Father Robert Barcelos, OCD: Christmas 2017 Homily

Baby Jesus, Museum of Saint John of the Cross, Granada, 16th Century. This is the statue that St. John of the Cross danced and celebrated Christmas with in Granada. Photo Credit: Prophet Elijah Media/The Speakroom

“God is often manifest where we need Him most…”

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Christmas Homily 2017, Father Robert Barcelos, OCD

Copyright 2017, Father Robert Barcelos, OCD.  All Rights Reserved

 

Father Robert Barcelos, OCD: Advent and the Newness of God

The Virgin Holding the Sleeping Child With St. John and Two Angels by Bernardino Luini

During a 2013 sermon Pope Francis explores the theme of expanding our hearts. He says, “Let us not be closed to the newness that God wants to bring into our lives.”

Let us not be closed to the newness that God wants to bring into our lives. In other words, the God that I know, that I love, that I adore, that I worship— is a dynamic God. He’s a God who is ever creative, and full of surprises. He’s never dull, never boring, He’s not a God of reruns— like old TV shows — He’s a God of newness, everlasting newness. A God of infinite youth.  And we are to not be closed to the newness that God wants to bring into our lives. God always wants to bring something new.

Pope Francis says let us not close our hearts. Let us not lose confidence. Let us never give up.  There are no situations which God cannot change, if only we open ourselves to Him, as in Mary’s “Yes” during the Annunciation. It only took a single “yes” to open up Paradise. And that “yes” allowed Mary to be the dwelling place of Paradise-in-person – Christ incarnate.

Pope Francis continues, “Let the Risen Jesus enter your life.” Let the Risen Jesus enter your life. He is Life. And He will give you the strength to live as he would have you do.

In The Joy of the Gospel, Pope Francis, says, “The Christ is the Eternal Gospel, and His riches and beauty are inexhaustible. He is…”  — I love this expression—  “… He is forever young.

The youthfulness of Christ is inexhaustible and the constant source of newness for us is that we’re to be forever young in our hearts. Everything else and our bodies are going to breakdown, but our hearts are to be forever young. 

Then Pope Francis quotes St. John of The Cross, “The thicket of God’s wisdom and knowledge is so deep and so broad that the soul, however much it has come to know of it, can always penetrate deeper within it.”

We can always go deeper. So as St. John Paul II called us at the turn of the millennium, to “launch out into the deep.” We must never cease launch out into the deep. We can always go deeper because there will always be new depths.

And hopefully our hearts will always burn brighter, and always burn with more fire.

Pope Francis continues with this idea of freshness when he says, “He [Christ] is always able to renew our lives, and our communities, and even if the Christian message has known periods of darkness and ecclesial weakness, it will never grow old.”

There’s always going to be a perennial youthfulness and power in the Gospel. We’ve heard it before, a thousand times, the Gospel is always fresh, and new. Similarly, in referring to God as Beauty, St. Augustine said: “O Beauty ever ancient, and ever new. Late have I loved You.” God is Beauty ever ancient and ever new. 

Pope Francis continues, “Jesus can also break through the dull categories within which we would enclose him.” We want to put Jesus and God in a little box that we’re comfortable with, and we want to try to be able to figure everything all out. Jesus wants to get out of all of our boxes, to knock our socks off, and expand our horizons.

Pope Francis says, “He constantly amazes us by His divine creativity” — this is Spirit-laced language.  He continues, that we must “return to the source and recover the original freshness of the Gospel…” and the focus of the Gospel is God, and not us. In other words, as St. John says in his letter, it’s not that we have loved God; God has first loved us. The focus of the Gospel is God’s initiative, God coming down from Heaven.

It’s not our seeking and looking for Him, it’s Him seeking and looking for us! And God expresses that there is no extreme that He will not take — by becoming Incarnate in order to rescue us. He does this to the point of the scandal of the Creator entering into his own creation and taking on our own weakness!

He was born in poor circumstances, not in a palace, but in utter poverty. The scandal of the Incarnation is that God is so humble, that he would become so small and take on all our vulnerability to the point of becoming an infant. There is nothing like this.

Father Robert Barcelos, OCD: Advent and our First Love Exodus

Sunset at Mt. St. Josephs Monastery. San Jose, CA. Photo credit: thespeakroom.org

As I was driving, I was so struck and breath-taken by the vastness of the sky, which was just so magnificently broad and wide and it looked majestic. It reminded me of— how God wants us to expand our hearts, how infinite God is, and how our faith, in terms of our confidence in God, is meant to be limitless. We have to widen our hearts, not limit our faith to what we see in ourselves, but to what we see in Him, and therefore, allow our lives to be expanded.

We have to rekindle of our first love, our spiritual exodus. This spiritual journey is an eternal newness” — an expression Pope Francis uses in [the Apostolic Exhortation] The Joy of The Gospel. “An eternal newness,” an expression of Love’s inexhaustible fountain.

Pope Francis, says, “a disciple of Jesus has a heart opened to his unlimited horizons.” To his unlimited horizons. In other words, what is possible for us is more than what we see in ourselves. What is possible for us is more than our own potential!  It’s God’s potential in us. And potential, potencia, comes from the Latin word for the word potential, which means “power.” This power in us is more than our own strength- it’s the strength of God. It’s the Spirit of God. It’s His potentialAnd so we have to allow our hearts to expand to unlimited horizons based on what we see in His Heart. That is a key becoming more captivated and charmed by Christ – attracted to Christ.

