Father Robert Elias, OCD: October 15, St. Teresa’s Feastday

The Unitive Way

In this conference, Father Robert Elias talks about the value of wisdom, the treasure of heaven. The more our soul is filled with earthly and passing things, the less we can taste life’s substance. We often choose the gift rather than the Giver, creation rather than the Creator. Saint Teresa helps people to have a proper understanding of where our hearts should be and the beauty of holiness, a life made fully alive and transfigured in God.

In the Fifth Mansion, the soul experiences true Mysticism, which gives birth to Mission. The lesser self must be crucified and the person must die to themselves, which brings about peace. In these mystical stages, the profound work of the Holy Spirit reproduces in us the life of the Trinity. The soul enters a deeper intimacy with God and enters a spousal relationship with Him. Father Robert Elias also discusses the Sixth and Seventh Mansions where the prayer is so full of God’s love and the spirit of the resurrection of Jesus, that words cannot express the experience.

THE CAVE by Teresa Linda
Teach me your ways, oh Dust of the Earth
Born before the beginning of time.
In your cavernal womb, envelope me in your loving secrecy
Breathe into me the cool breath of life
From the walls that have carried the waters of springs eternal.
That I may never forget,
That in the beginning, I was dust
Formed into beauty by Your Word
Hidden beneath your mantle of grace.

COME HOLY SPIRIT, I NEED YOU (by Teresa Linda)
That I may learn the ways of the Lord from You.
That I may learn to turn my gaze away from myself and fix them on my God.
That I may learn from my beloved saints and heed their instructions.
That I may walk this path of loneliness and suffering with peace and joy.
That I may drink abundantly from the chalice of my God.

Carolyn Humphreys, ocds: perfect joy & St. Francis

St Francis of Assisi by El Greco

One winter day, St. Francis of Assisi (Feast Day, October 4) was traveling to the Basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli (St. Mary of the Angels) in Perugia, Italy, with Brother Leo. The bitter cold made them both suffer keenly.  St. Francis called to Brother Leo, who was walking ahead of him a bit: “Brother Leo, even if the Friars Minor in every country give a great example, and integrity, and good edification, nevertheless, write down and note carefully that perfect joy is not in that.”

When he had walked on a bit, St. Francis called him again, saying: “Brother Leo, even if a Friar Minor gives sight to the blind, heals the paralyzed, drives out devils, gives hearing back to the deaf, makes the lame walk, and restores speech to the dumb and, what is more, brings back to life a man who had been dead for four days, write that perfect joy is not in that.”

Going on further, St. Francis called out again in a strong voice: “Brother Leo, if a Friar Minor knew all languages, and all sciences, and Scripture, if he also knew how to prophesy, and to reveal, not only the future, but also the secrets of consciences and minds of others, write down and note carefully that perfect joy is not in that.”

As they continued to walk for a while, St. Francis called Leo again forcefully: “Brother Leo, Little Lamb of God, even if a Friar Minor could speak with the voice of an angel, and knew the courses of the stars, and the powers of herbs, and knew all about the treasures in the earth, and if he knew the qualities of birds and fishes, animals, humans, roots, trees, rocks, and waters, write down and note carefully that perfect joy is not in that.”

Going on a bit farther, St. Francis called again strongly: “Brother Leo, even if a Friar Minor could preach so well that he should convert all infidels to the faith of Christ, write that perfect joy is not there.”

Now, when he had been talking this way for a distance of two miles, Brother Leo, in great amazement, finally asked him: “Father, I beg you, in God’s name, to tell me where perfect joy is.”

St. Francis replied: “When we come to St. Mary of the Angels, soaked by the rain and frozen by the cold, all soiled with mud, and suffering from hunger, and we ring at the gate of the place and the brother porter comes and says angrily: “Who are you?”  And we say: “We are two of your brothers.”  And he contradicts us, saying: “You are not telling the truth.  Rather, you are two rascals who go around deceiving people, and stealing what they give to the poor.  Go away!”  And he does not open for us, but makes us stand outside in the snow and rain, cold and hungry, until night falls—then if we endure all those insults and cruel rebuffs patiently, without being troubled, and without complaining, and if we reflect humbly and charitably that the porter really knows us, and that God makes him speak against us, oh, Brother Leo, write that perfect joy is there.”

