Father Jose Luis Ferroni, OCD: The Feast Day of Saint John of the Cross

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The Sepulcre of Saint John of the Cross. Segovia, Spain. Photo credit: thespeakroom.org

On December 14, 1591, at the age of 49, Saint John of the Cross passed to Heaven and joined with the choirs of angels to sing the mercies of the Lord.

In the months before his death, Saint John headed  for the monastery of La Peñuela, which belonged to the Province of Andalucia. It was a simple community. He arrived in August and during this time, the community worked in the fields tilling chick peas (garbanzo beans). John spent many hours in his cell, likely using his time to revise The Living Flame of Love, or making copies of The Spiritual Canticle.

After about a month in La Peñuela, he began to experience small episodes of fever. As the fever intensified, the superior thought it best to take him to the monastery in Ubeda, where he could be placed under the care of a doctor. St. John himself thought that his stay in Ubeda would be short and that he would be back in La Peñuela, to his assigned monastery.

He arrived in Ubeda on the evening of September 28, 1591. The community was small, simple, and deprived of many commodities. The attending doctor, Amobrosio de Villarreal, diagnosed St. John of the Cross as having a cellulitis infection diffused in his right leg. The illness caused him extreme pain. The pain intensified as the infection spread from his leg to the foot, but the Saint patiently dealt with this excruciating pain with serenity.

The doctor treated the infection by performing surgery and cauterization to prevent further infections, procedures that only added to the anguish and pain, to say the least. Yet the doctor attested to the peacefulness in which John bore his medical treatment. Saint John did not have rest from his pain, except for a small cord that hung from the ceiling to his bed; he would clutch it with his hands to distract himself from the pain in order to speak to visitors.

The treatment, needless to say, did not work. The early weeks of December were for John, days to prepare for death. In the last hours of his life, eyewitnesses recount how  St. John of the Cross directed his gaze of faith on the Love of the Lord. The friars gathered in his cell and recited the prayers of dying, in which John devotedly responded. At about midnight on the clock church, Brother Francisco Garcia, the bell toller, came out of John’s cell to toll the bell for Matins. As he finished ringing the bell, St. John gave his last breath on earth.

A painting in the Museum of Saint John of the Cross, Ubeda, Spain. Photo Credit:thespeakroom.org
A painting in the Museum of Saint John of the Cross, Ubeda, Spain. Photo Credit:thespeakroom.org

It is said that in his final hours, Our Holy Father St. John of the Cross asked for three graces which the Lord granted: 1) the grace to die where nobody knew of him so that neither in life, nor in death should anyone honor him. This was the grace to be small and unnoticed. 2) He asked that he would die without ecclesiastical honors (such as a prelate or superior) in order to exercise humility. 3) Finally, he asked that the Lord grant him a purgatory while on earth.

A friend of St. John of the Cross, Ana del Mercado Y Penyalosa, obtained from the Provincial, Nicolas Doria, permission to bring the body from Ubeda to Segovia. Nine months after the Saint’s death, Ana and her brother enacted the transfer. Almost two years later, the coffin was opened, only to find St. John incorrupt.

The body finally arrived in Segovia on May 1593 for its final resting place in a niche on the wall near the altar of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The remains of the Saint continued to call pilgrims from all parts of Spain, as they were experiencing healings and various miracles. Around the body, witnesses recalled smelling sweet fragrance.  After the death of the Provincial Nicolas Doria, the new provincial moved the remains out of the wall and placed it in a large urn in the shape of sarcophagus in the center nave for the proper veneration of all.

Pope John Paul II, who wrote his doctoral thesis on St. John of the Cross, visited his body in Segovia on November 4, 1982. In 1993, he named Saint John of the Cross patron of all Poets.

Saint John of the Cross, pray for us.

(SOURCE: Homily, Solemnity of Saint John of the Cross, 12/14/2016. San Jose, CA)

Copyright 2016, Fr. Jose Luis Ferroni. All Rights Reserved

 

Advent Evening of Meditative Prayer Friday, December 15, 2017

The Madonna Grove, St. Clare’s Retreat Center, Soquel, CA. Photo credit: Lorelei Low, ocds

Father Robert Barcelos, OCD and the Novices will be hosting an Advent Evening of Meditative Prayer and Worship with Candelight Eucharistic Adoration, chant, Taize, and sacred silence.

WHERE:

Mount St. Josephs Monastery  

12455 Clayton Road, San Jose, CA

WHEN: 7:30-9:00 pm, Friday December 15

All are welcome!

Father Robert Barcelos, OCD: The Wisdom of Saint John of the Cross 9

A Painting from Toledo. Photo Credit: thespeakroom.org
A Painting from Toledo. Photo Credit: thespeakroom.org

The Feast of Saint John of the Cross

The battle for spiritual awareness is in the mind. There is always a flow of thinking; automatic thoughts happening and taking place in our minds. These thoughts – inner monologues and conversations, automatic thoughts – are pathologies. Often times, your mind would be thinking about something totally neutral and mundane, about something that needs to be taken care of, something you’re responsible for.

