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

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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.’

Father Robert Barcelos, OCD: Mercy and Forgiveness

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Matthew 7:1-5:  1 Stop judging, that you may not be judged.b 2For as you judge, so will you be judged, and the measure with which you measure will be measured out to you. 3Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own eye? 4How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove that splinter from your eye,’ while the wooden beam is in your eye? 5You hypocrite, remove the wooden beam from your eye first; then you will see clearly to remove the splinter from your brother’s eye.

When Pope Francis was Archbishop of Buenos Aires, the president there was well-publicized for her attacks on him. Apparently, she insulted him for his vocal stance in defending the dignity of all, even if it was deemed politically incorrect or taboo to speak out about such things.

Fourteen times, the then Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio requested to meet with her in private, and fourteen times, he was denied. Eleven times, she was outside of Argentina during the annual Te Deum and Mass in an effort to avoid him. And yet, after he was elected pope, instead of granting her a new protocol visit, he received her for a personal, two-hour lunch, without press, without pomp, without rancor. Oscar Wilde said, ‘Always forgive your enemies; nothing annoys them so much.’ I doubt that was the motivation of Pope Francis. Nevertheless, his authenticity, as can been seen during those times that encounter and the conversations were captured, is evident.

You see the genuineness and humanity of those moments. He laughed with her. He didn’t see her as a political figure who proposed laws that were opposed to Christian values. He didn’t see her through that lens. He saw her as a human being; sure, with her flaws, but nevertheless, loved by the Lord. That’s where he met her and delighted in her presence with utmost freedom. Although he was strong about what was right the other times, he still loved the person that was wrong.

Mahatmi Gandhi said, ‘The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.’ We think the opposite: forgiveness is a sign of weakness. Actually, the reverse is the truth. Paul Boese said, ‘Forgiveness does not change the past, but it definitely enlarges the future.’ Desmond Tutu said, ‘Without forgiveness, there is no future.’ Yet we know that forgiveness is easier said than done in experience. C.S. Lewis put it so well when he writes, ‘Everyone says forgiveness is a lovely idea until they have something to forgive.’ That’s a different story, isn’t it?

We can make up all kinds of excuses why we shouldn’t forgive, but in order for us to do so, we must know what forgiveness is not. Forgiveness is not forgetting. Forgetting may be a result of forgiveness, but it is never the means of forgiveness. It is not a question of surrendering our right to justice. If someone has done you wrong – for example, they’ve wrecked your car – yes, you forgive them, but it doesn’t mean that they don’t have to pay the bill.

Forgiveness does not necessitate the need to continue to be friends. It doesn’t necessitate reconciliation with the person who hurt you. Sometimes, a respectful distance is what is necessary. Forgiveness does not mean that we have to put up with unacceptable behavior. It does not mean excusing, condoning, or minimizing the wrong that was done. And it does not mean that we won’t have negative feelings toward the person who has hurt us.

Isn’t that good to know? That makes forgiveness easier to work with. That makes forgiveness more of a possibility so that we can allow the Lord to bring about change in our lives. It puts the commandment in our grasp. You see the wisdom of the commandment, which is no longer burdensome, but a blessing. Why? As one author, Lewis B. Smedes says, ‘To forgive is to set a prisoner free, and to discover that the prisoner was you.’ That’s why.

People think, ‘But I could never let them off the hook,’ but the reality is if we don’t let offenders off the hook, we are the ones who are hooked – not them. We are hooked to them, and the pains that were caused in the past. That will cause even more suffering for us, for you. You don’t forgive someone merely because they deserve it, because they’ve apologized, because they’ve amended their lives, or because they’ve fulfilled some expectation of yours. You forgive because you deserve it. You deserve to be free, and God doesn’t want anybody to take that dignity away from you.

To refuse to forgive those who have hurt us allows them to continue hurting us long after they have moved on with their lives, and we’re still holding on to theirs, paralyzed from being able to move on with ours. Yet forgiveness is not a one-shot deal. I just don’t say a prayer, or pray during one Mass to forgive and it’s all over like a magic wand. No, it doesn’t happen that way.

Forgiveness is a process. We must revisit the emotional core of the past honestly, to acknowledge the hurt and the hate that has resulted, so that as the wounds come to the surface, they may be exposed to the light and allow God’s love heal us. In his writing on forgiveness, C.S. Lewis explains, ‘You have to look steadily at the sin in its horror, dirt, meanness, and malice. Yet you must also make every effort to kill every taste of resentment in yourself, every wish to humiliate or repay the person.’

It’s not easy to forgive a single great injury, but how are we to forgive the incessant provocations of daily life; to keep on forgiving the alcoholic parent, or the manipulative brother, the bossy mother-in-law, the bullying husband, the nagging wife, the selfish daughter, the deceitful son, the annoying brother, the controlling sister. How can we do it? C.S. Lewis responds, ‘I think only by remembering where we stand.’

We must mean what we say, ‘forgive us our trespasses as’ – in the measure that I forgive those who have trespassed against me – for the Lord says, ‘the measure with which you measure will be measured out to you.’ We are offered forgiveness in no other terms. To refuse it, is to refuse God’s mercy for ourselves. Ouch! Talk about being held accountable. In the face of one of life’s greatest challenges, we ask for the grace to be enabled to spread Christ’s fragrance of forgiveness, in the way that only God can help us to do.

SOURCE: Segovia Homily, Spain Pilgrimage 2014- transcribed by TL

Copyright 2016, Fr. Robert Barcelos. 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.’

Father Robert Barcelos, OCD: Mercy and Thanksgiving 2

Painting by Father Robert Barcelos, OCD, 2014
Painting by Father Robert Barcelos, OCD, 2014

Saint Teresa’s Bookmark, standard translation

Let nothing disturb you, nothing frighten you
All things are passing
God never changes
Patience obtains all things
Nothing is wanting to him who possesses God
God alone suffices

Part of the healing work of the Holy Spirit is to attend to our needs, the bruises and wounds of our souls. But we must examine what needs Jesus’s attention. How can He most heal the hurts in your hearts in order that we are emptied and can let go of anything that would obstruct the outpouring of His Spirit?