Pope Francis calls the church to evangelize by pointing to a horizon of beauty. And the beauty is Christ!

Fyodor Dostoevsky, a Russian Orthodox Christian in the 19th-century, said that the ultimate, and only beauty in the world (“only” speaking of the essential and ultimate beauty) is Christ.

He is the Infinite Marvel. He alone is He who is most beautiful. He is this horizon of beauty.  And this is how we understand the Gospel, because the Gospel is Christ. He is the Message and the Messenger. Christ is the Gospel. Pope Francis refers to Him in The Joy of the Gospel as “the source of authentic personal fulfillment.”

Jesus is Love’s inexhaustible fountain. He is the source of authentic personal fulfillment. He is Who we are made for. Jesus is who and what we long and wait for.

 

Father Robert Barcelos, OCD: Gettin’ Out of His Way

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…

The Litany of Humility is a great introduction to the ‘nada’ the negation of St. John of the Cross. Why? Because his ascetism is all about desire. It’s not about things and it’s not about people. It’s about what’s inside, and the space that we need to make inside for the savior to reside and thrive. The biggest obstacle to this mystical space, the biggest obstacle to this presence of God, the gift of His presence and His grace is nothing less, and rooted in pride – the false pride of an ego-centered existence.

This Litany goes totally against the grain of our human, automatic, natural need. By nature, especially if we’re looking at the human person simply from an emotional and psychological perspective, we need at times, to feel esteemed. We need to be loved. We need to somehow, some way, feel honored; hence, the birthday parties.

We need, at times, to want to be approved and validated. By nature, we cringe and are afraid of being humiliated. We don’t want to be despised. We don’t like to suffer rebukes. Nobody wants to be calumniated, or feel forgotten. Nobody enjoys being ridiculed, wronged, or suspected. In the prayer, we ask God to give us the grace of not allowing our happiness to be dependent on things, and our well-being to be attached and dependent upon other people.

When my sense of self-worth is dependent on other people, and how they respond to me, and if that’s the center, then my life will always be disordered. There will always be something missing, or upsetting me, or disturbing me, or making me afraid – if my life is dependent and entirely intertwined with how other people respond to my personality. This is a recipe for disappointment.

These fears of humiliation, being despised, and of suffering rebukes are normal, but we ask in the Litany, ‘from the fear of this, deliver me!’ Ultimately, what causes this anxiety is pride. The pride that is rooted in egoism is annihilated when I embrace my nothingness, and my total dependence on God.

‘I am not God, I am not in total control, in full charge of all the ramifications that affect my life. I can’t dictate the consequences and outcomes of how everything is going to be. I’m entirely dependent on someone greater than me. I am not sovereign in and of myself.’ That’s embracing my nothingness. I am a human being. I am not God.

Therefore, when I embrace that nothingness, I embrace my own imperfection. I embrace the fact that I am not perfect, nor can I be perfect based on myself and on my own effort. If I am going to be refined and purified by correction, by my faults being brought to my attention – then that is the truth of who I am! That is the truth of my nothingness, and I have to embrace that truth in order to be set free.

If I try to embrace a fundamental falsehood that ‘I don’t need correction, or I don’t need improvement, or I don’t need anybody to tell me what to do and how to become better,’ then I’m going to be subject to these fears. And I’m still going to be enslaved to myself, a slave to myself!

Saint John of the Cross is trying to set us free from that slavery, from that Egypt. He calls us to an exodus, to escape from our self-centered existence.

In the last part of the prayer, we ask, ‘That others may be loved more than I.’ This gets to the core, the heart of how we normally, naturally, automatically think, feel, and desire – based on nature.

According to a secular, psychological perspective of the human being, this request seems like a total contradiction; it’s a total contradiction to healthy, human development, but it’s the wisdom and the power of the cross. This is the remedy to truly make us fully human.

That others may be loved more than I’ – prepares the way, on a human level, a certain altruism, desiring the good of someone else more than your own good. What a breakthrough that is! What a liberation that is! – to be more concerned with someone else’s good than my own?

That others may be esteemed more than I’ – to rejoice when somebody else is praised and I am totally left unnoticed? The moment of liberty is to truly be able to rejoice from the inside out. When you are truly happy from the core of your being for someone else’s accomplishment without a tinge of jealousy, but celebrating their victory as if it were your own – that’s humility. It’s a beautiful thing. That’s truly living as one, as a community.

That in the opinion of the world, others may increase and I may decrease.’ In other words, according to the spirit of the world, I have no desire to be popular. If I am no longer esteemed as being ‘with it,’ if I am no longer considered to be hip or whatever might make the personality of an individual attractive to the spirit of the world, then maybe, I’m doing something right – in regards to what is attractive to Christ and with respect to my lifestyle.

‘That in the opinion of the world, others may increase and I may decrease.’ That is an echo of Saint John the Baptist, a restructuring of John 3:30, ‘That He (Jesus Christ) may increase, and I may decrease.’ One of my favorite lines from Saint Athanasius is ‘If the world goes against the truth, Athanasius goes against the world.’

‘That others may be chosen, and I, set aside.’ – that others may be preferred to me in everything!

Ultimately, the crown of them all, ‘That others may become holier than I, provided that I become as holy as God is calling me to be, provided that I BE-come who I am created to BE.’

That’s true humility because humility always breeds confidence. Embracing my nothingness should always lead to a greater embrace of God’s greatness. The two are interconnected. I’m not dust, left to myself; I’m dust, redeemed by the cross, and therefore, united to God’s greatness.

