about himself and about his love he placed in the Heart of Jesus, and by means of that Heart he has told us everything. We find ourselves before an inscrutable mystery. In Jesus’ Heart we read the eternal divine plan of the world’s salvation. It is a plan of love."

This inscrutable mystery, this eternal divine plan of love, deserves our constant attention. It is Jesus Himself whom we praise and worship, before whom we, "adoring, bend the knee." And our love for Him does not end there in our adoration of Him, it has only begun. As Pope John Paul II continues in his homily, "meditating on God’s love, revealed in the Heart of his Son, requires a consistent response on our part. We have not been called only to contemplate the mystery of Christ’s love, but take part in it. Christ says: 'If you love me, you will keep my commandments' (Jn 14:15). He thus places before us a great calling and at the same time a condition: if you want to love me, keep my commandments, keep God’s holy law, walk in the way that I have shown you."

True devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus thus involves the whole person. I am to love the Lord our God with all my heart, all my soul, all my strength, and all my mind (Lk 10:27, Mk 12:30, Mt 22:37). This is the inscrutable mystery and the eternal divine plan of love that God reveals to us in the Sacred Heart. Especially today, let us pray for each other to more fully live in and from the Heart of our Beloved Lord.

Heart in which the whole world becomes Thy people:
We consecrate ourselves to Thy love.
Overflowing Heart, overflaming Heart, overstorming Heart:
Be loved, Love, everlasting Love, be everlastingly loved.
That Thy Dawn may break with kindling light,
We consecrate ourselves to Thy love.
That Thy day may bring fire to our hearts,
We consecrate ourselves to Thy love.
That Thy day may burn all our hearts into Thine,
We consecrate ourselves to Thy love,
Mighty Heart, ineluctable Heart, all-consuming Heart.
Gertrude von le Fort

Thursday, June 10, 2010

O Heart of Love!

Over the years I've garnered a variety of prayers to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. This succinct one by St. Margaret Mary, known as the "Apostle of Devotion to the Sacred Heart", packs a powerful punch:
O Heart of Love, I place all my trust in Thee, for I fear all things from my weakness but hope for all things from Thy goodness.
This prayer became a daily one of mine a long time ago when a disingenuous coworker was making life difficult for me. I was feeling most acutely the pain of being human, especially my fierce desire to retaliate. Then, as always, my only recourse was love -- not mine, but His. In the Sacred Heart of my Lord I found refuge from the storm and strength for the battle. The biggest storm and battle were, of course, within myself, and as I kept surrendering my poor heart to His magnificent Heart, I learned from Him the yet more excellent way of His eternal love.

I am still learning, thanks be to God! Each day my Beloved Lord calls me anew: "Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for your selves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light." (Mt 11:28-30) How happy I am to come to HIM!
P.S. In yesterday's blog post, I mentioned the well-worn cartoon that my father always carried in his wallet of a woman dressed in her wedding gown and bridal veil, talking on the phone and exclaiming, "Ready? I've been ready for eight years!" I neglected to add that in his typical humorous fashion, Daddy had written a single word over the head of this woman -- "Gladys", my mother's name.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

The Litany of the Sacred Heart of Jesus

During the month of June, traditionally devoted to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, what better prayer could we pray daily than the Litany of the Sacred Heart? Pope John Paul II stressed this in his Angelus message of 6/27/82, an excerpt from which appears below. Each day of this month I am focusing on a single line from this beautiful prayer, meditating upon it and letting it form and inform me, making it the cry of my heart as I make my daily rounds and especially when I pray. Happily, this litany can be found all over the Web on 62,000+ sights, such as here, here, here, here, and here.

Thanks to my beloved parents, I have a great love for and devotion to the Sacred Heart. My most treasured material possession, which I wear constantly, is a very small but lovely scapular medal that Daddy gave Mummie when he was courting her. It has the Sacred Heart on one side and Our Lady of Mount Carmel on the other. During their long courtship, they used to meet each other and take the bus together to morning Mass on the First Friday of the month. Daddy liked to tell me the story about Mummie finally saying to him, after about eight years, "Richard, don't you think it's about time that we got married?" And, thankfully, they did! Daddy used to carry a well-worn cartoon in his wallet of a woman dressed in her wedding gown and bridal veil, talking on the phone and exclaiming, "Ready? I've been ready for eight years!" Ah, what a patient woman my mother was!

