Father Robert Barcelos, OCD: St. Thérèse of Lisieux 8

Philadelphia Carmelite Monastery PhotoCredit:thespeakroom

Editor’s note: As we move closer to the Feast Days of three great Carmelite Saints (St. Teresa, St. Thérèse , and  Saint Elizabeth of the Trinity), please keep the needs and intentions of the readers of this blog in your heart.

Reminder: The Santa Clara OCDS will be sponsoring A Day of Recollection with St.Thérèse, with Maureen  O’Riordan, a scholar of St. Thérèse, as our guest speaker on Saturday, November 11, 2017 at Santa Clara Monastery (1000 Lincoln Street). To register, please go to thespeakroom DONATE tab. ($20 donation suggested, but any amount is appreciated!)

Thérèse explains prayer in two marvelous ways: she expresses her desire for Jesus to draw her, and she compares prayer to a fulcrum. She says, “He made me understand these words of the Canticle of Canticles, the Psalm of Psalms. ‘Draw me. We shall run after You in the odor of Your ointments.’ Oh Jesus, it is not even necessary to say when drawing me, draw the souls that I love. This simple statement, ‘Draw me,’ suffices. I understand, Lord, that when a soul allows herself to be captivated by the odor of Your ointments, she cannot run alone. All the souls whom she loves follow in her train. This is done without constraint. For simple souls, there must be no complicated ways. This is done without effort. It is a natural consequence of her attraction for You.

She then explains the power of this attraction when she writes, “Just as a torrent, throwing itself with impetuosity into the ocean drags after it everything it encounters in its passage, in the same way, oh Jesus, the soul who plunges into the shoreless ocean of Your love draws with her all the treasures she possesses.”

We need to stop and chew on the meaning of this passage, to digest and allow it to sink in our heart of hearts, so that the meaning enters into our very bones, our marrow, and our inner beings.

What are the treasures she possesses that are drawn to God’s ocean of love? She says, “Lord, You know that I have no other treasures than the souls it has pleased You to unite to mine.” For you who are parents, your greatest treasures are your children. Saint Thérèse says something very similar. “It is You who entrusted these treasures to me.

She continues, “Yes, Lord, this is what I would like to repeat after you before flying into Your arms.” She then quotes John 17, where Jesus before His Passion says, “I have glorified you on earth. I have finished the work you have given me to do, and now, do You, Father, glorify me with yourself that those you have given me may be with me where I am.”

She says, “You have said to me, Lord, as the father of the prodigal son said to his older son, ‘Everything that is mine is yours,’ your words, oh Jesus, are mine. Then as I can make use of them, to draw upon the souls united to me the favors of the heavenly Father.” These words are the makings of a blockbuster, a powerhouse. In other words, she says, ‘Since you said that everything you have is mine, I will make use of your words to draw the souls united to me – to God.’

Pope Francis says something very similar to Thérèse. Anybody who thinks that Pope Francis is not orthodox enough, or that he is a little bit liberal, would think that Jesus was too liberal too because Pope Francis is in the spirit of Jesus. He has the radical folly, the holy audacity and daring of Jesus Christ of Nazareth. He is the ‘wild madman,’ completely out of the box, and yet still orthodox. This is Pope Francis and he loves the Little Flower. He expresses the wisdom and the spirit of Saint Thérèse, so don’t be afraid of Pope Francis. He is the real deal holy field!

Pope Francis says, “We have to take Jesus at His word and use his word.” In other words, the Word of God doesn’t work until we work it, just like dough.

My grandmother used to make bread from scratch; she was a tough lady from the old country. She would put everything in her silver pot, and work that dough so strongly with these big wooden spoons that you could see the muscles in her biceps. She’d work it, and she’d punch it, to get all the bubbles out in order for the dough to develop.

We have to work on the Word of God, let the Word of God work in us, and use that Word with Jesus. Pope Francis says we must lift up the Word and say ‘Look Lord, you said it. You said you would do it. Come on now, let’s get down to work. Let’s get to business. Make it happen. Do what you do best. Take action.’

Thérèse takes it further when she writes, “Oh my God, I have never desired anything but to love you and I am ambitious for no other glory. Your love has gone before me and it has grown with me, and now it is an abyss whose depths I cannot fathom. Love attracts love and my Jesus, my love leaps towards you. It would like to fill the abyss which attracts it. But alas, it is not even like a drop of dew lost in the ocean. Oh my Jesus, it is perhaps an illusion, but it seems to me that you cannot fill a soul with more love than the love with which you have filled mine.”

That is humility.

It is for this reason that I dare to ask you to love those whom you have given me with the love with which you have loved me.” That captures the mission and charism of Saint Thérèse, who received a two-fold spirit from Saint Teresa, Saint John of the Cross, and Saint Elijah.

Here on earth, I cannot conceive a greater immensity of love than the one with which it has pleased you to give me freely without any merit of mine.” In other words, ‘It hasn’t been my perfect performance as an all-star spiritual athlete that has made me experience these great things. On the contrary, because I have allowed myself to become so little, so small, and embrace and rejoice in that nothingness, that God has lifted me up on His eagle’s wings.’

“I ask you Jesus, to draw me into the flames of your love to unite me so closely to you that you may live and act in me.

Finally, Saint Thérèse talks about the fulcrum of prayer. She says, “All the saints have understood this, and more especially those who fill the world with the light of the gospel teachings.” Jesus says, ‘a disciple will eventually become like their master.’ She became also, as those whom she was inspired by. Saint Thérèse mentions, “I have only to cast a glance in the gospels, and immediately, I breathe in the perfumes of Jesus’s love. Was it not in prayer that St. Paul, St. Augustine, St. John of the Cross, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Francis, St. Dominic, and so many other famous friends of God have drawn out this divine science which delights the greatest geniuses?” She’s rockin’ it now. She’s like a whistling kettle that’s piping hot. She’s on fire!

A scholar has said, give me a lever and a fulcrum, and I will lift the world. What Archimedes was not able to obtain, for his request was not directed by God, and was only made from a material viewpoint, the saints have obtained, the almighty has given them as fulcrum, Himself alone and as lever, prayer, which burns with a fire of love, and it is in this way that they have lifted the world.”

What’s the fulcrum? God Himself. God’s Word. God’s Spirit.

Saint Thérèse adds, “In this way, the saints still militant lift it [the Christians on earth] and that until the end of time, the saints to come will lift it.

What’s the lever? Our prayer, burning with the fire of love, which means the Holy Spirit praying in us in order to lift up the world in intercession for salvation, in companion with the saints in heaven.

Finally, to conclude her Autobiography, Saint Thérèse says this, “I repeat, filled with confidence the publican’s humble prayer [‘Oh God, be merciful to me, a sinner’]. Most of all, I imitate the conduct of Magdalene. 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 sorrow and throw myself into Jesus’ arms for I know how much He loves the prodigal child who returns to Him.