This is a good introduction to the nada, the right kind of emptiness of Saint John of the Cross. We need to understand the right kind of emptiness and self-denial, as it is called in traditional spirituality.

Copyright  2017 Father Robert Barcelos, OCD. All rights reserved

 

Father Robert Barcelos, OCD: Pure Gospel Charism

The battle begins in the mind. How do I relate to the thoughts that come into my head which are subject to all types of influences. More than just what I see and perceive with my senses and physically, we’re also influenced by other things that are alive and going on behind the scenes and are alive spiritually. All of that influences us. Through our senses, we process information which then comes into our soul.

More than what we see physically, we’re influenced by other things going on behind the scenes that are alive spiritually. The struggle gets down to a choice. Who’s side will we be on? Every sin is cloaked in deception. For a person to swallow a lie, it has to be sugar-coated with some kind of truth, a half-truth, just enough to make you bite it, and enough to make you sick.

This is our context of our human condition in a broken world before the beauty of God. The fundamental, essential, and basic step to enter into a relationship with God, is the humility to recognize that we are not God – that we need someone greater than us. This is an epiphany and a revelation.

We must recognize that ‘I need to bend my knee to someone other than me.’

Humility is the door of breakthrough for love. The world doesn’t understand that and the world can disfigure the whole notion of humility to mean that you have to be a doormat, that you have to be a slave, or that you have to be subject to a set of rules. You have to do what they tell you and have blind faith, and all these misconceptions and persecutions.

Before, one of my perspectives was that Christianity was just a crutch for weak people who couldn’t figure it out on their own. But after my own conversion, I came to realize, ‘That’s the spirit of the world speaking which bows to the enemy.’

The enemy wants us to believe that Christianity is for weaklings. If you want to be strong, you don’t need a religion. It’s a waste of time. You’re your own master. Do it your own way. In our common fight of faith, these are just some things we will face.

God reveals Himself and He reveals himself through an evolution of covenants. His love is revealed and unveiled in a way that develops over time. The first covenant is the covenant of creation between Adam and Even. He designs creation so that humanity can be in relationship with Himself. He set things up in paradise in a beautiful manner. It was a sheer gift.

He did so not because he wanted a host of subjects and robots. No, He gave us free will. It was a pure, gracious gift. But then, brokenness came and He promised that there would be healing in this brokenness.

And for this complete gift of Himself, despite all the war and brokenness, we must always, forever — be thankful.

Copyright 2017. Father Robert Barcelos, OCD. All rights reserved.

Father Robert Barcelos, OCD: Pure Gospel Charism

A reading from the book of Isaiah 43

But now, thus says the LORD, who created you, Jacob, and formed you, Israel: Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name: you are mine. 2When you pass through waters, I will be with you; through rivers, you shall not be swept away. When you walk through fire, you shall not be burned, nor will flames consume you. 3For I, the LORD, am your God, the Holy One of Israel, your savior. 4Because you are precious in my eyes and honored, and I love you.

10You are my witnesses, my servants whom I have chosen, To know and believe in me and understand that I am he. Before me no god was formed, and after me there shall be none. 11I, I am the LORD; there is no savior but me.

Through the power of God’s word, may His spirit make His presence, that His promise may be accomplished in your life. May the blessing of Almighty God come upon us in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

“Oh sweetest love of God, so little known. Whomever has found this rich mine is at rest.” That is from the Sayings of Light and Love, by Saint John of the Cross. Truly, we are meant to know the love of God from the inside.

Maybe once, we practiced our own religion – perhaps when we became teenagers and we started to think for ourselves,  we went through growing pains, that development process when we were trying to discover our own identity apart from our parents and family.

A normal part of the development of faith as a human being, be you male or female, is that young people will eventually begin to disengage themselves emotionally from their mother, father, and immediate family in order to discover their own individuality and what makes them unique. What they had normally previously assumed, received, and trusted in, starts being called into question. Everything is called into question.

We start to question everything and there’s a distrust of authority, especially religion. We can’t always fully and immediately explain religion with reasons that are at our fingertips. Often, in matters of faith, we have to have faith before we receive understanding.

But the problem is that when we question matters of our faith, we take the position of pride. ‘Unless I understand, I won’t believe. Unless you prove it to me, you won’t have my trust.’

We become aloof, and eventually, little by little, our faith can shrink. An erosion process based on the lack of trust happens. Eventually, we can even become strangers to God, ‘enemies of the cross.’

I also experienced this erosion process and became an enemy of Christ and the cross, but by God’s grace, He called me back to Himself. He calls all of us differently, at different times in our lives, and at different times of our growth. Usually, He will use a crisis to wake us up and to recognize our vulnerability, and need to get down on our knees, to recognize that we’re not all in control and that we are not invincible.

The fundamental first step of any recovery from any addiction or dysfunction requires that one act of humility – ‘I can’t save myself. I can’t cure myself. I need the humility to ask for help.’ This is when breakthrough happens.

However, the way and wisdom of the world says that to be powerful means you are independent and autonomous. You need nothing else besides yourself. That is strength. That is power. That is exactly what the serpent said to Eve in the original garden.

To create distrust, the serpent said, ‘What? God said that? Oh no, let me reframe the situation for you.’ This false perception and perspective was part of the deception to break down trust that would eventually lead to disobedience.

