Father Robert Barcelos, OCD: Holy Week 2, Entering the Holy of Holies

by Romero Zafrea
by Romero Zafra

[During Holy Week], our loving awareness in silent attentiveness should be focused on the sacred humanity of Jesus. This is one of St. Teresa of Avila’s essential teachings: the sacred humanity of Jesus is always at the heart of genuine Christian mysticism, and this truth immerses us in the embrace of God’s mercy.

This loving awareness and silent attentiveness describes the contemplative spirit and disposition.

We all know that true prayer, true contemplative prayer, is a gift. It’s not something that can be acquired by technique or method. It’s not something that we can ascertain for ourselves by our best efforts or by our perfection and performance in terms of ability to concentrate or focus.

That’s not Christian mysticism at all. Christian spirituality and mysticism, being immersed in the gift of God’s mercy, is a relationship, not some transcendental experience with an impersonal divinity.

This loving awareness and silent attentiveness disposes our hearts to be open to receive the gift of His presence. We need to be open to receive God’s presence as gift. In other words, I can’t “make” God act in my life by doing certain prayers. I cannot manipulate God by my prayers. That’s imagination, not faith. That it is in the realm more of superstition, magic, spiritism and the occult – not faith as a child of God.

So we dispose ourselves to receive the gift of His presence, to allow God to be God in us by being still and knowing that He is God and supreme over everything. To do our best to abide in Him, to put ourselves in a receptive state of trust before the merciful face of our Father God. This week, abide in His love.

Abiding in His agape is the teaching of contemplative prayer insofar as it can be taught because it’s essentially a gift. Contemplative prayer is essentially a matter of surrender. At its essence, it’s surrender. Because it’s what God does more than what we do. Therefore, we cannot…we don’t have rights to the gift of contemplation. We don’t have rights to that gift, to meet that experience. It is essentially a gift that’s given, not something that I produce.

Therefore, contemplative prayer can only be taught in it earliest stages in the sense of acquired contemplation as taught by St. John of the Cross. That term acquired contemplation is a reference to what St. Teresa [of Avila] calls the prayer of simplicity, the prayer of recollection. In its earlier stages: in other words, before it becomes infused, before it becomes God’s grace and gift active in me and not simply what I am doing by my good intentions and by my will or by my consent.

All that can be taught is how to dispose ourselves for the gift of echoing the desire of the disciples when they asked Jesus, “Teach us to pray.” Teach us to pray. As John the Baptist taught his disciples, as the friend of the Bridegroom taught his disciples, as the bright and shining lamp who blushed before the sun taught his disciples, as he who decreased that Christ may increase taught his disciples: “Teach us to pray. Teach us to know Your Father as holy in the way that You have as union and bond with Him.”

The heart of the Carmelite apostolate is teaching how to pray. It’s a contemplative apostolate in teaching people how to enter into divine intimacy with God’s love. (to be continued)

SOURCE: Auburn Retreat, 2016. Transcribed by Sue Ellen Browder

Copyright 2017, Father Robert Barcelos, OCD


Father Robert Barcelos, OCD: Holy Week 1: Entering into the Holy of Holies

Entry in Jerusalem, Gustav Ferdinand Konig (1841)
Entry in Jerusalem, Gustav Ferdinand Konig (1841)

Show us your mercy, Lord. Remember your holy covenant. All our trust is in Your promise. O, fullness of life and fountain of holiness, with full assurance in of faith in Your tender compassion, we trust that the dawn of Divine Mercy shall break upon us. I draw upon the promise of God the Father to bring in prayer the righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ directly upon us for our healing, strengthening and liberation. Bring the mighty power, Father God, of our Lord’s Incarnation, Crucifixion and Resurrection, Ascension and Glorification directly upon us.

I seal ourselves, the physical and the invisible with the precious Blood of Your Sacred and Most Eucharistic Heart, Lord Jesus. And we clothe ourselves with the armor of the light and fire of Your glorious Resurrection. In union with Your intercession for us in heaven, arouse our inner strength, rouse up Your might, stir up Your mighty power, Lord. Author of Miracles.