As we prepare ourselves for the eucharist of our lives, let us follow Saint Thérèse ’s lead to take God Himself as a fulcrum, and through prayer, confidence in the Holy Spirit, based on His Word, lift up our needs and our intentions to the Lord with hopeful expectation that God will answer, according to what is best for us and our families – not necessarily according to our expectations, but according to what is best in bringing out a greater good – and in the timing that He sees fit, according to a particular season that His providence ordains.

In other words, have hopeful expectation with no strings attached. Know that God will answer when it is good for you. He will answer. Our prayers in this Novena are not ever at all in vain because they are done in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Saint Thérèse, pray for us.

(SOURCE: Cristo Rey Retreat, San Francisco, September 2015)

Copyright 2016, Fr. Robert Barcelos. All rights reserved

Feast Day Novena Prayer

(This prayer is used by the Carmelites during the Feast Day Novena)

St. Therese, Flower of fervor and love, please intercede for us. Fill our hearts with your pure love of God. As we approach and celebrate your feast day, make us more aware of the goodness of God and how well He tends His garden. Instill in us your little way of doing ordinary things with extra-ordinary love.

Give us the heart of a child who wonders at life and embraces everything with loving enthusiasm. Teach us your delight in God’s ways so that divine charity may blossom in our hearts. Little Flower of Jesus, bring our petitions (mention in silence here) before God, our Father.

With your confidence, we come before Jesus as God’s children, because you are our heavenly friend. As we celebrate the Feast Day of your homecoming in heaven, continue to shower roses and grace upon us.

Amen

Editor’s note: Those of you who want to learn more about Saint Thérèse can also visit Maureen O’Riordan’s blog, “Saint Thérèse of Lisieux: A Gateway,” at http://www.thereseoflisieux.org/.   She is a dear friend of Father James Geoghegan of the San Jose Monastery, CA.

‘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.’

If you liked this post, share it by clicking on one of the social media icons.  And if you were inspired or have a prayer request, share that too under the ‘comment’ section!

Father Robert Barcelos, OCD: St. Thérèse of Lisieux 7

Painting by Father Robert Barcelos, all rights reserved 2016
Painting by Father Robert Barcelos, all rights reserved 2016

Editor’s note: Those of you who want to learn more about Saint Thérèse can also visit Maureen O’Riordan’s blog, “Saint Thérèse of Lisieux: A Gateway,” at http://www.thereseoflisieux.org/.

The Santa Clara OCDS will be sponsoring A Day of Recollection with St.Thérèse, with Maureen as our guest speaker on Saturday, November 11, 2017 at Santa Clara Monastery (1000 Lincoln Street). To register, please go to thespeakroom DONATE tab. ($20 donation suggested, but any amount is appreciated!)

I am struck by how indebted I personally am to St.Thérèse for all the many, many ways she has helped me in my littleness as I’ve strived to grow as a Christian. From the infancy of my coming to know Jesus personally, she has assisted me in many marvelous ways and in all its simplicity. That indebtedness to Saint Thérèse pointed me to the indebtedness we all have to Our Lord.

It’s such a grace, truly a gift from God, to realize how great He is, how much we owe Him, and how deserving He is of all of our love; to really be awakened and be aware of that truth – that reality which is at the core of the cosmos of our creation, of our existence – is a great gift. To have faith in Him and to know how much we owe Him, how deserving He is of all of our hearts, minds, souls, and strength, of all of our life and love – is such a grace.

God has done something so wonderful through Saint Thérèse, and He’s done it for all of us. Of course, He loved Saint Thérèse, but He also loves each of us as if we are the only one in the world to love. God is so large and magnanimous, beyond our wildest dreams. When God draws one soul, He does so with the intention of maximizing what He is putting into action and allowing that person to be magnetic for many others.

In our Novena journey, we must try to come to grips with Saint Thérèse’s humanity, her genius, and her sanctity. Hopefully, we realize that she was as normal, as human, with real-life problems as any one of us. Yet what God had accomplished in her soul was amazingly wonderful. If He could do it for her, He could do it for us. One of Saint Thérèse ’s messages is that none of us are excluded from this dazzling and adventurous embrace of love. None of us are disqualified because of our littleness, our significance, our ordinariness, or our poverty. On the contrary, our smallness makes us more fit for the transformation of God’s friendship.

Saint Thérèse ’s autobiography, this sacrament of her soul, displays the audacity of her spirit and brings us into a dialogue that allows her to become a teacher who schools us in the science and knowledge of Divine Love. Saint Thérèse is a wise warrior, a wonder woman, truly filled with Flower Power to a remarkable degree, more than anything you’ll see on Haight and Asbury.

For Saint Thérèse, prayer is the weapon of the spiritual warrior. She says that prayer and sacrifice together are the invisible and invincible weapons that Jesus gives us. “It is these that give me all my strength. They can touch souls much better than words, as I have experienced.”

Saint Thérèse’s teaching on prayer is very simple. She explains, “For me prayer is an aspiration of the heart, a longing. It is a simple glance directed to heaven. It is a cry of gratitude and love in the midst of trial as well as joy.” In other words, prayer is an act of thanksgiving and love in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health, and for better or for worst.

That prayer, she continues, “is something great, supernatural which expands my soul and unites me to Jesus.” Thérèse is so transparent, truthful, and realistic that she can admit that as much as she cherishes the Virgin Mary, she nevertheless struggled to pray the rosary because she often fell asleep. She admits that she didn’t have a lot of prayers. She didn’t recite them from a big stack of prayers. Outside of the honor of being able to pray the Liturgy of the Hours in the Divine Office, she simply prayed to Jesus as a child.

Going through different prayers exhausted her because “One is as more beautiful as the other, and there’s no end…What suffices for me is just expressing my sentiments to Jesus as a child,” she says, “and He listens, and He answers me.(to be continued).

Saint Thérèse, pray for us.

(SOURCE: Cristo Rey Retreat, San Francisco, September 2015)

Copyright 2016, Fr. Robert Barcelos. All rights reserved

Feast Day Novena Prayer

(This prayer is used by the Carmelites during the Feast Day Novena)

St. Therese, Flower of fervor and love, please intercede for us. Fill our hearts with your pure love of God. As we approach and celebrate your feast day, make us more aware of the goodness of God and how well He tends His garden. Instill in us your little way of doing ordinary things with extra-ordinary love.

Give us the heart of a child who wonders at life and embraces everything with loving enthusiasm. Teach us your delight in God’s ways so that divine charity may blossom in our hearts. Little Flower of Jesus, bring our petitions (mention in silence here) before God, our Father.

With your confidence, we come before Jesus as God’s children, because you are our heavenly friend. As we celebrate the Feast Day of your homecoming in heaven, continue to shower roses and grace upon us.

Amen

‘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.’

If you liked this post, share it by clicking on one of the social media icons.  And if you were inspired or have a prayer request, share that too under the ‘comment’ section!