“And if we continue to know, and the porter comes out in anger, and drives us away with curses and hard blows like bothersome scoundrels, saying, ‘Get away from here, you dirty thieves—go to the hospital!  Who do you think you are?  You certainly won’t eat or sleep here’—and if we bear it patiently, and take the insults with joy and love in our hearts, Oh, Brother Leo, write that this is perfect joy!”

“And if later, suffering intensely from hunger and painful cold, with night falling, we still knock and call, and crying loudly beg him to open for us and let us come in for the love of God, and he grows still more angry and says: ‘Those fellows are bold and shameless ruffians.  I’ll give them what they deserve.’  And he comes out with a knotty club, and grasping us by the cowl throws us onto the ground, rolling us in the mud and snow, and beats us with that club so much that he covers our bodies with wounds—if we endure all those evils and insults with joy and patience, reflecting that we must accept and bear the sufferings of the Blessed Christ patiently for love of him, Oh, Brother Leo, write: that is perfect joy!”

“And now hear the conclusion, Brother Leo.  Above all the graces and gifts of the Holy Spirit which Christ gives to his friends, is that of conquering oneself, and willingly enduring sufferings, insults, humiliations, and hardships for the love of Christ.  For we cannot glory in all those other marvelous gifts of God, as they are not ours but God’s, as the Apostle says: ‘What have you that you have not received?’  But we can glory in the cross of tribulations and afflictions because that is ours, and so the Apostle says: ‘I will not glory save in the Cross of Our Lord Jesus Christ.’”

Francis accepted suffering in the way of the Beatitudes.  In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus explained how the poor, hungry, mourning and suffering people are tenderly loved by God, blessed by God, because they hope despite overwhelming circumstances.  St. Francis makes very real that perfect joy does not come from many talents and abilities, since these are never ultimately ours, but are gifts from God.  Francis, therefore, believed that the only really true gifts we can give to God, which are not originally from God, are our sufferings.

On the natural level, we, of course, do not want suffering in our life, but having reached the state described in the Beatitudes, we can accept suffering with joy.  Instead of trying to avoid pain and trials, we can accept them in a spirit that would allow us to offer this rarely-appreciated human gift back to God.  This is the cause of St. Francis’ perfect joy: he found the only thing that he had which he could give back to the Lord.  This is how to live the Beatitudes, how to live on a supernatural level, able to say, “I will not glory, save in the Cross of Our Lord Jesus Christ.”  Perfect joy is found in fidelity and in constant prayer, patiently enduring all the gifts we give to God.  Joy is an interior state, independent from that which affects us externally.  For beneath all the hardships is the fundamental reality of joy.  The background to all suffering is total faith in the ultimate triumph of the Cross of Christ.

Hymn to Joy

Joyful, joyful, we adore Thee, God of glory, Lord of love;
Hearts unfold like flowers before Thee, opening to the sun above.
Melt the clouds of sin and sadness; drive the dark of doubt away;
Giver of immortal gladness, fill us with the light of day!

All Thy works with joy surround Thee, earth and heaven reflect Thy rays,
Stars and angels sing around Thee, center of unbroken praise.
Field and forest, vale and mountain, flowery meadow, flashing sea,
Singing bird and flowing fountain call us to rejoice in Thee.

Thou art giving and forgiving, ever blessing, ever blessed, Wellspring of the joy of living, ocean depth of happy rest!
Thou our Father, Christ our Brother, all who live in love are Thine;
Teach us how to love each other, lift us to the joy divine.

Mortals, join the happy chorus, which the morning stars began;
Father love is reigning o’er us, brother love binds man to man.
Ever singing, march we onward, victors in the midst of strife,
Joyful music leads us Sunward in the triumph song of life.

(Text: Henry Van Dyke; Music: Ludwig van Beethoven; Arr. by Edward Hodges; Tune: HYMN TO JOY.)