I plead Your promised mercy to continue Your healing work among us. I implore the infinite splendor of your five wounds, our sovereign remedy. O Heart of Christ in the blessed host, medicine for all our infirmities, glory to Your mercies. Glory to Your supremacy. Christ yesterday and today, the beginning and the end, the Alpha and the Omega.

All time belongs to Him and all the ages. To Him be glory and power for ages until ages, forever. Amen.

“Entering into the Holy of Holies: the Heart of Prophetic Worship”

We recalled the desire of the disciples in the Gospel, in which they approached Jesus and asked him, “Teach us to pray,” from which our Lord’s first response was: “Abba, Father, how holy is Your name.”

In the Gospel of John, Chapter 4, Jesus speaks to us of the true worshipper’s desire for the Father and then in Chapter 17 of John’s Gospel, Jesus leads us to the heart of worship, the holy of holies, in His high priestly prayer, which captures for us the purpose of His mission of mercy, which is to lead us to divine intimacy to God as Trinity.

Our purpose [during Holy Week] is to enter into the silent music of the eternal Word, the Word of God, the logos of God, the logic, divine logic, His understanding of Himself–which is the reason for all that is. Love is the logic of the universe. Enter into the silent music of this love of God for us and hear the tender whisper of love in the dead of night as the Songs speaks of–“good, good, Father.” Listen to the tender whisper of love, the breeze of God’s gentle touch and tender compassion, as experienced by Elijah on Sinai, after having crossed the threshold of the deserts, whose barrenness was the outward sign of his inward desolation. It was on the summit of Sinai that Elijah’s season of suffering ceased, the symphony of silence tasted, and his wounds caressed by the divine kindness.

It is God who can make the once-barren places of our lives fertile and produce new fruit. Having received the life-giving freshness of Yahweh’s whispering breeze, having breathed in the breath of His beloved, Elijah who once felt abandoned by God and doomed for failure had himself secretly been transformed and become a fountain. And this is what we’re seeking to discover– this love of God that brings good out of everything, as is promised in Romans 8:28.

In order to discover this love, what it means to be claimed by the God of the covenants, the God of love who has entered into an alliance with us, who has made vows with us, who has promised by oaths, has promised and committed Himself to our salvation. He has committed Himself to our well-being, to our wellness, to our feeling, to our wholeness, to our transformation in His holiness. He has committed Himself to us in this way. By vows, by oath, He has sworn by His own holiness in a covenant of love.

And to discover this God of love requires a journey of inwardness. Not narcissism, but a journey from the head to the heart, from restlessness to stillness, from Martha to Mary. To move from “ideas” to an encounter, from knowledge to experience, from knowing about God’s love in a secondhand way to knowing His love in a real, intimate and personal way, directly and in ever-new depths. (to be continued)

SOURCE: Auburn Retreat, 2016. Transcribed by Sue Ellen Browder

Copyright 2017, Father Robert Barcelos, OCD

Father James Geoghegan, OCD: Lent – St. Thérèse and Suffering

Untitled by Jackson Pollock
Untitled by Jackson Pollock

During Lent, the example of St. Thérèse of Lisieux can give comfort and courage for the saint of Lisieux had gone through suffering and had written about it.

While Thérèse suffered, she found in the writings of St. John of the Cross comfort and encouragement. At times, she felt near to blasphemy and despair, but from St. John, she learned that these were signs of progress and development of her faith and not denial of it. One of the signs of the authenticity of her faith was its growth. She said that at the time of her greatest darkness, she made more acts of faith than at any other time. In her short life, we see extraordinary, rapid, and profound development in the virtue of faith.

She began her life of faith surrounded by a loving, close-knit family of faith. The faith of her family had been tried in the French Revolution and in the Prussian occupation of France. Faith in God and trust in His divine providence had sustained them in times of suffering. Thérèse’s immediate family had daily Mass and prayers. They breathed and lived their Catholic faith. The world of heaven was as real to them as the world of earth. During the tragic times of her mother’s illness and death from cancer, and the mental decline of her father, it was her faith that gave peace to Thérèse in the midst of such traumatic suffering. They were now enjoying the happiness of heaven, rewarded for their fidelity, uncomplainingly sharing in the passion of Christ.