Father Robert Barcelos, OCD: St. Thérèse of Lisieux 6

by Raul Berzosa raulberzosa.com

Editor’s note: Those of you who want to learn more about Saint Thérèse can also visit Maureen O’Riordan’s blog, “Saint Thérèse of Lisieux: A Gateway,” at http://www.thereseoflisieux.org/.   She is a friend of Father James Geoghegan of the San Jose Monastery, CA.

The Santa Clara OCDS will be sponsoring A Day of Recollection with St.Thérèse, with Maureen as our guest speaker on Saturday, November 11, 2017 at Santa Clara Monastery (1000 Lincoln Street). To register, please go to thespeakroom DONATE tab. ($20 donation suggested, but any amount is appreciated!)

Saint Thérese then transitions and talks about transcendent image of the eagle. “Why do you not reserve these great aspiration for great souls, for the eagles that soar in the heights? I look upon myself as a weak little bird. I’m not an eagle. I have only an eagle’s eyes and heart.

In spite of my extreme littleness, my heart feels within it all the aspirations of an eagle, climbing up toward the divine furnace of the Holy Trinity. But to fly is not within my little power. What will then become of it? Will it die of sorrow at seeing itself so weak? No way. The little bird will not even be troubled. With bold surrender, it wishes to remain gazing at its divine sun. Nothing will frighten it. Neither will wind nor rain, and if dark clouds come and hide the sorrow of love, the little bird will not change its place because it knows that beyond the clouds, its bright sun still shines on, and its brightness is not eclipsed for a single instance.”

Here, we hear the boldness of St. Thérèse ’s spirit. Though she is the little flower, she was truly larger than life. She continues to say, “At times, that little bird’s heart is assailed by the storm, and it seems it should believe in the existence of no other thing except the cloud surrounding it.” Notice how raw and human she is. She expresses that ‘Sometimes, my soul is in such suffering. My soul is so darkened, not by sin of course, but darkened by the sense that God is very far away. I am tempted to believe that God doesn’t even exist because He feels so distant.’

Though Thérèse is being tempted by her suffering and purification, notice her greatness. She is just like Jesus in the agony of the garden when His humanity says, ‘Lord, let this cup pass.’ But in His divinity, He rises above His humanity and says, “Yet not my will but Your will be done.” Similarly, Thérèse says, “This is the moment of perfect joy for the poor, little weak creature. And what joy it experiences when remaining there, just the same and gazing at the invisible light which remains hidden from its faith. While remaining in its place under the rays of the sun, at times, the little bird finds itself somewhat distracted from its sole occupation.”

Thérèse then admits how imperfect she is. Her faith, will, and intention is to give herself completely to God, even if she doesn’t feel God. Nevertheless, she says, ‘ I don’t get it right. I’m not flawless. I’m not a perfectionist.’

She writes, “Being distracted from its soul occupation, it picks up a piece of grain on the right or on the left. It chases after a little worm, then coming upon a little pool of water it wets its feathers, still hardly formed. It sees an attractive flower and its little mind is occupied with this flower. In a word, being unable to soar like the eagles, the poor little bird is taken up with the trifles of earth.”

She speaks in metaphor and imagery to express that like us, distractions and trifles of earth derail her from her sole focus, her one love. Yet instead of hiding away in a corner and feeling sorry for itself, to weep over its misery, to die of sorrow, to lick ones wounds after all these misdeeds and imperfections, “the little bird turns toward its beloved sun, presenting its wet wings to its beneficent rays. It cries like a swallow and in its sweet song, it recounts in detail all its infidelities, thinking in the boldness of its full trust, that it will acquire in ever greater fullness the love of Him who came to call not the just, but sinners.”

Rather than allowing her faults and failures to be a source of discouragement, St. Thérèse turned them around and allowed them to be a source of strength, in light of the truth that Jesus came to save the lost and the sinners, not the righteous and virtuous who are not in need of conversion. She uses her weaknesses, faults, and her imperfections as a source of strength. She says, ‘You came for people like me, the needy. And I clearly need you because look what happens when I’m left to my own devices. I make a mess of things. I make a mess of myself. But You came for the black sheep, for people like me.’

She takes God by the heart, based on the truth of the heart He reveals to us in the gospels. She says, ‘Look, I’m putting myself in their shoes. I’m just like the prodigal son. I’m no better. And because I am so poor, I have rights to Your riches. I have rights to Your redemptive love because I need You, and You came for people like me.’

This faith is part of her daring audacity. “Oh Jesus, your little bird is happy to be weak and little.” Part of the genius and the revolution of St. Thérese is her happiness in being weak and little. She asks, “What would become of [the bird] if it were big?”

In other words, ‘If God were to leave me to all of my imagined strengths, left to myself, my pride would take over, and I would distance myself from God, thinking that I don’t need Him anymore. If were big and full of myself, and I didn’t experience my vulnerabilities, my own need for Him, my own poverty, then left to myself, I would distance myself and probably get in trouble. I would make choices that aren’t for my own good. I would be blinded by my own pride.

Therefore, to be little and aware of my poverty is the biggest blessing I have because it keeps me closer to You. This understanding is a cause for rejoicing then, and not discouragement.

Finally, she writes that the little bird “calls upon the angels and saints who rise like eagles before the consuming fire. And since this is the object of the little bird’s desire, the eagles take pity on it, protecting and defending it, and putting to flight at the same time the vultures who want to devour it. These vultures are the demons whom the little bird does not fear. For it is not destined to be their prey, but the prey of the eagle who contemplates at the center of the sun of love.”

She who knew so well afflictions and temptations by the devil, knew that he would not prevail over her. She knew that she was meant for Jesus alone, the divine eagle, and Jesus would bring light over every darkness. The greatest light she points to is in the white Host. The eternal eagle desires to nourish us with His divine substance. She says, “Though I am nothingness itself, I am nourished by the bread of heaven.”

We are all nourished with the substance of the eternal eagle, Jesus, the Word of God, so that we may soar to the heights of heaven. May Saint Thérèse ’s teaching be contagious. May we catch the fire that she expresses and allow our faith to help us to overcome all discouragement, that Christ may conquer all that needs conquering in us, that we may share more vigorously in His victory.

Saint Thérèse, pray for us.

(SOURCE: Cristo Rey Retreat, San Francisco, September 2015)

Copyright 2016, Fr. Robert Barcelos. All rights reserved

Feast Day Novena Prayer

(This prayer is used by the Carmelites during the Feast Day Novena)

St. Therese, Flower of fervor and love, please intercede for us. Fill our hearts with your pure love of God. As we approach and celebrate your feast day, make us more aware of the goodness of God and how well He tends His garden. Instill in us your little way of doing ordinary things with extra-ordinary love.

Give us the heart of a child who wonders at life and embraces everything with loving enthusiasm. Teach us your delight in God’s ways so that divine charity may blossom in our hearts. Little Flower of Jesus, bring our petitions (mention in silence here) before God, our Father.

With your confidence, we come before Jesus as God’s children, because you are our heavenly friend. As we celebrate the Feast Day of your homecoming in heaven, continue to shower roses and grace upon us.