About Carolyn Humphreys, OCDS
Carolyn Humphreys, OCDS, OTR, is a Discalced Carmelite Secular, and a registered occupational therapist. She is the author of the books: From Ash to Fire: A Contemporary Journey through the Interior Castle of Teresa of Avila, Carmel Land of the Soul: Living Contemplatively in Today’s World, Mystics in the Making: Lay Women in Today’s Church, and Living Through Cancer, A Practical Guide to Cancer Related Concerns. Her latest book is Everyday Holiness: A Guide to Living Here and Getting to Eternity. You can find her reflections online at contemplativechristianityorg.wordpress.com.

Father James Geoghegan, OCD: Stairs to the Risen Christ and St. Thérèse

(REPOST from May 2017)

Carmel

At the age of 15, Thérèse entered the Carmel in Lisieux. It was a poor convent, damp at times, and always cold in winter. She tells us that her little cell filled her with joy. Rising from the corridor where she lived, there was a circular staircase leading to the cell for the prioress, Mother Gonzague, whom she loved very much. As a young novice, Thérèse felt a deep attraction to her prioress; and she often tried to find an excuse to go to visit her. Perhaps she needed the attention and affection she had had back at home. Thérèse realized the danger of false affection; at times she had to hold onto the banisters to stop herself from going up those stairs. This heroic self-discipline bore rich fruit. Instead of being spoiled and dependent, her relationship with Mother Gonzague grew into a pure, strong love between two independent, respectful, mature women.

The love Thérèse had for the prioress is evident in the section of the autobiography written for her. When going through a deeply traumatic time after the difficult election of 1896, it was Thérèse who was able to comfort and strengthen the older woman. The battle with immature love on the stairway yielded a rich bounty later on.

Under Mother Agnes, Thérèse was practically the mistress of novices; and she lived with the novices upstairs in the Novitiate. This wing was on the opposite side of the quadrangle from where most of the community lived. On cold winter nights, the sisters gathered around the fire in the community recreation room. To go to her cell, Thérèse had to traverse the open cloister in the cold night air and climb the stair. She spent hours trying to sleep but was unable to do so because the cold went right through to her bones. As her tuberculosis developed, she suffered more from the freezing weather.

As she climbed the stairs, she must have offered the painful, breath-consuming steps for her beloved missionaries. Turning a bend in those stairs, she saw each time a saying boldly written over the window: “Today a little work, tomorrow eternal rest.” Though exhausted emotionally and physically and dragging her weakened body Thérèse could not accept that pious saying. For her, heaven was not eternal rest but, in the words that Florence Nightingale said at this time, “an immense activity.”

Elevator

Stairs were a fact of life for Thérèse. She used them as metaphors at various times. As her desire for sanctity grew, she sought a direct and easy way for little souls to ascend to God. She remembered an experience she and Celine had in Paris on their way to Rome. In a big department store, they discovered an elevator. One can imagine the excitement of two teenagers, tired from shopping and sightseeing, riding the elevator from floor to floor. They were fascinated by this new invention. Thérèse would find in the elevator a new metaphor for her little way. A weak child did not have to ascend to God by climbing the steep stairs. The elevator was the merciful arms of the good God, carrying the child aloft in confidence and love. Thérèse even wrote to her missionary brother, a man plagued with a sense of weakness and inadequacy, “Ascend the elevator of love, not the stairs of fear.”

Years after Thérèse’s death, her novice mistress, Sister Mary of the Angels wrote: Thérèse teaches and enlightens me. I ask her continually to help me enter her Little Way so that in death Jesus will truly be my elevator.

SOURCE: Carmelite Digest, Autumn 1997, reprinted with permission

Copyright 1997, Father James Geoghegan, OCD

St. Therese: a prayer for priests

by Raul Berzosa raulberzosa.com

A PRAYER FOR PRIESTS, by Saint Therese

O Jesus, Eternal Priest, keep all your priests within the shelter of Your Most Sacred Heart where none can touch them.

Keep unstained their anointed hands, which daily touch Your Sacred Body.

Keep unsullied their lips daily tinged with Your Precious Blood.

Keep pure and unworldly their hearts, sealed with the sublime mark of the Priesthood

Let Your Holy Love surround and protect them from the world’s contagion.

Bless their labors with abundant fruit, and may the souls to whom they minister be their joy and consolation here, and their everlasting crown in the hereafter. Amen.

NOTE:  Please pray for the innocent victims of the sex abuse scandal, which include our holy and chaste priests, who are certainly suffering — and for the upcoming February 21-24, 2019 Worldwide Meeting of Bishops on the  Church  Abuse Crisis convoked by Pope Francis.