He said, ‘God only said that because He knows that if you eat from the tree, you are going to be like Him. He doesn’t want competition. He wants you to be submissive. But if you eat that fruit, you know what? You’re not even going to need Him anymore. You are your own person. You are your own god.’  That is exactly how we, and most especially the younger generation, are being challenged in our faith.

We are at a war, at war between light and darkness, and our souls are at stake. Our choices make the difference in our destiny. Where does this battle begin? – in the mind, and in our thoughts. If we don’t’ guard our thoughts, our thoughts will become our words. If we don’t guard our words, our words will become our actions. If we don’t guard our actions our actions will become our habits and our character…And our character becomes our destiny. (to be continued)

Copyright 2017, Father Robert Barcelos, OCD. All Rights Reserved

Father James Geoghegan, OCD: St. Thérèse of Lisieux 9: Her Path of Prayer

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Relics located at The Carmelite Monastery in Philadelphia. Photo credit: thespeakroom.org

Editor’s note: Those of you who want to learn more about Saint Thérèse can also visit Maureen O’Riordan’s blog, “Saint Thérèse of Lisieux: A Gateway,” at http://www.thereseoflisieux.org/.  

Also, as we approach the Feast Days of three great Carmelite saints,  please keep the intentions of the readers of this blog in your hearts.

Thérèse devised a daring new path in life, her little way of spiritual childhood – one that she lived in prayer. Her approach to God was intensely personal and creative, but it was balanced by a deep liturgical life. She tells us how she loved the Divine Office. Her First Holy Communion was a major turning point in her life of prayer. From her childhood she loved daily Mass.

She speaks of her preparation for the Sacraments of Penance and Confirmation. Through the daily family reading of Dom Gueranger’s The Liturgical Year, she prepared for the great feasts and actively participated in them. She situates some of the marvelous graces of her life in the context of the liturgical feasts: her conversion occurred after Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve; she revealed her desire to enter Carmel after Vespers on Pentecost Sunday; she entered on the Feast of the Annunciation, made her profession on Mary’s Birthday; offered herself to God’s merciful love on Trinity Sunday; she received the call to join her Bridegroom and began her dark night of faith during the Sacred Tridium of Holy Week. Thérèse was very aware of the graces of these liturgical feasts. This balance of personal and liturgical prayer is also seen in her relationship to the Church. As she developed, she became more aware of God’s infinite love for her and also of her place in the Church. Her prayer is not only her own; it is the prayer of the Church. As she began mature prayer after her conversion, she prayed for Pranzini (a known criminal); her prayer was answered. After her pilgrimage to Rome her zeal extended to priests. Eventually, united in prayer with the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the whole world is the area of her love and concern. She found the lever and fulcrum to raise the world.

Thérèse’s prayer is deeply personal, united simply with God in the very depths of her soul where she is unique and totally herself. There, too, she is open to the Church and to the whole world. She teaches us, as does St. Teresa in the Seventh Mansions, that the gift of contemplation expands into love for the Church; that it is apostolic.

In St. Teresa of Lisieux, A Spiritual Renaissance, Father Petitot says that Thérèse freed us from a method. This can be an oversimplification. She used vocal and formal prayers all her life. She offered herself to God in a formula her mother taught her. The “Our Father” and “The Lord is my Shepherd” sustained her in her agony.

As a child she was deep and intuitive. Through reflecting on nature, she got valuable insights and practical ideas. Thus a storm or the sea at Trouville show her God’s power; stale bread, a dead lamb, friendship unreturned, loneliness, led her to thoughts of God, life and eternity. This was prayer; yet we find her seeking a method. She asked Sister Henrietta of the Abbey to teach her how to pray. The Sister explained that for her praying meant opening her heart to God and talking to Him like a child with its father. From Sister Henrietta Thérèse learned simplicity and openness with God in prayer of the heart.

Having entered Carmel Thérèse found dryness and insipidity in prayer. She sought a method to help her during the formal hours of prayer. These two hours daily, faithfully observed, were difficult times – she got her insights at other times. The method she adopted was that of reflective reading with outbursts of prayer of the heart. It seems that this was the source of her extraordinary knowledge of St. John of the Cross’ works. While she was 17 and 18 years of age, she read his works prayerfully. This deep personal knowledge will later save her sanity, for St. John gave her a map of the terrain she will travel in her fearful and terrible dark nights.

It was especially by meditative reading of Sacred Scripture, in particular the Gospels, that she prayed. She would savor the words, penetrate their meaning and act on the lights received. She slowly prayed the words of the Our Father, the Hail Mary and some of the Psalms.

Thus we see that Thérèse does teach us the value of a method, one that gives stability to prayer. It is not complicated, composed of divisions and subdivisions. It is simple, the way of a child who uses all the help it can get. As a young girl she used the formula taught her by her mother or Pauline; later she used prayers of holy people; finally, she responded with love to the infinite love of God revealed in Sacred Scripture, like Mary hearing the Word of God and treasuring it in her heart

Thérèse’s prayer is inescapably linked with her life. Here she is a true daughter of Teresa of Avila. You cannot live one way and pray another. “My words fly up, my thoughts remain below. Words without thoughts never to heaven go,” said Claudius in “Hamlet.” Prayer is communicating with God, being in His presence in all the naked truth of ourselves. We are most ourselves when we pray. In prayer we hear God say, “I love you as you are” and we listen and respond, “I love you.” If our life is not a life of love we cannot say that. Saint Thérèse, pray for us.