Amen

 

Father Robert Barcelos, OCD: St. Thérèse of Lisieux 5

She continues, “Practically speaking, in this life, astounding works are forbidden me. This is how my life is going to be consumed.” She begins to define The Little Way that Jesus had inspired in her. She didn’t call it by that name, but her blood sisters did. “My little way, how I will allow my life to be consumed is by not allowing one little sacrifice to escape.” She realized that she could love Jesus in the small matters, so that the small things would become really big, important, and “astounding.”

How small did she mean when she says, “not allowing one little sacrifice to escape”? She would not allow one look, not one word to escape, and profit by doing the smallest actions, by doing everything through love.

Jesus said, ‘Even if you give a little glass of water to one of my little ones, that will not be unnoticed and you will be blessed.’ When something as insignificant as a glass of water is given, and ‘When that’s done out of love,’ Jesus says, ‘It captures my attention and it charms my heart. I notice. It matters. It means a lot to me.’

We all know that in our own lives, you could be having a down – or worst – a miserable day. A phone call or a smile, or just one little gesture of kindness could make all the difference, though that person could be completely oblivious to how important it was to you. Yet that made the difference in your day. That woke up something in your heart that was dormant or buried. One small act can resurrect so much. We know that, as human beings, so St. Thérese applies this to the divine level in relationship to God. If those small acts are important to us, how much more important are they to the Lord? He Himself said so.

She continues, “Oh my Jesus, I love You. I love the Church, my Mother. I recall the smallest act of pure love is of more value to her than all other works together.” She is quoting St. John of the Cross, one of her greatest inspirations after the sacred scriptures. In the beginning, her great source of inspiration was The Imitation of Christ, but toward the end of her life the only thing she drew inspiration from were the New Testament and St. John of the Cross. That was enough for her.

“But is pure love in my heart?” she asks. “Are my measureless desires only but a dream?…If this be so, Jesus, enlighten me for You know I am seeking only the truth.” That is humility. To only seek truth and want transparency, to have no speck of falsehood in life, to be in touch with reality is true humility. “If my desires are rash, then make them disappear for these desires are the greatest martyrdom to me.”

In other words, ‘my desires are killing me because I want them so deeply, and yet I can’t actualize them. I can’t incarnate them. I can’t make them concrete.’ Yet she aspired to the most lofty heights of love. She was so little and yet she aspired to the highest summit of union with God, the greatest union possible – mystical marriage, with Almighty God.

She asks, “How can a soul as imperfect as mine aspire to the possession of the plenitude of love. Oh Jesus, explain this mystery to me.” She wrestles inside with these stark contrasts. The Psalm says, ‘deep calls to deep’ and similarly, St. Thérese cries out, ‘the depths of my poverty calls to the depths of your beauty, greatness, and richness. There’s a chasm between us, but I feel that I am inseparably connected and meant to be with You. How is that going to happen?’ (to be continued).

Saint Thérèse, pray for us.

(SOURCE: Cristo Rey Retreat, San Francisco, September 2015)

Copyright 2016, Fr. Robert Barcelos. All rights reserved

Feast Day Novena Prayer

(This prayer is used by the Carmelites during the Feast Day Novena)

St. Therese, Flower of fervor and love, please intercede for us. Fill our hearts with your pure love of God. As we approach and celebrate your feast day, make us more aware of the goodness of God and how well He tends His garden. Instill in us your little way of doing ordinary things with extra-ordinary love.

Give us the heart of a child who wonders at life and embraces everything with loving enthusiasm. Teach us your delight in God’s ways so that divine charity may blossom in our hearts. Little Flower of Jesus, bring our petitions (mention in silence here) before God, our Father.

With your confidence, we come before Jesus as God’s children, because you are our heavenly friend. As we celebrate the Feast Day of your homecoming in heaven, continue to shower roses and grace upon us.

Amen

Editor’s note: Those of you who want to learn more about Saint Thérèse can also visit Maureen O’Riordan’s blog, “Saint Thérèse of Lisieux: A Gateway,” at http://www.thereseoflisieux.org/.   She is a dear friend of Father James Geoghegan of the San Jose Monastery, CA.

The Santa Clara OCDS will be sponsoring A Day of Recollection with St.Thérèse, with Maureen as our guest speaker on Saturday, November 11, 2017 at Santa Clara Monastery (1000 Lincoln Street). To register, please go to thespeakroom DONATE tab. ($20 donation suggested, but any amount is appreciated!)

 

Father Robert Barcelos, OCD: St. Thérèse of Lisieux 4

 

By Raul Berzosa raulberzosa.com

Editor’s note: Those of you who want to learn more about Saint Thérèse can also visit Maureen O’Riordan’s blog, “Saint Thérèse of Lisieux: A Gateway,” at http://www.thereseoflisieux.org/.

The Santa Clara OCDS will be sponsoring A Day of Recollection with St.Thérèse, with Maureen as our guest speaker on Saturday, November 11, 2017 at Santa Clara Monastery (1000 Lincoln Street). To register, please go to thespeakroom DONATE tab. ($20 donation suggested, but any amount is appreciated!)

Even though St. Thérèse didn’t much fulfilled in this life, all that God had inspired in her was fulfilled a hundred fold in heaven. We see the concrete proof of that in all that happened after she passed from this world to the next. You have probably heard of the storm of glory that took place after her death. There are many books that outline what St. Thérèse accomplished through her intercessions. Just a few of those highlights will give us an idea of how active the spiritual life is, and how real these desires that God had inspired in her were.

St. Thérèse died in 1897. A year later, already two-thousand copies of A Story of A Soul were made available and disseminated. This wasn’t necessarily foreseen by the rest of the community, and Thérèse thought she was just writing her autobiography for her sister, Pauline. By 1899, two-years later, already the first favors, cures, and miracles started being recorded.

By 1909, twelve years after her death, the cause of her canonization was introduced. The momentum begins to build. Just one year later, 1910, her Carmel received 9741 letters from people in France and foreign countries expressing graces received through her intercession. By 1914, her Carmel received an average of two hundred letters a day. Also on that year, Pope Pius X told a missionary bishop in a private conversation that St. Thérèse was to him, the greatest saint of modern times.

The fruits that are produced in the world show that St. Thérèse had already received the double portion of the spirit of all the angels and saints. She had the intuition and perceived this truth in advance. That is what is so marvelous when you read the last conversations at the end of The Story of A Soul, Manuscript C. In all of her humility, she says, ‘I want to be loved. You have no idea. I am going to spend heaven doing good on earth, and you better keep this book, you better keep this napkin where I coughed up blood, because they’re all going to be priceless someday.’ She knew it, even though there was no physical evidence. She knew the reality of God’s vocation for her in her heart of hearts.

