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

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.

Father Robert Elias Barcelos, OCD: Marian Devotion

Braga, Portugal. Photo credit: thespeakroom

(REPOST from July 2017)

As the shekinah glory, the glory of God which was the palpable presence of God came into the Holy of Holies in the Old Testament, so Christ incarnate made His Holy of Holies in Mary. She became the tabernacle, the ark of the new covenant. Just as the old ark of the covenant would carry the stem of Jesse, which was a foreshadowing of the springtime of the savior’s birth, so Mary carried Jesus as the justice of God that would come in the world. Just as the ark of the covenant contained the commandments and the manna, the bread from heaven, so the Christ is the giver of the law, the bread of life, and the savior of the world.

Mary contained in her womb, He who the whole cosmos could not contain. He who is larger than the universe that He himself made as the work of His hands, was now in her womb. And He who is all-powerful was becoming the most vulnerable as an infant. ‘And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us.’

She is the New Eve, the new Woman, because she is the mother now, of the Almighty author of life. The first Eve, was the first mother, the mother of the living. However, as the Church Fathers say, by the First Eve’s decision, deceit, and disobedience through the subtle lies of the Prince of Darkness in the form of a serpent, opened death into the world. The fruit of that sin was death, and therefore Eve is no longer the mother of the living.

Mary, conceived without sin, that she may be the perfect dwelling place of God’s only-begotten Son, is now the mother of the author of all life, and at the foot of the cross, at Jesus’ dying wish was that she would be the mother of all the living, especially who are his friends and disciples. The second place Jesus refers to Mary as Woman is at the cross, the climactic moment of His incarnation. He says, ‘Woman, behold your son.’ If Jesus had other brothers, he wouldn’t have had to entrust Mary to John. He wouldn’t have had to entrust His mother to someone else’s care. As tradition says, Joseph had already passed on.

More importantly, John stands in proxy for all whom God desires to be His beloved disciples. That’s all of us who would believe in Him. Mary, the perfect Mother, blessed among all women, Jesus’ prized possession on an earthly level, that gift of His human life would be given to us as well so that we would be able to enjoy the sheer gift that God the Father gave Him; the most perfect mother imaginable, the most beautiful woman ever has become our Mother.

That’s not a narrative, a religious idea, or a far-off ideal. We cannot say ‘Jesus is Lord, but in the Holy Spirit,’ as Saint Paul says. We do not say this just with our lips, but to say it conviction and with fervent hope and love, is to proclaim it from the depths of our hearts. ‘Yes, Jesus is my Lord. I believe that He is alive, He is risen, He is real.’ The Holy Spirit helps us to know Jesus personally. The Holy Spirit gives us an encounter with the Risen Christ, an encounter that changes our life, an encounter that helps us to believe that God does love us, not simply because I heard someone else talk about it, not simply because I would hope or wish so, but because I know so from my experience. In the depths of my poverty, in the moment I needed Him most, when I was most hurting and most alone, I knew and I believed. And I received the truth that God does love me. Not because I’m worthy, or I earned it, or because I’m better than anybody else , and I’m perfect – because I’m not and the last to deserve it – but because He is perfect. By Christ, I am His child and beloved by Him, and when I was at my worst, God loved me most. The Holy Spirit allows that truth to become a reality. It’s the Holy Spirit that makes God come alive.

The same Holy Spirit who makes God come alive makes Mary alive to us as Catholics. The Holy Spirit, the spouse of Mary, by which Jesus is conceived in her womb, introduces us to Mary in spirit and in truth. We do not worship her, but we must know who are spiritual mother is. We must know the one who prepared the way for us as believers in Christ. The Holy Spirit reveals to us how beautiful, how real, how motherly she is.

On a natural level, I have always felt comfortable taking refuge in Mary. She has always been a source of consolation. But after my conversion, I felt very close to Jesus, and He became real and alive to me. He became my brother, my best friend, my redeemer, my Lord. But God the Father always felt very distant. Why? Because I never knew my earthly father. Until I was 21, I never had any contact with my earthly father whatsoever. Part of my conversion was meeting my father again, and now we’re best of friends. But I remember that even as a Carmelite Brother in seminary, there was a special time when Jesus was healing my heart and introducing me to the Father’s love. A special part of conversion and deepening of faith is to have all the areas of our lives where we have been wounded filled with God’s love, however He wants to communicate that. And He communicates that love so well, through Mary, not so she can replace Christ, but as the replica of Christ.

In his apostolic letter on the rosary, Saint John Paul II says that Jesus received His divinity from His Father, but He received His humanity from His mother. Therefore, He was a striking resemblance of Mary, and when we pray the rosary, we are at the school of Mary, contemplating the face of Jesus, whose resemblance is that of His mother. Mary reflects Christ as Christ reflects her. There’s a beautiful mother and son connection there. When we put the Sacred Heart of Jesus on the same level as the Immaculate Heart of Mary, it doesn’t mean that they are equal in dignity; it doesn’t mean that we are worshiping her as we worship Jesus. Not at all… (to be continued)

Copyright 2017 Father Robert Barcelos, OCD; transcribed by Teresa Linda

Father Robert Elias Barcelos, OCD: Our Lady of Fatima

REPOST FROM JULY 2017

On October 13th, Our Lady displayed the miracle of the sun, as she had foretold. During the last apparition that took place after that miracle, Our Lady showed herself as Our Lady of Mount Carmel, as representative of the glorious mysteries of the rosary. The apparition had a tremendous impact on the 70,000 people who saw it, many of whom were reporters.