SOURCE: Seattle OCDS Congress, date unknown

Copyright 2016, Fr. James Geoghegan. All rights reserved

Feast Day Novena Prayer

(This prayer is used by the Carmelites during the Feast Day Novena)

St. Therese, Flower of fervor and love, please intercede for us. Fill our hearts with your pure love of God. As we approach and celebrate your feast day, make us more aware of the goodness of God and how well He tends His garden. Instill in us your little way of doing ordinary things with extra-ordinary love.

Give us the heart of a child who wonders at life and embraces everything with loving enthusiasm. Teach us your delight in God’s ways so that divine charity may blossom in our hearts. Little Flower of Jesus, bring our petitions (mention in silence here) before God, our Father.

With your confidence, we come before Jesus as God’s children, because you are our heavenly friend. As we celebrate the Feast Day of your homecoming in heaven, continue to shower roses and grace upon us.

Amen

Father Robert Barcelos, OCD: St. Thérèse of Lisieux 8

Philadelphia Carmelite Monastery PhotoCredit:thespeakroom

Editor’s note: As we move closer to the Feast Days of three great Carmelite Saints (St. Teresa, St. Thérèse , and  Saint Elizabeth of the Trinity), please keep the needs and intentions of the readers of this blog in your heart.

Reminder: The Santa Clara OCDS will be sponsoring A Day of Recollection with St.Thérèse, with Maureen  O’Riordan, a scholar of St. Thérèse, as our guest speaker on Saturday, November 11, 2017 at Santa Clara Monastery (1000 Lincoln Street). To register, please go to thespeakroom DONATE tab. ($20 donation suggested, but any amount is appreciated!)

Thérèse explains prayer in two marvelous ways: she expresses her desire for Jesus to draw her, and she compares prayer to a fulcrum. She says, “He made me understand these words of the Canticle of Canticles, the Psalm of Psalms. ‘Draw me. We shall run after You in the odor of Your ointments.’ Oh Jesus, it is not even necessary to say when drawing me, draw the souls that I love. This simple statement, ‘Draw me,’ suffices. I understand, Lord, that when a soul allows herself to be captivated by the odor of Your ointments, she cannot run alone. All the souls whom she loves follow in her train. This is done without constraint. For simple souls, there must be no complicated ways. This is done without effort. It is a natural consequence of her attraction for You.

She then explains the power of this attraction when she writes, “Just as a torrent, throwing itself with impetuosity into the ocean drags after it everything it encounters in its passage, in the same way, oh Jesus, the soul who plunges into the shoreless ocean of Your love draws with her all the treasures she possesses.”

We need to stop and chew on the meaning of this passage, to digest and allow it to sink in our heart of hearts, so that the meaning enters into our very bones, our marrow, and our inner beings.

What are the treasures she possesses that are drawn to God’s ocean of love? She says, “Lord, You know that I have no other treasures than the souls it has pleased You to unite to mine.” For you who are parents, your greatest treasures are your children. Saint Thérèse says something very similar. “It is You who entrusted these treasures to me.

She continues, “Yes, Lord, this is what I would like to repeat after you before flying into Your arms.” She then quotes John 17, where Jesus before His Passion says, “I have glorified you on earth. I have finished the work you have given me to do, and now, do You, Father, glorify me with yourself that those you have given me may be with me where I am.”

She says, “You have said to me, Lord, as the father of the prodigal son said to his older son, ‘Everything that is mine is yours,’ your words, oh Jesus, are mine. Then as I can make use of them, to draw upon the souls united to me the favors of the heavenly Father.” These words are the makings of a blockbuster, a powerhouse. In other words, she says, ‘Since you said that everything you have is mine, I will make use of your words to draw the souls united to me – to God.’

Pope Francis says something very similar to Thérèse. Anybody who thinks that Pope Francis is not orthodox enough, or that he is a little bit liberal, would think that Jesus was too liberal too because Pope Francis is in the spirit of Jesus. He has the radical folly, the holy audacity and daring of Jesus Christ of Nazareth. He is the ‘wild madman,’ completely out of the box, and yet still orthodox. This is Pope Francis and he loves the Little Flower. He expresses the wisdom and the spirit of Saint Thérèse, so don’t be afraid of Pope Francis. He is the real deal holy field!

Pope Francis says, “We have to take Jesus at His word and use his word.” In other words, the Word of God doesn’t work until we work it, just like dough.

My grandmother used to make bread from scratch; she was a tough lady from the old country. She would put everything in her silver pot, and work that dough so strongly with these big wooden spoons that you could see the muscles in her biceps. She’d work it, and she’d punch it, to get all the bubbles out in order for the dough to develop.

We have to work on the Word of God, let the Word of God work in us, and use that Word with Jesus. Pope Francis says we must lift up the Word and say ‘Look Lord, you said it. You said you would do it. Come on now, let’s get down to work. Let’s get to business. Make it happen. Do what you do best. Take action.’

Thérèse takes it further when she writes, “Oh my God, I have never desired anything but to love you and I am ambitious for no other glory. Your love has gone before me and it has grown with me, and now it is an abyss whose depths I cannot fathom. Love attracts love and my Jesus, my love leaps towards you. It would like to fill the abyss which attracts it. But alas, it is not even like a drop of dew lost in the ocean. Oh my Jesus, it is perhaps an illusion, but it seems to me that you cannot fill a soul with more love than the love with which you have filled mine.”

That is humility.

It is for this reason that I dare to ask you to love those whom you have given me with the love with which you have loved me.” That captures the mission and charism of Saint Thérèse, who received a two-fold spirit from Saint Teresa, Saint John of the Cross, and Saint Elijah.