Her parents were both business people, a jeweler-watchmaker and a lace maker. Her image of God was colored by this. You gave God something and He paid you. During a two-month period of preparing for her First Holy Communion, she made 1949 sacrifices and 2773 invocations. Her image of God was also strongly influenced by her image of her father. He was intelligent, good-looking, tall, heroic, a swimmer, a contemplative, lover of nature, hiker, mountaineer, a devout, tender and unselfish father, a man admired by all who knew him. For Thérèse , God was “Papa, le bon dieu: Father, the good God.”

When Thérèse was afflicted with scruples, she turned to her departed siblings for help. Her little brothers and sisters, now enjoying the glory of heaven, helped her overcome her affliction. She had loved ones in heaven who loved, and so heaven was a place of love. God was a god of love. She said that there was a thin veil between heaven and earth. Effortlessly, her sure faith penetrated that veil. This event and her Christmas conversion experience taught her that God was not a bargaining God but one who was unconditional, merciful, all-powerful, and loving.

The first terrible challenge to Thérèse’s faith was when her beloved father began to lose his mind. Instead of the steady, calm man she knew, he began to act in a strange manner. He gave away exorbitant sums of money, kept a loaded revolver under his pillow to protect his daughters from imagined enemies, and he disappeared from home, only to reappear days later far from Lisieux. Eventually, he was committed to the mental hospital in Caen. An image of God based on her father was no longer adequate for Thérèse. God had to be something greater and more vast. She painfully learned that any image or thought we have of God is not God. The object of faith is not words or images but the very person of God Himself. It is only through the gift of supernatural faith that we can know God as He truly is and be united with Him. That faith is certain, but obscure.

Thérèse experiences dryness and aridity in prayer, no longer did she feel the sweetness of His presence as in her younger days. Toward the end of her short life, in the midst of her terrible suffering, she even found it hard to say words of prayer, or to imagine Him. As she told her sister Celine, “I just love Him.”

With the growing darkness came a deeper love and trust, simpler and purer. She wrote out the words of the creed in her own blood. She new that while scripture and the dogmas of the Church did not tell her everything about God that is true, everything that they did tell was true. In temptation, she recited words of the Gospels and the creed of the Church, knowing that those words would lead her directly to the person of God. They also prevented her from going astray. They set boundaries, inside of which was truth, outside error. Thus in the furnace of her pain, she made more acts of faith than at any other time in her life. Her deep joy, even her sense of humor developed; her courage was strengthened and she could even say, “Smiling, I brave the fire.”

The virtues of faith, hope, and charity were so connected that as one grew, the others grew also. In the darkness of faith, her love of God, of sinners, of the missions, of the whole world grew; in her trust in God, her faith grew; in her love, her faith became more secure and certain.

She says that she is like a person in a foreign land surrounded by a dense fog. There was no sight of the homeland. On feastdays, the fog lifted and she got a glimpse of the homeland and got some relief. Almost immediately, the fog descended plunging her into a deeper darkness. A specific temptation for her concerned the afterlife. Even Satan jeered and mocked her belief in heaven. She tells us that in place of the veil there was now a wall between heaven and earth. That state lasted until the very end of her life.

The example of Thérèse’s deep faith in the midst of trials was God’s gift to the Church and the world in a time of rampant atheism. Today, her message is still needed. She still speaks, calling the world to faith in the existence, goodness, mercy and presence of God.

Reprinted with permission from The Carmelite Digest

Copyright 2017, Father James Geoghegan, OCD

‘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.’

 Try the Daily Disconnect as part of your Daily Meditation

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Father Robert Barcelos, OCD: Lent

by Romero Zafra
by Romero Zafra

Ephesians 1: 1-14

The Father’s Plan of Salvation. 3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavens, 4 as He chose us in Him, before the foundation of the world, to be holy and without blemish before Him. In love 5He destined us for adoption to Himself through Jesus Christ, in accord with the favor of his will, 6for the praise of the glory of His grace that He granted us in the beloved.

