Father Robert Barcelos, OCD: St. John of the Cross & Advent 3

Fatima, Portugal. Photo Credit: thespeakroom.org
Fatima, Portugal. Photo Credit: thespeakroom.org

The Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception

From the editor: Today, let us unite in prayer for peace in Israel and the Middle East. There have been momentous changes in the last few days. It  has become apparent that the Syrian War will eventually come to an end, and that Assad will be the ruler. In Israel, the governing body moved toward approving the legality of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, making the two-state solution less feasible. As Our Lady asked the children of Fatima to consecrate Russia to her Immaculate Heart (and thus, the Sacred Hearts), let us do the same for Israel & Palestine and the Middle East in our private prayers.- TL

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).

May the Lord bless us, protect us from all evil, and bring us to everlasting life. Saint John of the Cross, 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.’

Father Robert Barcelos, OCD: St. John of the Cross & Advent 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.

(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.’

Father Robert Barcelos, OCD: Saint John of the Cross & Advent 1

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

The Power of God’s Promise. Peter 1: 3-10

3His divine power has bestowed on us everything that makes for life and devotion, through the knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and power.4Through these, he has bestowed on us the precious and very great promises, so that through them you may come to share in the divine nature, after escaping from the corruption that is in the world because of evil desire. 5For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, virtue with knowledge, 6knowledge with self-control, self-control with endurance, endurance with devotion, 7devotion with mutual affection, mutual affection with love. 8 If these are yours and increase in abundance, they will keep you from being idle or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 Anyone who lacks them is blind and shortsighted, forgetful of the cleansing of his past sins. 10 Therefore, brothers, be all the more eager to make your call and election firm, for, in doing so, you will never stumble.

That’s the most direct passage from sacred scriptures that refers to what the Church Fathers refer to as the transforming union and deification. According Father Thomas Dubay in The Fire Within, “The human person’s deification in Christ is a testimony to the heart of pure Carmelite doctrine. Moreover, it is the complete reason for the incarnation and the redemption. It is the fulfillment of the divine plan.” Transforming union is the whole goal of why God was incarnate in Christ, why He was crucified on the cross, risen and poured out His spirit. This is the crown of redemption.

Father Dubay says, “Thus, all structures of the Church, priesthoods, curias, chancery offices, books and candles and all else, are aimed at producing this abundance of life, this utter immersion in triune splendor, this transforming union” (197). That’s magnificent.

Also, in the beginning of Deep Conversion, Deep Prayer, Thomas Dubay quotes Pope John Paul II, when he was speaking with the bishops of the world. The pope said ‘as pastors, your primary duty is to lead people into divine intimacy with the most Holy Trinity.’ The pope reminds the bishops that their duties are not just about administration, but about leading people to divine union.

Transforming union is entirely related to our universal call to holiness. In the contemporary Church, those terms are very popular and many have heard of that coined expression. The universal call to holiness is characterized as a radical state of healing and wholeness. Radical healing and wholeness. That is holiness.

Saint John of the Cross is a master at expressing what is meant by radical healing. The author who best communicates Saint John in a contemporary tone, without watering him down, is Father Ian Matthew in The Impact of God, where he refers to the dark night as healing. That’s exactly what it is, and that’s a wonderful approach to understand the dark night appropriately. It is a healing of the soul, just what the doctor ordered. Grant it, the dark night is a tough medicine but it’s always for the sake of this greater life, this greater health, this greater wholeness, which is holiness.

“This ongoing growth process in the grace and truth of Christ is one of continual conversion, which is the ultimate life-long love affair with One whom we know loves us with a love which this world cannot give. The state of total union of which scripture and St. John speak and to which we are all called is simply the crowning of all God’s gifts, the full flowering of the life of grace, the maturation of the life within us, of Christ’s supernatural life, into whom we were baptized.”

That reality of baptism is deepened in the Eucharist. Dr. Owen Cummings, one of the professors at Mount Saint Angel’s seminary said, ‘To receive Jesus Christ, the savior, in the Blessed Sacrament, is to feast on the DNA of God.’ His body, His blood, His soul, and Divinity are his DNA! We share in the whole aspect of His person, fully God and fully human; we share in the inner life of who He is in order to become more like Him (to be continued).

May the Lord bless us, protect us from all evil, and bring us to everlasting life.

(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.’

Father Robert Barcelos, OCD: Mercy and Forgiveness

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Matthew 7:1-5:  1 Stop judging, that you may not be judged.b 2For as you judge, so will you be judged, and the measure with which you measure will be measured out to you. 3Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own eye? 4How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove that splinter from your eye,’ while the wooden beam is in your eye? 5You hypocrite, remove the wooden beam from your eye first; then you will see clearly to remove the splinter from your brother’s eye.

When Pope Francis was Archbishop of Buenos Aires, the president there was well-publicized for her attacks on him. Apparently, she insulted him for his vocal stance in defending the dignity of all, even if it was deemed politically incorrect or taboo to speak out about such things.

