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

Father Robert Barcelos, OCD: Divine Mercy Sunday

Praying the Chaplet of Divine Mercy Contemplatively

Lord Jesus, your Divine Mercy is a medicine of immortality, an oasis of grace that heals our hearts’ deepest needs, the source of peace that overcomes the chaos, and a wellspring of serenity that gives birth to new life. We submit to your righteousness Jesus, to your mission, to the riches of your grace and love.

I would like to just pray with you simply some segments, little pieces of the Chaplet of Divine Mercy. I don’t want to pray the whole chaplet because what often happens is we immediately go into automatic pilot and we just forget about what we’re saying, and who we’re speaking to. I don’t say that to discourage our praying the Chaplet on other occasions but for today, because I really want to teach you how to pray, I will only take pieces of the prayer.

St. Teresa of Jesus, is the great teacher of prayer, the mother of spiritual souls, and the Doctor of the Church in terms of contemplation. There’s no greater teacher about the spiritual life of prayer than her, and she herself says, “It’s better to play one Our Father well, than twenty haphazardly.” That’s how I want to pray this Chaplet of Mercy, to just walk you, with Jesus, and through the prayer, to the heart of Jesus of Nazareth as our Good Shepherd.

The beautiful prayer inspired by the Holy Spirit to St. Faustina, brings us before the reality of the cross and resurrection. Through it we pray,

You expired Lord Jesus but the source of life gushed forth for souls and the ocean of mercy opened up for the whole world. Oh fountain of life, unfathomable Divine Mercy, envelop the whole world and pour yourself out upon us. Oh blood and water, which gushed forth from the heart of Jesus as a fountain of mercy for us, I trust in you. Oh blood and water, which gushed forth from the heart of Jesus as a fountain of mercy for us I trust in you. Oh blood and water, which gushed forth from the heart of Jesus as a fountain of mercy for us, I trust in you.

When the side of Jesus Christ was pierced by the lance, this was the body piercing that opened up paradise. His sacred heart spilled forth water and blood and that was the opening of heaven’s floodgates, the opening of the temple. In the old covenant there was only one church, one temple, only one sacred place where God’s people assembled to praise and worship to sacrifice, and that was in Jerusalem – Zion. That temple built by Solomon, the wise man, was inspired by God. He gave the instruction on what he wanted it to look like, and how he wanted to be worshiped in terms of having a right relationship with him. Only the priests, after much purification, would be permitted to go with in the Holy of Holies, that most sacred center within the temple behind the veil. Only once a year would he do that, on the Day of Atonement, the day of at-one-ment.

Jesus as our high priest also became our victim and when his body, which is the true temple of true worship of the Father, was torn open – in him, with him, and through him we became true worshipers of the Eternal Father, in spirit and truth. When his flesh was torn open on the cross, especially his heart, as the last blow after he had given up his last breath, the veil of the heavenly reality that blocks humanity from union with our God was wide open when his heart was split by the spear.

The floodgates, the river of redemption, through the power of his precious blood, opened up on the world so that we as the book of Hebrews says, ‘May have clear confidence complete access to the heart of God that we may draw near to the throne of grace to receive grace for timely need and every provision to overcome every problem by the power of his Providence who promises to be present to us, and grant us the grace that we need to overcome all things in Christ, who strengthens us.

Our greatest strength is prayer and one of most privileged places to pray is before Jesus in the exposed Blessed Sacrament. The first prayer that we pray is the Our Father. The most important part of that prayer is the first word – Father. It takes time before we can come to that place of being able to really worship God in his Holiness as Father. But that is the sacred center coming to discover the beauty of life, to know the holiness of God, and to know that he who is greater than our wildest dreams calls us, adopts us as part of his own family and shares his life with us.

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day, our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us, and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Amen.

And then we honor Mary, whom Jesus gave us at the foot of the cross as his prized earthly possession, the one that he honored perfectly in fulfillment of the fourth commandment. We can never honor Mary as much as Jesus honored her. We can never love Mary as much as Jesus loved her, and he loved her so much that he didn’t want her to be alone. He knew that in her humanity, she would be utterly brokenhearted at seeing Christ’s heart ripped open.