But your thoughts can go from something normal to something immoral, without your consciously choosing that. Your mind can easily go from here to there, and could be way over here in territory that you know you’re not supposed to be in, and that you are trespassing in. Our thoughts fly automatically, but once you become aware of a trespassing in your thoughts, you have a responsibility to do something with it.

What we do with our thoughts determines whether they become a moral issue and a matter of sin. You may have been working over a thought for more than twenty seconds before you were even conscious of what was taking place.

Once we become conscious, then we have a choice and a responsibility to act in the thought life with our will and in the depths of our beings. We must make a choice interiorly. If we allow the thought to continue, then it definitely infringes in the realm of responsibility and sin.

At the moment an automatic thought arrives that is definitely not of God, we have the choice to reject it in the name of Jesus by the power of His Holy Name and His Blood to cleanse our mind of the effects and residue, and to call on the Holy Spirit to renew our mind according to God’s will. In the hierarchy of value, awareness is key. Only when we become aware are we responsible for what happens in the battle of the mind.

Once I become aware, then I can begin to understand. Where does this come from and where is it going? Understanding is the education of desire. In Romans 6 and 7 Saint Paul talks about the inner conflict, the war within between the natural man, the fallen nature and the Spirit of God. He explains that the law of the flesh is opposed and is at war with the law of the Spirit; he sees and he experiences that battle within his own human condition. He says, ‘But thanks be to God, Jesus Christ has set me free from myself in these areas.’

Even though the flesh may desire something for self-gratification, if it does not give glory to God, that desire must be educated by our understanding of what is more valuable. We must understand what is valuable, where our desires are coming from and where those desires are going. Understanding leads to the education of desire.

After proper understanding comes the third framework of discernment which is action. I’ve discipline my desire, and then I choose. Saint John of the Cross is prophetic because he says that this is so important. He says, ‘Don’t think that if you’re not sinning mortally that that’s good enough.’ He goes deeper in the purification of the spirit into our venial sins and the details of seeking perfection, not only in the senses.

Even in the areas of the spirit, there are certain desires that might seem to be wholesome that need to be mortified for the sake of a greater love, for the sake of the love becoming purer and more immaculate in your communion with God. The beautiful aspect of Saint John’s prophetic teaching and charism, is that in every way possible, he gets this message across. In The Ascent of Mount Carmel, he says aspirations like, “Who can make this teaching acceptable?” Despite how spiritual people might think they are, they may inevitably overlook the important teaching and necessity to seek the greater, more pure love.

Saint John of the Cross challenges us to the depths of disciplining our desires in order that we can be transformed in fire. He calls us to that pristine, lucid openness to God’s grace such that nothing can get in God’s way; nothing must get in our way from more fully allowing ourselves be loved, more than ever before. Each of us, everyone of us have to be hungry for conversion, thirst for conversion.

We must recognize that we are sinners in the world, and that we are often blind to the knowledge of your own sins and that we are in desperate need of Christ’s salvation. Thirst for conversion. Hence, we’ll be able to unite our spirit with that of Saint John of the Cross.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning is now and ever shall be world without end.

Copyright 2016, Fr. Robert Barcelos. All Rights Reserved

 

Novena Prayer to St. John of the Cross

Lord, you endowed our Father, St. John of the Cross with a spirit of self-denial and a love of the cross. By following his example may we come to the eternal vision of your glory. Through his intercession, may we obtain the favor we ask for (pause for intention) if it be for our good and the greater glory of God. We ask this through Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Litany of Humility

O Jesus! meek and humble of heart, Hear me.
From the desire of being esteemed, Deliver me, Jesus.

From the desire of being loved…
From the desire of being extolled …
From the desire of being honored …
From the desire of being praised …
From the desire of being preferred to others…
From the desire of being consulted …
From the desire of being approved …
From the fear of being humiliated …
From the fear of being despised…
From the fear of suffering rebukes …
From the fear of being calumniated …
From the fear of being forgotten …
From the fear of being ridiculed …
From the fear of being wronged …
From the fear of being suspected …

That others may be loved more than I, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

That others may be esteemed more than I …
That, in the opinion of the world,
others may increase and I may decrease …
That others may be chosen and I set aside …
That others may be praised and I unnoticed …
That others may be preferred to me in everything…
That others may become holier than I, provided that I may become as holy as I should…

Father Robert Barcelos, OCD: The Wisdom of Saint John of the Cross 8

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“The Apparition of the Virgin of Carmel to Saint John of the Cross” Ricardo Nuñez Sambucety, 2011. Museum of St. John of the Cross. Ubeda, Spain. Photo Credit: thespeakroom.org

Saint John of the Cross is prophetic in calling us to the perfection of becoming the person God wants to become in us. His doctrine calls us not be satisfied in choosing the good while neglecting to seek what is best. What Thomas Merton calls, the hierarchy of value is a matter of preference and choice. You can choose what is good all the time, which is fine and acceptable. It’s not disobedient, and you won’t get in any kind of trouble. It’s perfectly acceptable, but you could have chosen something better.

According to Saint John of the Cross, the more difficult the choice, the more perfect it is. If you really want to be transformed, jump into what most goes against your nature, and not the path of least resistance. Jump on the path that will bring the most out of you. Go against the current of your nature; go against the grain of your condition.

