Father Robert Elias Barcelos, OCD: at the tomb of St. Charbel

Photo credit, Lorelei Low, ocds

at the Monastery of St. Charbel, Annaya, Lebanon

How blessed we are to be in the presence of one of Jesus’s very close friends. The life of St. Charbel is enigmatic, so unusual, and contradicts our expectations of saints like Padre Pio, whose holiness was obvious to many. But Saint Charbel lived a hidden life of union with God; he lived only the essentials of what it means to be a child of God.

In his Letter to the Ephesians, St. Paul says that we are called to be and destined to be a child of God and to be his intimate true friend. He writes, “In love, he destined us for adoption to himself through Jesus Christ, in accord with the favor of his will, for the praise of the glory of his grace that he granted us in the beloved.”

That is our destiny. People often wonder what God’s will is for their life. In one word God’s purpose for our life – is Love. Be open to what God has to present to you at each moment. We don’t have to look for anything else. Loving in a hidden way is sufficient.

Saint Paul continues the we were chosen “so that we may exist for the praise of His glory.” We’re called to worship the Blessed Trinity. Whatever our state of life is, our primary purpose is that we do everything for the praise of His glory.

Photo credit, Lorelei Low, ocds

In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus tells us that ‘not one sparrow has escaped the notice of God.’ No act of love and true humility escapes God’s notice. Be aware that the divine presence is in your heart. We must find Him there. Seek first the praise of His glory and His face in your own life.

In our pursuit of the kingdom of God, Jesus warns us to “Beware of the leaven – the hypocrisy – of the Pharisees. He warns us not be fake friends and the model that juxtaposes against those who are his real friends are the Pharisees and their hypocrisy.

Jesus also tells His disciples, “There is nothing concealed that will not be revealed nor secret that will not be known.” There is nothing hidden. We can’t live a double life, putting on a good life on the outside only. Jesus calls us to an authenticity of love, which first comes from our personal recognition that ‘I can’t do it on my own.’

Without God’s grace, none of us can fully live up to the perfect love we are called to, or allow His indwelling spirit to live in us. Grace and complete humility is what makes St. Charbel’s life so fruitful.

The hidden union he had in his heart was life- giving after he passed from this world. In this life, though the secret intimacy he shared with Jesus went unnoticed, when he went to heaven, he became a fountain of miracles for God.

St. John of the Cross writes that in the spiritual marriage, a totally flourishing friendship with God comes alive, and God chooses each of us to fully share in this intimacy.

When we kneel before Saint Charbel, we praise and glorify God for what He has done in St. Charbel. God can accomplish far more than we can imagine, provided that we allow him. We are all called to share in the fullness of his divinity. St. Charbel is that witness to our day and age. He models the spiritual marriage here and now, giving us the confidence that Jesus is capable of doing today what He did in the ancient days.

One of the main reasons it is appropriate to begin a pilgrimage by honoring Saint Charbel, is to help us to prepare our encounter in Jesus’s footsteps. By his very witness and presence, Saint Charbel is a bridge that unites the East and the West. He was a contemporary monk who lived the same contemplative spirit of St. Elijah in this Holy Land.

Saint Charbel calls us to discover our own roots and identity. He embodies, especially for Carmelites, the zeal for the absolute primacy of God’s love. As we come before the altar, we already share in this future glory through the Holy Spirit and the sacrament of the Mass. In the Spirit, the food of the Eucharist is a divine medicine that already gives us a foretaste of the reality that we are God’s possession.

We are all created to be possessed by God’s eternal love. In allegiance to Jesus with Saint Elizabeth of the Trinity and Saint Charbel, may all of us come to know how to live a hidden life of love for the praise of his glory.

Photo credit, Lorelei Low, ocds

NOTE: Father Robert Elias Barcelos, OCD is currently leading a Holy Land Pilgrimage, organized by Beth Maddatu, ocds and Adriatic Tours.  I have loosely transcribed his homilies so that readers can participate in the journey. – Teresa Linda, ocds

Father Robert Elias Barcelos, OCD: At Saint Charbel’s Birthplace

NOTE: Father Robert Elias Barcelos, OCD is currently leading a Holy Land Pilgrimage, organized by Beth Maddatu, ocds and Adriatic Tours.  I have loosely transcribed his homilies so that readers can participate in the journey. – Teresa Linda, ocds

Saint Charbel’s Birthplace (Kafra, Lebanon, in the Quadisha Valley)


 A reading from the second letter of Saint Paul to Timothy (4:10-17)

Beloved: Demas, enamored of the present world, deserted me and went to Thessalonica, Crescens to Galatia, and Titus to Dalmatia. Luke is the only one with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is helpful to me in the ministry.

