Mercy in Today’s New Political and Social Era

 

A local rally. Photo credit: thespeakroom.org

NOTE: I wrote this piece in November 2016, but I am reposting it for those who didn’t read it before. It seems even more relevant today,  in light of this week’s events in Charlottesville, VA.

by Teresa Linda, ocds

As a Catholic trying to live faithfully in the secular world, I could not let this election pass like any other. During my evening class, I asked my students to respond to the prompt, “I am hopeful/concerned about the results of the election.” The students in this class are representative of the diversity of our nation. They range in age from eighteen to over fifty years old. Three served in the wars in the Middle East. They are both immigrants and native-born Americans. They are multi-racial and cross socio-economic lines.

I shared with them that personally, I was hopeful because the process was making everyone in individual, institutional, and even in systemic levels question themselves in ways that were not so obvious before. Those who are reeling are asking, “What was it that we did not see? What blinded us? Why were we blinded?” Those questions are starting points for developing humility and healing.

Then my students shared their responses. Some students were hopeful because they believed that America could become great again, for they had seen too many family members lose jobs and homes.

Other students were fearful. One of my Latino students admitted that the lives of the people he loved would most likely be up-ended by deportations in the coming months. Another student said that the previous night, a group taunted her and her older brother to go back to “where they came from” and threw rocks at them. Though she knew the suffering of war and poverty first-hand, she could barely hold back her tears of humiliation; it didn’t matter at all to the young men demanding that she leave the country, that she was a veteran who had recently returned home from defending our nation’s freedoms.

I am a Filipina and in the last two months, I too have been yelled and leered at on three separate occasions for taking too much space on the sidewalk, at the parking lot, and in a restaurant. That has never happened before.

The hidden biases that lay dormant for decades have risen to the surface, and our national woundedness is being revealed. The Catholic Bishops have recently gathered to show support for refugees and immigrants. Yet despite the rampant acts against human dignity and the multitude of opportunities to stand up against it, very, very few voices of national leadership have taken a strong moral position against the rising acceptance of hate as a new norm.

As Secular Carmelites and a people who believe in the death and resurrection of Christ, we cannot be complacent or allow ourselves to participate and feed on these divisions.

As a Catholic I am greatly relieved and thrilled that the tides are turning and that the value of the life of the unborn will be recognized more than it has been in the past decades, for the Church teaches that abortion is a ‘grave evil.’ However, the Catechism of the Catholic Church also states that “sin committed through malice, by deliberate choice of evil, is the greatest” (1860 CCC). Jesus says, “from the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, unchastity, theft, false witness, blasphemy” (Matthew 15:19).

Therefore, the willful choice of hate with malice from the heart is among the greatest evil. In Uganda, the location of one Carmelite mission, evil is defined as anything that doesn’t preserve life, which I would posit, includes acts that diminish an individual’s personhood.  People are certainly experiencing deliberate malice against their personhood in their daily lives, at work, through social media, and in their schools.

Thus, though I value the life of the unborn, I cannot overlook the suffering and the trampled human dignity of the living. When asked about his thoughts on the results of the election, Pope Francis replied, “I do not give judgments on people or politicians, I simply want to understand what are the sufferings that their approach causes to the poor and the excluded.”

In Matthew 25, Our Lord separates his own sheep from the goats based on actions that illuminated the true character of His followers and their attitudes toward the vulnerable: “I was a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.” We must be compassionate, empathize and pray for America’s urban poor, the displaced homeless, the immigrants, and the marginalized. We must be wary and alert, not only of the rise of hateful attitudes against the vulnerable, but our own tendencies to keep the reality of those wounds invisible to ourselves.

God can only work if we are aware of both our own woundedness and the woundedness around us so that we can bring these before Him in prayer and healing. “To receive His mercy, we must admit our fault.” For grace to abound it must “uncover sin” and “probe the wound before treating it” (CCC 1848). We must keep our hearts open and avoid any support of a mentality that destroys, wounds, or offends charity and love and turns us away from God (CCC 1855).

According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, “It is precisely in the Passion, when the mercy of Christ is about to vanquish it, that sin most clearly manifests its violence and its many forms: unbelief, murderous hatred, shunning and mocking…at the very hour of darkness, the hour of the prince of this world, the sacrifice, Christ secretly becomes the source from which forgiveness of our sins will pour forth inexhaustibly” (CCC 1851). All year the faithful have been walking through Doors of Mercy throughout the world. Today, Jesus is knocking at the other side of that door, waiting for us to respond to Him so that He can reveal His Mercy.

We are living in a new era. Our daily lives and choices is a walk with Jesus among the crowds in His Passion. Will we stay and walk with Him, or will we run away and cower? Remaining faithful in love and prayer against “murderous hatred” toward the poor and marginalized, Christ incarnate in this world, in this “hour of darkness” can open inexhaustible graces. This is especially true as the Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Divine Mercy draws to a close. God’s graces are waiting to be poured out on mankind a thousand times more generously than when Mary Magdalene poured perfumed spikenard over the foot of Christ.