As for the historical context, at that time, atheism was thriving in Portugal, freemasonry had a strong hold on the government, and the people in the government thought that they were going to wipe out religion from Portugal for good, despite the fact that Portugal had a long history of being thoroughly Marian – their kings and queens had consecrated their land to Mary for centuries. These modern atheistic politicians thought that they were going to stamp out religion once and for all, hoping that Lisbon would be the second Moscow.

Mary’s greatest revelation took place at the same time of the Bolshevik Revolution, when Communism was just about to spread. There was the threat of nuclear war, as well as the threat of a totalitarian political system spreading; it did spread, throughout the world. Worst than that, it was a form of government that was anti-religion; it was anti-God.

Communism is an atheism of the will, in contrast to Darwin, who preceded Stalin, which was an atheism of the intellect. Darwinism tries to redefine the origins of humanity on rational terms, according to a particular scientific approach of the origin of the human species. And it ultimately breeds an atheism of the intellect, built on the belief that we can identify where we come from apart from any reference to God, solely based on reason and what we know of life in this world. Marx’s philosophy, however, was an atheism of the will, a deliberate and militant approach to combating religion, as being an obstacle to progress in society, a cause of war and division.

Marxism was being enforced as a political system and wedded to a government. Therefore, it was no longer legal to practice faith freely; people were unable to have bibles, to wear a crucifix around the neck, or go to church publically. The government had legislated churches, but they had control over them, and over what was said. There was a great deal of oppression that was based on a philosophy that was essentially opposed to God.

Mary saw all of this taking place from heaven. And as the first and most important missionary of God, in union with the Lord and in her will united to God’s will, she saw this danger on the rise, and chose to intervene and send a wake-up call to humanity as an echo of the gospel. Fatima is a call to faithfulness, for first of all, the believers.

Mary is the first person to have faith in God’s promise of her Son, as Savior. At the Annunciation, when she said ‘yes’ to God’s will that she would be the mother of the Messiah, she was the first to believe in the Messiah, as it was directly communicated to her by the Archangel, Gabriel.

The first to believe became the most important of all believers. As the first Missionary, she didn’t just receive that gift and keep it to herself. Right away, she went out of herself to share it with others. Even in heaven, after the drama of all that had unfolded in redemption, from the wood of the crib to the wood of the cross, to Pentecost and ultimately the Coronation, Mary was integrally interwoven with all the important events of salvation from the life of Our Lord. She was there, participating fully, in the most important events of Jesus’ life. Whether physically and immediately present, as at the foot of the cross, or in the manger, or amidst the apostles during Pentecost, or whether from a distance, participating spiritually, as in Jesus’ ministry, one way or another she was always there.

In the disposition of the handmaid of the Lord in the service of her son, and as the spouse of the Spirit and the daughter of the Father, she was there. And she continues to be there. She continues to be a mother who is in love with her children and who has a profound love for them. She cannot keep silent in the face of her children being in danger. When she sees her children in danger, she has to speak out, and she does.

Fatima is one of the most prophetic Marian apparitions, one of the most timely, and relevant for our day and age. From Pius the XIIth to most recently Pope Francis, and everyone in between, especially Saint John Paul II, with the assassination attempt on his life on May 13th, the day commemorating Our Lady’s first apparition, all of the popes of the past century have said how important the message of Fatima is to us still today. Pope Benedict XVIth and Saint John Paul II said that the message is even more applicable than it was in 1917.

What happened back then? On May 13 until October 13, 1917, our Blessed Mother appeared. Historically, this was right after the first World War and before the second World War, the most horrific wars in recorded history. Mary prophesied that if men did not repent and convert, there would be a far worst war than the first. And certainly, the events of the Holocaust and WWII were worst than those in the first World War.

In the horizon, she saw a possibility, that if people did not seriously change, something catastrophic would happen, just as God told the people of Nineveh through Jonah. Through the preaching of Jonah, the people of Nineveh did change and nothing happened, because there was a change of life, and therefore, a change of outcome. The accumulated consequences and the worsening sins of the people of Nineveh, didn’t catch up with them. At Fatima, Our Lady wanted to reach out to her children as loving Mother.

Father Robert Elias Barcelos, OCD: Our Lady of Fatima

(REPOST from June 2017)

Fatima, Photo credit: The Speakroom

The first time I went to Fatima, and this has never happened since, I walked into the square. When it is cold outside and when you go into a house as you open the door, a wave of heat just comes over you. When I walked into the square, a wave of Mary’s motherly love came over me, and it almost brought me to tears. It took my breath away. I felt the affectionate care of a mother. I’ve had a wonderful mother, and my upbringing helps me easily relate to Mary by nature. But what is so beautiful about God’s redemption is that He brings good out of everything.