By 1923, St. Thérèse was beautified and Pope Pius XI called her the star of his pontificate. Already the highest person in the Church was referring to this little child, who would’ve been considered perhaps the least of all, as the greatest. Also in 1923, the Carmel where she lived in Lisieux received 800 to 1000 letters daily, not simply asking for intercessions, but expressing gifts that had already been granted. By December 14th, which would later become the Feast of Saint John of the Cross, Pope Pius XI proclaims St. Thérèse the principal patroness, equal to St. Francis Xavier, of all missionaries, of all the missions in the whole world.

‘I want to be a missionary, but just for a few years is not good enough. I want to be a missionary to preach the gospel on all continents of the world, simultaneously from the beginning of time until the end,’ St. Thérese expressed.

That desire could’ve been interpreted as being ludicrous. ‘Come on, you’re getting over-exaggerated, here,’ anyone would’ve thought. She wasn’t over-exaggerating. She would mystically become a missionary and God would grant her a share in His own redemptive mission in an amazing way that continues to be difficult to comprehend, but it is something very, very real.

By 1929, a basilica was constructed in her honor at Lisieux. A basilica was built for this Little Flower, this twenty-four year old girl, who did nothing of what Saint Teresa of Calcutta did, who had never preached a single sermon in her life, and who never did any of the kind of works that might seem to be a cause for success or greatness in worldly standards.

She was totally hidden and seemingly insignificant. Yet barely thirty years after her death, a basilica was made in her honor. That basilica is an outward sign of the greatness of her little soul. Her dream was realized after she passed from this life.

St. Thérèse is a prophetess of the reality of the spiritual world and of the kingdom of God. She confirms that the truth of the interior life of faith, hope, and love is more real than the external world of the temporal life that is passing away. The kingdom of God is eternal (to be continued).

Saint Thérèse, pray for us.

(SOURCE: Cristo Rey Retreat, San Francisco, September 2015)

Copyright 2016, Fr. Robert Barcelos. All rights reserved

Feast Day Novena Prayer

(This prayer is used by the Carmelites during the Feast Day Novena)

St. Therese, Flower of fervor and love, please intercede for us. Fill our hearts with your pure love of God. As we approach and celebrate your feast day, make us more aware of the goodness of God and how well He tends His garden. Instill in us your little way of doing ordinary things with extra-ordinary love.

Give us the heart of a child who wonders at life and embraces everything with loving enthusiasm. Teach us your delight in God’s ways so that divine charity may blossom in our hearts. Little Flower of Jesus, bring our petitions (mention in silence here) before God, our Father.

With your confidence, we come before Jesus as God’s children, because you are our heavenly friend. As we celebrate the Feast Day of your homecoming in heaven, continue to shower roses and grace upon us.

Amen

 

Father Robert Barcelos, OCD: St. Thérèse of Lisieux 3

By Raul Berzosa raulberzosa.com

Editor’s note: Those of you who want to learn more about Saint Thérèse can also visit Maureen O’Riordan’s blog, “Saint Thérèse of Lisieux: A Gateway,” at http://www.thereseoflisieux.org/.

The Santa Clara OCDS will be sponsoring A Day of Recollection with St.Thérèse, with Maureen as our guest speaker on Saturday, November 11, 2017 at Santa Clara Monastery (1000 Lincoln Street). To register, please go to thespeakroom DONATE tab. ($20 donation suggested, but any amount is appreciated!)

In her Autobiography, St. Therése expresses the heavens being opened in her heart. Experiencing this inspired her desires to want to be everything in what builds up the body of Christ, wanting to be everything in what gives glory to God. She wanted to embrace all vocations, and it was God who inspired her to have these desires.

She realized that her longings were way bigger than herself and that she needed back up. She remembers the great story of prophet Elijah and Elisha. She says she remembers, “the prayer of Elisha to his father Elijah, when he dared to ask him for his double spirit.” Now Elijah was a giant of a prophet, the greatest after Moses and before John the Baptist. He was a real magnanimous man, larger than life. To ask a double portion of this man, was a huge request.

St. Therése continues, “I presented myself before the angels and saints” – all of them, not just one or two. She presents herself before the whole heavenly court and says to them, ‘I am the smallest of creatures. I know my misery and my feebleness.’ Be mindful, that her statements are not just pious, flowery, sentimental language; from the depths of her being, she knows her nothingness. She is in touch with the truth and reality of who she is when left to herself.

However, she recognizes and knows, “how much noble and generous hearts love to do good. I beg you then, oh blessed inhabitants of heaven, I beg you to adopt me as your child. To you alone will be the glory which you will make me merit, but deign to answer my prayer. It is bold, I know. However, I dare to ask you to obtain for me your two-fold love.”

That request is reminiscent of when the Lord God in our midst commands to the prophet Isaiah, before he prophesied the coming of Emmanuel, “Ask for a sign. Let it be bigger than the heavens and wider than the sky and forest that you could possibly imagine. Ask for a sign.” In other words, through the prophet Isaiah, God asks His people, ‘Expand your heart. Have great hopes and expectations of who God is and how much of Himself He wants to give. Don’t have little hopes. Let your heart be widened.’

Thérese widens her heart as much as can be imaginably conceived, and she says to all the angels and saints, “Give me a double portion of your spirit!” All of them!

To prove that this was not just a fantasy and a part of her imagination, after her life, her posthumous mission, the mission that came about after she left this world and went to heaven, all of the desires that the Lord planted in her like seeds, produced a harvest on this earth. God fulfilled in her life all the desires that He planted in her in this world. As a prophetess, St. Thérese speaks so loudly to us of the truth, the reality of the kingdom of God, the kingdom of heaven, the reality of the spiritual world. She also points us to the very tangible, substantial, real world of the interior life. Even though we might not necessarily always have the external signs the interior experiences, nevertheless, that is more real than what we can perceive with our senses because it’s eternal (to be continued).

Saint Thérèse, pray for us.

(SOURCE: Cristo Rey Retreat, San Francisco, September 2015)

Copyright 2016, Fr. Robert Barcelos. All rights reserved

Feast Day Novena Prayer

(This prayer is used by the Carmelites during the Feast Day Novena)

St. Therese, Flower of fervor and love, please intercede for us. Fill our hearts with your pure love of God. As we approach and celebrate your feast day, make us more aware of the goodness of God and how well He tends His garden. Instill in us your little way of doing ordinary things with extra-ordinary love.

Give us the heart of a child who wonders at life and embraces everything with loving enthusiasm. Teach us your delight in God’s ways so that divine charity may blossom in our hearts. Little Flower of Jesus, bring our petitions (mention in silence here) before God, our Father.

With your confidence, we come before Jesus as God’s children, because you are our heavenly friend. As we celebrate the Feast Day of your homecoming in heaven, continue to shower roses and grace upon us.

Amen

 

Father Robert Barcelos, OCD: St. Thérèse of Lisieux, 2

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Photo credit: thespeakroom.org

Saint Thérèse explains how her radical revolution of trust, daring, and holy audacity, her limitless confidence in the love of God, began to take shape, and was strengthened and crystallized within her.