Alexander the coppersmith did me a great deal of harm; the Lord will repay him according to his deeded. You too be on guard against him, for he has strongly resisted our preaching.

At my first defense no one appeared on my behalf, but everyone deserted me. May it not be held against them! But the Lord stood by me and gave me strength, so that through me the proclamation might be completed and all the Gentiles might hear it.

Our pilgrimage of Phoenicia (Lebanon) gives us an opportunity to study a saint who lived only for God.

While Demas and most of his companions deserted Paul, Saint Charbel, enamored with Christ, deserted the world to seek friendship with God. We’re here now, the highest mountain in the Middle East, where Saint Charbel was born and raised.

God, who knows us before we were conceived, chose Saint Charbel to be born in this region, foreshadowing that he would be born to the heights of holiness, the summit of what it means to live in the silence of God — just like Mary and St. Therese, who lived their lives, hidden and in union with the Holy Trinity.

Those seeking holiness must experience Jesus as Savior and have a personal encounter with Him. This intimate relationship allows our new holiness to be stored in us through Christ’s sacred humanity. The psalmist proclaims, “Your friends make known, oh Lord, the glorious splendor of your kingdom.” We are called to be true friends of Jesus.

St. Charbel wrote very little; most of what we know about him comes from oral tradition, but when we see his icon, we see that he is in prayer that radiates peace. He is looking down in humble awareness that God abides in him – the kingdom of God within.  As a prophet for the kingdom of God, Saint Charbel embodies what we value in the life of the spirit.

In the gospel, when Jesus sends his disciples out to witness to the kingdom, he says to them,”Carry no money, bag, no sack, no sandals.” In other words, he asks us to be detached of all material details so that you can focus on the one thing necessary – allowing the peace of Christ to be in your soul.

Embrace discomforts and challenges and allow peace to abide in you, a peace that comes through the holy spirit and the supernatural world – this is what St. Charbel radiates, the abiding embrace of God within us.

We, like the disciples, are sent out like lambs among wolves. However, Saint Paul didn’t allow the wolf bites to get infected, but brushed them off of himself. “May it not be held against them,” he writes. Paul rid himself of resentment, and the desire to get back at Demas, Alexander, and others who hurt or abandoned him – he leaves everything in the Lord’s hands.

Jesus also warns the believers to be careful against those wolves. We must love one another but be as wise as a serpents. Know who you’re dealing with, and be on guard of anyone who can steal your peace.

In his letter to Timothy, St. Paul was deeply disappointed because the people he expected to help, hurt him yet he didn’t allow his disappointment to discourage him and bring him down. As a result of his affliction, God gave him strength.

Where Paul’s companions were lacking, God provided peace. May this peace define what it means for you to follow in the footsteps of Jesus.

During pilgrimage, we bring everything with us – our family, our local community, our nation – and we ask Jesus Immanuel into that. Let us be open to an unprecedented encounter with Jesus, that He may make our hearts His Holy Land. Amen.

Father Robert Elias Barcelos, OCD: The Eucharist and SaintTeresa

PART I

PART II

(Click on the triangle to play the audio.  Below is a rough transcription of the conference)

In John 6, Jesus refers to himself as ‘I am’ – Jahweh. As Catholics, we sometimes are repulsed by the name Jehovah because we associate this with ‘Jehovah Witnesses’ and their often anti-Catholic teaching.

When God revealed His name ‘I am who am,’ this revealed who God is. It is a metaphysical expression that God is of another dimension – He is far and above creation in essence. Everything of His creation is a reflection of His beauty, His truth, and His goodness. Everything witnesses to the grandeur of God. However, none of this can fully capture who He is in His essence; this is beyond human comprehension. He is transcendent as well as eminent.