If we’re wrestling with something unresolved, or disturbed, or in any way disrupting the tranquility of your soul, it can in a sense, occupy the space in our soul, that God in His presence wants to embrace. We need to empty ourselves, first and foremost, when we show up before God. The Penitential Rite at the beginning of the Mass is meant to help us empty ourselves, so that we may be filled with the lavishing of God’s love with the outpouring of the Spirit.

A unique translation of Saint Teresa’s bookmark was done by a Carmelite Friar named Father Anselm. This is how he translates that passage which is so precious to many of us:

All things pass, save God, who does not change
Be patient, and at last, thou shalt of all, fulfillment find.
Hold God, and nought shall fail thee.
For He alone is all.

This translation is so different that it’s hard to grasp it all in at once. Let’s look at it and the perspective of faith that it is offering us on how to clear our minds. Emptying our souls will inevitably involve clearing our minds of things we just need to cut the strings from: fear, worrying, considerations of your histories, your human relationships with each other. Just let the healing forgiveness of God’s heart help you to let go of everything.

The perspective that this prayer offers is God’s perspective of what is eternal in comparison to what is temporal. All things will change. Our moods will change. Our feelings are always in change. Our emotions are not the foundation of our faith because like the waves of the ocean, they are always in motion. Unreliable. Our faith is not about feelings. It involves feelings, at times, but that’s not the foundation that keeps us firm. Even when we’re feeling sad, desolate, or that God is distant, that is not a sign. Most often, for those who are faithful, those who are truly striving to stay in the state of grace, when we experience the darkness, that is not a sign that God’s love for us has changed. But it sure feels like it. Yeah it does, of course.

God does not change. His feelings aren’t up and down. We change all the time. When we see each other, we think ‘Oh, I haven’t seen this person in a long time, in four years. We used to belong to the same community but now we’re in two different branches and I haven’t seen him in a long time. Why did I get that reaction? Why didn’t I get a more joyful reaction? Why didn’t she smile when she saw me? Why did she look away? Why didn’t he greet me the way he greeted the other person?’ All this stinking thinking of comparing one another can enter into our heads, and it becomes distractions. It’s normal, it’s not sinful, we’re complex human beings and we need to be set free from those things.

For those of you who are married, sometimes, your spouse might get home and he or she is in a bad mood, and you don’t know why. You wonder, ‘Did I say something wrong? Did I do something? What’s going on?’ We immediately think that there’s something wrong with us because we’re not getting the affirmation or the response that builds us up.

When I’m feeling that way spiritually, down or distant from God, not consoled and distracted in prayer, I’m quick to presume that I must have done something wrong to deserve this. We need to move beyond those very human and earth-bound interpretations of our spiritual lives. We need to be set free from that by a deeper encounter with God’s Mercy. This encounter requires a lot of patience. “Patience obtains all things.” Through this encounter we discover true fulfillment and that “God alone suffices.” We don’t need to worry about all these lesser things. We don’t need to spend our energy, our attention, or our time, dwelling on these lesser things, putting third things first and first things third.

“God alone suffices.” That conviction of how God satisfies our hearts’ deepest longings, what we are made for at our core. The more we experience that reality, the truth of God’s love meeting us in the deepest part of ourselves, the more convinced we are. The more we are able to say with Saint Teresa with joy and utter conviction in the power of the Holy Spirit, Solo Dios Basta! Let it run through your bones. Solo Dios Basta! God alone suffices. He alone is all.

We have to hold on to God, as this translation says. There are times in our lives when all we can do is hold on to Him, and just cling to the cross. A true tree-hugger. Cling to the cross, like Saint Francis. When things get tough cling to the cross. Unite yourself to Him and just hold on. Sometimes, all we can do is just hold on. Jesus says, ‘It’s going to be OK. I know you don’t see past the clouds right now; I know that you don’t see beyond the bloody mess of the sweat, pain, and tears of Calvary in the way that may be expressing itself in your life right now but hold on. It’s going to be OK. Just hold on,’ “and nought shall fail thee for He alone is all.”

God’s miracles of mercy can begin to take shape and be poured out through patient perseverance in faith and not giving; in so doing, we allow God’s love to enlarge our faith and expand our hope to new horizons regarding who He is in us, with us and through us, and around us, and for us. These encounters oftentimes have to happen by passing some kind of crisis. That is the work of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit’s mission is the miracle of God’s Merciful Love in each of our lives. End

May the Lord bless us, protect us from all evil, and bring us to everlasting life.

(SOURCE: Cristo Rey Retreat, SF, October 2015) Teresa 1- transcribed by TL

Copyright 2016, Fr. Robert Barcelos. 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.’

Father Robert Barcelos, OCD: Mercy & Thanksgiving 1

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St. Teresa of Avila’s Bookmark

Let nothing disturb you, nothing frighten you.
All things are passing.
God never changes.
Patience obtains all things,
Nothing is wanting to him who possesses God.
God alone suffices.

An important mystery that is part of all our lives is that as beloved children of God, though we are called to share in the beauty of God, who is Love, that beauty will inevitably involve our being engaged in a spiritual battle. Whenever God has something really big in store to bless our socks off, the enemy tries to interrupt God’s plans. He’s on a leash, but he’ll do everything possible in his power to try to discourage, distract, and sway us from showing up. He can make us sick, he can disrupt relationships at home and at work; he can present all these different obstacles to try, in any way, to discourage us – which is his favorite weapon – and take away our resolve to seek God’s face, though we were once excited to do so for months previously. Finally, when the moment has come, and the week is here, so many things might seem to fall apart. That goes with the territory of seeking the Lord with all of our hearts, minds, and strength.