Here on earth, I cannot conceive a greater immensity of love than the one with which it has pleased you to give me freely without any merit of mine.” In other words, ‘It hasn’t been my perfect performance as an all-star spiritual athlete that has made me experience these great things. On the contrary, because I have allowed myself to become so little, so small, and embrace and rejoice in that nothingness, that God has lifted me up on His eagle’s wings.’

“I ask you Jesus, to draw me into the flames of your love to unite me so closely to you that you may live and act in me.

Finally, Saint Thérèse talks about the fulcrum of prayer. She says, “All the saints have understood this, and more especially those who fill the world with the light of the gospel teachings.” Jesus says, ‘a disciple will eventually become like their master.’ She became also, as those whom she was inspired by. Saint Thérèse mentions, “I have only to cast a glance in the gospels, and immediately, I breathe in the perfumes of Jesus’s love. Was it not in prayer that St. Paul, St. Augustine, St. John of the Cross, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Francis, St. Dominic, and so many other famous friends of God have drawn out this divine science which delights the greatest geniuses?” She’s rockin’ it now. She’s like a whistling kettle that’s piping hot. She’s on fire!

A scholar has said, give me a lever and a fulcrum, and I will lift the world. What Archimedes was not able to obtain, for his request was not directed by God, and was only made from a material viewpoint, the saints have obtained, the almighty has given them as fulcrum, Himself alone and as lever, prayer, which burns with a fire of love, and it is in this way that they have lifted the world.”

What’s the fulcrum? God Himself. God’s Word. God’s Spirit.

Saint Thérèse adds, “In this way, the saints still militant lift it [the Christians on earth] and that until the end of time, the saints to come will lift it.

What’s the lever? Our prayer, burning with the fire of love, which means the Holy Spirit praying in us in order to lift up the world in intercession for salvation, in companion with the saints in heaven.

Finally, to conclude her Autobiography, Saint Thérèse says this, “I repeat, filled with confidence the publican’s humble prayer [‘Oh God, be merciful to me, a sinner’]. Most of all, I imitate the conduct of Magdalene. Yes, I feel it. Even though I had on my conscience all the sins that can be committed, I would go, my heart broken with sorrow and throw myself into Jesus’ arms for I know how much He loves the prodigal child who returns to Him.

As we prepare ourselves for the eucharist of our lives, let us follow Saint Thérèse ’s lead to take God Himself as a fulcrum, and through prayer, confidence in the Holy Spirit, based on His Word, lift up our needs and our intentions to the Lord with hopeful expectation that God will answer, according to what is best for us and our families – not necessarily according to our expectations, but according to what is best in bringing out a greater good – and in the timing that He sees fit, according to a particular season that His providence ordains.

In other words, have hopeful expectation with no strings attached. Know that God will answer when it is good for you. He will answer. Our prayers in this Novena are not ever at all in vain because they are done in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Saint Thérèse, pray for us.

(SOURCE: Cristo Rey Retreat, San Francisco, September 2015)

Copyright 2016, Fr. Robert Barcelos. All rights reserved

Feast Day Novena Prayer

(This prayer is used by the Carmelites during the Feast Day Novena)

St. Therese, Flower of fervor and love, please intercede for us. Fill our hearts with your pure love of God. As we approach and celebrate your feast day, make us more aware of the goodness of God and how well He tends His garden. Instill in us your little way of doing ordinary things with extra-ordinary love.

Give us the heart of a child who wonders at life and embraces everything with loving enthusiasm. Teach us your delight in God’s ways so that divine charity may blossom in our hearts. Little Flower of Jesus, bring our petitions (mention in silence here) before God, our Father.

With your confidence, we come before Jesus as God’s children, because you are our heavenly friend. As we celebrate the Feast Day of your homecoming in heaven, continue to shower roses and grace upon us.

Amen

Editor’s note: Those of you who want to learn more about Saint Thérèse can also visit Maureen O’Riordan’s blog, “Saint Thérèse of Lisieux: A Gateway,” at http://www.thereseoflisieux.org/.   She is a dear friend of Father James Geoghegan of the San Jose Monastery, CA.

‘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.’

If you liked this post, share it by clicking on one of the social media icons.  And if you were inspired or have a prayer request, share that too under the ‘comment’ section!

Father Robert Barcelos, OCD: St. Thérèse of Lisieux 7

Painting by Father Robert Barcelos, all rights reserved 2016
Painting by Father Robert Barcelos, all rights reserved 2016

Editor’s note: Those of you who want to learn more about Saint Thérèse can also visit Maureen O’Riordan’s blog, “Saint Thérèse of Lisieux: A Gateway,” at http://www.thereseoflisieux.org/.

The Santa Clara OCDS will be sponsoring A Day of Recollection with St.Thérèse, with Maureen as our guest speaker on Saturday, November 11, 2017 at Santa Clara Monastery (1000 Lincoln Street). To register, please go to thespeakroom DONATE tab. ($20 donation suggested, but any amount is appreciated!)

I am struck by how indebted I personally am to St.Thérèse for all the many, many ways she has helped me in my littleness as I’ve strived to grow as a Christian. From the infancy of my coming to know Jesus personally, she has assisted me in many marvelous ways and in all its simplicity. That indebtedness to Saint Thérèse pointed me to the indebtedness we all have to Our Lord.