IN UNION, THEY WEEP

(2/17/2019, by Teresa Linda)

The purified bodies of holy priests
Are tabernacles of the Word,
Purged by the constancy of an eternal Flame,
Surrounded by a fortress, a stronghold built by the Creator
Caressed but undisturbed by the world.

But in the deep dwelling places of the indwelling Spirit
Where these shepherds cling to their Beloved One,
They weep with Christ incarnate,
Their tears mingled with water and blood,
At the desolation of the Mystical Body.

Every moment of every day,
In union, they suffer the crucifixion;
In union, they live the resurrection,
And celebrate the Holy Communion
That has already overcome all things.

But oh!
How excruciating, this wound of love!

Father James Geoghegan, OCD: St. Thérèse’s Stairs to the Risen Lord

By the end of her life, St. Thérèse had discovered an elevator to lift her up to heaven: the arms of Jesus. Before she found the shortcut, she had many stairs to contend with. Father James Geoghegan, OCD has visited some of the stairs in our saint’s life, climbed one of them, and meditated on all of them.

In April 1896, after climbing the stairs to her cell, St. Thérèse coughed up blood. It was the beginning of the end. At the same time, the brand new opera of Puccini, “La Boheme,” presented to the world a tragic romantic heroine. Mimí, dying from tuberculosis, enters the garret where Rudolfo asks her if she feels ill. “No, it’s nothing,” she says. “I’m just out of breath, it’s the stairs.” The fictional character and the saint would have understood each other.

Thérèse, throughout her life, had to climb stairs to go to bed. Today, a pilgrim visiting the shrines of St. Thérèse discovers that stairs played a significant role in her life and spiritual development.

Alencon

When you enter the house where Thérèse was born, ahead of you are the hallway and the stairs leading up to the bedrooms. The stairs rise in a high, steep, elegant curve. As a child, Thérèse tried to climb them. Later, she told her novices to keep persevering like a little child climbing a steep staircase.

In a letter to Pauline, Zélie Martin describes her daughter fearfully ascending those stairs “crying out ‘Mama Mama’” at each step. If Zélie forgot to say, “Yes, my child,” Thérèse would stop and not go any further. The steepness of those stairs would be frightening for a little child. Eventually, her mother would come and pick her up and carry her to the room upstairs.

Later, Thérèse saw this as an image of her life. Though she is weak and frail, God reaches down and carries her in his arms like a loving mother.

Each morning, Zélie came down those stairs to go to morning mass. When she became too weak from cancer to descend the stairs, she and her family knew that the end was near. Standing at the foot of the stairs, Thérèse, aged four years, saw the coffin for her mother. She died in the bed in which she had given birth to Thérèse. Zélie’s body was carried down the stairs and brought to the Church of Our Lady, where 19 years before she had married Louis and where Thérèse was baptized.

Lisieux

Three months later, Louis and the five girls moved to Lisieux where they rented the delightful “Les Buissonnets.” Thérèse loved this house, “For there my life was truly happy.” The house is charming, in lovely grounds. It is smaller than it appears in photographs. The kitchen and dining room are on the ground floor. A short staircase with angular turns leads to the bedrooms upstairs. On Christmas night, the almost 14-year-old Thérèse rushed up and down those stairs on her night of illumination, the night of her conversion, when she grew up and became a strong woman of the Lord. She had returned from Midnight Mass. In the middle of December, it is a cold time in Normandy. With Céline, she went up to their bedroom and they took of their hats and coats. Thérèse heard her father, who was not well and who was tired and cold at this late hour, complain that Thérèse was still acting like a spoiled child and it was time for her to grow up. She was hurt, but Jesus had changed her through the Christmas Eucharist. Jesus had done in a moment what she had not been able to do in ten years. Instead of weeping and feeling sorry for herself, she bounded down the stairs and, with the happy appearance of a queen showed her gifts to her father who soon regained his own cheerfulness. Soon everyone was happy celebrating the birth of the Infant Jesus and, without realizing it, the birth of Thérèse into womanly spiritual maturity (to be continued).