The Lord desires us to be strengthened in our faiths and in our will, uniting ourselves to His love, that nothing may separate us from the love of God. For that reason, because we do know what it means to experience the good fight of faith and spiritual battle, Saint Teresa’s bookmark speaks strongly to all of us and to many others, Secular Carmelite or not.

Our Holy Mother Saint Teresa’s beautiful bookmark is one of the most commonly known of all of her writings. It’s really an echo of the Lord’s words in the gospel of John. In the Last Supper discourse in Chapters 14 to 17, one of Saint Teresa’s favorite and the favorite of so many of the close friends of God, Jesus pours out His heart. He speaks of the most intimate thing to His friends. He’s trying to build them up, animating them and preparing them for perseverance; to be filled with the Spirit, to not allow any contradiction of the cross or any scandal of suffering to sway them from their purpose in being united to Himself. In building them up, he is preparing them to receive a new outpouring of the Spirit. He tells them not to be afraid. He tells them to allow the impact of the Father’s peace to remain prominent in every problem that they would eventually face.

By communicating the experience of grace to them, Jesus gives us focus on how to remain firm in a faith that is centered in Him. Saint Teresa’s bookmark echoes that essential Easter message that God is with us – in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health, for better or for worse, in season and out of season, in consolation and desolation. God is with us – in the springtime and in the desert, in the valley and in the mountain, whether in darkness or in the full light of the beautiful pasture – God is with us as the good shepherd (to be continued).

May the Lord bless us, protect us from all evil, and bring us to everlasting life.

(SOURCE: Cristo Rey Retreat, SF, October 2015) Teresa 1- transcribed by TL

Copyright 2016, Fr. Robert Barcelos. 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.’

Father Robert Barcelos, OCD: Jubilee Year of Mercy & Saint Thérèse

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Editor’s note: As a reminder, the Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy ends this Sunday, November 20, 2016

In Manuscript B, Saint Thérèse says that love must descend into nothingness and then be consumed by the fire of Love. She’s totally in touch with the truth of her poverty as a creature, as a sinner in need of God’s mercy, of the Savior. She renounced her merits, she renounced any sense of her perfection; she even renounces the glory of heaven as a reward. She wished to be nothing more than emptiness. She embraced her littleness in such a way that she thought of herself as this depth, this pit in which God could pour out His love according to His good pleasure. She became this openness, this capacity to receive His torrents of love by being in touch with the truth of her poverty.

According to the Spanish contemplative monk who wrote The Little Child of God’s Mercy, “She presents herself to God in the truth of her nothingness with empty hands” – as if she had nothing of her own to offer but her littleness as a child. She had nothing to offer but her dependency, her vulnerability. That is what she had to offer. That is her holocaust. She is the host and that is her holocaust.

“She does not wish to lay up merits for heaven.” Her only aim is to give Jesus pleasure by trusting, by surrendering her poverty, by believing that He who is rich became poor in order to enrich our poverty; by offering herself as a sinner, knowing that He came to call sinners and not the righteous. She prefers to be clothed not with any sense of self-righteousness. Not the name I’ve earned for myself or anything else that I can make for myself. Absolutely not. That’s totally foreign to the little way.

“She prefers to be clothed with Jesus’s own justice,” His merits, “to receive from His love the eternal possession of Himself.” This is where St. Thérèse totally captures the heart of the gospel as being sheer grace, total pure gift – not based on works, but based on Jesus’s work. That’s the heart of the gospel and that is also what we believe as Catholic Christians. Our work is only the working out of our faith in love, but it’s not my work as end in itself or as a way of earning God’s love because my work can never earn God’s love. I could never give God something that would make me worthy of Him. That comes as free gift because of who Jesus is, as His gift to us.

“The eternal possession of Himself is the justice of which she wants to be clothed in– namely Jesus.” For Saint Thérèse, says this Spanish monk, “Holiness was not therefore a matter of perfection of the soul. It did not have to become rich in virtues or be arrayed with gifts of grace in order to become an adult” spiritually speaking. Rather, she had to remain as a child.

What does that mean? She would stay in that state of poignant need in which she could only exist in total dependence on Him, into the very real need of being saved at every moment.  Thérèse and so many intimate friends of Jesus, like Saint Catherine of Sienna, have expressed that we’re all called to experience salvation by the free gift of God, not because we’re good enough, but because He is good enough and able to give Himself no matter in what stage we are in our spiritual growth.

God wants all of us to experience that we are loved in an irrepeatable, irreplaceable way. Each of us is uniquely loved by the heart of God, as if we were the only one in the world there is to love. God’s total, undivided attention is on each person, the way that only God can do. Nobody else can do that. That’s not humanly possible. That’s only an attribute, a quality of God as God. And He is able to love that big. The God we adore, the one we believe in is a great God; therefore, He has called us to have great faith, and is able to consume us with love.

Thérèse is the prophet of this great faith in such a great God. In Arabic, for both Christian and Arabs, the word for God is Allah. But the greater name for God is Abba – Father. This is the God whom we worship, the God of tenderness beyond our wildest dreams. The God of Merciful Love, is the God for whom St. Thérèse, the prophet, points.

St. Thérèse ’s Act of Oblation was written under the powerful influence of the Holy Spirit. On Trinity Sunday, during Mass, she felt the Divine life boiling up within her. This offering and prayer is the fruit of that experience. She makes the offering two days after she wrote it, with her sister Celine. Five days after she writes this prayer, she was in the choir about pray The Way of the Cross, and she was seized by a special grace which the mystical doctor, Saint John of the Cross, calls ‘a wound of love.’

She describes, “All of a sudden I was seized by so violent a love for the good God that it was as if somebody had immersed me entirely in fire. Aaah, what fire and what sweetness at one and the same time. I was burning with love and I felt that if it lasted one minute or one second more, I couldn’t have borne this heat without dying.” This is a similar experience as that of Saint Francis, Saint Teresa, and so many other friends of God.