In the Western church, we lose sight of His transcendence, and we need to recapture what was at the heart of Christian mysticism. He is the only one for whom there is no origin.

God’s essence is to exist; He is the cause of our becoming. He is ultimately, supreme perfection, the absolute Absolute, that of which nothing greater can be conceived, ultimate Reality – Being itself. All these philosophical terms point to His supernatural being. He cannot be comprehended by our human understanding, though all of creation points to Him.

No image can capture God, but in the incarnation, we ultimately see God, for the God-Man, Jesus Christ, reveals the face of God. Because of the incarnation, we have a person who is tangible to help us relate to God. He gives us access to the magnificent mystery of God. He enters into full relationship with us through His Son. Jesus is God made man who made God visible.

Through the Eucharist, especially, Jesus becomes tangible in our hands; the Eucharist is at the heart of the life of the Trinity. It enters into the mystical relationship and is given to us as a foretaste of the eternal banquet. Love’s true nature is to come down. God in his humility came down to our level to raise us up to Him.

Jesus wants to feed us from heaven. In Toledo, St. John of the Cross writes a series of poems titled Romances, about God’s love for us – the divine romance. Through the Eucharist, we are being drawn into this love.

In our Catholic tradition, every saint has discovered and seen the reality of what the Eucharist is, and have freely made that as the center of their lives – the Holy communion that leads to the Holy Trinity.

Saint Teresa describes her experience of the Holy Eucharist – “in a moment, all the darkness of the soul disperses.” All afflictions of soul and body can leave in a moment through the Eucharist – exhaustion, negative sarcasm, critical spirits – can wear out our spiritual journeys but in one moment, God can alleviate us from all that weight.

In the Eucharist, Saint Teresa sees the “extraordinary majesty of God” so that “the whole experience seemed to annihilate” her. When we contemplate this truth through the eyes of faith, we’re able to acknowledge in our hearts the reality of God’s presence, though by its physical nature, we only see something very insignificant.

This mystery points to who we are as the Body of Christ. To the eyes of the world, we are ordinary human beings, with faults and defects, just like anybody else. Yet through grace, the God of heaven and earth lives in our hearts and calls us His Body and calls us to be Light for the World.

What does it mean to be Light for the World? This is not meant to be egocentric or narcissistic. It means that we must be united to the sufferings of Christ; we must experience the contradictions of the cross and experience that suffering in union with the cross. It means being His ambassador for the sake of the family. God can use us as instruments of salvation for those whom we most love. We must love Christ on the cross. This love is not about loving suffering itself – loving the bare cross without Jesus– but loving Christ on the cross.

It is true that Jesus is disguised in all creation. God is everywhere, but not everything is God.

St. Teresa recognizes the immensity of the Deity “concealed in something as small as a host…wisdom so wonderful…the stone that was rejected has become the cornerstone.” The universe revolves around the cross and resurrection, and the Eucharist enters into the victory of God’s eternal now, of love that overcomes every evil.

Where there has been destruction, the cross is somehow at work. Saint Paul says that all creation groans for the coming of the freedom that comes in Christ; all creation shares in the redemptive act. The great saints, starting with the Greek Fathers and greatest saints of the Early Christian Church and the East, understood and wrote often about this mystery.

Saint Teresa contrasts the experience of prayer possible through Communion as opposed to prayer outside of the Eucharist, mental prayer or meditation. As Christians, meditation for us means the gaze of faith on some truth that is revealed to us that expresses something about who God is and who we are.

Our spiritual life must be well-formed through proper meditation and an understanding of who God is – and then – we can go into emptiness, into the cloud of unknowing and enter into the embrace of God. In the early states of meditation, we must have proper formation. We are to use our sense to reflect on the truth of the faith that can help us deepen our relationship with God in a way that changes and transforms us.

Holy Communion is entering into God’s eternal Now. I am, Now, in the present moment. God exists to abide in the eternal now, in the sacrament of the moment, and we are called to enter into that. The present moment, where God is to be encountered, is liberating and takes us into the fullness of who God is – embracing all things, all of creation in one act of love. Whenever we celebrate communion, we enter into that experience.

God wants to make Himself enfleshed in you, now, and this happens through the Eucharist. It is an amazing marriage between heaven and earth.