She shares her story with her beloved sister, Pauline – not only her blood sister, but her sister in the convent. Saint Thérèse writes that during a private retreat, and under obedience, she is asked to share the secrets of divine intimacy, of what Jesus had been doing and how He had been sweetly guiding her soul in tenderness.

Disclosing herself and laying her heart bare, St. Thérèse writes this account a little over a year after she has written The Act of Oblation to Merciful Love, a little over a year before she actually dies. She shares the awakening and discovery of her identity, and her journey of being able to make sense and understand the daring desires that God was inspiring in her.

It is important to know that when Thérèse wrote her autobiography, she had already begun her dark night of faith. She was not reveling in consolations and enjoying them in her life. She was going through a terrible storm in her soul. Previously, she had described that the experience was as if the sun had been hidden by the clouds of a great storm. She didn’t experience and feel the warmth of God’s rays of love in her life in any sensible way. Yet behind all of that – deep, deep down in her spirit – Jesus was still teaching her, coaching her, and leading her to the summit of this perfect marriage and total union with His love.

The context of her discovery of vocation was love, and it was Jesus who prepared the way for this discovery in her soul. This awakening and awareness didn’t just happen all at once; through other graces, Jesus led her through the mystery of what He was doing in her.

Our spiritual life often progresses and unfolds in the same way, through all these different seeds of how God is present to us, making Himself known and available. Little by little, we begin to grow in our own self-understanding. We realize that who we are is part of God’s grace, and that who we are is also a part of who He is. One grace at a time, God allows us to grow in the understanding of this mystery of love that we have been all wrapped into. We don’t understand it all at once. The knowledge and love of Him gradually begins to make sense to us as we trust and proceed with patience.

The particular grace that preceded Saint Thérèse’s vocation was a dream about Blessed Anne of Jesus; she was the first Carmelite nun and prioress who established the first foundation in France. Thérèse had no personal devotion to Anne of Jesus at all. She admits herself that she was practically indifferent to Anne of Jesus. She hardly thought about her or asked for her prayers.

But on the eve of the anniversary of the Blessed Mother appearing to Saint Thérèse and smiling, she dreamt about Anne of Jesus. When Saint Thérèse was a little child of about twelve, Our Blessed Mother appeared to her. At that time, she was going through the traumatic effects of the accumulation of suffering in her life, and was being tormented by attacks and affliction by the devil. She was going through a spiritual storm. Fortunately, Our Blessed Mother of Victory appeared, and through the radiance of her smile, granted Saint Thérèse this supernatural healing that brought rest to her heart and soul, and freed her from her affliction. This vision was a monumental moment in Saint Thérèse’s life.

Several years later, on the anniversary of that first dream, Saint Thérèse has another memorable dream. She found herself in a gallery among many people, sitting next to the Mother Prioress. Suddenly, she saw three nuns walking in, and she became very aware that they were three Carmelite nuns, with their white mantles and their long black veils. She also knew, without a doubt, that they were from heaven.

As they walked towards her, she was captivated by their beauty and she thought, ‘I would be so happy if I could see their faces.’ The tallest one of the three understood her intentions and knew what she desired. She lifted up her veil, put it around Thérese, and in that secret glance that Thérèse alone could see, an inner radiance glowed from her face and exuded a beauty that was out of this world. Anne looked upon her with so much affection. In that exhilarating joy and confidence brought on by the tenderness of Anne of Jesus’s glance upon her, Thérèse had the courage to ask, ‘Will Jesus take me soon from this life?’

She had this intuition because she had already started her final agony of suffering from the physical sickness that would eventually take her life. She felt that the end was near. With total tenderness, Anne of Jesus says, ‘Yes, soon and very soon, Jesus will come for you.’ In the audacity and spontaneity of a child, Thérèse asks, ‘Is Jesus content with all my actions? Are the little things I have to give Him enough?’

In other words, she was asking, ‘Am I deceiving myself? I have these huge desires, but I only have these little works and sacrifices that I offer to Him. Is He pleased with that? Am I on the right track?’ Blessed Anne of Jesus’s face transfigured with even more affection, love and divine compassion. With a look of supernatural approval and total joy, in response to this one question, ‘Is Jesus content with all that I feel He has been inspiring in me,’ Anne of Jesus replies, ‘Yes, He is very content.’

Saint Thérèse writes,

‘”Mother, tell me further if God is not asking something more of me than my poor little actions and desires. Is He content with me?’ The saint’s face took on an expression, and incomparably more tender than the first time she spoke to me. Her look and her caresses were the sweetest of answers. However, she said to me, ‘God asks no other thing from you. He is content. Very content.’”

She wakes up, but this dream leaves an indelible mark, a strong imprint in her soul, for she knew with certainty that the vision was supernatural and that it came from heaven.

This dream was very prophetic, because not only did it foresee and confirm her intuition that she would die at a young age, in the prime of her life, but that all the desires Jesus had inspired in her soul were not just for herself. The wisdom, the science of love that Jesus was teaching her about the little way was going to be for a legion of other people, other disciples, who would learn what it meant to make Jesus loved (to be continued).

Saint Thérèse, pray for us.

(SOURCE: Cristo Rey Retreat, San Francisco, September 2015)

Copyright 2016, Fr. Robert Barcelos. All rights reserved

Feast Day Novena Prayer

(This prayer is used by the Carmelites during the Feast Day Novena)

St. Therese, Flower of fervor and love, please intercede for us. Fill our hearts with your pure love of God. As we approach and celebrate your feast day, make us more aware of the goodness of God and how well He tends His garden. Instill in us your little way of doing ordinary things with extra-ordinary love.

Give us the heart of a child who wonders at life and embraces everything with loving enthusiasm. Teach us your delight in God’s ways so that divine charity may blossom in our hearts. Little Flower of Jesus, bring our petitions (mention in silence here) before God, our Father.

With your confidence, we come before Jesus as God’s children, because you are our heavenly friend. As we celebrate the Feast Day of your homecoming in heaven, continue to shower roses and grace upon us.

Amen

Editor’s note: Those of you who want to learn more about Saint Thérèse can also visit Maureen O’Riordan’s blog, “Saint Thérèse of Lisieux: A Gateway,” at http://www.thereseoflisieux.org/.  

The Santa Clara OCDS will be sponsoring A Day of Recollection with St.Thérèse, with Maureen as our guest speaker on Saturday, November 11, 2017 at Santa Clara Monastery (1000 Lincoln Street). To register, please go to thespeakroom DONATE tab. ($20 donation suggested, but any amount is appreciated!)

Father Robert Barcelos, OCD: St. Thérèse of Lisieux, 1

Photo credit: thespeakroom.org
Photo credit: thespeakroom.org

Luke 9: 46-49:  46 An argument arose among the disciples about which of them was the greatest. 47Jesus realized the intention of their hearts and took a child and placed it by his side 48and said to them, “Whoever receives this child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me. For the one who is least among all of you is the one who is the greatest.”