Less than a year later after writing her Oblation, around Holy Week, she entered her own Way of the Cross, her total assimilation to her beloved’s passion. “Throughout the thick darkness of this passive night of the spirit which lasted for the last eighteen months of her life, Thérèse took extreme care to not communicate to others in the community the doubts which assailed her.” According to the bold expression of Saint Paul ‘Him who knew no sin, God has identified with the sin of man for us.’ Jesus became sin and was immersed in it in order to free us from it.

“So too, Thérèse, the redeemer’s bride, entered into this logic. She became sin, [or more exactly, misery] destined to be immersed in the abyss of infinite Mercy. This also meant entering into the greater sharing of Jesus’s redemption; namely, willingly accepting being plunged into the abyss of dereliction and suffering into which her bridegroom was plunged.”

Thérèse definitely had a mission that she was going to accomplish after her life on earth. The preparation for this heavenly mission on earth was this profound experience of the cross as the apex of her conversion and vocation. This profound sharing of the cross was to prepare the way for the harvest which she was to accomplish, that God would accomplish in her, with her, and through her in heaven upon earth. According to some authors, when Saint Thérèse wrote her Oblation to Merciful Love which was around the same time she wrote Mansucript B, she was already in the heights of spiritual life, the seventh mansion. Her Oblation to Merciful Love was on June 9, 1895 and she begins Manuscript B on September 8, 1896, over a year later. She dies just a year over that.

When she writes Manuscript B, she is already in her dark night of the soul. She had already begun her spiritual and physical sufferings, the hemorrhages and temptations against faith. In Manuscript B, the masterpiece of all her writing, she talks about her vocation of love as Heaven’s child, like a little eagle on the wings of the Divine eagle.  She has the prophetic insight into her mission to ask to receive a double portion of all the saints, that she may gather a legion of little souls worthy of Infinite love.

To conclude with the words of Saint Thérèse, at the end of Manuscript A, “Love penetrates and surrounds me. Each moment, this merciful love renews me. What I am certain about is that God’s mercy will accompany me always.” And as she says in her Act of Oblation to Merciful Love, “Oh my God, since you loved me so much as to give me your only Son as my Savior and my Spouse, the infinite treasures of His merits are mine. Look upon me only in the face of Jesus and in His Heart burning with love.” END

Saint Thérèse and all Carmelite saints, pray for us.

(SOURCE: San Rafael, CA Novena, September 2016)  Thérèse 7- transcribed by TL

Copyright 2016, Fr. Robert Barcelos. 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.’

Father Robert Barcelos, OCD: Jubilee Year of Mercy 8 and Saint Thérèse

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When the archangel Gabriel appeared to Our Lady, after honoring what God had done in her soul and calling her full of grace, one of the first things he told Mary was not to be afraid. This is a strong message in all of sacred scripture, a theme, a golden thread from Genesis to Apocalypse. Do not be afraid, says the Lord.

At the end of Manuscript A, the first of her three manuscripts in A Story of a Soul, Thérèse says, “I am far from being on the way of fear.” In other words, she says, ‘I’m not afraid of God.’ Similarly, Padre Pio says, “El miedo es un mal peor que el mismo mal.” Fear is an evil worst than evil itself because fear oftentimes projects a false reality. We can easily become afraid of something that hasn’t already happened. Fear is just a total imagination, a trip of the mind. It’s not even real. Fear is a phantom, a shadow. It’s smoke, nothing that’s even really substantial.

Thérèse writes, “I always find a way to be happy and to profit from my miseries.” ‘No matter what happens I find a way to bring good out of it.’ This is a theme from Romans 8:28. She continues, “How sweet is the way of love,” rather than the way of fear. As Saint John says, ‘Perfect love casts out all fear.’ Thérèse says, “True, one can fall or commit infidelities, but love knows how to draw profit from everything.” In other words, God can use anything to bring out good. There are no obstacles to God’s Mercy to use as material to draw us closer to Himself and to sanctify us.

Thérèse says that even if there are fallings and infidelities, “Love quickly consumes everything that can be displeasing to Jesus. It leaves nothing but a humble and profound peace in the depth of the heart.” If you’ve ever read The Name of God is Mercy, we see many of these themes in Pope Francis, a person who really knows Thérèse deeply and who is very much in the school of Saint Thérèse.

Like Mother Teresa of Calcutta, whom Pope Francis recently canonized, Thérèse refused Jesus nothing. She always gave Him all. She always gave Him everything. In The Little Child of God’s Mercy, the author, a Spanish contemplative monk, writes, “The essential trait of what must make up our response to the Lord’s love is giving oneself without limit.” Generosity. We see this total generosity in Saint Thérèse and this explains how she was able to progress so much spiritually and to be transformed from one degree of God’s love for her to another.

The author continues, “Thérèse’s life would become a continual search for an evermore perfect giving.” She was always looking for the opportunity of giving herself to God. She was always asking, ‘How can I be drawn closer to God in giving myself more deeply to Him.’ She was always findings ways to love Love, to love the God who is Love. He continues, “The only means she found was to give herself up to that love so as to quench with her own, almost infinite thirst, the divine thirst of Jesus. This answer, to quench the thirst of Jesus, was Saint Thérèse’s Offering to Merciful Love.”

Saint Thérèse wrote the Offering to Merciful Love almost a year before she wrote Manuscript B. By her oblation, in her free, total act of the will, with all of her being, once and for all, Thérèse answers the appeal of Love. The oblation is a deepening of her baptism, a deepening of her solemn profession. She makes it definitive. This is her answer to the appeal of Love whose cry, ‘I thirst,’ echoed within her own heart in her desire to make Love loved.

Thérèse’s middle name is Francis, one of the top five all-time greatest saints loved by the world, and she really has his spirit. He was a seraphic little man, so on fire with Jesus Christ, and mirrored the life of Jesus almost more than someone as great as Saint Paul and Saint John the beloved disciple of Jesus. Francis often said, ‘Love is not loved. The God who is Love is not loved.’ What an irony! What a contradiction! How can Love not be loved?  Thérèse experienced the same passion.