Blessed be the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus!!

The month of June is especially dedicated to the veneration of the Divine Heart. Not just one day, the liturgical feast that usually falls in June, but every day. Connected with it is the devout practice of daily reciting or singing the Litany of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

It is a marvelous prayer, totally concentrated on the interior mystery of Christ, the God-Man. The Litany to the Heart of Jesus craws abundantly from biblical sources, and at the same time reflects the deepest experiences of human hearts. It is also a prayer of veneration and authentic dialogue.

In it we speak of the Heart, and we also allow our hearts to speak with this unique Heart that is the "fountain of life and holiness" and the "desire of the everlasting hills," with the Heart that is "patient and most merciful," enriching all who call upon him.

This prayer, recited and meditated, becomes a true school of the interior life, the school of the Christian.... Reciting the litany -- and in general venerating the Divine Heart -- we learn the mystery of redemption in all its divine and human depth.

At the same time we become sensitive to the need for reparation. Christ opens his Heart to us that we may join him in his reparation for the salvation of the world. The language of the pierced Heart speaks the whole truth about his gospel and about Easter.

Let us try to understand this language even better.

~Pope John Paul II, Angelus message of June 27, 1982

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Lord, come in!

For about 30 years now, my dear sweet sister Annie has given me as a Christmas present the current Printery House Desk Calendar. It sits on my prayer altar, where I can jot down special dates and prayer intentions. I always enjoy both the artwork and quotes and have saved more than a few pages. The fact that Annie has her own copy makes it all the more special as we share together the quotes and related thoughts throughout the year. Today's quote is from a favorite writer of mine, the English Anglo-Catholic mystic, Evelyn Underhill:

Lord, come in! Enter my small life! Give me your very self.

Evelyn published 39 books, and because I was curious about which one contained this quote, I searched the Web. I didn't find the source, but I came across her entire prayer:

Lord! Give me courage and love to open the door and constrain you to enter, whatever the disguise you come in, even before I fully recognise my guest.

Come in! Enter my small life!

Lay your sacred hands on all the common things and small interests of that life and bless and change them. Transfigure my small resources, make them sacred. And in them give me your very self.


I wonder if Evelyn wrote this prayer later in her life. Earlier in her life, she wrote on mysticism (those books include Mysticism: A Study in the Nature and Development of Man's Spiritual Consciousness and Practical Mysticism), but later she wrote about the spiritual life as lived by ordinary people. It is the writing of her latter years that speak most to me in my own very ordinary life.

In addition to writing, Evelyn devoted herself to to visiting the poor and to the direction of souls. Two good biographies of her can be found on the Web here and here.

Christ wants not nibblers of the possible but grabbers of the impossible. ~Evelyn Underhill

Monday, June 7, 2010

Cum Panis

Each of us who belong to the Church needs to leave the closed world of his individuality and accept the "companionship" of others who "break bread" with us. We must think not in terms of "me" but "we". That's why every day we pray "our" Father, "our" daily bread. Breaking down the barriers between us and our neighbours is the first prerequisite for entering the divine life to which we are called. We need to be liberated from all that imprisons us and isolates us: fear and mistrust towards others, greed and selfishness, unwillingness to run the risk of vulnerability to which we expose ourselves when we are open to love. ~Pope Benedict XVI, Homily of Corpus Christi, June 6, 2010

Our Holy Father makes it clear that the Eucharist cannot be lived in isolation. The refrain of one the popular songs in our church today begins with "We are companions on the journey." Companions are not just friends or buddies. The word companion comes from the Latin noun "panis", which means "bread", and the Latin preposition "com", which means "with". First and foremost, we are companions with Jesus Christ, who calls us His friends (Jn 15:14-15). The bread that we share with each other is His Body, which He gives us for the life of the world (Jn 6:51). In the Eucharist, through the power of the Holy Spirit, our friendship with Christ and our companionship with each other are united into one glorious whole, a sacrifice of love to the praise and glory of the Father, a living icon of the Holy Trinity. Alleluia!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Today's Solemnity: The Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ

You loved me from all eternity,
therefore you created me.
You loved me after you had made me,
therefore you became man for me.
You loved me after you became man for me,
therefore you lived and died for me.
You loved me after you had died for me,
therefore you rose again for me.
You loved me after you had risen for me,
therefore you went to prepare a place for me.
You loved me after you had gone to prepare a place for me,
therefore you came back to me.
You loved me after you came back to me,
therefore you desired to enter into me and be united to me.
This is the meaning of the Blessed Sacrament.
The mystery of love.
~Archbishop Alban Goodier

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Are You Ready To Be Poured Out As an Offering?

I am already being poured out as a drink offering. ~2 Timothy 4:6

Are you ready to be poured out as an offering? It is an act of your will, not your emotions. Tell God you are ready to be offered as a sacrifice for Him. Then accept the consequences as they come, without any complaints, in spite of what God may send your way. God sends you through a crisis in private, where no other person can help you. From the outside your life may appear to be the same, but the difference is taking place in your will. Once you have experienced the crisis in your will, you will take no thought of the cost when it begins to affect you externally. If you don’t deal with God on the level of your will first, the result will be only to arouse sympathy for yourself.

“Bind the sacrifice with cords to the horns of the altar” ( Psalm 118:27 ). You must be willing to be placed on the altar and go through the fire; willing to experience what the altar represents -- burning, purification, and separation for only one purpose -- the elimination of every desire and affection not grounded in or directed toward God. But you don’t eliminate it, God does. You “bind the the horns of the altar” and see to it that you don’t wallow in self-pity once the fire begins. After you have gone through the fire, there will be nothing that will be able to trouble or depress you. When another crisis arises, you will realize that things cannot touch you as they used to do. What fire lies ahead in your life?

Tell God you are ready to be poured out as an offering, and God will prove Himself to be all you ever dreamed He would be.

~Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest, reading for February 6

Friday, June 4, 2010

"Where my dear Jesus dwells..."

There, where my dear Jesus dwells,
where He is enthroned in the tabernacle,
there I wish to be kneeling continually.
There, I wish to pray unceasingly:
Jesus, I love You deeply.
Hidden Love, I adore You.
Abandoned Love, I adore You.
Despised Love, I adore You.
Love trampled underfoot, I adore You.
Infinite Love, dying on the Cross for us, I adore You.
My dear Lord and Savior, make it be
that I am all love and expiation
toward the Most Blessed Sacrament
in the heart of Your most loving Mother Mary.

The above prayer comes from Maria Stang, a holy German woman who was deported by Stalin’s regime to a labor camp in Kazakhstan. There, where cruelty reigned and fear held sway, where believers were persecuted and severely punished, Maria persevered in her faith, teaching and bringing it to many. Through her constant prayer and endless sacrifices, she kept alive the love of Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament.

Imagine being in a concentration camp, where absolutely everything has been taken away from a person, and still making sacrifices. Ah, such are the wonders of God's love! "Sweet Sacrament, we Thee adore! Oh, make us love Thee more and more! Oh, make us love Thee more and more!"

Thursday, June 3, 2010

"Prayer Before Study"

"Prayer Before Study" by St. Thomas Aquinas

Ineffable Creator,
Who, from the treasures of Your wisdom,
has established three hierarchies of angels,
has arrayed them in marvelous order
above the fiery heavens,
and has marshaled the regions
of the universe with such artful skill,

You are proclaimed
the true font of light and wisdom,
and the primal origin
raised high beyond all things.

Pour forth a ray of Your brightness
into the darkened places of my mind;
disperse from my soul
the twofold darkness
into which I was born:
sin and ignorance.

You make eloquent the tongues of infants.
Refine my speech
and pour forth upon my lips
the goodness of Your blessing.

Grant to me
keenness of mind,
capacity to remember,
skill in learning,
subtlety to interpret,
and eloquence in speech.

May You
guide the beginning of my work,
direct its progress,
and bring it to completion.

You Who are true God and true Man,
Who live and reign, world without end.


There's a story to the above prayer. Make it two stories.