This is very similar to what Saint Francis calls, perfect joy. You know that irony. We think of perfect joy as ‘Everything, the feast and the singing was so beautiful! Everybody was so on key and everything was so delightful! The turkey came out perfect – everything was just so great!’ NO.

When everything that could possibly go wrong goes wrong, and you embrace and rejoice in that pit, knowing that God’s presence is with you, amidst that mess and chaos, then you’ll know perfect joy. There’s no self-love involved! That’s how you experience perfect joy! You’ve been annihilated, and only the Lord is there now, and it’s His joy in you!

Easier said than done. Half the battle is knowing what’s required and Saint John knew. That’s why he tells us these truths in the way that he does. Our choices must be based upon the right understanding and vision of the hierarchy of value.

What is the hierarchy of value? Number one, ‘What is most important in saving my soul and growing in conversion?’ That’s a given. The understanding of what is most important is meant to produce a singleness of purpose – single-minded, single-hearted. Once I have the singleness of purpose of what is most important, now I need to put that into action. ‘What are the means, the virtues and the habits which can best bring about this desired goal which is God’s dream for my life, to become a saint and totally His?’ In order to discern that, we need a certain framework for discernment; this comes from Saint Ignatius’s rules for the discernment of spirits.

Discernment is such an important part of the spiritual life, not simply the discernment of one’s vocation, though that is still an important part of it. Discernment in general is about how to be entirely at the disposition of the Holy Spirit’s movements. We need discernment for that. In other words, ‘Is this impulse or interior movement in me coming from grace in the Holy Spirit, or is it just coming from my own humanity?’ The movement could also come from an unclean spirit, but having discernment is key to being at the disposal of the Holy Spirit of God.

According to Saint John, Mary was completely at the disposal of the Spirit. She was always perfectly at the sway of the Holy Spirit because she was such a pure vessel that nothing could tarnish that receptivity. She was like a flute, with the breath of God always blowing through her.

We need to have an awareness and framework of discernment. Jesus asks His disciples to stay awake and be vigilant. He points to the importance of having awareness, the awareness of what matters most, the awareness of what’s going on inside of ourselves and around us, the awareness of where our life is leading. (to be contnued)

Copyright 2016, Fr. Robert Barcelos. All Rights Reserved

Novena Prayer to St. John of the Cross

Lord, you endowed our Father, St. John of the Cross with a spirit of self-denial and a love of the cross. By following his example may we come to the eternal vision of your glory. Through his intercession, may we obtain the favor we ask for (pause for intention) if it be for our good and the greater glory of God. We ask this through Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Litany of Humility

O Jesus! meek and humble of heart, Hear me.
From the desire of being esteemed, Deliver me, Jesus.

From the desire of being loved…
From the desire of being extolled …
From the desire of being honored …
From the desire of being praised …
From the desire of being preferred to others…
From the desire of being consulted …
From the desire of being approved …
From the fear of being humiliated …
From the fear of being despised…
From the fear of suffering rebukes …
From the fear of being calumniated …
From the fear of being forgotten …
From the fear of being ridiculed …
From the fear of being wronged …
From the fear of being suspected …

That others may be loved more than I, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

That others may be esteemed more than I …
That, in the opinion of the world,
others may increase and I may decrease …
That others may be chosen and I set aside …
That others may be praised and I unnoticed …
That others may be preferred to me in everything…
That others may become holier than I, provided that I may become as holy as I should…

Father Robert Barcelos, OCD: The Wisdom of Saint John of the Cross 7

guadalupeDecember 12, Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe

A note from the United States Conference of Bishops “As Christmas approaches and especially on this feast of Our Lady, we are reminded of how our savior Jesus Christ was not born in the comfort of his own home, but rather in an unfamiliar manger,” said Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, archbishop of Galveston-Houston and president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). “To all those families separated and far from home in uncertain times, we join with you in a prayer for comfort and joy this Advent season,” Cardinal DiNardo added.

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Saint John of the Cross wants us to live life abundantly; clearly, everything he teaches is about living abundantly. But in order for us to be able to do that, our desires need to be disciplined.

The spiritual journey is about cultivating the delicacy of love. That term, the delicacy of love is the overarching template; that is the perspective, the lens through which we are to understand the nada. The delicacy of love is disciplined by the education of the desire.

The expression, the education of desire, comes from the author, Livio Melina, who writes about Thomistic theology. Desire is educated by a proper awareness and understanding of what is most valuable.

What makes life most worth living? We have to have the goal ever in mind. The awareness and understanding of what is most valuable is your vision. We have to have the right vision, the ability to see reality, the vision to see what is most true, good, and beautiful.

This ability to see must precede our capacity to be. I have to see it before I can become it. This applies on a natural level to anyone who is seeking excellence, whether it’s sports, politics, science, or spirituality. This principle applies in all of the arts. You have to have your vision before you can pursue the goal, to become your true selves as intended by God. That vision leads to a mission, and our mission sets us in motion.

We become the person we are created, predestined and graced to be by our choices. Our choices make the difference in our character, and our character is what prepares the way for our destiny.