In order to console her, he left her his best friend, John the Beloved. He told John, ‘Behold your mother. Take her into your heart, take her into your home, take care of her; Let her be your mother as she was a mother to me. At that moment, John stood as proxy for all those would become Jesus’ intimate friends

If Jesus had other blood brothers, there would have been no need to entrust his mother to John. But because Jesus was not only the firstborn but the only child of Mary, he entrusted her to his beloved disciple as a sign and symbol of entrusting all of his disciples to his mother.

Let us honor Mary, so that by honoring her, she may help us to truly worship Jesus, to truly do whatever he tells us, as she said to the disciples at Cana and to truly experience a transformation of the water of our simple ordinary life, to become more and more filled with the supernatural life of God’s love in the Holy Spirit.

Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou amongst women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb Jesus. Holy Mary, mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death, Amen.

Now let us sing in our hearts. We have reason to rejoice because God’s blessing and mercy is upon us. When somebody is really in love, they can’t help but be joyful. When someone is really in love, they can’t help but have a melody in their heart, a new song that wells up inside of them. When somebody’s in love, they cannot stop themselves from singing, from praising, from thanking, even if he can’t sing, even if he can’t hold a note, even if it’s just humming. Yet he does it all with spontaneity, and with freedom.

Think and reflect about what in your life holds you back. What are your fears, insecurities, reservations, prejudices, inhibitions, and wounds? What are the things in your lives that hold you hostage and bind you? Try to identify it.

Whether you’re already working through something or not, try to be open to the Lord. Ask yourself, ‘What are the areas in my life where I can grow in what it means to be more pleasing to You? Where I can grow in what it means to truly experience, believe, and live the truth that I am your beloved? What are the areas in my life where there’s something about my inner freedom that’s being inhibited?’

Do this in the secrecy of your own thoughts. Unite those thoughts to Jesus’s heart and allow the lights, the rays of the heart of Jesus’ Divine Mercy to shine upon your life, especially any aspect of your life that is still in the shadows, and that still hasn’t been exposed to the light of God’s face. Expose everything, the most needy part, the most broken or dirty part, whatever it might be, expose it to the light of God’s Merciful face. Allow your wounds to be bathed in the rays of his heart where there is love and mercy itself.

Have you ever suffered anything that has not yet been united to Jesus’s passion?  Each time you say, “For the sake his sorrowful passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world” unite everything, every challenge and suffering to his passion that it may take on supernatural value and meaning and bring a greater good into your life. It doesn’t matter how embarrassing it may be; there’s nothing the Lord can’t handle; there’s nothing he will condemn, provided you give it to him.

In sacred Scripture, the Lord says to his people 365 times to ‘be not afraid.’ Jesus says, ‘Come to me and I will give you rest.’ After a long life of trying to seek God and in other ways, St. Augustine discovered that our hearts are restless until they rest in him. It’s a blessing to discover that restlessness because we can become so easily distracted, sad, and even satisfied with those distractions. But to find that restlessness, to discover that emptiness in all the things that the world can offer, and then to take refuge in God – is a great victory.

Let us allow our lives to be completely enveloped in love, the light of the Lord’s heart and Divine Mercy.

SOURCE: Soquel Retreat, 2017. Transcribed by Teresa Linda, ocds

Copyright 2017, Father Robert Barcelos, OCD

Father Robert Barcelos, OCD: Divine Mercy and Saint Thérèse 1

divine-mercy

1 John 4:11-19Beloved, if God so loved us, we also must love one another. 12No one has ever seen God. Yet, if we love one another, God remains in us, and his love is brought to perfection in us.

13This is how we know that we remain in him and he in us, that he has given us of his Spirit. 14Moreover, we have seen and testify that the Father sent his Son as savior of the world. 15Whoever acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God remains in him and he in God. 16We have come to know and to believe in the love God has for us.