The first story is how I came by this prayer. I first heard it from Dr. Freda Mary Oben when I attended a series of talks she gave on St. Edith Stein during the 90s in the Washington, DC area. Dr. Oben opened her first talk with this prayer, explaining that throughout her life she has always prayed it prior to studying. I was so moved by both this spiritual practice of hers and the prayer itself, a copy of which she gave us, that I resolved henceforth to do the same whenever I sat down to study. As an aside, Dr. Dr. Oben is a noted authority on the life and works of St. Edith Stein. Like St. Edith, Dr. Oben converted from Judaism. Her discovery of this famous German
philosopher and educator and Carmelite contemplative nun was, as she describes it, "the beginning of my love affair with Edith Stein". Dr. Oben has since devoted over 40 years of research to St. Edith, including writing books and articles, lecturing, and appearing on radio, television and CD Rom. I was mesmerized listening to Dr. Oben speak about St. Edith. Her extensive knowledge and keen understanding of St. Edith are surpassed only by her deep love and great affection for her.

Now for the second story.

Recently I purchased from Amazon Peter Kreeft's tome Summa of the Summa, The Essential Philosophical Passages of the Summa Theologica. As almost everyone knows, The Summa Theologica was written by St. Thomas Aquinas, one of the greatest philosophers who ever lived. According to Kreeft, "This book differs from all other books on Saint Thomas because it gives the words of Thomas himself, not a modern summary, but pared down to essentials, and with footnotes which do what a professor in a class would do." Since I've never read the Summa and don't anticipate taking a class on it any time soon, and since my spiritual father thought this book would be a good one for me to read, I placed my order with Amazon for two copies -- one copy for me and one for my friend Susana, who had told me that she was interested in it, too.

Summa of the Summa is a sizable book. It is 539 pages, measures 9.1 x 6.1 x 1.4 inches, and weighs 1.6 pounds. It contains an enormous amount of footnotes, and there's hardly a page without one. In fact, the footnotes seem to make up half of the book. True, I'm an assiduous reader of footnotes; nonetheless, overall this book looks a bit formidable. And after leafing through it, I could hear my dear father reminding me, as he so often did while he was alive, that "Fools rush in where angels fear to tread." Gulp! Daddy departed from this earth 38 years ago, but I'm still learning the wisdom of those words penned by Alexander Pope. What makes me think I can actually read – not to mention digest, understand and apply -- such heady stuff? I'm not stupid, mind you, but, St. Thomas Aquinas is one bright and serious man!

Before I had a chance to give Susana her copy, I told her that I had received our copies of Kreeft's book. I mentioned what a project we've taken on and she said, "Oh, isn't that book kind of a small?" Oh no, I chortled, not at all small, and then proceeded to give her some specific details, which apparently alarmed her because her eyes got rather large and she said, "Stop it! You're scaring me!"

"You're scared?" I practically screeched. "What about me? You're the one with the brain! And the college education! How do you think I feel?"

If Susana's scared, I'm terrified.

And that's when I thought of the above "Prayer Before Study" by St. Thomas Aquinas and decided to glue it inside my copy of Summa of the Summa. Susana gets a copy of the prayer, too. We'll depend on our "Ineffable Creator… the true font of light and wisdom" to guide us through the Summa and to make us grow in love as we grow in knowledge of Him. St. Thomas Aquinas, please pray for us!

P.S. I think I ordered the wrong book for Susana. I thought I knew which one she meant when she first told me of her interest in Kreeft's book on the Summa. There is a shorter book by him called A Shorter Summa: The Essential Philosophical Passages of Saint Thomas Aquinas' Summa Theologica, a mere 162 pages and 8 ounces. Oops!

Luckily for Susana and me, there won't be a test!

Today's Feast: St. Charles Lwanga and Companions, martyrs

If you were to travel in Uganda to the small town of Námugónga, a few miles from Kampala, you would find there at the Anglican Church one of the most bizarre memorials ever erected—it is a large cross, and piled like cordwood beneath the cross are some 25 life-sized ceramic figures, with their heads and shoulders protruding from bundles of wood and cane rods which encase the bodies. The figures memorialize the 13 Anglican and 12 Roman Catholic native converts—most of them young boys—each of whom was wrapped in such a bundle of flammable material and burned alive on a great pyre in Námugónga by the Kabáka (or King) Mwánga in 1886. In all, between May 25 and June 3, as many as 100 native Christian converts were martyred by the Kabáka...