Thomas Merton had a really great understanding of Saint John of the Cross. He wrote The Ascent of Truth, the book about Saint John quite early on in his life as a monk and writer. It’s very dense, the style is very difficult, and it’s a challenging book to read, not as enjoyable reading Iain Matthew’s The Impact of God. However, toward the end of his life, even Thomas Merton admits to not liking The Ascent of Truth because it was all book knowledge rather than from the heart, from experiential wisdom. In fact, he had a distaste for it. But Merton had a great understanding of Saint John of the Cross and we see that in his Introduction to the Sayings of Light and Love and the Precautions found in the “Light and Darkness” and in the “Disputed Questions.”

Merton writes, “Saint John’s whole asceticism is basically a question of choice and preference.” That helps us to understand how to practically live out the nada he tells us about and asks us to follow. Our choices must be based upon a right understanding, a proper vision of what Thomas Merton calls, a hierarchy of value.

In Romans 12: 1-2, Saint Paul writes, “I beg of you by the mercies of God to offer your lives as a living oblation, acceptable to God, your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind that you may know what is God’s will, what is good, pleasing and perfect.” There’s a hierarchy of value of there. Freedom is broad. We have a lot of things to choose from. God wants us to enjoy life; He’s given us everything at our disposal. We’re the crown of His creation, made in His image and freedom is broad.

Clearly, He puts limits on freedom in regards to what is immoral, but in regards to what is neutral, He has given us plenty at our disposal to let us enjoy and to give Him glory because He loves us. And among those things He puts at our disposal there’s a hierarchy of value between what is good, pleasing, and perfect.

Some things are acceptable, but other things are better and more perfect. Seeking perfection is about not being settled about being good enough! That is a huge part of seeking perfection. Don’t be comfortable with just being good enough! Seek the greatness of who God is for you and what He wants to be in you (to be continued).

 Copyright 2016, Fr. Robert Barcelos. All Rights Reserved

Novena Prayer to St. John of the Cross

Lord, you endowed our Father, St. John of the Cross with a spirit of self-denial and a love of the cross. By following his example may we come to the eternal vision of your glory. Through his intercession, may we obtain the favor we ask for (pause for intention) if it be for our good and the greater glory of God. We ask this through Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Litany of Humility

O Jesus! meek and humble of heart, Hear me.
From the desire of being esteemed, Deliver me, Jesus.

From the desire of being loved…
From the desire of being extolled …
From the desire of being honored …
From the desire of being praised …
From the desire of being preferred to others…
From the desire of being consulted …
From the desire of being approved …
From the fear of being humiliated …
From the fear of being despised…
From the fear of suffering rebukes …
From the fear of being calumniated …
From the fear of being forgotten …
From the fear of being ridiculed …
From the fear of being wronged …
From the fear of being suspected …

That others may be loved more than I, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

That others may be esteemed more than I …
That, in the opinion of the world,
others may increase and I may decrease …
That others may be chosen and I set aside …
That others may be praised and I unnoticed …
That others may be preferred to me in everything…
That others may become holier than I, provided that I may become as holy as I should…

Father Robert Barcelos, OCD: The Wisdom of Saint John of the Cross 6

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A Segovian view. St. John of the Cross was inspired by such views to write the prayer below.

Prayer of a Soul Taken With Love – by St. John of the Cross

Mine are the heavens and mine is the earth.  Mine are the nations, the just are mine, and mine the sinners.  The angels are mine, and the Mother of God, and all things are mine; and God Himself is mine and for me, because Christ is mine and all for me.What do you ask, then, and seek, my soul?  Yours is all of this, and all is for you.

When Saint John starts to write, he has already reached divine union. With the summit in mind, the synthesis that stands at the center of his whole doctrine is Christ crucified, the slain lamb. Our literature says that we must love the cross, but the point is that it’s not necessarily the love of the cross, but the love of Christ on the cross; this understanding can help keep our faith lives in perspective.

Sister Ruth Burrows, a Carmelite nun, writes, “The cross is the mysterious design of God for our glorification.” That again harkens back to the reality of our weaknesses. “We must not identify [the cross] with pain as such. Its significance lies, not in the physical and mental torment of Him who hung upon it, but in His obedience, His passionate surrender to God, and it is these we must make our own.”

When we live for love, for all that is most valuable, we cannot be afraid to be vulnerable. That’s something that is common to the whole human experience. Our call to be united with Christ, the fullness of love, takes on a whole new depth of meaning. Even in human relationships—that’s true. When we’re called to live and to love what is most valuable, we cannot be afraid to be vulnerable; we cannot be afraid to be stripped of all for the sake of All. If we are not willing to embrace His vulnerability in faith, we will not be able to enjoy the full victory of love. In this context, we can begin to better understand why Saint John is as tenacious in his ascetical theology as he is tender in his mystical theology. The two, of course, are as inseparable as the cross is from the resurrection.

Nada is Saint John’s code word. Nada is the theological shorthand which summarizes the whole of Saint John’s doctrine, his spiritual ascetism which speaks of the discipline necessary for seeking the perfection of charity. Charity cannot be made perfect, love cannot be made perfect without discipline. We cannot grow in the agape of Almighty God without first being purified by that same love. In very practical terms of spirituality, nada is to strive after nothing other than the perfect fulfillment of the law of God and the carrying of Christ’s cross.