In the Act of Oblation, she surrenders her nothingness with blind trust to the very heart of the all-powerful divine tenderness of God. Her only concern was to give love in return for Love. As Saint John of the Cross says, ‘Love is repaid by love alone.’ She felt her supreme misery, her own impoverishment; she had nothing to offer to God, who is all-holy, all mighty in majesty. The Spanish author of The Little Child of God’s Mercy, writes, “Her felt depth of the abyss of her own misery, such that one feels and is so empty of self [everything that can be sacrificed of oneself is sacrificed], she places this with abandonment on the waves of Mercy’s tenderness. Her dispositions were those of total poverty”(to be continued). 

Saint Thérèse and all Carmelite saints, pray for us.

(SOURCE: San Rafael, CA Novena, September 2016)  Thérèse 7- transcribed by TL

Copyright 2016, Fr. Robert Barcelos. 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.’

Father Robert Barcelos, OCD: Jubilee Year of Mercy 7 and St.Thérèse

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The Parable of the Good Samaritan. Luke 10:29-37

“And who is my neighbor?” 30Jesus replied, “A man fell victim to robbers as he went down from Jerusalem to Jericho. They stripped and beat him and went off leaving him half-dead. 31 A priest happened to be going down that road, but when he saw him, he passed by on the opposite side. 32Likewise a Levite came to the place, and when he saw him, he passed by on the opposite side. 33But a Samaritan traveler who came upon him was moved with compassion at the sight. 34He approached the victim, poured oil and wine over his wounds and bandaged them. Then he lifted him up on his own animal, took him to an inn and cared for him. 35The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper with the instruction, ‘Take care of him. If you spend more than what I have given you, I shall repay you on my way back.’ 36Which of these three, in your opinion, was neighbor to the robbers’ victim?” 37He answered, “The one who treated him with mercy.” Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”

In the story of the Good Samaritan: God does not pass us like the priest and the Levite but rather like the Samaritan; God comes to us where we are. He sees our weakness; he sees our brokenness and our misery. Then He acts to heal us and bring us to a place of comfort and to rest. Remember God says, ‘Come to me all who are weary and I will give you rest.’

Therefore, the first step to being saved, the first step to recovering, to discover recovery in our broken humanity is to have humility. We must realize our need for Him and that we cannot heal ourselves much less save ourselves. We must have the humility to be free of being in denial, thinking that we have the power to do it all on our own, and that we are sufficient left to ourselves. To discover recovery, is to have the humility to ask God for help, to ask God for healing, and to ask God to save us.

Father Gaitley says: “Divine Mercy is God’s being moved to compassion at seeing our suffering and then God taking action to help alleviate it. And so, The Little Way, is about the compassion of Jesus who sees the suffering of little souls who long to attain the heights of holiness but who are too little to climb the rough stairway of perfection. The Little Way is about the action of Jesus who reaches down out of pity and picks us up, trusting little souls, to place us in the heights.”

The emphasis and focus is Jesus’ action of Divine Mercy  and our most important and necessary response is trust. Trust enough to allow God to act in your lives, and to allow God to make the difference. This trust requires the daily ‘I do’ to hold on to the Lord, and to hold on when there might seem like a lack of results. It requires us to not give in, and to not let go of trusting.

Father Gaitley says, “The elevator that Thérèse refers to is the Mercy of Jesus [the Mercy of Jesus in action.] It is the compassion of Jesus reaching out to lift up the lowly.” These words return again to the heart of sacred scripture which is saturated in Mercy. St Thérèse points God’s Mercy out in a remarkable passage at the end of her autobiography. This section weaves together her favorite truths of the gospel that she has rediscovered, the truths that she then helps us to discover.

St Thérèse writes, “I have only to cast a glance in the gospels and immediately I breathe in the perfumes of Jesus’ life. And I know on which side to run. I don’t hasten to the first place but to the last. Rather than advance like the Pharisee, I repeat filled with confidence the publican’s humble prayer. Most of all, I imitate the conduct of Magdalene, her astonishing or rather her loving audacity, which charms the heart of Jesus, also attracts my own. Yes, I feel it. Even though I had on my conscience all the sins that can be committed, I would go, my heart broken with sorry and throw myself into Jesus’ arms; for I know how much He loves the prodigal child who returns to him.”

St Thérèse is a prophet of Merciful Love. In this Year of Mercy, she is one of the greatest teachers we could possibly listen to who can help us, as Pope Francis encourages, to rediscover the Merciful face of our heavenly Father. What a joy it is to know Jesus as Lord. And an even greater joy that Jesus points us to is to know God as our Father. Thérèse points us to this experience.

In the words of St. Paul, “To the King of Kings, and Lord of Lords who alone has immortality who dwells in unapproachable light; to him be honor and eternal power forever and ever.”

As this Jubilee Year of Mercy draws to a close, we are called to experience the healing of God’s merciful heart that we may rediscover the face of our Father who is merciful, that we ourselves may learn new lessons of mercy and how to share that gift with others as the Lord puts it in our lives.

Let us ask the Lord to help us to be merciful as He is merciful. That we may grow regularly in the grace that sets us free. END

Saint Thérèse and all Carmelite Saints, pray for us.

(SOURCE: San Rafael, CA Novena, September 2016)  Thérèse 3- transcribed by Linda Dorian

Copyright 2016, Fr. Robert Barcelos. 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.’