Saint Teresa says, “There’s no reason to go looking for Him further away.” He is present in the humble wafer as He is in the great cathedrals. We must find that treasure in ourselves especially – and in unexpected places and people. Jesus comes not simply for us to adore Him in the tabernacle, but He comes down so that we may be His tabernacle.

What is keeping you from keeping the treasure of heaven within yourself? How is God asking you to find the priceless pearl within you?

When we start to love ourselves the way God loves us, then we can love others more freely, and see God everywhere. The key to this liberty of grace is our true awareness of God’s deep love.

SOURCE: 2018 OCDS Meeting Conference, Santa Clara, CA

Father Robert Elias Barcelos – The Transverberation of St. Teresa of Avila, August 26

In the 29th chapter of her Life, about halfway through it,  Saint Teresa writes:

I saw in the hands of this beautiful cherubim angel a large golden dart and at the end of the iron tip there appeared to be a little fire. It seemed to me this angel plunged the dart several times into my heart that it reached deep within me [in Spanish she says, “it reached into my entrañas”]. When he drew it out, I thought he was carrying off with him the deepest part of me; and he left me all on fire with great love of God. The pain was so great that it made me moan, and the sweetness this greatest pain caused me was so superabundant that there is no desire capable of taking it away; nor is the soul content with less than God. The pain is not bodily but spiritual, although the body doesn’t fail to share in some of it, and even a great deal. The loving exchange that takes place between the soul and God is so sweet that I beg him in his goodness to give a taste of this love to anyone who thinks I am lying.

She received a special grace, which is typical of what Saint Teresa refers to as the sixth mansion; it is a very extraordinary gift that God gives to very rare souls. But other people have experienced this…Saint John of the Cross, Saint Therese, Saint Mary of Jesus Crucified, and Saint Padre Pio, to name a few.

The the entrañas… What is that depth of her being that was touched so intimately by God? Saint John of the Cross describes the entrañas as the intimate center of the substance of the soul.. Saint John of Cross says that God’s purpose in granting this kind of deep communication of Himself to someone else’s depth ‘is to exalt the soul, to enlarge it, and enrich it.’

Saint Teresa’s mystical experience must not be confused with mysticism, as it is popularly known on the level of cultural or television mysticism. On that secular level, mysticism is often associated as a grandiose or paranormal psychic adventure, and that’s not the point of this experience at all.

For our holy mother, Saint Teresa, authentic mysticism always had an ecclesial dimension, in other words, genuine mysticism always involved mission for others; it wasn’t just for herself.

One of our Carmelite opening prayers expresses this aspect of mysticism leading to mission. ‘Almighty God, you filled the heart of Saint Teresa, our mother, with the fire of your love and gave her strength to undertake difficult tasks for the honor of your name.’

This is really important because Saint Teresa experienced the Transverberation before all of the marvels of her foundations…and before all that God did through her. In a way that is typical of her voice and expression, Saint Teresa says about her mission in Carmel:

‘If our Lord hadn’t granted me the favors he did, it doesn’t seem to me that I would have had the courage for the works that were done or the strength to support the trials suffered and the statements and judgments made against me.   So after the foundations were begun, the fears I previously had in thinking that I was deceived, left me. I grew certain the work was God’s and so I threw myself into difficult tasks, although always with advice and under obedience. As a result, I understand that since our Lord desire to revive the original spirit of this order, and in His mercy he took me as a means, His majesty had to provide me with what I was lacking, which was everything, in order to get results and better manifest His greatest through so wretched a thing’ (referring to herself).

This grace was a catalyst, a turning point in her life, just like the Transfiguration was to the Apostles. The mystical experience that the three Apostles had on Mount Tabor of seeing Jesus transfigured, left a special mark on their souls and it prepared them for their mission…but more so, it prepared them to endure the crisis of the Cross before they were endowed and equipped for their mission. It was a special turning point.

In the life of Saint Teresa, Allison Peers writes, “At the time of the Transverberation, though she could not have known it, she was nearing the end of the quarter century during which she had been an obscure daughter of Carmel, and she was standing on the threshold of the lifework which was to make her be immortal.”

