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

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

Untitled by Jackson Pollock
Untitled by Jackson Pollock

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reprinted with permission from The Carmelite Digest

Copyright 2017, Father James Geoghegan, OCD

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

 Try the Daily Disconnect as part of your Daily Meditation

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Father Robert Barcelos, OCD: Lent

by Romero Zafra
by Romero Zafra

Ephesians 1: 1-14

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SOURCE: Danville Retreat, 2014.

Copyright Father Robert Barcelos, OCD 2017

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

 Try the Daily Disconnect as part of your Daily Meditation

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

Father Jose Luis Ferroni, OCD: the grace of not forgetting

Gospel Mt 1:1-17

The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.

Abraham became the father of Isaac,
Isaac the father of Jacob,
Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers.
Judah became the father of Perez and Zerah,
whose mother was Tamar.
Perez became the father of Hezron,
Hezron the father of Ram,
Ram the father of Amminadab.
Amminadab became the father of Nahshon,
Nahshon the father of Salmon,
Salmon the father of Boaz,
whose mother was Rahab.
Boaz became the father of Obed,
whose mother was Ruth.
Obed became the father of Jesse,
Jesse the father of David the king.

David became the father of Solomon,
whose mother had been the wife of Uriah.
Solomon became the father of Rehoboam,
Rehoboam the father of Abijah,
Abijah the father of Asaph.
Asaph became the father of Jehoshaphat,
Jehoshaphat the father of Joram,
Joram the father of Uzziah.
Uzziah became the father of Jotham,
Jotham the father of Ahaz,
Ahaz the father of Hezekiah.
Hezekiah became the father of Manasseh,
Manasseh the father of Amos,
Amos the father of Josiah.
Josiah became the father of Jechoniah and his brothers
at the time of the Babylonian exile.

After the Babylonian exile,
Jechoniah became the father of Shealtiel,
Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel,
Zerubbabel the father of Abiud.
Abiud became the father of Eliakim,
Eliakim the father of Azor,
Azor the father of Zadok.
Zadok became the father of Achim,
Achim the father of Eliud,
Eliud the father of Eleazar.
Eleazar became the father of Matthan,
Matthan the father of Jacob,
Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary.
Of her was born Jesus who is called the Christ.

Thus the total number of generations
from Abraham to David
is fourteen generations;
from David to the Babylonian exile, fourteen generations;
from the Babylonian exile to the Christ,
fourteen generations.

St. John of the Cross loved to dance with this image of the child Jesus, especially during Advent and Christmas. Photo credit:thespeakroom.org. Ubeda, Spain (Museum of St. John of the Cross)
St. John of the Cross loved to dance with this image of the child Jesus, especially during Advent and Christmas. Photo credit:thespeakroom.org. Ubeda, Spain (Museum of St. John of the Cross)

It is an act of love not to forget.

To do so is to have before us all the good things in love that we have received. It is in this context that we look at today’s gospel reading. Where do we come from? Where do our parents come from? Our ancestors? Our faith? The act of remembering in this Advent Season does us good because it intensifies our vigilance in our waiting for the Nativity of our Lord Jesus in our very lives.

We are called to remember. This story is about grace and blessings, but it is also a story of sin and sinners. It is a story of great sinners and great saints. Even for us, in our own life stories, we have our awesome moments of fidelity to the Lord in joyful service to Him. Yet there are some ugly times of infidelity too, of sin – and we yearn for redemption.

This is our surety because we are in need of salvation. We confess with faith, ‘I am a sinner and You Lord, can save me. You Lord, can pull me out of the water and keep me from drowning.’  And He does. And we go forth in life with joy and hope.

We have been on this road, waiting for our Lord. Let us now take a little pause to look back, so that we may see the road we have walked, which has been full of beauty and grace. The Lord does not let us down; the Lord has been faithful, for God has desired to walk this journey with us by becoming man. This journey of faith and the awaiting for our Lord, when we can see Him face to face is, my brothers and sisters, the Christian way of life.

(SOURCE: Homily, 12/17/2016. San Jose, CA)

Copyright 2016, Fr. Jose Luis Ferroni. All Rights Reserved

‘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.’