Father Robert Barcelos, OCD: Jubilee Year of Mercy 6, Saint Thérèse and Saint Teresa of Calcutta

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A reading of the Holy Gospel According to Luke: Jesus said to the Pharisees: “There was a rich man who dressed in purple garments and fine linen and dined sumptuously each day. And lying at his door was a poor man named Lazarus covered with sores, who would have gladly eaten his fill of the scraps that fell from the rich man’s table. Dogs even used to come and lick his sores. When the poor man died, he was carried away by angels to the bosom of Abraham.The rich man also died and was buried and from the netherworld where he was in torment he raised his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at  his side. And he cried out: “Father Abraham have pity on me. Send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue for I am suffering torment in these flames.” Abraham replied: “My child, remember that you received what was good during your lifetime while Lazarus likewise received what was bad. But now he is comforted here whereas you are tormented. Moreover, between us and you, a great chasm is established to prevent anyone from crossing who might wish to go from our side to yours or from your side to ours. He said: Then I beg you father, send him to my father’s house, for I have five brothers so that he may warn them lest they too may come to this place of torment.  But Abraham replied, “They have Moses and the prophets. Let them listen to them.” He said, “Oh no Father Abraham. But if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent. Abraham said: “If they will not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded if someone should rise from the dead. The Gospel of the Lord

This very strong reading is a good example of how ‘the gospel comforts the afflicted and afflicts the comfortable.’ You’ve heard that expression before, I am sure. What do we mean by the comfortable? The comfortable, in this context, means the complacent. The complacent are those who are indifferent to the legitimate needs of others around them. The warning we heard about in the first reading from Amos to the complacent in Zion, is to those who didn’t care about or who were insensitive to those who are suffering.

In the commentary in the Magnificat, Cardinal Christoph Schonborn, who is known for editing the Catechism of the Catholic Church, says that “carelessness or self-centeredness is what blinds a person to our neighbor’s need. The rich man in the gospel, who feasts sumptuously, was perhaps not even deliberately cold to Lazarus, who was lying at his door. But rather, he had grown accustomed to seeing him there. His wealth and comfortable life made him insensitive to the suffering of his fellow man around him.”

This complacency is an expression of hardness of heart. Cardinal Schonborn later says, “And the hardness of heart is in itself a choice of rebellion towards God.” Someone who hardens his or her heart against his or her neighbor has rebelled against God. That echoes and reminds us of the passage of The Last Judgment in Matthew 25: ‘What ever you did to the least of mine you did to me.’

This passage was so close to the heart of Mother Teresa of Calcutta who made her whole life mission to be that of picking people up out of the gutter. She didn’t only pick people out of the literal gutter, in the sense of the slums, but out of the gutter of any depression. She picked people up out of the sorrow of feeling unlovable. She went out and reached out to those who were most in need and who felt unloved. St. Thérèse is a great prophet of Merciful Love, and she was one of the great inspirations of Mother Teresa of Calcutta and after whom Mother Teresa received her name.

I want to refer to the book by Father Michael Gaitley: 33 days to Merciful Love: A Retreat With St. Thérèse. This book is his sequel to 33 Days to Morning Glory, one of the most popular ways of consecrating ourselves to the Immaculate Heart of Mary and to live a life committed to Jesus Christ. Gaitley made the Total Consecration to Mary, as originally authored by Saint Louis de Montfort, and presents it in a new, more modern tone. Saint Louis de Monfort’s style is older and similar to The Imitation of Christ. Both works are solid and grounded but sometimes very difficult to digest by our post-modern ears.

The first idea from Fr. Gaitley is in regards to how we relate to St. Thérèse. Father Gaitley rightly points out that St. Thérèse doesn’t always make a great first impression. In fact, he says “I’ve often heard that when people first meet her in her writings, they think ‘I can’t relate to her.’  They say, ‘What do I have in common with a girl who grew up in sheltered home, lived in a cloistered convent and died at just 24 years old?’ But then as they get to know her more they will often say, ‘I relate to her more than to any other saint.'”

I’ve found that to be very, very true not only in my own life but in those of many others.

Father Gaitley continues to say, “We relate to Thérèse because she is real. She is not a plaster statue high on a pedestal. In fact, we get the sense that she is right down here in the grittiness of ordinary life with the rest of us. During her life she wasn’t famous or well known. Indeed, her time in the convent truly was a hidden life full of the daily darkness we all experience. Yet, she is a great saint. But her stand-out sanctity is that she did little things with great love.” Mother Teresa’s mantra: ‘Do great things with great love’ came from St.Thérèse, and even Saint Teresa of Avila said the same thing, as all the saints do.

Father Gaitley writes, “Yes, in the midst of an ordinary mundane life she had extraordinary faith, hope, and love that are accessible to us all. As St.Thérèse herself put it, ‘Why should this treasure not be yours?'” – namely the treasures of faith hope and love. In the midst of ordinary and sometimes mundane life, we must allow ourselves to do little things with great love. Doing so allows the great love of Jesus into our hearts, so that He becomes our primary inspiration and motivation that sustains us. Finally, Father Gaitley says about Thérèse, “like most of us she not only knew herself to be weak and imperfect, but she also knew what was like to live in an age of secularism and doubt.”

This reminds me of the rich man’s response in the gospel. The rich man says, ‘This is so terrible. Please Abraham, do me a favor. Send somebody to my brothers because my brothers are just as bad off as I was. Send somebody from the dead who will shake them up, wake them up and scare the hell out of them’ so to speak. ‘They really need a good rattling in order for them to wake up.’ Abraham responds ‘Even if someone were raised from the dead, if they did not listen to the prophets, they would not be moved.’

Who was raised from the dead? Jesus. This story is about believing in the resurrection of Jesus. If someone isn’t willing to settle in simple faith to the truth of what was spoken by God’s prophets, then scaring them into faith isn’t going to work.

Faith comes alive and is awakened by attraction, not by fear or by hell and brimstone. Faith is awakened by Love. And if people are not attracted to it by Love, then throwing fear upon them isn’t going to last.

Think about a horrible time in our history, for example, the tragedy of 9/11. After 9/11, there was a phenomenon of churches being full because people were shaken up. They returned to their faith, whatever faith they came from, and for a time, churches had tremendous attendance because of the fear that woke our nation up.  In all likelihood, most of the people who came back to church just because of the tragedy did not attend church for too long out; fear isn’t enough to produce a faith that bears fruit that lasts. It has to be motivated by something deeper. That is: the love of God.