The Transfiguration in the lives of the Apostles, and the Transverberation in the life of Saint Teresa, show that God communicates Himself in times that we need Him most, and in the times that we need it most. An authentic relationship with God is always going to have an impact on our relationships with others. God’s grace, in granting us an extraordinary experience of His love, is always…that we may have an extraordinary love for others and be willing to share in His mission for the salvation of souls.

In conclusion, to use one Mass Offertory Prayer, ‘Lord God, we offer you this victim of charity, may He kindle in us a love as intense as that which let Saint Teresa of Ávila to offer herself a living sacrifice for the Church.’

 

May we, like our holy mother, Teresa, have a generous, determined, and courageous spirit to endure all things for Christ who strengthens us…that we may be filled with the infinite fire of His divine love!

Father Robert Elias Barcelos, OCD: The Solemnity of Our Lady of Mount Carmel

Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Feast Day Homily by Father Robert Elias Barcelos, OCD – Mount Saint Josephs Carmelite Monastery, San Jose, CA  (2018)

NOTE: Click on the triangle to play.

(Fatima, 2017)

A PRAYER

Abba, Father. We exalt you, through Yeshua, your awesome Son, our beloved Savior, who promised that we who believe in You through Him, that supernatural wellsprings would open up inside of our souls, springing up Your infinite presence.

We exalt You, Lord. We magnify You.  In  allowing our hearts to be exposed to Your light, and coming before Your Face in the Sacrament of the Eucharist, may the impact of Your profound mercy embrace us, Lord, for You are Emmanuel, God with us. The same yesterday, right here, right now, as You are in eternity.

Lord, overwhelm us with Your love and Your truth that we may be consumed and taken ever more deeply, and closer to You. Father, I pray in Jesus, that all our guardian angels may intercede and stand watch at our side, that all the entities that are opposed to our alliance with You may be bound, diminished, and expelled.

May the Holy Spirit saturate us in all the areas we need to be instructed and loved, to find freedom and hope. I ask Saint Gabriel, the first to announce the gospel to give us His blessing, that we may experience new birth in the Word, that Jesus may be made flesh in our humanity.

With Mary, Our Lady of Mount Carmel, we magnify you.  Lord God, we come before You as our King. We ask You to come in triumph and reign. Rain down the triumph of Your Spirit. Overshadow us with the power of the Most High that we may understand how truly awesome and real, how ravishingly great you are.

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

May almighty God, bless us, protect us from evil and bring us to everlasting life.

Our Lady of Mount Carmel, pray for us.

(SOURCE: Opening Prayer, Young Adult Retreat 2011. “The True Rebellion of Saints”)

Copyright Fr. Robert Barcelos, OCD, 2016. All Rights Reserved.

Click the image below for the Novena prayer to Our Lady of Mount Carmel, followed by: Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory Be.

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Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Mt. Saint Joseph Carmelite Monastery, San Jose, CA, Feast Day July 16

 

Father Robert Elias, OCD: As certain as the dawn

The Tax Collector and the Pharisee, Creative Commons

Click on the triangle to listen to the audio.

Jesus addresses the parable of the Tax Collector and the Pharisee to those who believe themselves to be most righteous, yet despise others.  The Pharisee does the right things for the wrong reasons; what he does has no effect because he sees himself as more superior rather than loving. Jesus reminds us that our loving relationships must grow. Love for others is a necessary condition to truly grow in our relationship with God and our knowledge of Him.

Father Robert Elias, OCD: seek yourself in Me

Click on the triangle to listen to the audio.

During one of her locutions, Saint Teresa heard Our Lord speak the words, “Seek yourself in Me.”  Saint Teresa understands these words to mean that God meets us and accepts us where we are in our lives, and our thirst and love of the truth is Someone, Yahweh moving among His people.

SOURCE: Order of Discalced Secular Carmelite (OCDS) community meeting, March 2018.

Father Robert Elias, OCD: a listening heart

Click on the triangle to listen to the conference.

What does it mean to be a contemplative? Father Robert Elias discusses  the chapter, “A Listening Heart” from the book Seasons of the Heart, written by Father John Welch, O.Carm.  Through Christ, God calls us to a relationship with Christ that is a self-discovering liberation in the context of friendship and trust. This contemplative relationship, which is built in silence, is not an escape, but enables us to enter more fully in solidarity and compassion with our poverty and the world’s poverty.  As a result, we are able to love and see the world as He loves and sees the world.