Let’s try and sink deeply into truth of what Saint John of the Cross means by nada.   Ascetism involves depriving one’s desires of certain delights but this is not supposed to be contrived, cold, mechanical, soulless or inhuman. After all, in Saint John himself, we see sensibility, affection, human tenderness and spontaneous love.

As Father Thomas Dubay says in Fire Within, “We are to find delight in everything but cling to it in nothing.” Here’s the tricky thing. In order to actually do that, certain changes have to take place. If I’m taking delight in everything, I could subconsciously cling to it in everything. I might not even be aware that I’m clinging to the fact that I delight in it; I don’t become aware of that attachment until it’s taken away from me. It’s so easy, especially with poverty. Our spiritual life involves a tough battle. We need to have clearly defined norms, but sometimes, those norms could be so detailed and superficial that they can begin to become an end in itself. We have to be careful not to become pharisaical, but we do need the law and we do need clearly defined terms of the law. But without the law, and if we only have the ‘spirit of poverty,’ we can so easily deceive ourselves.

I could say, ‘Well, what matters is not the fact that I own all this. Jesus didn’t condemn riches in and of itself, but just the love of money. I can have all of this, but it doesn’t mean that I’m attached to it.’ That’s true, but how do you know that you’re not attached? Somebody could have all these possessions in their home and say, ‘It all serves a different purpose. This reminds me of a memory. This is for that. This is in case of a disaster. I have all these precautions, all these resources at my disposal and they’re all for practical purposes. I really don’t need them. I really don’t care about any of them.’

And hopefully you don’t, but when something is asked of us to be sacrificed, we really come to discover what is in the depths of our will. Then you see where your heart is, where your treasure is, and there your heart will be, as the Lord says. We need to “find delight in everything but cling to it in nothing”(to be continued).

Copyright 2016, Fr. Robert Barcelos. All Rights Reserved

 

Novena Prayer to St. John of the Cross

Lord, you endowed our Father, St. John of the Cross with a spirit of self-denial and a love of the cross. By following his example may we come to the eternal vision of your glory. Through his intercession, may we obtain the favor we ask for (pause for intention) if it be for our good and the greater glory of God. We ask this through Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Litany of Humility

O Jesus! meek and humble of heart, Hear me.
From the desire of being esteemed, Deliver me, Jesus.

From the desire of being loved…
From the desire of being extolled …
From the desire of being honored …
From the desire of being praised …
From the desire of being preferred to others…
From the desire of being consulted …
From the desire of being approved …
From the fear of being humiliated …
From the fear of being despised…
From the fear of suffering rebukes …
From the fear of being calumniated …
From the fear of being forgotten …
From the fear of being ridiculed …
From the fear of being wronged …
From the fear of being suspected …

That others may be loved more than I, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

That others may be esteemed more than I …
That, in the opinion of the world,
others may increase and I may decrease …
That others may be chosen and I set aside …
That others may be praised and I unnoticed …
That others may be preferred to me in everything…
That others may become holier than I, provided that I may become as holy as I should…

Father Robert Barcelos, OCD: The Wisdom St. John of the Cross 5

Ubeda, Museum of St. John of the Cross. Photo Credit:thespeakroom.org
Ubeda, Museum of St. John of the Cross. Photo Credit:thespeakroom.org

Faith is always first and foremost the force behind God’s ability to do great things in our lives. For every single person who encountered Him in the gospel – whether they were in need of healing of blindness, healing of withered hands, being paralyzed, being mute, having hemorrhages – whatever it was, faith was always the transformative factor that made the difference in their lives. One of the ways we will experience faith that will really test us is when we are face-to-face with our own poverty or brokenness, in whatever shape that might take. When God awakens us to be aware of those things, we have a significant decision. We are at a crossroads where we have to make a very important choice, a choice of faith. Am I going to believe more in my own weakness, or am I going to believe more in God’s love for me?

It’s so easy for us to believe more in our weakness than in God’s love for our lives. Why? Because I see my weakness everyday, and sometimes, when I’m confronted with this weakness, I’m unaware of God’s love for me. I begin to be deceived by what I see and think, ‘How can God possibly love me in this? How could God possibly love this brokenness?’

Yet Jesus is most radiant in the places from which He suffered most. So too, in glory in heaven, though it is beyond our ability to picture or imagine, what will be most radiant about us is the way God worked in our lives, especially through our weakness. It is our faith that allows Him to accomplish it, faith more in His love for me than in what I see in myself. Our human nature has the tendency to want to earn God’s love, or to want to perform and to do it, to want to take matters in our own hands, and by our own works, and by our own observances – which is all good. But what gets confused is when I put myself at the center of the drama and think that I am doing everything all by myself.

There comes a point when you cannot do it yourself! And God will break that self-centeredness so that ‘No human nature will boast before God’s presence,’ as Ephesians 2 says. You have not gained anything by your works but by the sheer gift of God’s grace. That’s one of the most absolute, primary realities of the God who has called us into a covenant relationship with Him. It is He who has chosen us, and it is He alone who can accomplish the great things that He has in store for us.