SOURCE: Carmelite Digest, Autumn 1997, reprinted with permission

Copyright 1997, Father James Geoghegan, OCD

Father Robert Elias Barcelos, OCD: August 26 – the transverberation of Saint Teresa of Avila II

The Transverberation of Saint Teresa (Sevilla) Photo credit: thespeakroom.org
The Transverberation of Saint Teresa (Sevilla) Photo credit: thespeakroom.org

(REPOST FROM August 2017)

NOTE: If you would like to get a virtual tour of the sepulcre where St. Teresa’s heart is kept, click on this Alba de Tormes link

St. Teresa was so profoundly the temple of the Holy Spirit. She was so filled with the zeal and spirit of Saint Elijah, that God’s love in her heart was confirmed through the Transverberation. The Transverberation is a special grace that is typical of souls whom God has exalted and elevated to the sixth mansion predominantly, but slightly overlapping with the seventh mansion. St. Teresa is famous to have received this grace.

She wasn’t the only one, of course. St. John of the Cross probably experienced it, but he just didn’t say it, which was very typical of St. John. He knew and expressed the grace so well that it’s likely that he also received the same grace. St. Thérese received something very similar to the Transverberation in the Choir of her convent. Blessed Mariam of Jesus Crucified, we know for a fact, received that grace, as did the most wonderful and illustrious St. Father Pio, in the confessional.

These special graces are insignias; they are signs of what God has done in a person’s soul already, but is manifesting in a special and specific way. In St. Teresa’s case, the Transverberation was such a profoundly spiritual experience that it had a physical effect, as the doctors found out when examining the mortal remains of St Teresa’s actual, physical heart. This is kind of perplexing and paradoxical because when we speak of the heart like the Sacred Heart of Jesus or when we speak of God dwelling in our “heart” we don’t necessarily mean specifically, the physical organ of the heart, but the center of the person’s soul. Nevertheless, St. Teresa’s physical heart did receive the effect of that spiritual manifestation.

These graces are accidentals in the lives of the saints. St. Teresa wasn’t declared or made a saint because she had these spiritual experiences. She was declared and made a saint because she had the infused virtues of what unites us to God: Faith, Hope, and Love! That’s what made her a saint! This is what is necessary. This is what is essential to be united with the splendor of God’s truth.

These infused virtues are most beautiful. They bestow the transfiguring love of God’s eternal life, enlarge our lives and enable us to share in His holiness. It was Saint Teresa’s cooperation with the grace of God’s inspirations, in obedience to His divine will that allowed the kingdom of God to make in her, His temple. That’s what made her a saint! Her ‘Yes,’ her fiat, her agape, her ‘Be it done unto me according to thy will. Here I am I was born for you! What do you want of me? I am yours!!’

That fundamental disposition is what led to St. Teresa’s transformation, and as the book of Hebrews says, ‘Without faith, it is impossible to please God.’ In other words, without faith we’re not open to friendship with God. Our Lord says in so many ways in the gospels that it’s not enough to be religious. Being religious isn’t what saves us; it is obedience to His will and uniting our hearts to His, according to how He wants us to love – not in the way we want, in conformity to our comforts.

Jesus expresses this truth in the gospels when He says, ‘Not everybody who says Lord, Lord, shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but those who do the will of my heavenly Father.’ In other words, we can be very religious, have statues and pictures, and even pray rosaries, but if we’re not living what we believe by aligning our lives with the love of God and how He asks us to love in our daily circumstance, then according to God, our talk is cheap. We need to live what we believe. When we say, ‘Yes,’ when we live what we believe and make that sacrifice, that death to self in order to be lifted up in Him – then that transformation can begin. Otherwise, our faith is superficial and only on the surface.

The saints show us what is beyond the surface, the depths of our own identity, the depths of who we are each called to be in His divine mercy. The saints reveal to us the glory of God’s love for everyone, for it is the saints who have the courage to say, ‘Yes’ to the maximum. The saints had the courage to let themselves be loved to the full. That’s all God wants of us – to let ourselves be loved to the full. This is a gift and the greatest gift we could possibly have – more than our physical life, more than our jobs, more than our own family, more than all the physical necessities of our daily life, or of what makes life pleasurable. Our greatest gift is faith! Without faith we have Nada! Nada! Nada! — Nothing!!