God is love, and whoever remains in love remains in God and God in him. 17In this is love brought to perfection among us, that we have confidence on the day of judgment because as he is, so are we in this world 8There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear because fear has to do with punishment, and so one who fears is not yet perfect in love. 19We love because he first loved us.

In Thirty-three Days to Merciful Love, Father Gaitley talks about St.Thérèse as the great prophet of merciful love. Her approach of confidence in God’s goodness revolutionized Catholic spirituality in light of the errors of the Jansenistic teachings of her time. She breathed fresh air into what it means to live the faith.   Father Gaitley points out that God always gives us saints who are suited for our times, who speak and teach the gospel to history in a way that is relevant and in a way that we need to hear it, as St. Thérèse did. Drawing from Romans 5:20, Father Gaitley explains that in times of great evil, God gives even greater graces.

Similarly, Pope Francis says: “Listen to the voice of the spirit that speaks to the whole Church in this our time, now, today, which in fact is a time of Mercy. I am certain of this. It is the time of Mercy in the whole church.”

Later on Father Gaitley points out that God wants to work some of his greatest miracles in the whole history of the church right now. God wants to take some of the littlest of souls and make them into some of the greatest of saints. He is echoing the prophecy of St Louis de Montforte, who says something similar in True Devotion to Mary. This is really happening.

We also see the fulfillment of Mercy in Padre Pio, a saint who is truly magnanimous and unprecedented in the history of the church. He is the first priest to have carried the stigmata and he did so for fifty years. More than that, Jesus was truly alive in him; Jesus’ gift through him to the whole Church really brought back to life again the power of the apostles and through this human being, we see what took place in the Acts of the Apostles – in our postmodern day world.

In Padre Pio, not only do we see a great example of the fulfillment of prophecy but also proof that God’s Mercy is meant to extend to every one of us in our own ways, in the place we are planted, where we are meant to bloom in our vocation in love.

We all have a vocation. We are all called to bear specific fruit and are meant to make a difference.   This difference may not be recorded in history but it’s a difference that may very well be recorded in the history of someone’s heart. That is what matters. The Lord has a plan for us that involves other people. Our purpose revolves around who we become in relationship with others in this vocation of Love.

Father Gaitley says that “by consecrating ourselves to Divine Mercy we are letting ourselves be carried into a greater work of the spirit that is going on in our day.” He puts the focus where it needs to be, not on us but on trusting Him, the One who died and was resurrected for us.

The first letter of St. John, Chapter 4 speaks of God in a fresh expression of the gospel, putting the focus of redemption on God and on His initiative. He first loved us and He has chosen us to know His love and be filled with it. That love is the focus of our faith, it sets us free, and it gives us refreshment to our lives.

To paraphrase St Thérèse: when we focus too much on ourselves we suffocate the Holy Spirit.   She says: “I never felt more free than when I forgot myself”. That is part of her humility. Living in the truth that sets us free is to allow our lives to be taken in by Him, to be taken possession of, to allow our attention to be on Him rather than on ourselves.

That takes faith because we do not see Him.   We have to see him with the eyes of the heart. It is trust that unleashes the power of His Mercy. Jesus says this most loudly through his Secretary of Divine Mercy, St. Faustina: It is trust that unleashes the power of mercy, the power of his spirit upon the world through the church.

The Lord inspires St Faustina with those most important words in the image which He Himself inspired and dictated to be painted. He himself specifically requested that   the words transcribed at the bottom would be: Jesus, I trust in you.

So Jesus wants to work the great miracle of forming the littlest of souls into the greatest of saints but He needs our trust in order to do it.

This is what Father Gaitley points out in drawing from St Thérèse. Her teachings desire for us what happened to her, that is to set us full sail on the waves of love and confidence, to go in the way of the Holy Spirit’s love and confidence.