When the soul sees in itself, its abundance and greatness in the beauty of God, Saint John of the Cross says, ‘She is given the properties of the Beloved.’ It was so important to go off on that tangent about the wealth of our weaknesses. Otherwise, if we just read these beautiful passages from scripture and our saints about the glory of transforming union without a realistic picture of how to get there, then we’re just going in circles like the Israelites in the desert. We have to have a very real, concrete understanding. For us to allow God and His Word to be made flesh in us, our knowledge of self is essential and foundational in our spiritual lives.

The more we abide in communion with the love of Christ crucified, the more transformed in the Spirit of Our Lord we can become. When Saint John of the Cross speaks in language about the love of Christ crucified, it’s never a love of the cross in and of itself, but a love of Christ on the cross. There’s a big difference. Otherwise, mortification just becomes an end in itself because it’s an obligation, a demand, or what’s needed. There always has to be a relational dimension to our faith lives (to be continued).

Copyright 2016, Fr. Robert Barcelos. All Rights Reserved

Novena Prayer to St. John of the Cross

Lord, you endowed our Father, St. John of the Cross with a spirit of self-denial and a love of the cross. By following his example may we come to the eternal vision of your glory. Through his intercession, may we obtain the favor we ask for (pause for intention) if it be for our good and the greater glory of God. We ask this through Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Litany of Humility

O Jesus! meek and humble of heart, Hear me.
From the desire of being esteemed, Deliver me, Jesus.

From the desire of being loved…
From the desire of being extolled …
From the desire of being honored …
From the desire of being praised …
From the desire of being preferred to others…
From the desire of being consulted …
From the desire of being approved …
From the fear of being humiliated …
From the fear of being despised…
From the fear of suffering rebukes …
From the fear of being calumniated …
From the fear of being forgotten …
From the fear of being ridiculed …
From the fear of being wronged …
From the fear of being suspected …

That others may be loved more than I, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

That others may be esteemed more than I …
That, in the opinion of the world,
others may increase and I may decrease …
That others may be chosen and I set aside …
That others may be praised and I unnoticed …
That others may be preferred to me in everything…
That others may become holier than I, provided that I may become as holy as I should…

.

Father Robert Barcelos, OCD: The Wisdom of Saint John of the Cross 4

Segovia. 'Cristo Vacente' by Gregorio Fernandez. Photo Credit: thespeakroom.org
Segovia. ‘Cristo Vacente’ by Gregorio Fernandez. Photo Credit: thespeakroom.org

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Our affliction is a magnet for God’s affection. There’s a tremendous truth behind that. In scripture, we often hear that God is close to the broken-hearted; that is a regular theme in the old covenant. Jesus said, ‘The spirit of the Lord is upon me for you, to heal the broken-hearted and to set the captives free.’  In John 20: 19-22, Jesus appears to the disciples and they are despondent in the upper room, where they have been hiding away. They were totally disillusioned and rightly so. Even though they heard the words from Jesus prophesying His death, His words just didn’t register. The raw, ugly, messy, and humiliating cross was so not according to their expectations. Even though they were given foresight, they forgot what they were told, and they became despondent.

That’s how we are. We know about the dark night, we know about the devotion to Christ on the cross, but when something really hard strikes us, more often than not, it affects us unless God sustains us by His grace.

In the disciples’ moment of despondency, Jesus came through the closed door. He didn’t have an invitation, He didn’t knock first, but He just came right through. He appears to them, and he doesn’t scold them the way he would speak to the Pharisees, ‘You fools!’ or ‘I told you so many times!’ Even Saint Paul in Galatians Chapter 1 says, ‘How could you be so stupid!’ Jesus could have said, ‘What were you thinking! What was going through your mind!’

Instead of scolding them, He did the total opposite. He imparts peace in a supernatural way. The most magnificent part of all, was that immediately after speaking the words, ‘Peace be with you,’ he gave forth His breath and the Holy Spirit came upon the disciples in their deprivation. From that moment, Jesus met them where they were. Their faith had been so affected, and seemingly shipwrecked. Some of them were considering about going back to their old life. They were so disillusioned that they didn’t know what to do and where to go. Jesus came to them in their woundedness, and after imparting the words of peace and the spirit to them, He shows them His wounds.

As we know, Jesus suffered tremendous wounding on His body, but he only chose five to particularly keep in His glorified body. He deliberately chose to keep the marks of the nails and the spear in His hands, His feet, and His side. He wanted those as a reminder to us of how much we are worth to Him, as the battle scars, the war wounds of what He endured for our sakes. By His wounds we would be healed.

Hence, whenever our Blessed Lord appeared in private revelations to particular friends closest to His Heart – Holy Mother Saint Teresa, Saint Margaret Mary, Saint Faustina, Saint Gertrude – He would appear in His glorified body and the greatest light that emanated from Him came from His wounds. His wounds became the fountain of His blessings. His wounds are the wellspring of all the ways in which He wants us to share in His divine love.

So too with ourselves. Though we would want to cover and hide our wounds, those very things that we wish we didn’t have, or we see as inconvenient, or we just dismiss as getting in the way of growing in holiness, are exactly the means by which we will grow in holiness. Rather than being a stumbling block, they are actually a building block; those wounds are one of the most important building blocks we will have.