Without faith, even the beauty of the most magnificent churches passes away, for that beauty is only meant to point us to Him. It is meant to point us to Him in friendship. It is meant to inspire this ‘Yes Lord, live in me. Be it done unto me according to your will.’ Salvation began with the ‘Yes’ of Mary. God’s mission of the Messiah, Emmanuel, began to embrace the world with the simple ‘Yes’ of a woman so humble, with Mary just saying ‘Yes’ to Him.

Amidst this invitation and this beauty of what we are called to and who we are called to be in His love, there will be a battle. We hear in scriptures, in the reading of St. Paul to the Ephesians, that there is a battle; there is a spiritual world behind the material scenes of the world.  Our world is the stage where we will each decide whether we will be a winner or a loser; whether we will be victorious by saying ‘Yes’ to God’s love and allowing that to transform our lives; whether we are able to share in the only love that overcomes death and sin that cleanses us from within. And this decision will determine our ultimate destiny.

In order to be faithful to this love, we need to put on God’s armor in the midst of the battle. We need to be protected; we need to fight to defend this dignity. We need to fight a spiritual warfare against the world, the flesh, and the devil. Our primary General is Mary, who crushes the head of the serpent, who is full of grace and conceived without sin. It is she who can help us to be united to the victory of her Son.

As we prepare the stage of our lives, we ask Jesus for the grace to grow more and more in His love, in holiness and the perfection of charity. We ask that God’s love be brought to maturity in the whole of our identity and personality. In St. Teresa – this illustrious human being , in all of her warmth, intelligence, and humor of her personality – shines a love that is larger than life and out of this world. She points us to God’s love, as God draws us to Himself. Through the intercession of St. Teresa, may we receive the grace to be faithful to the end that our faith may be set fully on fire. Saint Teresa, pray for us.

(SOURCE: Alba de Tormes, Spain Pilgrimage)

 

Father Robert Elias Barcelos, OCD: the transverberation of Saint Teresa of Avila I

Bernini-Teresa

The Ecstasy of Saint Teresa, Gian Lorenzo Bernini,  (circa 1650)

(REPOST August 2017)

This week we celebrate a wonderful occasion! We celebrate one of the most exquisite graces, one of the most special gifts that God did in Saint Teresa’s soul. We refer to that gift as the Transverberation. Saint Teresa is the seraphic doctor of the Church…seraphic meaning, that she is full with fire. Her greatest virtue, her greatest gift was the love of God.

In First Corinthians 13, Saint Paul writes, ‘If I have all of these things, and have not love, what does it amount to? It is useless, it is nothing.’ What does he use as examples? He doesn’t say, ‘If I have the latest pleasure in terms of a worldly treasure’, he doesn’t say, to use common terms, ‘If I have the latest Lexus, and have not love, I will be an empty dog,’ or ‘If I have all of these other legacies and luxuries, but have not love, I have nothing.’

Instead, as examples, Saint Paul uses the most amazing qualities of God’s grace in a soul! He refers to the spirit of prophecy, and the spirit of tongues, and working mighty deeds through the power of faith, and miracles. If I have all these extraordinary gifts of God, to be such a warrior for the Lord…and yet have not love—nada…it amounts to nothing.

Saint Teresa’s greatest attribute, quality, and gift, were not the extraordinary mystical experiences she had. It was her love of God…and it was this love of God that was sealed; it was consummated through the experience of the Transverberation of her heart. We can date this with confidence to the year 1559. That’s important because she experienced the Transverberation, this mystical grace, three years before her first foundation of the renewed Carmel of St. Joseph, the first of her seventeen foundations.

It was not, as it was generally supposed, a single vision, as what many might assume from Bernini’s artwork and depiction of this experience. Rather, the vision was repeated several times over a period of days.