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

Copyright 2017, Father Robert Barcelos, OCD

Father Robert Barcelos, OCD: Easter Sunday, Entering the Holy of Holies

797px-Alexander_Ivanov_-_Christ's_Appearance_to_Mary_Magdalene_after_the_Resurrection_-_Google_Art_Project

Invite Jesus and His resurrection into every detail, every situation and relationship, every fiber of your life.  We begin with simply focusing on the holy presence of Jesus, but at times, we need to move away from the loving awareness of God’s presence.

Sometimes, it feels like, “I’ve done that. I’ve gone as far as I can go with it. I’ve been doing the same thing for twenty minutes, and now I’m falling asleep. Now I feel like I’m running out of batteries.  There’s no more oil in the lamp.  I’ve become distracted or physically tired. I’m finding myself feeling sluggish. At one point there, maybe just for a few minutes, I was very much alive and attuned to God’s presence without knowing how, but there was a spark that was activated, a grace of God’s goodness. There was a flame, a loving attentiveness. But now I’m finding myself disconnected again. Everything was going fine, and suddenly it’s like the channel changes. There’s no longer a clear message coming through, or I’m no longer able to be present.” You need to change it up. You need to put new fuel on the fire.

One way of doing that is inviting the crucified and resurrected Christ into every detail, every situation and relationship, every fiber of your life. Present everything before Him–your past, your present, and your future. Surrender to Him. Invite Him into every aspect of your life. Insert everything of your internal and external life into the eternal mystery of His loving concern for you personally.

Prayerfully and calmly reflect on God’s love, present in your life in concrete ways – in your present, in your past, and surrender your future to Him. See with new eyes, as it were, see through the eyes of God. Recognize that He has been present in every phase of your life as provident protector and provider and as tremendous lover. In every chapter of your life’s story, He was there, resurrecting you. Discover your own salvation history, and see how the Savior has been present in every part of your life story, whether you knew it at the time or not–discover it today.

As Christians, when we say “to meditate,” it means the working of the mind for the sake of coming to the surrender of the heart in love. Meditate upon His steadfast love, mediated to you through the various people He has put into your lives. God’s steadfast love can be mediated to you not only through people, but it can also be mediated to us through pets. God is so awesomely good and humble and down-to-earth that He’ll use a pet if he can’t find a person. Praise God for that!

Now God does put certain people in our lives. But you know what? So does the enemy. The enemy will put certain people in your lives. God does has a plan for us. And so does the enemy. God uses people, and the enemy uses people, good friends or bad friends. At times we wonder, “Well why, God, did you put this person in my life? Why did You allow this person’s path to even cross mine?”

It may well not have been God putting that person in your life. But God can bring light out of it. He allowed it. He permitted it because He could redeem and resurrect it, and because He can bring some good out of it. That’s salvation history.

As we meditate, and it happens in layers, God allows us to see new things about ourselves that we didn’t even know were there, as we discover His presence in our lives in ways that we didn’t dare to even think or weren’t able to acknowledge. God can always reveal new things about who we are, Whose we are, and how He has been present at every step of the way. And having done this, then our response is that from our essence we give God glory and praise! We give God glory and praise for today, for yesterday, and for tomorrow.

Abandon everything, every part of what makes you ‘you’ to His divine disposal. That means being totally disposed to trust in His holy will, which is love and mercy itself. Trust that all can serve His holy will for our well-being. Allow all resistance to trusting in God’s grace to be healed that you may be more free to be who God has made you to be.

To conclude, Desire God ardently. Desire God ardently, as Mary Magdalen searching for Jesus at His tomb when she implores, “They have taken away my Lord, and I don’t know where they have put Him.”

St. Anselm expresses his ardent desire for God by these words: “Enter into your heart’s inner chamber. Shut out everything but God and whatever helps you to seek Him. And when you have shut the door, look for Him. Speak now to God and say with your whole heart: I seek Your face. Your face, Lord, I desire. Lord, my God, teach my heart where and how to seek You, where and how to find You. Look upon us, Lord. Hear us and enlighten us. Show us your very Self. Take pity on our efforts and our striving toward You. For we have no strength apart from You. Teach me to seek You. And when I seek You, show Yourself to me. For I cannot seek You unless You teach me. Nor can I find You unless You show Yourself to me. Let me seek You in desiring You, and desire you in seeking You, and find You in loving You.” Amen.