Fulfillment through Christ. 7In Him we have redemption by His blood, the forgiveness of transgressions, in accord with the riches of His grace 8that He lavished upon us. In all wisdom and insight, 9He has made known to us the mystery of His will in accord with His favor that He set forth in Him 10as a plan for the fullness of times, to sum up all things in Christ, in heaven and on earth.

Inheritance through the Spirit. 11In Him we were also chosen, destined in accord with the purpose of the One who accomplishes all things according to the intention of his will, 12so that we might exist for the praise of his glory, we who first hoped in Christ. 13In Him you also, who have heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and have believed in Him, were sealed with the promised holy Spirit, 14which is the first installment of our inheritance toward redemption as God’s possession, to the praise of his glory.

The Letter of Saint Paul to the Ephesians is the Magna Carta of the New Testament; it is one of the great letters. And it is one of the favorites among so many of the mystics of the Church, especially our Carmelite saints. Because it so well captures what it means to be immersed in the mystery of God’s love for us and the ramifications of what that love means.

I hope to help you discover who Jesus is, and the impact He is meant to have in the reality of our lives. I want you to encounter Christ loving the real you, not the ideal you; to really allow the Gospel to speak to the true, concrete, and actual experience of our daily lives, and our daily challenges of having to walk by faith and not by sight.

When we’ve been walking by faith for some time and the honeymoon has long begun, (but hopefully not over); when we’ve already had that initial experience of discovering Christ and have had to pass through many deserts with Him —how do we still keep the fire burning – even after we have been down the dark valley PLENTY of times.

The purpose [of Lent] is to kindle love’s fire inside of you. That is all that matters.  In the end, that’s all that will be. What matters most is that Jesus Christ’s fire, which is the Holy Spirit, may be active and ever evolving in my life, that there may be an evolution of who I am in Him, and who He is in me. Glory be to God!

I always have access to new growths, no matter where I’ve been or how long I’ve been on the road, and know that Jesus Christ is ever new. He doesn’t get old; He’s ever fresh. But we have to protect our hearts and minds. Our faith is an ever-fragile gift. We have to protect that so Christ never becomes stale in my thoughts, in my words, in my actions, in my character, and in my daily living.

No matter what the challenges have been, no matter how big the battles, we must always be open to a new birth, to be born again in a different way that we were born before. This is what we’re after, allowing our hearts to be completely united to His, that we may let Him take our breath away.

I can’t do that for you. But the Holy Spirit sure can, and he can use me because he always uses poor instruments to bring forth an orchestra of grace to fall fresh upon the assembly. Amidst unexpected places, the Lord can work a masterpiece, and it’s among the littlest of people that God can do the greatest things.

It’s faith that opens us up. It’s faith that makes the fire come alive again. It’s faith that opens us to new reservoirs of possibilities in how God has been present, wants to be present, and is present. For Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He’s forever young. And no matter how old we get, when we’re in Him , and He is in us, we too, will be forever young.

As we prepare ourselves [during this Lenten season], we ask the Holy Spirit to open our minds to rediscover Christ and the gift of His love on the cross, to bring that first love back to life again, to stir up in us that spirit of awe and wonder, that we may have the insight that only the Holy Spirit can provide.

We can’t produce that in ourselves; we can’t just snap our fingers and come to really taste the truth and the implication and significance of Jesus’s crucifixion for our lives. It’s not just simply an event of the past, but it’s an ongoing reality. Yes, the crucifixion happened once and for all but it’s an ongoing reality because Christ Passion is all-embracing. His crucifixion is a mystical event. It never ends. It’s all-consuming and all-embracing of everyone, everywhere, all the time, for you, and for me.

How is that alive and real, now? And how do I identify myself in Christ- here? And how do I give myself to Him, more? This is our goal, it is God who is our goal, and He will give us the grace to get there. Into His hands, and His heart, we commit our spirit in the silence of our prayers. May the Lord bless us, protect us from evil, and bring us to everlasting life.

SOURCE: Danville Retreat, 2014.

Copyright Father Robert Barcelos, OCD 2017

‘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.’

 Try the Daily Disconnect as part of your Daily Meditation

podcast-288x162 click onto the image or the link above