The problem that finally brought matters to a head was Mwanga’s sexual taste for handsome young men and boys whom he enlisted as “pages” at his court. But when those boys and young men were converted to Christianity, they refused to be sexually exploited by the king, and Mwánga viewed that as insubordination. When he returned disgruntled from an unsuccessful hunting trip on May 25, 1886, none of the court pages were willing to greet him and his anger boiled over.... The next morning he summoned all his pages. Probably they had anticipated the summons and its outcome, because all the young Catholic catechumens had been baptized that night, and the Anglicans spent the entire night in prayer.

When the pages assembled Mwánga demanded that Christian believers step forward—and they did. Some of the pages’ relatives at court tried to persuade them to renounce Christ, but none would. Mwánga then pronounced the death sentence on a large number of them. Others not condemned to death were led away to be castrated. Further arrests followed during the next week. The Christian boys were tied together in pairs, and then forced to walk twenty-two miles to the place of execution. On Ascension Day, June 3, 1886, the majority of the martyrs were burned alive on the great pyre, Catholics and Anglicans together, each of them with his hands tied and his body wrapped in a bundle of wood and cane stalks. Before they died, they pleaded successfully for the life of a Muslim boy, Abdúl Azíz Buliwádda, who by mistake had been taken with them. . . . There was no wailing or screaming—the only person who wailed was the executioner. He had been forced to kill his own son: one of the boys who died in the fire.

The martyrdoms had the opposite effect from that which the king had hoped. The examples of these young martyrs who went to their deaths singing hymns and praying for their enemies so impressed those who saw or heard about it that before many years had passed, the number of Christian converts in Uganda had multiplied by thousands.

From Stars in a Dark World: Stories of the Saints and Holy Days of the Liturgy by Fr. John-Julian, OJN (Denver: Outskirts Press, 2009).
Like all the martyrs, St. Charles Lwanga and his companions died in a truly horrific manner. Of far greater magnitude, however, was their staunch faith, which enabled them not only to refuse to be exploited by the immoral King Mwánga but also to be full of prayer, song and peace before and during their deaths. And what of us? How strong are we in our own faith when we meet up with persons or systems who want to exploit us? There's an insidiousness to immorality and a glamor to evil that can lead to our undoing, especially if we're not regularly stoking the fire of our faith. As we heard in yesterday's first reading from St. Paul's letter to Timothy, we must rekindle the gift of God that is within, using the spirit of power and love and self-control that God has given us (2 Tim 1:6-7). If we do our part, we can rest assured that God will do His. Then we can proclaim with confidence and joy: "If we have died with him we shall also live with him; if we persevere we shall also reign with him" ( 2 Tim 2:12). St. Charles and companions, pray for us to remain faithful to our Lord Jesus Christ and His gospel and to firmly reject all those things, both large and small, that will lead us away from Him. Amen.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Letting Go

Watch that you might always remain in a true letting go of yourself. This is the rock, the most fundamental element of our lives. Piety, devotion and a spirit of prayer are good, excellent, but letting go surpasses and replaces everything. ~The Venerable Father Francis Libermann, CSSP, 1804-1852

Why do I sometimes resist letting go? Why do I cling so to my dreams, my ideas, my plans, my desires -- even the good ones that I have discerned, with God's help, are for His glory and for the benefit of others? Why don't I trust His wisdom and providence, His utter love for me? And then there are those "dark things" that I cling to -- such as my pride, my perfectionism, my fault-finding, my Tragedy Queen tendencies. What good do they serve me, God and others? Don't I realize that until I let go of all these things, I cannot receive all the beautiful gifts and wondrous graces that God passionately desires to give me? Indeed, I cannot fully receive GOD HIMSELF, who is always saying to me: "Open wide your mouth that I may fill it" (Ps 81:11)! Dear Venerable Father Francis, you spent your entire life letting go of yourself so that you could better serve the Lord, whom you so dearly loved. Teach me to do the same. Amen.