It’s such a grace, truly a gift from God, to realize how great He is, how much we owe Him, and how deserving He is of all of our love; to really be awakened and be aware of that truth – that reality which is at the core of the cosmos of our creation, of our existence – is a great gift. To have faith in Him and to know how much we owe Him, how deserving He is of all of our hearts, minds, souls, and strength, of all of our life and love – is such a grace.

God has done something so wonderful through Saint Thérèse, and He’s done it for all of us. Of course, He loved Saint Thérèse, but He also loves each of us as if we are the only one in the world to love. God is so large and magnanimous, beyond our wildest dreams. When God draws one soul, He does so with the intention of maximizing what He is putting into action and allowing that person to be magnetic for many others.

In our Novena journey, we must try to come to grips with Saint Thérèse’s humanity, her genius, and her sanctity. Hopefully, we realize that she was as normal, as human, with real-life problems as any one of us. Yet what God had accomplished in her soul was amazingly wonderful. If He could do it for her, He could do it for us. One of Saint Thérèse ’s messages is that none of us are excluded from this dazzling and adventurous embrace of love. None of us are disqualified because of our littleness, our significance, our ordinariness, or our poverty. On the contrary, our smallness makes us more fit for the transformation of God’s friendship.

Saint Thérèse ’s autobiography, this sacrament of her soul, displays the audacity of her spirit and brings us into a dialogue that allows her to become a teacher who schools us in the science and knowledge of Divine Love. Saint Thérèse is a wise warrior, a wonder woman, truly filled with Flower Power to a remarkable degree, more than anything you’ll see on Haight and Asbury.

For Saint Thérèse, prayer is the weapon of the spiritual warrior. She says that prayer and sacrifice together are the invisible and invincible weapons that Jesus gives us. “It is these that give me all my strength. They can touch souls much better than words, as I have experienced.”

Saint Thérèse’s teaching on prayer is very simple. She explains, “For me prayer is an aspiration of the heart, a longing. It is a simple glance directed to heaven. It is a cry of gratitude and love in the midst of trial as well as joy.” In other words, prayer is an act of thanksgiving and love in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health, and for better or for worst.

That prayer, she continues, “is something great, supernatural which expands my soul and unites me to Jesus.” Thérèse is so transparent, truthful, and realistic that she can admit that as much as she cherishes the Virgin Mary, she nevertheless struggled to pray the rosary because she often fell asleep. She admits that she didn’t have a lot of prayers. She didn’t recite them from a big stack of prayers. Outside of the honor of being able to pray the Liturgy of the Hours in the Divine Office, she simply prayed to Jesus as a child.

Going through different prayers exhausted her because “One is as more beautiful as the other, and there’s no end…What suffices for me is just expressing my sentiments to Jesus as a child,” she says, “and He listens, and He answers me.(to be continued).

Saint Thérèse, pray for us.

(SOURCE: Cristo Rey Retreat, San Francisco, September 2015)

Copyright 2016, Fr. Robert Barcelos. All rights reserved

Feast Day Novena Prayer

(This prayer is used by the Carmelites during the Feast Day Novena)

St. Therese, Flower of fervor and love, please intercede for us. Fill our hearts with your pure love of God. As we approach and celebrate your feast day, make us more aware of the goodness of God and how well He tends His garden. Instill in us your little way of doing ordinary things with extra-ordinary love.

Give us the heart of a child who wonders at life and embraces everything with loving enthusiasm. Teach us your delight in God’s ways so that divine charity may blossom in our hearts. Little Flower of Jesus, bring our petitions (mention in silence here) before God, our Father.

With your confidence, we come before Jesus as God’s children, because you are our heavenly friend. As we celebrate the Feast Day of your homecoming in heaven, continue to shower roses and grace upon us.

Amen

‘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.’

If you liked this post, share it by clicking on one of the social media icons.  And if you were inspired or have a prayer request, share that too under the ‘comment’ section!

Father Robert Barcelos, OCD: St. Thérèse of Lisieux 6

by Raul Berzosa raulberzosa.com

Editor’s note: Those of you who want to learn more about Saint Thérèse can also visit Maureen O’Riordan’s blog, “Saint Thérèse of Lisieux: A Gateway,” at http://www.thereseoflisieux.org/.   She is a friend of Father James Geoghegan of the San Jose Monastery, CA.

The Santa Clara OCDS will be sponsoring A Day of Recollection with St.Thérèse, with Maureen as our guest speaker on Saturday, November 11, 2017 at Santa Clara Monastery (1000 Lincoln Street). To register, please go to thespeakroom DONATE tab. ($20 donation suggested, but any amount is appreciated!)

Saint Thérese then transitions and talks about transcendent image of the eagle. “Why do you not reserve these great aspiration for great souls, for the eagles that soar in the heights? I look upon myself as a weak little bird. I’m not an eagle. I have only an eagle’s eyes and heart.

In spite of my extreme littleness, my heart feels within it all the aspirations of an eagle, climbing up toward the divine furnace of the Holy Trinity. But to fly is not within my little power. What will then become of it? Will it die of sorrow at seeing itself so weak? No way. The little bird will not even be troubled. With bold surrender, it wishes to remain gazing at its divine sun. Nothing will frighten it. Neither will wind nor rain, and if dark clouds come and hide the sorrow of love, the little bird will not change its place because it knows that beyond the clouds, its bright sun still shines on, and its brightness is not eclipsed for a single instance.”