Abraham tells us to listen to Moses and the prophets. St Thérèse of Lisieux is the great prophet of modern times, the prophet of Merciful Love.  Thérèse’s legacy, as Father Gaitley points out, is that “She speaks to us in a fresh way about the heart of the gospel” which is the heart of Jesus, the heart of God. That heart of the gospel, that truth, is what sets us free to be fully who we were each meant to be in God’s plan for our lives personally.

As our Catechism says, the heart of the gospel “is the revelation in Jesus Christ of God’s Mercy to sinners.” Very simply: the revelation in Jesus Christ of God’s mercy to sinners.  Father Gaitley points out that “The good news of God’s mercy for sinners is that God doesn’t love us because we are so good, because we are good enough, or because we’ve earned to be loved by God.” God loves us not because we’re so good but because He is so good. The good news is God loves us not because we deserve it, but because we desperately need it.

This is Divine Mercy. This is the gospel. (to be continued). 

Saint Teresa of Calcutta, Saint Thérèse, and all Carmelite Saints, pray for us.

(SOURCE: San Rafael, CA Novena, September 2016)  Thérèse 3- transcribed by Linda Dorian

Copyright 2016, Fr. Robert Barcelos. 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.’

Father Robert Barcelos, OCD: Jubilee Year of Mercy 5 and SaintThérèse

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In following the footsteps of St. Thérèse, we ask her help in rediscovering the value and the gift of our vocation to love. This is the Year of Mercy and St.Thérèse is a very special soul, a very exceptional saint to help us rediscover the merciful face of our Father. The goal of this Year of Mercy is rediscovering the Merciful Face of our Heavenly Father. Thérèse knew this so well. In a sense, she had an advantage because her biological father was a wonderful reflection of God the Father in her life.   That made it easy for her to grasp how good our Heavenly Father is.

Thérèse also had a wonderful mother, and both her parents were recently canonized. But between the age of 4 and 5, Thérèse experienced the wound of losing her mother to cancer. However, the mother that she did know gave Thérèse a foretaste and was a reflection of our spiritual mother, Our Mother in Heaven.  Consequently, Thérèse’s sister, Pauline, became like a mother to her until she went into the convent, opening again in Thérèse that abandonment wound of having lost her mother. The result of this emotional wound was a terrible physical sickness in the life of Thérèse. This setback was actually a setup for God to bring about a tremendous blessing in Thérèse’s life.

But before Thérèse could experience this tremendous blessing, this grace of Jesus’s resurrection shining through the face of Mary, His mother, she experienced a terrible crisis. The crisis and the experience of this cross in her life prepared the way for the experience and breakthrough of Jesus’ blessing by the power of His victory of love.   This victory of God’s love, of Jesus’ love, was communicated to Thérèse through the face of Mary Mother of Mercy, Our Lady of Victory. She was about ten years old when this happened and her life changed very drastically after the loss of her mother. She talks about that in The Story of Her Soul, her autobiography.

St Thérèse and St Teresa were both asked to write their autobiographies under obedience and both wanted their autobiographies to be Magnificats; that is, testimonies of their soul magnifying the Lord’s Mercy, recognizing that everything they had experienced was all part of God’s plan of Mercy. Everything – the good, the bad, the ugly. Every aspect of their lives, God was using to orchestrate for their sanctity, and to bring them closer to His holy love for them. That is in fact, what the Lord did for them.

By faith and through the consolation of the Holy Spirit, Thérèse was able to see God’s hand in every part and stage of her life. With the consolation of the Holy Spirit, she was able to see in faith how God’s providence had planned out everything so perfectly. While she was going through the pain of her emotional wounds, she may not have seen God’s hand that clearly, but after she had passed from it, she was put on a certain plateau of peace to be able to see the presence of God in every aspect of her life. It is with this kind of faith that Thérèse is writing her autobiography, the story of her soul, her personal history. She writes her autobiography as if her whole life was completely stamped with God’s Mercy.

The wisdom from Ecclesiastics poetically explains that ‘there is a time to gather stones and a time to scatter, a time to embrace and a time to be far from embraces. There is a time for love and a time to hate; there is a time for peace and a time for war.’   And the book says, God has put the timeless in the person’s heart. It is as if the author of Ecclesiastics is seeing the providence of God; there is a reason and a season for everything.   Everything takes place according to God’s perfect timing, not our calendar. In the situations and circumstances of life, while we’re going through it, oftentimes how the pieces of the puzzle fall into place doesn’t make sense. But after we’ve passed through it and we have persevered, God can put us in a position where we can see His presence providing a provision for every problem.

In Romans 8:28 God makes a promise that He ‘makes all things work for the good of those who love him.’   God makes all things work for good – not some of the things some of the times. But in God’s plan, with His power, He makes all of the things, all of the time, eventually work for the good of those who love Him. In other words, there’s no crystal ball, there’s no magic wand, there’s no cookie-cutter answer or quick fix for every problem. But when we are trying our hardest and best to be faithful even though we do not get the telegram from heaven telling us clearly what we are to do – by faith day in and day out, carrying our cross, being loyal to the Lord – somehow, someway God will bring good out of everything. He only allows the difficulties, and sometimes even evils to enter into our lives in so far as He can see something greater coming out.

It takes great faith to be able to claim the victory of God’s love in advance and to know that God has a plan for our problems. Problems pass away and are temporal – they’re temporary. Here today and gone tomorrow.   It takes great faith to not allow myself to be swallowed up, to be consumed, to be utterly decimated or defeated by problems.

‘My struggles will not have the last word over my life. The Lord who spoke the first Word will have the last Word. This problem is not going to prevail. It will not prosper. God’s plans will prosper, and His plan is to bring good out of it.’ It takes faith to claim that and to truly believe it.  It takes great faith to receive it into our hearts and to be able to declare that God is with me, in the moment, which is the hardest part.