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

Copyright 2017, Father Robert Barcelos, OCD

‘Arm yourselves with the armor of faith and the sword of truth.  Pray for the grace to forgive and to ask for forgiveness – and for the healing of wounded bodies and souls.’

 

Father Robert Barcelos, OCD: Holy Week 7, Entering the Holy of Holies

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The second phase in cultivating the prayer of simplicity and recollection is gently fanning the flame. Gently fanning the flame.

So first we need to do our best to quiet ourselves and just be in the moment. Second…though this is how I’m ordering it, the ordering isn’t important to remember – let go and detach ourselves from the multiplicity of our thoughts because, as St. Teresa says, the thoughts are always active like wild horses. The brain is active. The brain always wants to be thinking something. And there’s always a flow of consciousness. There’s always a stream of thinking and monologue going on. In order to let go and detach ourselves of that, we attach ourselves to the one thing necessary, which is the name of all names: Yeshua. Recall the name of God to streamline your thoughts to focus on Jesus Christ.

The Jesus Prayer is the sacred tradition of the Church in this area. The Jesus Prayer comes from the bedrock of Christianity, which is Eastern monasticism. When I say “Eastern monasticism,” I am speaking of the sacred Christian ancient tradition flowing from Jerusalem, spreading throughout Palestine, going into Egypt in the Coptic tradition of the first monks in Egypt with St. Anthony the Great, spreading up to Syria. This is the bedrock of Christian monasticism in ancient Christianity. Eventually, it made its way to Alexandria and Greece, where it took on an intellectual form of mystical spirituality and then of course [on] to Rome.

The Jesus Prayer was taken from the Gospel when people came to encounter Christ and cried out “God, be merciful to me a sinner.” Monastics took all the different encounters with Christ, and in them they recognized two essential elements: one, acknowledging that Jesus is Lord; and two, acknowledging that I am not–that I am a sinner in need of God’s mercy. And that’s the essence of reality for us as human beings.

Yes, we’re made in the divine image and likeness. But we’re in need of God’s mercy restoring that image and likeness within us because we’re built with certain inclinations that don’t lead to our true self and true purpose. We need to be saved, as it were, from ourselves in order to truly discover our true selves.

So that simple prayer, composed by taking different encounters from the Gospels and synthesizing them into–“Lord Jesus Christ, son of the living God, have mercy on me, a sinner”– takes on different forms. It can be simplified, as it is often done in Eastern Christian monasticism, as “Lord Jesus, have mercy on me. Lord Jesus, have mercy on me.”

This prayer can begin to help to simplify our thoughts. Simplify the thoughts. You’re not battling against the thoughts. You’re not forcing your thoughts. But you’re streamlining your thought process. You’re focusing it. And whenever distractions arise, you just bring it back to the Lord. You bring it back to the Cross, or whatever image of the sacred humanity of Christ helps you. You’re not getting upset. You’re not becoming frustrated. You’re just acknowledging it, and then turning it over to the Lord, turning back to this heart of contact, this colloquy, this communion and exchange.

Another part of gently fanning the flame is to avoid all reading except select sections of sacred Scripture. Preference is given to those passages that speak to God’s love for us in a personal life-changing, life-giving way.

In the context of a personal spiritual retreat, avoid the distractions that come from seeking unnecessary knowledge in books. There’s a time to be seeking knowledge in different capacities that is pleasing to God. Our whole person is to be developed in every aspect of who we are as a human being, including our need for leisure, our need for healthy entertainment. But in your spiritual retreats, get down to essentials: the one thing necessary.