We see the apostles arguing among themselves about who is the greatest. It clearly shows that their motivations and intentions were not pure. In the midst of their wanting to do great things for God, they were seeking themselves in many ways. Their motivations still had to be purified. And yet Jesus did not take back His choice, acceptance, and love for them. Instead of chastising the disciples for their egoism, He takes a child, puts him in the midst of them and says, ‘This child who is considered to be the least and most insignificant is actually the greatest among you.’

Jesus does the same to us in the Church today. In the early part of the century, Pope Pius X referred to Saint Thérèse as one of the greatest saints of modern times. Thérèse had only lived twenty-four years, and in worldly standards, had not accomplished any major works of mercy that would have been a sign of success. Her greatness was hidden inside the simplicity of her soul. Yet Pope Pius took that young child and put her in the midst of all the Church’s saints in modern times, and said, ‘This child is the greatest.’

Thérèse herself recognized that she was small, and that she was little. In that very littleness and her acceptance of her littleness, she found her potential for greatness. She writes, “I am a child, powerless and weak, yet it is my weakness that gives me the boldness of offering myself as a victim of Your love, dear Jesus. Love has chosen me.” We can all apply that teaching to ourselves. We have to recognize our identity and realize that Love has chosen each of us to be here.

We are here because God has somehow already been active in our lives. There’s a direction, a momentum to this action. There’s a summit, an accomplishment, a perfection, that this love is leading us toward. “The heart of a child,” writes Saint Thérèse, “does not seek riches and glory, not even the glory of heaven. What this child asks for is love and she knows only one thing, to love You, Jesus.”

In the beginning of Manuscript B, Saint Thérèse talks about the science of love as being the only thing she wants to be able to understand. Her only ambition is love, and to love Jesus more than ever before. She writes,

It is love that makes us acceptable to God. Jesus deigned to show me the road which leads to this divine furnace and this road is the surrender of the little child, who sleeps without fear in its father’s arms. If all weak and imperfect souls felt what the least of souls feels,”[that is, her own soul, the soul of little Thérèse], “not one would despair of reaching the summit of the mountain of love.”

We see throughout her writings, especially in this manuscript, a contrast. With one eye, she sees her total weakness, poverty and littleness. With the other eye, she gazes on the greatness of God. She has limitless confidence in what He is able and capable of accomplishing in her. Rather than being a stumbling block, her littleness and poverty are actually the fuel, the building blocks that will allow her to be transformed by the love of God (to be continued).

Saint Thérèse, pray for us.

(SOURCE: Cristo Rey, San Francisco Retreat, September 2015)

Copyright 2016, Fr. Robert Barcelos. All rights reserved

Feast Day Novena Prayer

(This prayer is used by the Carmelites during the Feast Day Novena)

St. Therese, Flower of fervor and love, please intercede for us. Fill our hearts with your pure love of God. As we approach and celebrate your feast day, make us more aware of the goodness of God and how well He tends His garden. Instill in us your little way of doing ordinary things with extra-ordinary love.

Give us the heart of a child who wonders at life and embraces everything with loving enthusiasm. Teach us your delight in God’s ways so that divine charity may blossom in our hearts. Little Flower of Jesus, bring our petitions (mention in silence here) before God, our Father.

With your confidence, we come before Jesus as God’s children, because you are our heavenly friend. As we celebrate the Feast Day of your homecoming in heaven, continue to shower roses and grace upon us.

Amen

Editor’s note: Those of you who want to learn more about Saint Thérèse can also visit Maureen O’Riordan’s blog at http://www.thereseoflisieux.org/.

The Santa Clara OCDS will be sponsoring A Day of Recollection with St.Thérèse, with Maureen as our guest speaker on Saturday, November 11, 2017 at Santa Clara Monastery (1000 Lincoln Street). To register, please go to thespeakroom DONATE tab. ($20 donation suggested, but any amount is appreciated!)

Brother Juan Torres, OCD: Saint Teresa of Avila 2

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A melody to God.

It is always good to return to the sources of our spirituality and vocation, to reflect, and to ask ourselves if we really know the great treasure we have in our saints. Do we really know them? Do we really love their testimony? Do we approach them regularly? How have they helped us to live more consciously, our identities as Catholic Christians, and particularly as Discalced Carmelites, as Secular Carmelites, and as Teresian Carmelites?

These are questions that we can ask ourselves in our groups and churches, but we have to also personally think about how much interest we really have in the life and teachings of our saints. These wonderful saints are Doctors of the Church, and whose spirit and charism we intend to live by. However, one popular saying says, “You cannot love what you do not know.” As members of the Carmelite Order, in particular, we can’t simply know the saints, but we must strive every day to approach them, let them be our teachers, and let them form us and teach us. They can tell us how to become true disciples of Christ to our world today, and how to be true Carmelites.

In August 2015, I saw the places where St. Teresa and St. John of the Cross once lived. The experience made me reflect often of the many ways St. Teresa uses to explain her spiritual process and relationship with God. She uses images like the castle, comparisons like the chess game, natural elements like water and fire, or the transformation of the butterfly.  I too want to use a symbol to explain this spiritual reflection.

Life is like a melody, and every day is a different note that builds our lives’ harmony. For a melody to be complete and above all to make it a masterpiece, different musical notes that give the changes and nuances are necessary. For example, of all Beethoven symphonies, the Sixth Symphony [click on the link to listen–] is one of my favorites; it is a truly beautiful piece. Every one of its movements, each musical instrument and every note plays an important role in the harmony. There are times that the melody seems sad, others when it’s calm and quiet, while others are anxious musical moments that break into glorious moments, but later return to calm.

Similarly, our lives are a melody and every day we live is a musical note; all the notes are important in building a harmonic melody, so that together, every single note is part of a masterpiece; all our experiences are necessary and we must learn to find beauty moment by moment, measure by measure.

More importantly, the melody of our life is not for us, but is a melody that we are creating to delight Someone. This melody of our life is for God; it is a song, a hymn in his honor. And this symphony of our lives will be completed at the end of our days; it is our responsibility to keep composing a beautiful melody and not a musical disaster.

The life of St. Teresa was a song that she entitled “The Mercies of the Lord.” In fact the original title that she gave to the book of her life, was of the “The Mercies of the Lord.” Mother St. Teresa ‘s life was not easy, and it was full of different experiences and situations. Sometimes, the events were joyful but others were very painful. Many of her experiences were of difficulties, while others were of spiritual peace. God was present in her life always – whether she lived in coldness or dryness, and whether she lived the graces of union with God or when the fire of love wounded her heart. She also experienced physical diseases and had to suffer slanders and misunderstandings.

Every note of Teresa’s life was a melody to God. This melody started to be written in Avila on March 28, 1515, and was finished in Alba de Tormes on the evening of October 15, 1582. Today, we have the privilege of seeing, hearing, and learning from this masterpiece. She can inspire us, give us light, and advice us in the creation of our own melody. Saint Teresa, pray for us.