But to close our eyes to the reality of Christ incarnate, to encourage any form of division in Christ’s One Body, One Church “makes men accomplices of one another and causes …violence and injustice to reign among them…They lead their victims to do evil in their turn. In an analogous sense, they constitute a ‘social sin’” (CCC 1869). Immigrants and refugees do not leave the land of their ancestors on a whim. Children living in violent neighborhoods and difficult family situations do not aspire to be homeless, drug addicts, gang members, or prostitutes.

When we come before Christ, will He address us as He did the Church of Ephesus in Revelations?  –“I know your works, your labor, and your endurance, and that you cannot tolerate the wicked…Yet you have lost the love you had at first” (Revelations 2:2-4). Or will we share in the Mystical love in Song of Solomon when the Lover pours fragrant oils and spices upon His beloved and proclaims, “There is no blemish in you…Your head rises upon you like Carmel… How beautiful you are, how fair, my love, daughter of delights!” (Song of Solomon 7:6-7)

As Secular Carmelites and Christians, let us be like Our Lady, who never turned her eye away from Jesus in His Passion. Let us be mindful and prayerful of our apostolic call to love, unity, and holiness.

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

Copyright 2016. Teresa Linda @thespeakroom.org. All rights reserved.

Teresa Linda, ocds: Church of our Fathers

Requiem for Syria 5 by Khaled Akil, www.khaledakil.com
Requiem for Syria 5 by Khaled Akil, www.khaledakil.com

For a long time, You were nothing but a statue of grey, speckled stone.
An idol.
An image in my imagination, or passing across the television screen.
An unfulfilled longing.

A false god.
A forgotten love.
A distraction…Or so I thought.

Where did you go, oh Father,
Protector of children abandoned to violence?
I wondered, again and again.

You were always there.
It was I who had turned the other way.

But you, in your faithfulness, gently placed your crucified hands on my cheek
And turned my gaze back to your gaze, so that I could see into Your eyes.

No longer a statue of cold stone, but a father, a heart spilling with joy and laughter.
No longer a passing image, but You in Papa Francis himself, smiling and loving me.
No longer an absent God, but a Father in heaven who brought all my worlds into Your healing embrace through the gift of Your Son.

SOURCE: Papal Visit to Philadelphia, October 2015

Copyright 2017 TL thespeakroom.org. All Rights Reserved.

 

Charles Seagren, ocds: prepare your hearts

Readings: Rm 10:9-18, Ps 19, Mt 4: 18-22

How does Jesus come to us?
That’s what we prepare for during Lent.

He comes as a baby born of Mary
which we celebrate at Christmas.
He comes in the Eucharist
which we celebrate at every Mass.
He comes on the Last Day, the Day of decision,
and we prepare for Him
with prayer and the sacraments
and works of mercy.

But He also comes in the most ordinary way
when we least expect Him.
We might be mending our nets on the seashore
talking our ordinary talk,
doing our everyday things
and there He is.

There’s no host of angels,
no fanfare.
He says, Come after Me
and keeps on walking.

Are we ready?
Do we leave our nets and follow?
Do we have the time
or are we just too busy
with our job our family our previous commitments?

Do we ask Him to come back tomorrow?

This Lent, prepare your heart
to hear and believe and follow.
Christ comes at an unexpected time
and keeps on walking.

SOURCE: Homily 2015. Menlo Park, CA

Copyright 2016 Charles Seagren. All Rights Reserved

Teresa Linda, ocds: O Blessed Trinity

Requiem to Syria 2 by Khaled Akil, www.khaledakil.com
Requiem for Syria by Khaled Akil www.khaledakil.com. Read this to learn about the artist.

Abba, Father

We thank you and praise You,
For giving us Your Son,
Human and Divine,
Yet He turned His cheek
To His oppressors
And allowed Himself
To be pierced for our oppressions
So that in Him and through Him,
Who gave us the gift
Of the Holy Spirit,
We could experience life from death
In our very beings –
In the caverns of our own hearts.
Living Flame,
Indwelling Blessed Trinity
O Fire of Love
O Blessed Trinity!
We adore you, We love you.

SOURCE: Lent 2016

Copyright  2017, TL thespeakroom.org. 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.’

 Try the Daily Disconnect as part of your Daily Meditation

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

Teresa Linda, ocds: You have given us everything

Requiem for Syria by Khaled Akil www.khaledakil.com
Requiem for Syria by Khaled Akil www.khaledakil.com. Read this for the Artist’s Statement.