Avoid distractions and try to focus just on select passages of Scripture and on the retreat notes that spoke to you, that touched your heart, that God used to speak to you personally. That can be something that you experienced in nature, God speaking to you in creation. It can be something God spoke directly to your heart that didn’t even come from me. But by simply being in this context [of Holy Week] God can speak something particular and special for you. It could be something that happens at Mass or something in a song. There can be all different types of ways that God speaks to you.

It can even be in the shower. As the water is being poured down, that almost takes a quasi-sacramental role and God can speak to us in the shower. As we’re cleaning our minds and just trying to focus and get ready for the day, God is speaking to our hearts and pouring Himself out. (to be continued)

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

Copyright 2017, Father Robert Barcelos, OCD.

Father Robert Barcelos, OCD: Holy Week 5, Entering the Holy of Holies

The Feet of Saint John of the Cross
The Feet of Saint John of the Cross

We see in the lives of the Carmelite saints – in their natural human lives and in the circumstances of their early childhood and development – certain common traits. St. John of the Cross lost his father to death when he was two- or three-years-old, and shortly thereafter he found himself in poverty in so many different aspects. Even while he was being formed in his mother’s womb, there was already the emotional trauma, so to speak, of being rejected by his father’s side of the family because his father had married his mother, who was of a lower caste in Spanish culture.   So he experienced what it meant to be rejected, what it meant to be not accepted and then he experienced abandonment by the loss of his father, even though it was not obviously a voluntary wounding, but nevertheless it affected his life.

Also, we see in the life of St. Teresa, she lost her mother at the age of 11 or so. St. Therese, from the moment she was born, was given to a midwife until she was one-and-a-half-years-old because her mother couldn’t take care of her. There was this mother-child separation from her infancy until one-and-a-half-years-old. There was an abandonment there.

As adults we can easily dismiss these types of experiences and say, “Well, that’s no big deal. Children don’t know. They’re oblivious to that.” No, children are very aware of the bonding, especially between the mother and themselves. St. Therese’s mother dies when she was four-years-old. So there was a break again. And then around age10 or 11, her second mother–Pauline–goes into the convent, and there was another break. As a result of these repeated brokenness, St. Therese suffered a terrible illness of which our blessed mother healed her

Also, St. Mary of Jesus Crucified also, lost one if not both of her parents at a very, very young age.

Wherever there is an affliction, that affliction can become a magnet for God’s affection. God desires to fill all the empty places in our lives God. Wherever there was a lack of love, God wants to reciprocate. Where we are most vulnerable, God wants to recycle that pain and suffering into a redemptive experience of love.

Living out our spirituality is not like living in an ivory tower. Our spirituality grows right in the slums of your humanity, when you allow God in His infinite mercy to love you where you are poorest. That’s redemption. That’s the Gospel. That’s Jesus, who came to seek the lost. Not the righteous. Not the aristocratic. Not those who have it all together. But for those who recognize their need for the Lord and their dependence on the Lord.

Let yourself be loved. Let your heart lay itself open before God, and the only words necessary are the language of silent love. Be lovingly aware of His presence within you. Recognize your breath as having its being in God. Breathe in the breath of God.

There are only two places in the whole Bible where we see the breath of God: in Genesis, in the beginning at creation, and in John’s account of Pentecost, when Jesus as risen Lord breathes the Spirit upon his apostles and says, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” Whereas God breathed into Adam at the first creation in Genesis, Jesus breathes into His apostles at the new creation in John. He gives them His Spirit, his ruah, His breath, His essence.

Our breath has its being in God, and we need to breathe in this breath of God, breathe in the divine life, the zoe of God, to receive the Holy Spirit, to be made a new creation, to abide in the breath of the Beloved.