SOURCE: OCDS Meeting, May 2018

 

 

Father Robert Elias, ocd: confidence in God & mothers day

NOTE: Click on the triangle to listen to Father Robert’s Homily on 5/12/18 on confidence in God –and Mothers Day as he discusses “Seasons of the Heart” by John Welch, O. Carm., Bob Marley, Lauryn Hill, and his past.

Painting by Brother Frank Sharma, OCD

 

 

Father Robert Elias, OCD: Easter – 3rd mansion: first water

The Life of prayer in the Purgative Way, is the first water that St. Teresa talks about in The Life. There are four waters, and the Purgative Way is the first water. She explains the analogy of the well, where we are doing all the work; this is the Purgative Way form of prayer that she talks about in The Life, Chapters 11 to 13. For growth in the art of prayer, two things are necessary: desire it and have determined determination. Never give it up.

A Benedictine Father once said so well, ‘Until we are convinced that prayer is the best use of our time, we will never find time for prayer.’ There’s always going to be something to do. There’s no end to being busy, and until we are convinced that prayer is the best use of our time, we will never find time for it.

In the Purgative Way, especially as it develops in the Third Mansion, prayer mostly looks like, practically speaking as a basic and firm anchoring into the Liturgical life of the Church. In more common terms, you’ve got to have your Magnificat; without it, you’re disoriented. The prayer books, the prayer life of the Church and the daily readings anchor you.

In beginning, you develop a unique cultivation of sacred Scripture, and are starting to actually open the Bible, read it for ourselves, and explore what it might mean. Knowing the Word of Jesus is the foundation of a prayer life that is coming to know the heart of Jesus.

Also, the beginner in the first three mansions cultivates ordinary love and prayer through a personal relationship with Jesus. This teaching is from Father Datius, an Indian Carmelite father who has since gone to the Lord. He died recently but gave a lot of retreats. He says this about cultivating ordinary love and prayer, and a personal relationship with Jesus.

‘We start at reading the areas in sacred Scripture’ – meditating in the areas of Scripture which speaks to us directly in God’s love for us in a personal way. ‘Meditate,’ which means reflect calmly; that’s what meditation is with Christians, and it’s different than Buddhists. ‘Reflect calmly on God’s loving presence in our life.’ Throughout each stage of our life, God’s love was always there.

Reflect on that. You can even use the rosary to do it as your vehicle. ‘See how God has been as a provident provider and lover in every phase of your personal history.’ He’s always been there, always providing, always bringing you out a bind, picking you up on your feet again, and wiping off the dust from a fall.

‘Meditate on God’s mediated love, the way He’s come to you through the means of various people in your life, which have been God’s love in disguise.’

Also, a person can journal, begin to write about their spiritual life, and start to learn better about how God is working in their life by writing it out. Sometimes, God can speak to us in our hearts as we write. We can also be developing gospel friendships and being careful about the company that we keep because whether it’s good company, it rubs off and if it’s bad company, it also rubs off.

This stage of prayer in the Third Mansion is what’s called an Affective Prayer, and as Saint Teresa would call it, the Prayer of Simplicity. Affective Prayer means a prayer of the heart is beginning to start. This means love, praise, thanksgiving, adoration, the sentiments of repentance and surrender; an intercession that is empathetic, that has empathy for those you are praying for. You really like praying for others from the heart and feeling where their needs are, suffering with them, and rejoicing with them.

St. John of the Cross refers to this Prayer of Simplicity as Active or Acquired Contemplation. It’s a prayer that can be taught and involves our effort. It is not yet infused supernaturally, and doesn’t yet have the more the direct inflow of God’s spirit.

God alone can take us beyond this form of prayer into Prayer of Recollection, or what St. John of the Cross calls, Initial Contemplation, which starts in the Fourth Mansion. The transition from natural prayer to the more supernatural prayer, a deeper communion with the Holy Spirit, begins in this fourth stage.

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

SOURCE: Teresa 5, Copyright 2018, Father Robert Barcelos, OCD