You, oh Lord, have given us everything
Before the world came to be, You were I AM,
Already offering Yourself to us in love and beauty

Lord, teach us the path of Our Lady and St. Joseph,
Who, in darkness of sand storms, clung to the One, the Child Jesus,
And in so doing, loved without bounds.

Let our hands not trouble themselves,
With matters that will only bind them,
Preventing us from embracing You into our hearts

For in giving of Yourself, oh Lord,
You’ve opened for us the gift of others,
That in You, we can love with a love that burns tenderly.

May we respond with desire for You, oh Lord, and You alone.

SOURCE: Lent 2016

Copyright 2016, thespeakroom.org, TL, ocds. 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.’

 Try the Daily Disconnect as part of your Daily Meditation

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

Our Father – by teresa linda, ocds

IMG_7402

Note: On May 2017, by the grace of God, I will make my Definitive Promise as a Secular Carmelite. This is what I wrote for the Council. The statue above is the same image I describe in this piece, but decades later.

The discernment process to become a Secular Carmelite takes several years: at least one year as an Aspirant, two years until the first Temporary Promise, and then three years more before the Definitive Promise, a total of at least six years – all under the guidance of a Council, a teacher (Formator), a priest who serves as Spiritual Assistant, and if available, an individual who serves as spiritual director.  And after that, a lifetime of continued Formation.

From the time I began my journey as a Carmelite Aspirant in 2011 until well into my Temporary Promise in 2014, I experienced a very long, dry, and humiliating process of letting go of my control of those things I thought belonged to me or somehow earned by right: my family on the east coast, my career, my children’s upbringing, financial stability, my health – and my marriage.

After I came to terms with having to let go of what I then believed mattered most, God withdrew Himself from me for over two years. He felt completely absent; I felt isolated and alone, and I never knew if I would have the strength to make it through each day. Still, I persisted in my prayer life, and committed to faithfulness in the limited ways I knew how.

Everything changed after I prayed at the foot of the tomb of Saint John of the Cross in Segovia, Spain in 2015, during a pilgrimage for St. Teresa’s 5th Centenary, led by Father Robert Barcelos, my community’s Spiritual Assistant.

Saint John’s sepulcre is located behind the church altar, elevated above the tabernacle, and surrounded by a square walkway. All the other pilgrims chose to sit in the pews and pray facing the sepulcre, but I found my place of prayer hidden in plain sight – behind the tomb, with Saint John’s uncorrupted body above, and Our Lord inches from me in the tabernacle.

I took off my worn sandals, carefully put my bags down on the floor, knelt, held my hands open, and recited the prayer I had been praying since I took my Temporary Promise: “Here am I Lord, for I am nothing, and You are everything in all that I am, and all that I will be.”  I asked for Saint John of the Cross, along with Saint Teresa of Avila, Saint Elijah, and the Carmelite saints to intercede for me. I asked for Our Lady’s prayers and mantle of protection.

When I got tired of kneeling, I simply sat, feeling the cold marble at the bottoms of my feet. I felt like a little girl again, leaning upon the shadow of a wall to escape the Philippine heat and waiting to be reunited with my father in the United States.

Nothing ‘happened.’

But when I walked from behind the tabernacle and faced the other pilgrims sitting in the pews, praying, I knew with certainty that God had touched me and had gently turned my gaze away from my own ego – and upon Him.

In my Christian walk, I always marveled at Jesus’s first words to the apostles after His resurrection: “Peace be with you.” I wondered, why – if that was such an important promise – so few believers, including myself, knew first-hand of that peace. At the foot of Saint John of the Cross’ sepulcre, Christ gave me that breath of peace, and despite the continued challenges of my life and my shortcomings, that peace has never left me.

Since then, He has given me a mission, one I understood while in prayer during Lent 2016. Everything about the speakroom and the various apostolic fruit that have come out of the site, have been rooted in my attempt to be obedient to Our Lord.

When I was four years old, my father was given the rare opportunity to work as an engineer to pave a life for us in America. But he had to leave four children and a wife – who in one year, had delivered a baby and buried another. During that time, a monument of the Lord’s Prayer was built in the park behind our house, the same park where my little sister was buried.

After visiting my sister’s grave. I would stand before the image of Jesus, seated on His throne, and contemplate the Lord’s Prayer behind Him. No matter what visited us in the three years my earthly father was abroad, I grew in my relationship with God the Father. By His Grace, my faith  never wavered.  I understood that because God desired that His “will be done, on earth, as it is in Heaven,” then it followed that Jesus was on earth with me, as Our Father was in Heaven. I rested in that love and companionship.

As I grow in my Carmelite vocation, I find that I am only trying to find my way back to the simple and confident faith I had as a child. One of my most common prayers now is: “Come Holy Spirit. Give me the grace to enter into the Sacred Heart of Christ, that I may come to know the face of my Heavenly Father.”