What happened? Saint Teresa describes what happened to her in her Life when she writes her autobiography under obedience to her spiritual director. In the 29th chapter of her Life, about halfway through it, she writes:

I saw in the hands of this beautiful cherubim angel a large golden dart and at the end of the iron tip there appeared to be a little fire. It seemed to me this angel plunged the dart several times into my heart that it reached deep within me [in Spanish she says, “it reached into my entrañas”]. When he drew it out, I thought he was carrying off with him the deepest part of me; and he left me all on fire with great love of God. The pain was so great that it made me moan, and the sweetness this greatest pain caused me was so superabundant that there is no desire capable of taking it away; nor is the soul content with less than God. The pain is not bodily but spiritual, although the body doesn’t fail to share in some of it, and even a great deal. The loving exchange that takes place between the soul and God is so sweet that I beg him in his goodness to give a taste of this love to anyone who thinks I am lying.

The entrañas… What is that depth of her being that was touched so intimately by God? Saint John of the Cross describes this as the intimate center of the substance of the soul; in common terms -the heart of hearts, the spirit, and the depth of one person’s being. Saint John of Cross says that God’s purpose in granting this kind of deep communication of Himself to someone else’s depth ‘is to exalt the soul, to enlarge it, and enrich it.’

Saint Teresa’s mystical experience must not be confused with mysticism, as it is popularly known on the level of cultural or television mysticism. On that secular level, mysticism is often associated as a grandiose or paranormal psychic adventure, and that’s not the point of this experience at all. For our holy mother, Saint Teresa, authentic mysticism always had an ecclesial dimension, in other words, genuine mysticism always involved mission for others; it wasn’t just for herself.

One of our Carmelite opening prayers expresses this aspect of mysticism leading to mission. ‘Almighty God, you filled the heart of Saint Teresa, our mother, with the fire of your love and gave her strength to undertake difficult tasks for the honor of your name.’

This is really important because Saint Teresa experienced the Transverberation before all of the marvels of her foundations…and before all that God did through her. Saint Teresa says about her mission in Carmel:

 ‘If our Lord hadn’t granted me the favors he did, it doesn’t seem to me that I would have had the courage for the works that were done or the strength to support the trials suffered and the statements and judgments made against me.   So after the foundations were begun, the fears I previously had in thinking that I was deceived, left me. I grew certain the work was God’s and so I threw myself into difficult tasks, although always with advice and under obedience. As a result, I understand that since our Lord desires to revive the original spirit of this order, and in His mercy he took me as a means, His majesty had to provide me with what I was lacking, which was everything, in order to get results and better manifest His greatest through so wretched a thing’ (referring to herself).

This grace was a catalyst, a turning point in her life, just like the Transfiguration was to the Apostles. The mystical experience that the three Apostles had on Mount Tabor of seeing Jesus transfigured, left a special mark on their souls and it prepared them for their mission…but more so, it prepared them to endure the crisis of the Cross before they were endowed and equipped for their mission. It was a special turning point.

In the life of Saint Teresa, Allison Peers writes, “At the time of the Transverberation, though she could not have known it, she was nearing the end of the quarter century during which she had been an obscure daughter of Carmel, and she was standing on the threshold of the lifework which was to make her be immortal.”

The Transfiguration in the lives of the Apostles, and the Transverberation in the life of Saint Teresa, show that God communicates Himself in times that we need Him most, and in the times that we need it most. An authentic relationship with God is always going to have an impact on our relationships with others. God’s grace, in granting us an extraordinary experience of His love, is always…that we may have an extraordinary love for others and be willing to share in His mission for the salvation of souls.

To use one Mass Offertory Prayer, ‘Lord God, we offer you this victim of charity, may He kindle in us a love as intense as that which let Saint Teresa of Ávila to offer herself a living sacrifice for the Church.’

May we, like our holy mother, Saint Teresa, have a generous, determined, and courageous spirit to endure all things for Christ who strengthens us…that we may be filled with the infinite fire of His divine love!  Saint Teresa, pray for us.

(SOURCE: San Jose, Mt. Saint Josephs Monastery Homily, STJ 500, 2015)

Father Robert Elias Barcelos, OCD: the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Photo credit: The Speakroom

(REPOST from August 2017)

On this Solemnity, Father Robert Barcelos explains the victory over death that already belongs to those who follow Christ in Mary, and exhorts us to embrace that victory even when sometimes, it appears that we are without hope.

SOURCE:  Homily, 8/15/17, Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Gospel:  Lk 1:39-56
Mary set out and traveled to the hill country in haste to a town of Judah, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, cried out in a loud voice and said, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And how does this happen to me,that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.”