In our wounds we can encounter God in the core of our being. In that weakness, we are most united to the truth of our humanity, the truth of our poverty, our nothingness, our need for the Lord, our inability to do anything on our own. In that rock bottom, that ground zero, that nakedness, we can be consumed by the love of God. From that nothingness can come the glorious transformation of our life in His strength (to be continued).

Copyright 2016, Fr. Robert Barcelos. All Rights Reserved

Novena Prayer to St. John of the Cross

Lord, you endowed our Father, St. John of the Cross with a spirit of self-denial and a love of the cross. By following his example may we come to the eternal vision of your glory. Through his intercession, may we obtain the favor we ask for (pause for intention) if it be for our good and the greater glory of God. We ask this through Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Litany of Humility

O Jesus! meek and humble of heart, Hear me.
From the desire of being esteemed, Deliver me, Jesus.

From the desire of being loved…
From the desire of being extolled …
From the desire of being honored …
From the desire of being praised …
From the desire of being preferred to others…
From the desire of being consulted …
From the desire of being approved …
From the fear of being humiliated …
From the fear of being despised…
From the fear of suffering rebukes …
From the fear of being calumniated …
From the fear of being forgotten …
From the fear of being ridiculed …
From the fear of being wronged …
From the fear of being suspected …

That others may be loved more than I, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

That others may be esteemed more than I …
That, in the opinion of the world,
others may increase and I may decrease …
That others may be chosen and I set aside …
That others may be praised and I unnoticed …
That others may be preferred to me in everything…
That others may become holier than I, provided that I may become as holy as I should…

Father Robert Barcelos, OCD: The Wisdom St. John of the Cross 3

The Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception

Our penances and mortification have to have a Marian character. The touch of Mary in the mortification is the safeguard, for it keeps us healthy and gives us a proper understanding of the purpose of asceticism. I recently discovered something that probably many of you are familiar with, a book titled Mary as Seen by the Mystics written by Raphael Brown. He takes four or five different mystics, and gathers what they all wrote about Our Lady in different parts of her life.

My favorite part of Our Lady’s life is when she was a little girl. I love that! It’s so precious to see and contemplate Mary as a little girl. Brown looks at different segments of what was revealed to these mystics about Mary’s hidden life, and he consolidates them into different chapters. For instance, you read about Mary’s Presentation in the Temple as a three-year-old. At first, I thought, the stories were just pious hyperbole.   The hagiography seemed so romantic that the narratives didn’t seem like they could be real. But that only lasted a second.

I quickly thought afterwards, ‘Why not? She was truly immaculate, she didn’t have any of the defects of intellect and will that comes from fallen nature; she was operating on her faculties from the beginning of her existence and anointed with the fullness of grace on top of that innocent, pure nature. If all that is true, then nothing is impossible. Why couldn’t that happen? Why doubt it? What would anyone get out of doubting the Immaculata?

Her hidden life, as she lived it with her parents, sounds like the life of a saint in a contemplative convent or other saints in the history of the Church. She had a voluntary love for mortification and practiced them in order to give God glory and to offer Him reparation. When you read and contemplate this, it’s so magnificent and inspiring! We need to understand that Marian character. Our Carmelite constitutions say that even our mortification should have a Marian character to them.

The more we abide in communion with the spirit of Christ crucified, the more we are transformed, to become pneumatic, pneumatized, and transfigured in the Spirit. You’re so spirit-filled, the Spirit of God is so palpably living in you that He possesses you. The spirit of the Risen Savior begins to take possession of the soul. One becomes transfigured in the blazing light of the Risen Christ.

Saint Seraphim of Sarov, a great Russian mystic of the 19th century, a contemporary of Saint Therese, is considered the Saint Francis of the East. In the contemporary world, he lived the authentic spirituality of the desert fathers. Following the pattern of conversation of the desert fathers, Saint Seraphim was asked by one of his spiritual children, ‘What is the goal of the spiritual life?’ His answer was ‘The acquisition of the Holy Spirit.’ In my understanding, the response means, to become pneumatic, to become transformed in the Holy Spirit.

Isn’t that what Saint John of the Cross expresses in the Living Flame of LoveTo enter into the love relationship between the Father and the Son is to be transformed in the Holy Spirit. Saint John expresses it so deeply and explains that the Spirit in the soul begins to love the Father through the Son. You’re taken right into the heart of that dynamic synergy, that interplay and communion. Some mystics refer to it as the dance of divine love between the Father, the Son, and the Spirit. You are taken into the way that the three persons of the Trinity love one another.

…that’s just way beyond my ability to express any further… about such things we just must be silent… (to be continued)

Copyright 2016, Fr. Robert Barcelos. All Rights Reserved

Novena Prayer to St. John of the Cross

Lord, you endowed our Father, St. John of the Cross with a spirit of self-denial and a love of the cross. By following his example may we come to the eternal vision of your glory. Through his intercession, may we obtain the favor we ask for (pause for intention) if it be for our good and the greater glory of God. We ask this through Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Litany of Humility

O Jesus! meek and humble of heart, Hear me.
From the desire of being esteemed, Deliver me, Jesus.