Very practically, you can for example, in cultivating this prayer of simplicity and prayer of recollection, you can breathe in the holy name of God. The holy name of God, and the holy name of all names is Yeshua. Yahweh saves. God heals. God sets free. Yeshua. To breathe in Yeshua, and to breathe out te amo (I love you). And to simply abide in that exchange, in that synergy, breathing in Yeshua and breathing out te amo (I love you). (to be continued)

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

Copyright 2017, Father Robert Barcelos, OCD

 

Father Robert Barcelos, OCD: Holy Week 4, Entering the Holy of Holies

Caravaggio, Ecce Homo
Caravaggio, Ecce Homo

In your own Holy Week walk with Christ, what are some practical points of cultivating the prayer of simplicity and recollection? First, in freedom, fully give God your undivided attention. Desire to speak only to God. That means refraining from texting, from looking at our emails, from googling the net on our I-phones, looking at Instagram, whatever. Desire to speak only to God: to listen and to let yourself be loved. Let your heart lay itself open before God.

There’s a song I really like by one of my favorite artists, and the refrain says: “I’m not asking you to be someone you’re not. I’m only asking you to give all that you’ve got.”

In laying our hearts open before God, we have to be who we truly are and no one else. In other words, as the Catechism on prayer says, “There are no masks before God.” There are no hiding places before God. There’s no reason to hide before God. Allow everything to be exposed to the light of His love and allow Him to speak to our hearts in whatever way He wants to speak and to say whatever He wants to say.

Sometimes, we receive the message, but not with words. Sometimes, that message can come, not on the level of the head but on the level of the heart. There can be certain messages that can be perceived emotionally through the heart; if the message is anything but gentle, delicate, or reverent, it’s not from God.

Because other messages can be transmitted. They can come from ourselves. They can come from our subconscious. They can come from our own inhibitions, our own false self. There can be messages within us that can come from our own wounded self-image. There could be messages that come from the enemy. And if any message being transmitted, even if it’s a message of correction, even if it’s a message of a call or need for conversion, if it’s in any way accusatory, it’s not your Advocate.

If it’s in any way, even a flinch, an inch discouraging, it’s not from the Consoler, the Encourager, the Counselor. Because God can call us to conversion, but when He does so, He doesn’t defeat our spirit in the process. He’s not about that. He’s about building us up. Even if we need to be broken down before we can be built up again, which oftentimes is the truth, He doesn’t do it in a way that defeats our spirit, and is a source of discouragement.

God, as St. John of the Cross says, always works gently, humbly, with delicacy, with reverence for the person. Hence, Jesus in the washing of the feet…because what is more vulnerable than one’s feet? In regards to our bodies and our physical appearance, a person’s feet are something very private. You don’t want just anybody touching your feet. When Jesus was touching and washing the feet of Peter, he refused at the beginning.

For more reasons than one–not only because it was awkward but especially because in that culture, only a slave would do that task. Yet here was the master, the one with the highest status as a whole new person taking the lowest position. And Peter says, “Whoa, whoa, whoa. What’s going on?” He didn’t accept that.

So in prayer, we allow Jesus to wash our feet. We give Him the most vulnerable parts of our lives. He restores everything to let it be loved. That means every experience of our lives that is in need of redemption, and is in need of God bringing light out of some darkness, most especially the most foundational years of your life – your childhood.

The first five years, including the nine months in the womb, is the foundation of how a personality becomes developed. Of our self-identity, and our self-discovery as men and women is all there. The whole package is planted there. It’s developed there. It’s made up there. And so much of what makes us tick as adults, even if you’re already retired as adults, the root oftentimes can be connected to some experience of our development as children.

And our development as children is totally dependent on our relationship with our parents because it has an echo effect on our image of God; we don’t have physical contact with God, but we do have physical contact with our parents who represent God to us as leaders, protectors, providers, nurturers, teachers. Our image of God is completely interconnected with our image of our parents. Wherever there was a deficiency of love, a malnutrition of love, there is a void. There’s an empty space. There’s a chasm, an opening that God wants to fill in order for us to be made whole. (to be continued)

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

Copyright 2017, Father Robert Barcelos, OCD

 

Father Robert Barcelos, OCD: Holy Week 3, Entering the Holy of Holies

The Denial of Saint Peter, Caravaggio, 1610
The Denial of Saint Peter, Caravaggio, 1610