And Mary said:

“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord;
my spirit rejoices in God my Savior
for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.
From this day all generations will call me blessed:
the Almighty has done great things for me
and holy is his Name.
He has mercy on those who fear him
in every generation.
He has shown the strength of his arm,
and has scattered the proud in their conceit.
He has cast down the mighty from their thrones,
and has lifted up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.
He has come to the help of his servant Israel
for he has remembered his promise of mercy,
the promise he made to our fathers,
to Abraham and his children forever.”

Mary remained with her about three months
and then returned to her home.

Father Robert Elias Barcelos, OCD: Marian Devotion

Ubeda, Museum of St. John of the Cross. Photo Credit: The Speakroom

(REPOST from July 2017)

According to Saint John Paul II, we honor and venerate Mary more than any other human being, more than any faithful disciple of God, more than any saint, but she is still nowhere near her Son. Many of the saints describe that difference as the difference between the glory of the sun, the bright star of day, in comparison to the radiance of the moon. There’s no comparison. The moon receives all of its radiance from our sun. The moon is important at night and brightens the night. Though the moon is nothing compared to the sun, at night, in comparison to the stars of the galaxy, is far superior than any star. So too, Mary is far superior to any saint, but nowhere near her son, the source of her holiness.

Archbishop Sheen says that Mary, the Woman “is not a goddess, she is not divine, she is entitled to no adoration… without Christ she would be nothing.” It almost sounds irreverent and disrespectful, but it’s truthful and is Catholic doctrine. In the Magnificat, when Elizabeth honors her and says, ‘I am not worthy to be in your presence because you contain my savior, the mother of my Lord.’ And in the presence of His tabernacle, she genuflects before Mary who contains the body of Our Lord Jesus Christ. ‘Blessed are you among all women. Blessed are you for your faith. Blessed are you who believed that what the Word promised to you would be fulfilled, which has allowed God’smiracles to happen in the world by the author of all miracles being born through you. After all that, Mary herself says, ‘My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord. ’ It’s not about me. ‘My Spirit rejoices in God my savior because He has looked upon my nothingness.’ I am nothing. He is everything. That is Mary’s Magnificat and represents her attitude. She is so pure and so full of grace. Because she is so selfless, God lives in her. Mary is such a perfect instrument of the Holy Spirit. She is so radiantly immaculate that she is the perfect pure vessel for God to work through her.

When we read Saint John of the Cross, we read about how awesome God is and what He is capable of accomplishing in a human soul; He transforms us to such an extent that we can share in His divine nature, as Saint Peter and Saint Paul say. Saint John of the Cross expresses what this exalted stage of transforming union with God looks like and says that this person who has been transformed in God is so filled with the presence of God that they are like a conduit for God to work through them, to think through them, to speak through them, to act through them, to accomplish God’s work in them. They are so magnificently filled with God that you would think that you are looking at God, but you’re not. It is a human being transformed by the grace of God. If we can say that about an ordinary human being, how much more can we say that about the greatest of all human beings, the mother of the divine redeemer. She’s not divine, but she’s so transfigured by grace, that she is the most perfect instrument of the divine. Not of worship, because that’s for God alone and we should have no false gods before us; we only worship the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The most perfect worshiper of God ever, was Mary. Nobody ever worshiped God with such a perfect love, a purity of heart, with zealous devotion and generosity of spirit than Mary. She had the most intimate relationship with God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit than we can ever imagine or ever duplicate. There’s no greater model. There’s no greater mother. To disrespect her is to disrespect one of God’s greatest gifts, after the Holy Spirit. For us as Carmelites, she is the model of our desire for union with God. It’s her like union with God that’s the inspiration for ours. Our whole identity as Carmelites is to honor that by living it, by allowing Mary to reproduce in us the quality of divine intimacy that she possessed with the Holy Trinity. Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. Amen.

New Podcast Episode: Our Lady of Mt. Carmel

Photo Credit: The Speakroom (Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, Philippines)

New on The Mystical Life podcast, in honor of today’s Feast Day for Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, Father Robert Elias Barcellos, OCD, explains the role of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel in the life of the Carmelite order.

You can listen to this episode below, or subscribe on iTunes (and on Apple Podcasts) or iHeartRadio or your other favorite podcast app.