Copyright Brother Juan Torres 2016, All rights reserved

Novena to Saint Teresa of Avila (written by St. Alphonsus of Liguori)
O most amiable Lord Jesus Christ! We thank Thee for the great gift of faith and of devotion to the Holy Sacrament, which Thou didst grant to Thy beloved Teresa; we pray Thee, by Thy merits and by those of Thy faithful spouse, to grant us the gift of a lively faith, and of a fervent devotion toward the most Holy Sacrament of the altar; where Thou, O infinite Majesty! hast obliged Thyself to abide with us even to the end of the world, and wherein Thou didst so lovingly give Thy whole Self to us.

Say one Our Father, Hail Mary and Glory be.

V. St. Teresa, pray for us:

R. That we may become worthy of the promises of Jesus Christ.

Let us pray: Graciously hear us, O God of our salvation! that as we rejoice in the commemoration of the blessed virgin Teresa, so we may be nourished by her heavenly doctrine, and draw from thence the fervour of a tender devotion; through our Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God for ever and ever. Amen.

‘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.’

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Father Matthew Williams, OCD: Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, July 16

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John 19 26-27

“But standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Mag’dalene. When Jesus saw his mother, and the disciple whom he loved standing near, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home.”

It is with great joy that we gather to praise this woman of faith, the Virgin Mary, Our Lady of Mount Carmel. We thank her for her protection over the Carmelite Order, and over all peoples, as we look to her as our example of discipleship that we are called to follow.

We know that from the very first, the original founders of Carmel had a deep, abiding love and devotion to Our Lady. History tells us that the first chapel of the Carmelites on Mount Carmel was dedicated to the Virgin Mary. It was her who provided inspiration to the first hermits; it was she who watched over these men of faith as her own sons, guiding them to Jesus.

As we come to this mass, under the protective mantle of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, the gospel account of Mary and the Beloved Disciple at the foot of the cross, gives us two insights on how we can imitate the Virgin Mary in our own walk as disciples.

The first insight is this: As the Virgin Mary followed Jesus, her son, we are to do the same. If there is one characteristic that is clear from the gospel accounts of Mary, it is that she follows Jesus every step of the way in His journey to His passion, death and resurrection. She is there, of course, at the Annunciation, when the Holy Spirit overshadows her. She is there at the Presentation of Jesus, where Simeon prophecies of Jesus being the Savior of the world, while at the same time telling Mary about the sword of sorrow that will pierce her heart. She is there at the first miracle of Christ, the wedding at Cana, where Jesus turns the water into wine, and thus saves a young couple’s wedding feast. Mary follows Jesus as he journeys throughout Galilee and Judah, proclaiming the kingdom of God. Finally, the Virgin Mary is here, at the foot of the cross, where she is witnessing the death of her son.

This image of Mary, at the foot of the cross, is so important for us in today’s world. We live in a time of tremendous violence. Week after week we see examples of death coming suddenly, unexpectedly, tragically. A truck drives into a crowd, and eighty-four innocent people lose their lives. Policemen killed because of hatred. Seemingly innocent people, gunned down. Not only that, but we continue to see and feel in our world hatred, injustice, racism, intolerance, and it is overwhelming, it is distressing, we experience our seeming helplessness, and we wonder: how do I live my faith in the midst of so much violence?

How to live my faith? By doing what the Virgin Mary did: follow Jesus. St. Paul tells us to “walk by faith, and not by sight.” (2Cor. 5:7), and that is what she did. With the eyes of the world, Mary can see violence committing evil upon her son. With the eyes of the world, she can see that her son lost the battle, and Jesus will die and be forgotten. But Mary walked by faith, not by sight. By faith she knows that death, sin, evil, the forces of darkness cannot overcome the power of her Son, Jesus our Lord. In the depths of her Immaculate Heart, she knows that victory belongs her son, Our Lord Jesus Christ.

This our invitation to imitate Our Lady of Mount Carmel, by following Jesus as she did, even unto the cross, and by faith, know that victory belongs to God. So, we, like the Virgin Mary can see and experience the violence around us in our world, but we, like Mary, continue to walk by faith, following wherever Jesus leads us, for we know that it is only in Jesus, only through the power of His resurrection, that we and the world will be saved. Evil can never have the last word; rather it is our crucified Savior, who gains victory over all evil, that has the last word. We might not see it now, but like the Virgin Mary, we walk by faith and not by sight, and by faith we know that when we follow Jesus as Mary did, the forces of sin, death, and darkness will never have final victory over us.

Our second insight is this: like the Beloved Disciple, we need to make a home for the Virgin Mary. This is what the first hermits did on Mount Carmel; they made a home for Mary, where she is welcomed and treasured. We are being invited by Jesus to do that very thing today – make a home for Mary.

The first place where we need to invite Mary is in our hearts. The problems and violence of today’s world is not so much a problem of laws (though they are important), but a heart problem. Jesus tells us: “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a man; but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile a man.” (Mt. 15. 19-20)

The heart is where true discipleship takes place; it is where we focus upon Jesus, the mystery of Jesus in us, Jesus in our hearts, and this is where the Carmelite life is lived. To have our hearts centered upon Christ, as is that Immaculate Heart of Mary, is what we strive for as Carmelites; this intention is ever before us, for as Jesus becomes the center of our hearts, we are able to share with others the great wonder that is faith in Christ.

Secondly, we become welcoming in our relations with others, for that is what the Beloved Disciple did when commanded by Jesus to make a home for Mary – he welcomed her. This welcome to Mary is extended by us to all those that we encounter in the church and in the world. The Beloved Disciple welcomes the Mother of all the faithful, and he did that at the foot of the cross. The violence of the cross did not harden the heart of either Mary, nor of the Beloved Disciple, but enlarged them – this is our vocation in today’s world, to realize that at the foot of the cross, and new family of humankind is being formed by Jesus, a family that is led by a holy mother, where her sons and daughters imitate her, with enlarged hearts, as they welcomed each other through the power and glory of Jesus from the cross.

These two invitations, imitating the Virgin Mary by following Jesus as she did, and taking Mary into our very lives, is what marks Carmelite devotion to Our Lady. We give our lives to Jesus, as did Mary. We invite Mary into our very lives, as Mary did, and have our hearts become like her Immaculate Heart. When we do this, we will truly become like those first hermits that lived on Mount Carmel, we will be like that great cloud of Carmelite witnesses, like St. Teresa of Jesus, John of the Cross, St. Therese of Lisieux, like all those great men and women of Carmel whose names we do not know, like living saints, disciples of Jesus, following the example of the Virgin Mary.

We ask Our Lady of Mount Carmel to pray for us, so that the Holy Spirit will come upon us and overshadow us, like it did her. That our hearts will be like hers, so that we can live in the presence of her son, Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Savior, worshiping and praising the Holy Trinity, in the company of all saints, for all eternity.

Copyright Fr. Matthew Williams, OCD, 2016. All Rights Reserved.