‘I might not feel it and He might seem to be far off, but God is with me. He promised and His Word is gold. He is more real than this situation.   God is with me and his light will prevail over this darkness.   I do not know how, I do not need to know how, but He will win in the end.   It is a winnable war and the victory belongs to the Lord and because it belongs to the Lord, it belongs to me because I am His and He is mine.’ The victory is ours in advance.   We need to claim that and to reinforce it.

St Thérèse teaches us how to do this because like Mary this is Thérèse’s greatness: her faith. As St. John says, “It is faith that gives us the victory over the world,” over the false promises of what is passing away. Anything that the world offers that would separate us from God’s love and his purpose for our lives will pass away. It is faith that gives us victory to be able to see beyond what’s on the surface, beyond the appearances, beyond the situation and the circumstance. God provides a greater provision and He is greater than every problem.

St Thérèse suffered from the problem of her illness as a ten-year-old. What provoked the illness? She lost her mother and that’s a significant trauma for a child. Her sister Pauline filled the gap, but when Pauline leaves for the convent, it opens up that ancient core wound in Thérèse’s life. What happened? She becomes physically ill because of an emotional wound. Then the enemy started making it worse and entered into the wound. He exploited the weakness and aggravated the symptoms and suffering. Thérèse acknowledged that.

An inner mixture of different causes and factors come together.  In Thérèse’s own testimony, she says, “The sickness that overtook me certainly came from the demon.   Infuriated by your entrance, Pauline, into Carmel, he wanted to take revenge on me for the wrong our family was to do in the future.” She has good insight and a spirit of discernment in knowing there is a spiritual war trying to interfere with her well-being. She continues, “The sweet Queen of Heaven was preparing to stop the storm the moment her flower was to break without any hope of recovery.”

God rescued Thérèse through Mary at the very moment she felt she could not go on any longer. The Lord allowed this trial to peak, to reach an apex where she felt like, ‘This is it, there is no turning back from here, there’s no recovery, game over.’ The breakthrough came only at the point, the last point where it felt like there was no more hope.

Have you ever felt that in your life – when you were pushed to your limit and felt you could go no more? Then things started to change and to shift? But the breakthrough didn’t come until you were broken?  I’ve been there.

St. Thérèse continues with the details of her symptoms. “I began to have a constant headache. I was seized with a strange trembling. Nothing was able to stop my shaking, it lasted almost all night long.   The doctor thought that I had a very serious illness and one which had never before attacked a child as young as I. Everybody was puzzled. Nobody knew what it was.

In the midst of this she went to visit Pauline in the convent.  The symptoms seemed to go away, the storm ceased, she felt consolation, and she thought she had been cured. She thought it was all over. It was a moment of respite but the worse was still to come.

She goes home, tells her family that she is fine and to leave her alone. But “The next day I had another attack similar to the first and the sickness became so grave and according to all human calculations I wasn’t to recover from it. I can’t describe this strange sickness but I am now convinced it was the work of the devil.   I appeared to be almost delirious, saying things that had no meaning. I often appeared to be in a faint, not making the slightest movement. And then I would have permitted anyone to do anything he wished, even to kill me, and yet I heard everything that was said around me and can still remember everything. Once it happened that for a long time I was without the power to open my eyes… I believe the devil had received an external power over me but was not allowed to approach my soul nor my mind except to inspire me with great fears of certain things. I was absolutely terrified by everything. The little flower alone was languishing and seemed forever withered. People thought, as my father thought, that I had lost my mind and that I was going to die.”

This is serious human suffering. It doesn’t sound very pious, but it’s her real human experience. Yet God brought good out of this seemingly unredeemable illness. We might think, ‘This is too messy for God to use for the sake of our sanctity,’ but He does.

 “Then came the miraculous statue of the Blessed Virgin which had already spoken to mama twice.”  In other words, the family had already received graces from God through this statue. At that time, her father had made a Novena of Masses in honor of Our Lady of Victory, which was the image in their house, so that Our Lady could cure Thérèse. A miracle was necessary and Our Lady of Victory worked it on one Sunday, Pentecost Sunday

Thérèse writes,  “I was suffering very much from this force and inexplicable struggle. Finding no help on earth, poor little Thérèse  also turned toward the Mother of Heaven and prayed with all her heart that she take pity on her. All of a sudden, the Blessed Virgin appeared beautiful to me, so beautiful that never had I seen anything so attractive. Her face was suffused with an ineffable benevolence and tenderness. But what penetrated to the very depths of my soul was the ravishing smile of the Blessed Virgin.”

And instantly,at seeing the smile of the Virgin Mary imparted upon her soul, at that very moment, she was cured.  Everyone cried out ‘Thérèse is cured’ and she writes that the “The luminous ray that had warmed her again was not to stop its favors. The healing did not act all at once but sweetly and gently it raised the little flower and strengthened her gradually to such a point that in five years she herself would enter that Carmel.”

We see that the healing power of God is ever present where there is faith and that God is in fact is able to bring the victory of His love no matter how messy the situation may seem to be, provided that we continue to cling to his great Mercy. As Dante says through St Bernard in the Divine Comedy: “Mary is the perfect reflection of the face of Christ.”

God who is Mercy is most magnified in Mary and her beauty. And in this Year of Mercy all of us are called to experience the healing of God’s merciful heart that we may rediscover the face of our Father who is merciful and that we ourselves may learn new lessons of mercy and how to share that gift with others as the Lord puts it in our lives.

Let us ask the Lord to help us to be merciful as He is merciful. That we may grow regularly in the grace that sets us free.

May the Lord bless us, protect us from all evil, and bring us to everlasting life. St. Thérèse and all our Carmelite saints, pray for us.

(SOURCE: San Rafael Novena, September 2016)  Thérèse 2- transcribed by Linda Dorian

Copyright 2016, Fr. Robert Barcelos. 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.’