Father Robert Barcelos: Saint John of the Cross & Advent 7

guadalupeDecember 12, Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe
a day of prayer and solidarity for families of immigrants

A note from the United States Conference of Bishops: WASHINGTON—A Day of Prayer with a focus on the plight of refugees and migrants will take place across the United States on December 12, 2016, the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. It will be a time to place before a merciful God the hopes, fears, and needs of all those families who have come to the U.S. seeking a better life.

“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.

Prayer services and special Masses will be held in many dioceses across the country as the Catholic Church continues to accompany migrants and refugees seeking an opportunity to provide for their families. If you are unable to attend or there is not one near you, Catholics are invited to offer prayers wherever they may be. (More information can be found on the link above)


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 Ian 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).

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

(SOURCE: Carmelite Nuns Retreat, 12/2013)  “Transforming Union: The Wisdom of Saint John of the Cross”- transcribed by TL

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.

Click here for a different daily Novena Prayer.

‘Arm yourselves with the armor of faith and the sword of truth.  Pray for the grace to forgive and to ask for forgiveness – and for the healing of wounded bodies and souls.’

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *