Father Robert Barcelos, OCD: Fatima Pilgrimage 2017, Braga

Editor’s note: From June 8-15, 2017 Father Robert Barcelos leads a pilgrimage to  Portugal for the 100th Anniversary of Our Lady of Fatima’s appearance to three shepherd children.  I will try to post audios of some of his homilies, along with transcribed talks from previous homilies that are relevant to Fatima and Marian devotion, so you can walk along with the pilgrims during this special anniversary. I pray that you experience healing and peace. – TL

Our Lady of Fatima, Braga Portugal. Photo credit: thespeakroom.org

AUDIO: To play and listen, press the triangle on the left.

SOURCE: Braga, Portugal 2017. Shrine of Bom Jesus

Shrine of Bom Jesus, Braga Portugal. Photo credit, thespeakroom.org

 

 

 

Father Robert Barcelos, OCD: Our Lady of Fatima

The first time I went to Fatima, and this has never happened since, I walked into the square. When it is cold outside and when you go into a house as you open the door, a wave of heat just comes over you. When I walked into the square, a wave of Mary’s motherly love came over me, and it almost brought me to tears. It took my breath away. I felt the affectionate care of a mother. I’ve had a wonderful mother, and my upbringing helps me easily relate to Mary by nature. But what is so beautiful about God’s redemption is that He brings good out of everything.

Whether we’ve had difficulty with our relationships with our mother or our father, God can fill in the voids in our life – the absence, the neglect, whether through divorce, death, separation – God can fill those gaps with His love as Father, and His love as mother coming to us through Mary. As an instrument of God’s love for us, Mary helps us to know the maternal affection in a spiritual way that is specific for a woman to give. It is uniquely her, but it points to the divine.

Mary is at the heart of salvation history, biblically, and in our own time. We can understand this biblically through the lens of the simple word, ‘Woman,’ with a capital W. When Jesus uses that term, he uses it to identify Mary as the New Eve, just as Saint Paul identifies Jesus as the new Adam. What does this mean? A new humanity. God is starting over. He is giving us a way to be healed, to be set free, to be made new, through the New Adam and the New Eve, by baptism, through His life, death, and resurrection. We become regenerated, born again, receiving a new life and identity. As Saint Thomas Aquinas says, our dignity becomes super-elevated to share in God’s divine nature. We’re given a new destiny.

Jesus uses the term ‘Woman’ at very important moments – at the wedding feast at Cana, when we see the intercession of Mary among the disciples; we see that amidst this family celebration of love, at a moment of crisis, amidst this feast, was a dilemma. The disciples, in their dilemma, went first to Jesus’ mother and whispered their need to her. She simply made that need known to her Son and Jesus replies, ‘Woman, what does that have to do with me?’ This event is poorly translated in English and unfortunately, many Protestants poorly misinterpret Christ’s words as a sign of disrespect to Mary, almost as if Jesus or John the Evangelist foresaw that Catholics would one day “worship” Mary and this is the biblical proof, when only the Bible alone has authority, 1500 years later. That is an absolutely false theology.

Jesus doesn’t say “Woman” as a show of disrespect but as a show of exalted honor. In so doing, He says, ‘Mother, you are the New Eve. You are going to share with me in this mission, and if I manifest my divine identity, if I let who I am out by this miracle, then Calvary is just around the corner. It’s going to go down! Get on the roller coaster, and put on your seat belt, because the moment this miracle happens, it will all start. Are you ready for this?’ He says, ‘My hour has not yet come! The moment that I was born for, to give my life to save the world, the moment I manifest the miracle, that hour will be upon us. The enemy is going to be looming, and you’re going to be there with me. Are you ready?’

And He performed the miracle. What does Our Lady do? She nonchalantly returns to the disciples, not wanting the limelight, and very humbly, modestly asks them, ‘Do whatever He tells you. If you know what’s for your own good, if you know what’s in your best self-interests, if you want to spare yourself unnecessary suffering, if you want the recipe for sanctity, if you want happiness – do whatever He tells you.’

Sister Lucia, the only surviving visionary of the three Fatima children, and who later became a Carmelite nun, in her book, The Call to Fatima, says that ‘Do whatever He tells you’ is Mary’s only commandment. Her only commandment is seen in Cana. ‘Listen to Him,’ just as the Father said at the Baptism and the Transfiguration. Listen means obey, which means submit – in submission. Enter into His Mission for your life. That is the model of Mary’s vocation. She leads us to obedience and to a life of allegiance to Jesus. Her only desire is that we lead a life in allegiance to Jesus, not allegiance to her.

Father James Geoghegan, OCD: Stairs to the Risen Christ and St. Thérèse

Carmel

At the age of 15, Thérèse entered the Carmel in Lisieux. It was a poor convent, damp at times, and always cold in winter. She tells us that her little cell filled her with joy. Rising from the corridor where she lived, there was a circular staircase leading to the cell for the prioress, Mother Gonzague, whom she loved very much. As a young novice, Thérèse felt a deep attraction to her prioress; and she often tried to find an excuse to go to visit her. Perhaps she needed the attention and affection she had had back at home. Thérèse realized the danger of false affection; at times she had to hold onto the banisters to stop herself from going up those stairs. This heroic self-discipline bore rich fruit. Instead of being spoiled and dependent, her relationship with Mother Gonzague grew into a pure, strong love between two independent, respectful, mature women.

The love Thérèse had for the prioress is evident in the section of the autobiography written for her. When going through a deeply traumatic time after the difficult election of 1896, it was Thérèse who was able to comfort and strengthen the older woman. The battle with immature love on the stairway yielded a rich bounty later on.

Under Mother Agnes, Thérèse was practically the mistress of novices; and she lived with the novices upstairs in the Novitiate. This wing was on the opposite side of the quadrangle from where most of the community lived. On cold winter nights, the sisters gathered around the fire in the community recreation room. To go to her cell, Thérèse had to traverse the open cloister in the cold night air and climb the stair. She spent hours trying to sleep but was unable to do so because the cold went right through to her bones. As her tuberculosis developed, she suffered more from the freezing weather.

As she climbed the stairs, she must have offered the painful, breath-consuming steps for her beloved missionaries. Turning a bend in those stairs, she saw each time a saying boldly written over the window: “Today a little work, tomorrow eternal rest.” Though exhausted emotionally and physically and dragging her weakened body Thérèse could not accept that pious saying. For her, heaven was not eternal rest but, in the words that Florence Nightingale said at this time, “an immense activity.”

Elevator

Stairs were a fact of life for Thérèse. She used them as metaphors at various times. As her desire for sanctity grew, she sought a direct and easy way for little souls to ascend to God. She remembered an experience she and Celine had in Paris on their way to Rome. In a big department store, they discovered an elevator. One can imagine the excitement of two teenagers, tired from shopping and sightseeing, riding the elevator from floor to floor. They were fascinated by this new invention. Thérèse would find in the elevator a new metaphor for her little way. A weak child did not have to ascend to God by climbing the steep stairs. The elevator was the merciful arms of the good God, carrying the child aloft in confidence and love. Thérèse even wrote to her missionary brother, a man plagued with a sense of weakness and inadequacy, “Ascend the elevator of love, not the stairs of fear.”

Years after Thérèse’s death, her novice mistress, Sister Mary of the Angels wrote: Thérèse teaches and enlightens me. I ask her continually to help me enter her Little Way so that in death Jesus will truly be my elevator.

SOURCE: Carmelite Digest, Autumn 1997, reprinted with permission

Copyright 1997, Father James Geoghegan, OCD

Father James Geoghegan, OCD: St. Thérèse’s Stairs to the Risen Lord

By the end of her life, St. Thérèse had discovered an elevator to lift her up to heaven: the arms of Jesus. Before she found the shortcut, she had many stairs to contend with. Father James Geoghegan, OCD has visited some of the stairs in our saint’s life, climbed one of them, and meditated on all of them.

In April 1896, after climbing the stairs to her cell, St. Thérèse coughed up blood. It was the beginning of the end. At the same time, the brand new opera of Puccini, “La Boheme,” presented to the world a tragic romantic heroine. Mimí, dying from tuberculosis, enters the garret where Rudolfo asks her if she feels ill. “No, it’s nothing,” she says. “I’m just out of breath, it’s the stairs.” The fictional character and the saint would have understood each other.

Thérèse, throughout her life, had to climb stairs to go to bed. Today, a pilgrim visiting the shrines of St. Thérèse discovers that stairs played a significant role in her life and spiritual development.

Alencon

When you enter the house where Thérèse was born, ahead of you are the hallway and the stairs leading up to the bedrooms. The stairs rise in a high, steep, elegant curve. As a child, Thérèse tried to climb them. Later, she told her novices to keep persevering like a little child climbing a steep staircase.

In a letter to Pauline, Zélie Martin describes her daughter fearfully ascending those stairs “crying out ‘Mama Mama’” at each step. If Zélie forgot to say, “Yes, my child,” Thérèse would stop and not go any further. The steepness of those stairs would be frightening for a little child. Eventually, her mother would come and pick her up and carry her to the room upstairs.

Later, Thérèse saw this as an image of her life. Though she is weak and frail, God reaches down and carries her in his arms like a loving mother.

Each morning, Zélie came down those stairs to go to morning mass. When she became too weak from cancer to descend the stairs, she and her family knew that the end was near. Standing at the foot of the stairs, Thérèse, aged four years, saw the coffin for her mother. She died in the bed in which she had given birth to Thérèse. Zélie’s body was carried down the stairs and brought to the Church of Our Lady, where 19 years before she had married Louis and where Thérèse was baptized.

Lisieux

Three months later, Louis and the five girls moved to Lisieux where they rented the delightful “Les Buissonnets.” Thérèse loved this house, “For there my life was truly happy.” The house is charming, in lovely grounds. It is smaller than it appears in photographs. The kitchen and dining room are on the ground floor. A short staircase with angular turns leads to the bedrooms upstairs. On Christmas night, the almost 14-year-old Thérèse rushed up and down those stairs on her night of illumination, the night of her conversion, when she grew up and became a strong woman of the Lord. She had returned from Midnight Mass. In the middle of December, it is a cold time in Normandy. With Céline, she went up to their bedroom and they took of their hats and coats. Thérèse heard her father, who was not well and who was tired and cold at this late hour, complain that Thérèse was still acting like a spoiled child and it was time for her to grow up. She was hurt, but Jesus had changed her through the Christmas Eucharist. Jesus had done in a moment what she had not been able to do in ten years. Instead of weeping and feeling sorry for herself, she bounded down the stairs and, with the happy appearance of a queen showed her gifts to her father who soon regained his own cheerfulness. Soon everyone was happy celebrating the birth of the Infant Jesus and, without realizing it, the birth of Thérèse into womanly spiritual maturity (to be continued).

SOURCE: Carmelite Digest, Autumn 1997, reprinted with permission

Copyright 1997, Father James Geoghegan, OCD

Father Robert Barcelos, OCD: Easter Exodus of Love 4

The ongoing exodus experience, of conversion, is a true ecstasy, a coming out of ourselves in the discovery of God’s self, a greater love of the One who loves us. It’s a call for constantly having a renewed attitude of conversion. Sometimes, conversion has to be met on the level of our attitudes. The conversion of our heart, what’s going on in our heart, the emotions, the moods, all of these things, the thoughts in our minds, all of that is expressed in attitude.

From there comes disposition because when truth goes from the mind to the heart, it goes deeper and takes root in us; it becomes disposition, which is how I’m disposed towards somebody or something. Conversion of heart, as St. Paul says, means ‘being transformed by the renewal of our mind’ (Romans 12:1-2) that we may know what is God’s will and choose it. In other words, our attitude and our disposition enables us to go from what is good to what is pleasing and perfect; to go from good, to better, and to best; to not settle for less, to always strive to grow from the abundance of what God has and what God wants to give.

In order for us to do this, we have to have the right attitude, Mary’s attitude; the openness, the receptivity, docility that comes from surrender and humility and trust, and obedience. That’s the attitude that allows our souls to be cultivated and fertilized in order to bear fruit, and one that is so important for the conversion of heart. Saint Paul says that from conversion comes transformation, “an incessant moving forward.”

What you think when you hear that – an incessant moving forward? That excites and encourages me. In other words, God never becomes stale. God never becomes boring. Other things can become boring, but God doesn’t become boring. An incessant moving forward means what one great mystical theologian calls, the mystical evolution, an ongoing transformation, an incessant going forward.

According to St. Paul, we go ‘from glory to glory, from strength to strength.’ We’re always in a state of growth. In other words, ‘I don’t want to stay in the same stage of spiritual life for the rest of my life. I don’t want to be like the Israelites, going in circles for 40 years before going into the Promised Land. I want to be always growing in my relationship with God, knowing how God is alive in me and expresses Himself in my life. I always want to be growing in that love story and ongoing maturity,’ as St. Paul says, ‘to the extent of the full stature of Christ.’

What’s the full stature of Christ? Transfiguration, resurrection – that’s our destiny. When we see Christ risen and transfigured, it’s not only who He is in His divinity, but it’s who we are called to be, for we have been given a share into adoption through grace; that’s who we are in our deepest self, and that’s how we have to always be, in a state of moving forward and allowing God to come to fruition in us.

According to Pope Francis, “This liberating exodus toward Christ and our brothers and sisters also represents the way for us to fully understand our common humanity.” To hear and answer the Lord’s call is not a private and completely personal matter fraught with momentary emotion; it’s much deeper than that. Rather, it is “a specific, real, and total commitment which embraces the whole of our existence and sets it at the service of the growth of God’s kingdom.” Finally Pope Francis says, “the Christian vocation, [is] rooted in the contemplation of the father’s heart” – that’s his preface, but that’s so important.

Our first vocation is to worship God, to worship the Lord because that’s what the reality of heaven is. It is the festival, the fiesta, the celebration of worship, the exaltation, the human being fully alive in the glory of God. The Christian vocation rooted in the contemplation of the Father’s heart inspires us to solidarity in bringing liberation to our brothers and sisters, especially the poorest.

Pope Francis adds, “A disciple of Jesus has a heart open to His unlimited horizons.” We must allow our hearts to be open to Jesus’s limited unlimited horizons. This is what I hope and trust that the Lord Jesus is going to manifest to you according to your receptivity. According to your openness to His unlimited horizons, He will pour out His heart to yours.

Our exodus is up to us, but what makes us open? Faith and hope. As St. Therese says, confidence in His merciful love. If we have a little confidence, we’ll get a little from Him, but if you have unlimited confidence in the unlimited horizon of His heart you will receive a whole lot. May we be open to enlarge our hearts to God’s heart, and to gaze upon His face that me may receive an outpouring of his grace, in Jesus’s divine, most merciful, and most holy name, Amen.

SOURCE: Consecrated Life Retreat, New Mexico 2016, transcribed by Teresa Linda, ocds

Copyright 2017, Father Robert Barcelos, OCD

 

Father Robert Barcelos, OCD: Easter Exodus of Love 3

Requiem for Syria by Khaled Akil www.khaledakil.com

The Holy Father writes, “Hearing and following the voice of Christ, the Good Shepherd, means letting ourselves be attracted and guided by Him.” John Paul II would use charmed by Jesus. Have you ever felt that way before? If you haven’t that’s alright, and if you have, I hope and pray in the Holy Spirit that Jesus is going to charm your socks off; that He is going to charm you, and woo you, and school you in what it means to be loved by Him because His love is the cause of our joy.

Mary always wants to communicate, what it means to be loved by God. Our Blessed Mother blows me away. No human being, ever before or during or after, could possibly ever love God as much as Mary did. Nobody could love God as much as Mary did and does. There’s no heart ever that loved God as much as she. There’s nothing, there’s no heart more beautiful than hers. Mary is the most beautiful human being imaginable, and as the cause of our joy, she wants us to enter into that beauty.

Mary’s mission of charity is that we enter into the beauty of what it means to love God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength, and especially to know His love for us; to know how God loves us with all His heart, mind, soul, and strength; to let ourselves be attracted and charmed by Him, guided by Him.

We must allow the Holy Spirit to draw us into this missionary dynamism, as Pope Francis says. I hope he just totally speaks to your heart because he’s a total missionary of charity in spirit. He’s a big-time missionary of charity in spirit. Everything he preaches is like St. Francis and St. Mother Teresa boiled down. He speaks to the culture in the way the culture needs to hear the words of the gospel, in a way that we can have an openness to hear, as if for the first time, and not think that we’ve heard it all before. He’s a perfectly chosen prophet and pontiff, by the Holy Spirit, for our time.

I totally believe in him; I have total confidence in him. Some more orthodox, traditional Catholics say, “I don’t know about him, he’s a little bit too unpredictable.” They would’ve said the same thing about Jesus of Nazareth. “He’s mad! He’s crazy! He doesn’t do anything! He breaks the Sabbath!” – just like the Pharisees.

Pope Francis says, “To offer one’s life to enter into the missionary dynamism is possible only if you’re able to leave ourselves behind.” It is very he hard to leave ourselves behind. Similarly, Jesus says, “unless you deny yourself, you shall not save yourself or find yourself. If you desire to follow me, deny yourself and pick up your cross. Those who want to save their lives will lose it.” This language can sometimes go a little bit over our heads, and we don’t quite understand it at face value. But basically, Pope Francis speaks truth in the way a common person can understand: Mission is possible only if we leave ourselves behind.

He adds, “Belief means transcending ourselves, leaving behind our comfort and the inflexibility of our ego.” Can good people have inflexible egos? Yes, they can! Very much! Good people can have inflexible egos. Can religious and consecrated people have inflexible egos? Oh yes!

It’s in human nature, and we have to get out of that. It’s part of conversion “in order to center our life in Jesus Christ,” as Pope Francis says. There are radical fundamentalist anti-Catholic Christians who call the pope the antichrist. You have to wonder, have they ever read anything that the pope has written? He is always talking about Christ. How can he be the antichrist? This prejudice and fundamentalism is ridiculous. Talk about the inflexibility of ego. I know I’m on a tangent, but it’s awful to accuse the Pope of being anti-Christ when He is always proclaiming Christ.

You’ll come across the different ideas people might have towards Catholicism in your ministry. We can’t be intimidated by that. One of the big parts of being a missionary is having courage. To not be afraid of what’s behind the door, whether people understand us or accept us or not, and to know how to brush the dust off our feet.

Pope Francis continues, that in order to center our life in Christ, and leave ourselves behind, we must be profoundly rooted in love. “The Christian vocation is first and foremost a call to love, a love which attracts us and draws us out of ourselves, de-centering us [from being self-centered].” He quotes Pope Benedict the XVIth, and explains that this love triggers “an ongoing exodus of the closed, inward looking self, to its liberation, through self giving, and thus toward authentic self-discovery, and indeed the discovery of God.” This quote, one of my favorites from Pope Benedict the XVIth, comes from his first encyclical, God is Love. Pope Francis is just part of that continuum of the Holy Spirit, the continuity of truth from one pope to another. The same spirit of God is leading. (to be continued)

SOURCE: Consecrated Life Retreat, New Mexico 2016, transcribed by Teresa Linda, ocds

Copyright 2017, Father Robert Barcelos, OCD

Father Robert Barcelos, OCD: Easter Exodus of Love 2

Photo Credit: my nephew, Dominic Scott

The church in Ephesus had lost their first love, even though they practiced so many other valiant virtues in being faithful to God. They persevered, they endured persecution, they were totally traditional and faithful to the teaching, and they were hard-working. They were doing good things, but they had lost their passion. They lost the fire, they lost the zeal, there was no fervor anymore and so the Lord says to them, ‘I have one thing against you. You have lost the love of your youth, your first love.’

In speaking to religious, Pope Francis spoke on Good Shepherd Sunday, the fourth Sunday of Easter for the World Day of Prayer for Vocations, and the whole theme of his talk was exodus as an icon, as encapsulating vocation. I want to draw from what he says. In speaking of exodus, Pope Francis draws us to the Old Testament as referring to the origins of the amazing love story between God and his people.

Our faith, our religion as current Catholic Christians is first and foremost a love affair, a love story with God. It is not all about rules, it’s about God transforming us into Himself, who is love itself. Of course transformation will involve rules and obligations because there can be no true love without responsibility. There can be no love without sacrifice, self-giving trust, and vulnerability, risk, a gift of self, a going out beyond yourself. Our religion as Catholic Christians is about this divine romance, this exchange between God and His people, this covenant. It is not something that we’ve invented, but rather, we’ve discovered it. God has revealed it. He’s unveiled the mystery of His purpose of our identity and destiny.

Our religion is not meant to be a burden, but to set us free to be who we’re meant to be. The world does not get that. The spirit of the world has it in reverse; it does not understand and sees our freedom through an opposite lens. But only love is credible; only love can get past all the filters of people’s misconceptions, of people’s prejudices – simply by acts of love. That’s why your vocation is so precious, important, and prophetic because you don’t have to preach a single word. By your very example, God can preach through you.

Pope Francis says, “The exodus is the origins of the amazing love story between God and his people, a history which passes through the dramatic period of slavery in Egypt and the calling of Moses, the experience of liberation and journey toward the Promised Land. All those things are not only historical but also symbolic of the spiritual life.” The Holy Father goes on to speak a little bit about that symbolism. He says we too need to have to pass from the slavery of the old Adam, or our own selves. Perhaps there was a time in our lives when maybe we were little bit more worldly-minded, when our values and priorities, and our mentality or faith weren’t the same.

This exodus experience to new life in Christ, is one of going to the Promised Land, to live our true purpose in what it means to become the person we’re supposed to be in God’s eyes, in his image. This exodus is an event in redemption which takes place through faith. According to the Holy Father,“This Passover is a genuine exodus. It is the journey of each Christian soul and the entire Church, the decisive turning of our lives toward the Father.”

The decisive turning – those words imply a conviction and a choice, a conviction in the heart and choice, an action that has been made. That conviction of the heart and the choice of life, that turnaround is what the gospel refers to as metanoia. That turning around is a conversion.

Ultimately, Exodus is a conversion, a becoming of the best version of ourselves, becoming who we’re created to be, becoming who are meant to be in God’s Divine Mercy. It is a decisive turning of our lives towards the Father, and I would like to add to that, a decisive turning of our lives toward the mystery of Easter.

What captures for me the beautiful mystery of Easter is not simply Jesus risen but Jesus’s radiance through his wounds because His encounters with the apostles were very specifically, encountering them in their weakness. Jesus as the eternal high priest expressed His sympathy with their weakness and by His wounds, He healed their weakness and brought out power. Light comes out of darkness – a new creation out of chaos, victory out of the cross, triumph out of tragedy. This is the mystery of Easter. How do we experience that in us? How do we see that in our lives? Because it will happen; that’s how God works. Jesus brings us into renewed vitality through the pattern of His Paschal mystery – through His suffering, and dying, and rising again. (to be continued)

SOURCE: Consecrated Life Retreat, New Mexico 2016, transcribed by Teresa Linda, ocds

Copyright 2017, Father Robert Barcelos, OCD

 

Father Robert Barcelos, OCD: Easter Exodus of Love 1

Photo Credit: my nephew, Dominic Scott

This Easter season, I want to touch on the exodus, the ongoing rekindling of our first love. The theme of our first love is so important, in order for us to remain fervent, in order for us to not to lose the fire of desire for God, to have a hunger for God’s holiness; to want him with passion, to be passionate about God in His love for us.

That first love is paramount, it’s so crucial because as St. Paul says, we can do all that we’re called to do, we can do so many things out of generosity, and practice many different types of virtues with God’s help; we can spend ourselves and exhaust ourselves doing, doing, and doing, but if we’ve lost our first love we’ve lost everything. If we’ve lost our passion we’ve become slaves.

We’re just doing because we have to and because were supposed to. As servants of God, we have to be on guard against that spirit of slavery. St. Paul says we’re called to be slaves of righteousness for sanctification, but that’s not meant to be a burden, a bondage, a heaviness, or a frustration. It’s supposed to be the opposite – it’s freedom. To be a slave through self-denial is meant to produce the fruit of freedom. If we are doing it in the right spirit, the spirit of love, the spirit of a child of God, who becomes a slave of righteousness, not because they have to, but because they want to, then there is freedom.

That’s not always easy to preserve. We can start off that way but as we all know, with the facts of life, with interpersonal relationships and human nature being what it is, the daily inconveniences and challenges, we could lose that spark after a while. We always have to go back to the source; we always have to go back to the heart, to the fountain- our first love.

Why am I here? Why did I let God choose this for me? Why did I let myself get into this? We have to go back to our first love and discover the gift in our consent. This relationship is not a curse, but a blessing, and I need to keep that blessing beautiful and fresh that I may be the face of mercy for others. Otherwise, I could become a whole different kind of face. If we don’t process it, we transmit it. If you don’t work through it, it’ll come out eventually. It’ll come out. The whole purpose of why we have prayer specifically set apart for us in the day is because that’s our special time to be able to draw near to the fountain of God’s love, the living water, daily – especially in the Blessed Sacrament. We must always draw back to that fountain.

SOURCE: Consecrated Life Retreat, New Mexico 2016, transcribed by Teresa Linda, ocds

Copyright 2017, Father Robert Barcelos, OCD

Father Robert Barcelos, OCD: Divine Mercy and St.Thérèse 3

The climax of St. Thérèse’s beautiful life on earth was her final agony and amazing ecstasy. Before her final breath, she prophesized with utmost conviction that God had great plans for her on the other side, and of what God would allow her to do on earth, while in heaven. She knew that she was going to be one of the busiest saints in heaven. She would be working all the time.

So much happened right after her death on September 30, 1897.   By 1898, her Carmelite monastery began to publish “The Story of a Soul”. They started with 2000 copies and by 1899, the first favors and cures and miracles were already starting to come in. Twelve years after her death, her cause was introduced for her canonization. By 1910, in one year she had received 9741 letters from people in France and foreign countries.   She was active. She got right to work.

In 1914 the Carmel would receive on average of 200 letters a day. That year, Pope Pius 10th told a missionary that St. Thérèse would be the greatest saint in modern times.   She was beatified in 1923, and by this time the Carmel was receiving 800 – 1000 letters a day.

By 1925, she was formally canonized.   By 1927 she became the Patroness of Missions, yet she was a cloistered nuns who never left the cloister!  One would never have expected it but Thérèse expected it. She knew.   She knew she was going to be a missionary after she left this life.   It is an amazing testimony to the power of God at work in the world today.

By 1929, the Little Flower had a huge basilica in her honor.   She continues until the end of time to be a blessing to many.   God is the author behind it, the one bringing about the harvest of what she is doing in heaven. The answered prayers are all coming from the cross and resurrection of Jesus.   Thérèse in a specific way shared in that cross with Jesus.   She truly shared in it.   That is part of the amazing truth that is quite startling at times – the measure that we share in the cross of Jesus is the same measure we share in the resurrection. Daunting but very, very true!

I recently went to the shrine of St Padre Pio for the first time. The pilgrimage site is an ongoing fountain of spiritual life that is just bursting at the seam.   So many people from all over come to honor him.   And while I have never been to Thérèse’s basilica, I know that the devotion is the same for St. Thérèse. Her witness is the Gospel, the Bethlehem, the Calvary and the empty tomb transplanted to a new place in the world. Yet it is the same fruit of redemption that is continually flowing. So much of the hidden sacrifices that nobody ever saw in the lives of Thérèse and Father Pio and so many, produced a harvest that came later.   In every sacrifice there is a seed of promise.

One of the ways Thérèse put into practice her zeal, for the glory of God and the salvation of souls, which are in separable, was that she made a point to take advantage of every opportunity to offer Jesus some sacrifice in thanksgiving and praise of Him. Whether it was something as simple as a random act of kindness, courtesy, charity, a smile, a phone call, a letter, a card, any little thing – including the negative things like enduring not needing to have the last word in an argument.   She lived and represented the dispositions of Jesus.

To conclude, I have a summary reflection on everything about Thérèse.   In a few words, I would paraphrase In the Footsteps of Thérèse as inspired from Manuscript B as follows:

How awesome is God’s divine and indescribable condescension in Christ, His love that reaches unto folly from the crib to the cross. It is He, Himself, in His zeal for us who in countless ways does all in his power to inspire in us limitless confidence, to not be afraid; to daringly abandon ourselves to His Divine Mercy; to aspire to the most lofty heights to the possession of the plentitude of love, to the bosom of the eternal fire of the blessed trinity.

In this ascent to the inaccessible light Thérèse teaches us that it is our weakness that is to give us the boldness of our full trust and surrender. For in order, as St. Thérèse says, ‘that love, that Jesus may be fully satisfied it is necessary that it lower itself and to lower itself to nothingness’- that is, us in our weakness, us in our littleness and powerlessness, us in our fragile nature – ‘and transform this nothingness into fire.’