[In your Holy Week reflections], I recommend that you read the Last Supper discourse of John’s Gospel, which actually begins in Chapter 13 when Jesus is washing the feet of his disciples in such a prophetic gesture. His act points to the whole reason for his coming, which is namely his self-emptying in the Incarnation and reaching its apex at the Crucifixion. The incarnate Word who emptied himself and was crucified out of love expresses, in this simple gesture of the washing of the feet of his disciples, that Jesus came to wash us in mercy. Jesus came to cleanse us of all that contaminates or corrupts us. He came to heal us of all that has wounded us. He came to make us new. His self-emptying that lifts us up makes us new in His divine image. His self- emptying renews us, restores our lost innocence, and makes us true children of God, forgiven of our sins and sharers in His divine Spirit.

In Chapters 14-17, Jesus gives us his essential teaching, the heart of the Gospel, his message that is the white, hot center of all that he had said. He speaks about abiding in his love, his union with God. Jesus uses the Greek word menό so many times in Chapters 14 and15: abide in me.  Like a kaleidoscope or a Rubik’s cube, he uses  different language and particular words to try to express the same message in order for us to grasp and enter into the truth that is meant to set us free.

Similarly, St. Teresa in The Way of Perfection, Chapter 26 explains a hinge of the way, the camino. St. Teresa says over nineteen times: look at Him who looks at you. Behold Him. Behold the beauty of God. And she says so often, all He asks you to do is look at Him: look at Him who is looking at you. Look into the eyes of mercy to see your life. Look into the eyes of mercy to discover yourselves. This is one of the ways in which our holy mother St. Teresa, the mother of spirituality, teaches us how to pray, how to become recollected.

As her famous summary and description of prayer, which she shares in The Way of Perfection says, prayer is nothing less than a loving exchange with Him who I know loves me and in taking time frequently to look at Him; to love Him, to speak to Him, to abide in His love, in His agape.

His agape, of course, is that deepest dimension, that deepest degree of love having reached its full maturity. It is the summit of self-emptying love and self-sacrificing love, which none of us could have in ourselves by nature were it not for grace. It doesn’t come naturally to us. What comes naturally to us is self-preservation, not self-sacrifice. But it comes naturally to God because it’s who He is. Part of our being healed, part of our being transformed and sanctified by grace, is our becoming more and more remade, restored in His likeness.

The most important question that Jesus poses to any of his disciples in the Gospels is: “Do you love me?” Three times, he asks that, because he is using a different word for love each time. And the last time he uses agape. Peter recognized that he didn’t have that. He recognized that he loved the Lord, but he didn’t have the kind of love that Jesus was asking of him. He eventually would, but he wasn’t there yet. That was fine.

Jesus chose him anyway.

We don’t have to be perfect to have purpose. The fact of the matter is that none of us are perfect. Only God is. But the purpose of life is to be perfected in life, and that’s a process that often takes a lifetime. What is not completed in this life will be completed in the next by the loving fire of God’s purgation, by the loving fires of His embrace. He will bring to completion what we could not bring about on our own in order that we may be perfect in His love.

In abiding in this love, Peter abided in the love of God. Mary Magdalene abided in the love of God. And both did so in the best way that they could, depending on where they were at each stage of their lives.

When asked, “Do you love me?” Peter responded, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” The third time he was asked, Peter’s response in using the word love was philia. It wasn’t the agape love. It wasn’t the full-fledged love, yet that didn’t change God’s love for Peter. Even though Peter couldn’t reciprocate the agape love, it didn’t in any way diminish God’s love for him.

It’s the same thing for us. Even when we cannot respond perfectly, God’s perfect love is still at our disposal. (to be continued)

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

Copyright 2017, Father Robert Barcelos, OCD

 

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

by Romero Zafrea
by Romero Zafra

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright 2017, Father Robert Barcelos, OCD

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright 2017, Father Robert Barcelos, OCD