From the desire of being loved…
From the desire of being extolled …
From the desire of being honored …
From the desire of being praised …
From the desire of being preferred to others…
From the desire of being consulted …
From the desire of being approved …
From the fear of being humiliated …
From the fear of being despised…
From the fear of suffering rebukes …
From the fear of being calumniated …
From the fear of being forgotten …
From the fear of being ridiculed …
From the fear of being wronged …
From the fear of being suspected …

That others may be loved more than I, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

That others may be esteemed more than I …
That, in the opinion of the world,
others may increase and I may decrease …
That others may be chosen and I set aside …
That others may be praised and I unnoticed …
That others may be preferred to me in everything…
That others may become holier than I, provided that I may become as holy as I should…

Father Robert Barcelos, OCD: The Wisdom of St. John of the Cross 2

The Foot of St. John of the Cross. Ubeda. Photo Credit: thespeakroom.org
The Foot of St. John of the Cross. Ubeda. Photo Credit: thespeakroom.org

In The Spiritual Canticle, Saint John of the Cross says that the attributes of God – His love, His power, His joy, His wisdom, and so forth “produce in one’s center a most sublime and delightful knowledge of Him. The person is within the divine splendors, and is transformed in them.” In very complex philosophical language, Saint John goes on to talk about the beautific vision. “This cognitive immersion in pure beauty enthralls and transfigures just as fire ignites and makes to glow any combustible objects cast into it.” Cognitive is gnosis – to know. It’s one thing to experience it, but it’s another thing to be able to express it in Saint John’s kind of language. He had such a brilliant mind. He understood the best of theology so well and was able to express truths profoundly because of His experience.

He writes, “This contemplative transfiguration of eternity begins in time.” It begins in time. Saint Paul refers to that as the first installment of the Spirit, the appetizer to the banquet. Those glimpses of glory happen in stages, only as far God ordains according to divine providence. However, they are not necessary because God might not want us to have any glimpses. He might just want us to be satisfied with our three loaves and two fish, just as Saint Therese. He might not want us to experience the full banquet of His miracles.

Saint John continues, “The soul sees in itself the abundance and greatness and beauty of God.” These words from Saint John puts bones on the flesh of what we read from the second Letter of Saint Peter. He’s expressing the same mystical reality of grace through the redemption of Christ and is really just developing what St. Peter obviously knew!

It’s amazing how much Peter was transformed. The gospels are relentless in showing his weakness. The gospels also reveal the weakness of the patriarchs and the prophets. Scripture shows their weaknesses for the purpose of revealing that our election is based on God’s goodness more than our performance. Our election, and our being loved by God is because of His greatness more than what we can possibly offer Him. In so many countless ways, not only with the words, but also with the events that take place in salvation history, God is expressing to us that he is closest to the lowliest.

Therefore, the writers of scripture spare no pain or make no qualms about showing the weaknesses of the a majority of the patriarchs and some of the prophets in order to glorify God and give us confidence that though we are confronted with our weaknesses, it does not disqualify us from being beloved of the Lord.

In fact, the opposite is true, when we genuinely come to know our weaknesses, our weaknesses, really, are our greatest strength. When Saint Paul complained, ‘Get rid of this thorn on my side. Lord, already, please, for the umpteenth time, get rid of this!’ our Lord responds, ‘My grace is sufficient for you. For my power is made perfect through your weakness.’

And Saint Therese, in her genius, expressed the wisdom of St. Paul in a very contemporary way. She helps us realize that our weaknesses are our greatest assets in being transformed in the love of God, more so than our strengths; that makes her, the gospel, and Jesus so much more approachable

Yet we think the opposite because of the way we are hard-wired in our human condition. We look at our strengths and we try to judge ourselves based on those strengths, but our weaknesses are really where our wealth is. The more united we are with our own poverty and woundedness and the more we can begin to love that in the Lord, the more He can enrich us with Himself (to be continued).

May the Lord bless us, protect us from all evil, and bring us to everlasting life. St. John of the Cross, pray for us.

Copyright 2016, Fr. Robert Barcelos. All Rights Reserved

Novena Prayer to St. John of the Cross 

Lord, you endowed our Father, St. John of the Cross with a spirit of self-denial and a love of the cross. By following his example may we come to the eternal vision of your glory. Through his intercession, may we obtain the favor we ask for (pause for intention) if it be for our good and the greater glory of God. We ask this through Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Litany of Humility

O Jesus! meek and humble of heart, Hear me.
From the desire of being esteemed, Deliver me, Jesus.

From the desire of being loved…
From the desire of being extolled …
From the desire of being honored …
From the desire of being praised …
From the desire of being preferred to others…
From the desire of being consulted …
From the desire of being approved …
From the fear of being humiliated …
From the fear of being despised…
From the fear of suffering rebukes …
From the fear of being calumniated …
From the fear of being forgotten …
From the fear of being ridiculed …
From the fear of being wronged …
From the fear of being suspected …

That others may be loved more than I, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

That others may be esteemed more than I …
That, in the opinion of the world,
others may increase and I may decrease …
That others may be chosen and I set aside …
That others may be praised and I unnoticed …
That others may be preferred to me in everything…
That others may become holier than I, provided that I may become as holy as I should…