Therefore, we must consent to remain always poor and without strength, to love our littleness, to love to feel nothing and to remain very far from all that sparkles. Such humility of a child has power to cast out and conquer all discouragement.   Jesus’ work, His total sacrifice, His accomplishments and merits, His righteousness is the sweet assurance of our salvation. Precious Jesus is our justice, our justification, before the perfect holiness of the Father.

May the divine gaze of God’s holy face dawn upon us and qualify us among his chosen legion of little souls worthy of his everlasting love.

AMEN

SOURCE: San Rafael Carmel Retreat 2016, Transcribed by Linda Dorian

Copyright 2017 Father Robert Barcelos, OCD

Father Robert Barcelos, OCD: Divine Mercy & St. Thérèse 2

In order to express this confidence she has based on God, not on herself, St. Thérèse uses the image in manuscript B of herself as a little bird and Jesus as the Divine Eagle. Manuscript B is dedicated to one of her sisters, Marie, in the convent. After Marie read it, she thought it was beautiful and wonderful for Thérèse but didn’t think applied to her. Thérèse says … NO you are not getting it: It applies to you too.   Thérèse’s response to her sister in letter 197 is this:

“How can you ask me if it is possible for you to love God as I love him?   If you understood the story of the little bird you would not have asked me this question. My virtues, or talents or many gifts are nothing. They are not what give me the unlimited confidence I feel in my heart. They are, to tell the truth, the spiritual riches that render one unjust. Because when one rests in them with complacency and when one believes that they are something great, ahh, now that’s when I really feel it is not this at all the pleases God in my little soul.  

What pleases him though is that he sees me loving my littleness and my poverty. The blind hope that I have in his mercy, that’s my only treasure.   Why should this treasure not be yours? Understand that to love Jesus, the weaker one is without desires for virtues, the more suited one is for the workings of this consuming and transforming love.

But we must consent to remain always poor and without strength. And this is the difficulty.   Let us remain then very far from all that sparkles. Let us love our littleness. Let us love to feel nothing.   Then we shall be poor in spirit and Jesus will come to look for us and he will transform us in flames of love.

She refers many times to this image – this flame of love. But to get more into the wisdom and insight of St Thérèse, I would like to look at the book Divine Mercy by Benedict the XVIth. He writes,

All of God’s perfections are expressions of his merciful love. Even his justice. (Pope Francis also says that justice and mercy are one.)   After so many graces can I not sing with the psalmist ‘How good is the Lord? His mercy endures forever.’ It seems to me that if all creatures have received the same graces I received, God would be feared by nobody but would be loved to the point of folly.

Through love, not through fear, no one would ever consent to cause him any pain. I understand, however, that all souls cannot be the same. It is necessary that there be different types in order to honor each of God’s perfections in a particular way. To me he has granted his infinite mercy and through it I contemplate and adore the other divine perfections. All of these perfections appear to be resplendent with love, even his justice. And perhaps this, even more than the others, seem to me clothed in love.

 What a sweet joy it is to think that God is just; that is, that he takes into account our weakness. He is perfectly aware of our fragile nature. What should I fear then?   Must not the infinitely just God, who deigns to pardon the faults of the prodigal son with so much kindness, be just also towards me who am with him always?

Thérèse thinks ‘If I have always been with Him, then why wouldn’t that love be all the more overflowing?’ This understanding of God’s justice totally casts out every trace of fear in her faith before the face of God. She tries to convince us to be comfortable in the skin of our own weakness and littleness, even as she admits her own weaknesses:

I have my weaknesses also, but I will rejoice in them. A foolish thing I have said or done will torment me, for example.   Then I enter into myself and I say: “Alas I’m at the same place I was at formerly.   But I tell myself this with great gentleness and without any sadness. How good it is to feel one is weak and little.

 She echoes the gospel according Paul: “When I am weak, then I am strong.” In so many other places, as in Ephesians Chapter 2, St Paul expresses this gospel and recognizes that we are saved not for anything that we have done but because of how good He is. Faith working itself out in love is not about earning God’s love or becoming “good enough”. It is God who is all good and it is Him who makes us capable of Himself. This is Grace by which we are healed and saved. And this is the gospel of which Thérèse is speaking but she does so with a beautiful freshness to invigorate our faith.

SOURCE: San Rafael Carmel Retreat 2016, Transcribed by Linda Dorian

Copyright 2017 Father Robert Barcelos, OCD