Here, we hear the boldness of St. Thérèse ’s spirit. Though she is the little flower, she was truly larger than life. She continues to say, “At times, that little bird’s heart is assailed by the storm, and it seems it should believe in the existence of no other thing except the cloud surrounding it.” Notice how raw and human she is. She expresses that ‘Sometimes, my soul is in such suffering. My soul is so darkened, not by sin of course, but darkened by the sense that God is very far away. I am tempted to believe that God doesn’t even exist because He feels so distant.’

Though Thérèse is being tempted by her suffering and purification, notice her greatness. She is just like Jesus in the agony of the garden when His humanity says, ‘Lord, let this cup pass.’ But in His divinity, He rises above His humanity and says, “Yet not my will but Your will be done.” Similarly, Thérèse says, “This is the moment of perfect joy for the poor, little weak creature. And what joy it experiences when remaining there, just the same and gazing at the invisible light which remains hidden from its faith. While remaining in its place under the rays of the sun, at times, the little bird finds itself somewhat distracted from its sole occupation.”

Thérèse then admits how imperfect she is. Her faith, will, and intention is to give herself completely to God, even if she doesn’t feel God. Nevertheless, she says, ‘ I don’t get it right. I’m not flawless. I’m not a perfectionist.’

She writes, “Being distracted from its soul occupation, it picks up a piece of grain on the right or on the left. It chases after a little worm, then coming upon a little pool of water it wets its feathers, still hardly formed. It sees an attractive flower and its little mind is occupied with this flower. In a word, being unable to soar like the eagles, the poor little bird is taken up with the trifles of earth.”

She speaks in metaphor and imagery to express that like us, distractions and trifles of earth derail her from her sole focus, her one love. Yet instead of hiding away in a corner and feeling sorry for itself, to weep over its misery, to die of sorrow, to lick ones wounds after all these misdeeds and imperfections, “the little bird turns toward its beloved sun, presenting its wet wings to its beneficent rays. It cries like a swallow and in its sweet song, it recounts in detail all its infidelities, thinking in the boldness of its full trust, that it will acquire in ever greater fullness the love of Him who came to call not the just, but sinners.”

Rather than allowing her faults and failures to be a source of discouragement, St. Thérèse turned them around and allowed them to be a source of strength, in light of the truth that Jesus came to save the lost and the sinners, not the righteous and virtuous who are not in need of conversion. She uses her weaknesses, faults, and her imperfections as a source of strength. She says, ‘You came for people like me, the needy. And I clearly need you because look what happens when I’m left to my own devices. I make a mess of things. I make a mess of myself. But You came for the black sheep, for people like me.’

She takes God by the heart, based on the truth of the heart He reveals to us in the gospels. She says, ‘Look, I’m putting myself in their shoes. I’m just like the prodigal son. I’m no better. And because I am so poor, I have rights to Your riches. I have rights to Your redemptive love because I need You, and You came for people like me.’

This faith is part of her daring audacity. “Oh Jesus, your little bird is happy to be weak and little.” Part of the genius and the revolution of St. Thérese is her happiness in being weak and little. She asks, “What would become of [the bird] if it were big?”

In other words, ‘If God were to leave me to all of my imagined strengths, left to myself, my pride would take over, and I would distance myself from God, thinking that I don’t need Him anymore. If were big and full of myself, and I didn’t experience my vulnerabilities, my own need for Him, my own poverty, then left to myself, I would distance myself and probably get in trouble. I would make choices that aren’t for my own good. I would be blinded by my own pride.

Therefore, to be little and aware of my poverty is the biggest blessing I have because it keeps me closer to You. This understanding is a cause for rejoicing then, and not discouragement.

Finally, she writes that the little bird “calls upon the angels and saints who rise like eagles before the consuming fire. And since this is the object of the little bird’s desire, the eagles take pity on it, protecting and defending it, and putting to flight at the same time the vultures who want to devour it. These vultures are the demons whom the little bird does not fear. For it is not destined to be their prey, but the prey of the eagle who contemplates at the center of the sun of love.”

She who knew so well afflictions and temptations by the devil, knew that he would not prevail over her. She knew that she was meant for Jesus alone, the divine eagle, and Jesus would bring light over every darkness. The greatest light she points to is in the white Host. The eternal eagle desires to nourish us with His divine substance. She says, “Though I am nothingness itself, I am nourished by the bread of heaven.”

We are all nourished with the substance of the eternal eagle, Jesus, the Word of God, so that we may soar to the heights of heaven. May Saint Thérèse ’s teaching be contagious. May we catch the fire that she expresses and allow our faith to help us to overcome all discouragement, that Christ may conquer all that needs conquering in us, that we may share more vigorously in His victory.

Saint Thérèse, pray for us.

(SOURCE: Cristo Rey Retreat, San Francisco, September 2015)

Copyright 2016, Fr. Robert Barcelos. All rights reserved

Feast Day Novena Prayer

(This prayer is used by the Carmelites during the Feast Day Novena)

St. Therese, Flower of fervor and love, please intercede for us. Fill our hearts with your pure love of God. As we approach and celebrate your feast day, make us more aware of the goodness of God and how well He tends His garden. Instill in us your little way of doing ordinary things with extra-ordinary love.

Give us the heart of a child who wonders at life and embraces everything with loving enthusiasm. Teach us your delight in God’s ways so that divine charity may blossom in our hearts. Little Flower of Jesus, bring our petitions (mention in silence here) before God, our Father.

With your confidence, we come before Jesus as God’s children, because you are our heavenly friend. As we celebrate the Feast Day of your homecoming in heaven, continue to shower roses and grace upon us.

Amen