To see the face of Christ is to see the face of the Father. To come before the Father in Christ is to be resurrected before Him as His beloved child. And it is the Holy Spirit that makes these movements between the human, and the eternal divine possible.

Copyright 2017  teresa linda – the speakroom.org , ocds

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

 Try the Daily Disconnect as part of your Daily Meditation

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

Charles Seagren, ocds: prepare your hearts

Readings: So 2: 8-14, Ps 33, Lk 1:39-45

There’s an old saying:
Have nothing in your house
which is not both beautiful and useful.

It’s good advice
for our hearts as well.

Today Jesus stands behind our wall,
looking through the windows,
peering through the lattices.
What does He see?
Are we ready to welcome Him
into our home?

He stands outside looking in
and now He calls us:
Arise, My beloved, my beautiful one,
and come.

As soon as we hear His voice
something stirs within us.
It’s the beauty that we are,
the beauty we forgot we are.
And the infant leaps in our womb,
the child of God that each of us is
leaps for joy
when we hear His voice.

Winter is past
and the time of pruning is here,
the time to prepare for the salvation of Christ.

He breaks down the walls that divide us.
He cleans the Temple of our heart
till nothing remains
but what is beautiful and useful,
the praise of His glory
and the good of our neighbor,
nothing remains but love.

SOURCE: Homily 2015. Menlo Park, CA

Copyright 2016 Charles Seagren. All rights reserved.

Charles Seagren, ocds: put last things first

Readings: 1 Cor 7:25-31, Ps 45; Lk 6: 20-26

Time is running out.
We know it.
However much money we make,
however much fine food we eat,
however on top of the world we may be,
we’ll soon be under it.

The thief is coming and we don’t know when.

We spend our life
rejoicing and weeping,
buying and selling.
Go deeper.
Go below the surface, with all its moods,
all the waves and currents that carry us
where we don’t want to go.

It’s all upside down.
The Kingdom of God belongs to the poor
but woe to the rich.
The hungry are satisfied
and the well-fed hungry.
The hated the excluded the insulted
rejoice and leap for joy.

You don’t need to give it all away
and live in a hovel.
But rejoice as if you’re not rejoicing,
weep as if you’re not weeping,
own as if you don’t possess.

Time is running out.
Sometimes we learn the simplest things last
which makes for difficulties.

Listen.
You can hear God
in the silence of your heart
and the whirlwind of the world.

In all that you do
put the last things first.

SOURCE: 23rd Week of Ordinary time Homily 2015. Menlo Park, CA

Copyright 2016 Charles Seagren. All rights reserved.

 

Charles Seagren, ocds: there’s a little Herod in each of us

Readings: 1 Jn 1:5:12, Ps 124, Mt 2:13-18

There’s a little Herod in each of us,
that little king, that little big man
so full of fear.

He sees with eyes of suspicion.
If you’re angry you see anger in others.
If you lie you think everyone’s a liar.
If you plot to get ahead
you know everyone is out to get you.

Sin is a beam in the eye,
a blindness of the heart.

So Herod believes a baby
will grow up to depose him
and take his place.
And when the magi deceive him
he kills the Holy Innocents.

There’s a fear that dwells in our hearts
of such small things,
being deceived or coming in second
or looking a fool.

We want to be grown up
and not a child.
We want to be in control
and not gullible.
And sometimes
we put aside our holy innocence
and view the world with eyes of darkness.

It’s a temptation we resist by grace.
And in this Holy Mass
we acknowledge our sins
and walk in light.

Holy innocence
is to see things as they truly are,
as God sees them
and as He sees us,
with eyes of love.

SOURCE: Feast of the Holy Innocents Homily 2015. Menlo Park, CA

Copyright, Charles Seagren 2016. All Rights Reserved

Charles Seagren, ocds: we are the magi

Readings: Is 60: 1-6; Ps 72; Eph 3:2-3, 5-6; Matt 2: 1-12

The Bible isn’t just something outside us
like a book you keep on a shelf
and dust from time to time.
It’s not something you hear
and it stops there
and who knows what the Gospel was today.

The Bible is inside us too,
written on our hearts.
When we read it prayerfully
or hear it well proclaimed
something happens.
Heart speaks to heart
and we’re changed
by what we hear.

Every character, every event, every place in scripture
is in us as well.
Pharisees, apostles, Herod, even Jesus —
we carry them with us
everywhere we go.

We enter the Gospel and see
how we’re the magi and the star and the newborn Child.

We’re magi
because we follow the light.
Every one of us longs for happiness
and we follow the light of it
wherever it leads.

We might stop short.
We might visit Herod the King
and hope the answer is here
in pleasure or power or wealth.
But after awhile it’s not enough.
We raise our eyes and look about.
We grow restless
and the star keeps moving.

SOURCE: Epiphany 2016 Homily. Menlo Park, CA

Charles Seagren 2016. All Rights Reserved