Whether we’ve had difficulty with our relationships with our mother or our father, God can fill in the voids in our life – the absence, the neglect, whether through divorce, death, separation – God can fill those gaps with His love as Father, and His love as mother coming to us through Mary. As an instrument of God’s love for us, Mary helps us to know the maternal affection in a spiritual way that is specific for a woman to give. It is uniquely her, but it points to the divine.

Mary is at the heart of salvation history, biblically, and in our own time. We can understand this biblically through the lens of the simple word, ‘Woman,’ with a capital W. When Jesus uses that term, he uses it to identify Mary as the New Eve, just as Saint Paul identifies Jesus as the new Adam. What does this mean? A new humanity. God is starting over. He is giving us a way to be healed, to be set free, to be made new, through the New Adam and the New Eve, by baptism, through His life, death, and resurrection. We become regenerated, born again, receiving a new life and identity. As Saint Thomas Aquinas says, our dignity becomes super-elevated to share in God’s divine nature. We’re given a new destiny.

Jesus uses the term ‘Woman’ at very important moments – at the wedding feast at Cana, when we see the intercession of Mary among the disciples; we see that amidst this family celebration of love, at a moment of crisis, amidst this feast, was a dilemma. The disciples, in their dilemma, went first to Jesus’ mother and whispered their need to her. She simply made that need known to her Son and Jesus replies, ‘Woman, what does that have to do with me?’ This event is poorly translated in English and unfortunately, many Protestants poorly misinterpret Christ’s words as a sign of disrespect to Mary, almost as if Jesus or John the Evangelist foresaw that Catholics would one day “worship” Mary and this is the biblical proof, when only the Bible alone has authority, 1500 years later. That is an absolutely false theology.

Jesus doesn’t say “Woman” as a show of disrespect but as a show of exalted honor. In so doing, He says, ‘Mother, you are the New Eve. You are going to share with me in this mission, and if I manifest my divine identity, if I let who I am out by this miracle, then Calvary is just around the corner. It’s going to go down! Get on the roller coaster, and put on your seat belt, because the moment this miracle happens, it will all start. Are you ready for this?’ He says, ‘My hour has not yet come! The moment that I was born for, to give my life to save the world, the moment I manifest the miracle, that hour will be upon us. The enemy is going to be looming, and you’re going to be there with me. Are you ready?’

And He performed the miracle. What does Our Lady do? She nonchalantly returns to the disciples, not wanting the limelight, and very humbly, modestly asks them, ‘Do whatever He tells you. If you know what’s for your own good, if you know what’s in your best self-interests, if you want to spare yourself unnecessary suffering, if you want the recipe for sanctity, if you want happiness – do whatever He tells you.’

Sister Lucia, the only surviving visionary of the three Fatima children, and who later became a Carmelite nun, in her book, The Call to Fatima, says that ‘Do whatever He tells you’ is Mary’s only commandment. Her only commandment is seen in Cana. ‘Listen to Him,’ just as the Father said at the Baptism and the Transfiguration. Listen means obey, which means submit – in submission. Enter into His Mission for your life. That is the model of Mary’s vocation. She leads us to obedience and to a life of allegiance to Jesus. Her only desire is that we lead a life in allegiance to Jesus, not allegiance to her.

Brother John Mark Charlesworth, OCD: The Holy Trinity

The Sea of Galilee, Photo credit: Miriam Lopez
Click on the triangle to listen to Brother John Mark, OCD sing his composition of a song about The Holy Trinity

NOTE: Brother John Mark is a friar at Mount Saint Josephs Monastery in San Jose, California. One of his many hobbies is writing poetical lyrics and transposing them onto well-known Catholic tunes.

What love henceforth comes from my heart,
To Thee my God, as One yet Three,
But how can I in Thee take part?
By what Each One does lovingly.

I thank Thee Father for Thy love,
For deigning I, created be,
Sustaining too, that high above,
I someday love eternally.

For sharing now with love Thyself,
For gift of faith, for Church of Thine,
And all relations, vows, and health,
As all’s by Providence, Divine.

I thank Thee Jesus, loving so,
For Incarnation, life on Earth,
Thy granting grace, that love may grow,
For Passion having endless worth.

For Sacraments, such gifts, sublime,
And by them, grace throughout my days,
For Mary, being Mother, mine,
Enkindling love with loving gaze.

I thank Thee, Spirit, Love, Divine,
For love enflaming deep within,
That I may love with love of Thine,
As Heaven, here below, begins,

For having one so weak proclaim,
No matter what, deep love and praise,
For having love change all to gain,
As in Thy hands, I’m all my days.

O Trinity, with love of Thine,
Art reaching deep within to me
Thy very Self, Thy Love Divine,
I love unto eternity! Amen.