Fourteen times, the then Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio requested to meet with her in private, and fourteen times, he was denied. Eleven times, she was outside of Argentina during the annual Te Deum and Mass in an effort to avoid him. And yet, after he was elected pope, instead of granting her a new protocol visit, he received her for a personal, two-hour lunch, without press, without pomp, without rancor. Oscar Wilde said, ‘Always forgive your enemies; nothing annoys them so much.’ I doubt that was the motivation of Pope Francis. Nevertheless, his authenticity, as can been seen during those times that encounter and the conversations were captured, is evident.

You see the genuineness and humanity of those moments. He laughed with her. He didn’t see her as a political figure who proposed laws that were opposed to Christian values. He didn’t see her through that lens. He saw her as a human being; sure, with her flaws, but nevertheless, loved by the Lord. That’s where he met her and delighted in her presence with utmost freedom. Although he was strong about what was right the other times, he still loved the person that was wrong.

Mahatmi Gandhi said, ‘The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.’ We think the opposite: forgiveness is a sign of weakness. Actually, the reverse is the truth. Paul Boese said, ‘Forgiveness does not change the past, but it definitely enlarges the future.’ Desmond Tutu said, ‘Without forgiveness, there is no future.’ Yet we know that forgiveness is easier said than done in experience. C.S. Lewis put it so well when he writes, ‘Everyone says forgiveness is a lovely idea until they have something to forgive.’ That’s a different story, isn’t it?

We can make up all kinds of excuses why we shouldn’t forgive, but in order for us to do so, we must know what forgiveness is not. Forgiveness is not forgetting. Forgetting may be a result of forgiveness, but it is never the means of forgiveness. It is not a question of surrendering our right to justice. If someone has done you wrong – for example, they’ve wrecked your car – yes, you forgive them, but it doesn’t mean that they don’t have to pay the bill.

Forgiveness does not necessitate the need to continue to be friends. It doesn’t necessitate reconciliation with the person who hurt you. Sometimes, a respectful distance is what is necessary. Forgiveness does not mean that we have to put up with unacceptable behavior. It does not mean excusing, condoning, or minimizing the wrong that was done. And it does not mean that we won’t have negative feelings toward the person who has hurt us.

Isn’t that good to know? That makes forgiveness easier to work with. That makes forgiveness more of a possibility so that we can allow the Lord to bring about change in our lives. It puts the commandment in our grasp. You see the wisdom of the commandment, which is no longer burdensome, but a blessing. Why? As one author, Lewis B. Smedes says, ‘To forgive is to set a prisoner free, and to discover that the prisoner was you.’ That’s why.

People think, ‘But I could never let them off the hook,’ but the reality is if we don’t let offenders off the hook, we are the ones who are hooked – not them. We are hooked to them, and the pains that were caused in the past. That will cause even more suffering for us, for you. You don’t forgive someone merely because they deserve it, because they’ve apologized, because they’ve amended their lives, or because they’ve fulfilled some expectation of yours. You forgive because you deserve it. You deserve to be free, and God doesn’t want anybody to take that dignity away from you.

To refuse to forgive those who have hurt us allows them to continue hurting us long after they have moved on with their lives, and we’re still holding on to theirs, paralyzed from being able to move on with ours. Yet forgiveness is not a one-shot deal. I just don’t say a prayer, or pray during one Mass to forgive and it’s all over like a magic wand. No, it doesn’t happen that way.

Forgiveness is a process. We must revisit the emotional core of the past honestly, to acknowledge the hurt and the hate that has resulted, so that as the wounds come to the surface, they may be exposed to the light and allow God’s love heal us. In his writing on forgiveness, C.S. Lewis explains, ‘You have to look steadily at the sin in its horror, dirt, meanness, and malice. Yet you must also make every effort to kill every taste of resentment in yourself, every wish to humiliate or repay the person.’

It’s not easy to forgive a single great injury, but how are we to forgive the incessant provocations of daily life; to keep on forgiving the alcoholic parent, or the manipulative brother, the bossy mother-in-law, the bullying husband, the nagging wife, the selfish daughter, the deceitful son, the annoying brother, the controlling sister. How can we do it? C.S. Lewis responds, ‘I think only by remembering where we stand.’

We must mean what we say, ‘forgive us our trespasses as’ – in the measure that I forgive those who have trespassed against me – for the Lord says, ‘the measure with which you measure will be measured out to you.’ We are offered forgiveness in no other terms. To refuse it, is to refuse God’s mercy for ourselves. Ouch! Talk about being held accountable. In the face of one of life’s greatest challenges, we ask for the grace to be enabled to spread Christ’s fragrance of forgiveness, in the way that only God can help us to do.

SOURCE: Segovia Homily, Spain Pilgrimage 2014- transcribed by TL

Copyright 2016, Fr. Robert Barcelos. All Rights Reserved

‘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.’