Friday, August 22, 2014

Reflections on silence

"In my limited experience, I have come to realize that the necessity for silence does not apply only to monks and nuns in monasteries and hermitages: it applies to everyone.  Everyone needs to rediscover some silent, quiet space within himself or herself just to maintain basic sanity.  The simplicity of silence creates this inner space within us, a space where the integration of our scattered powers becomes possible.

"In this space, we cultivate both exterior and interior silence that fosters and builds up the inner unity of our beings.  Silence creates that wide open space within, where guided by the Holy Spirit, we can come to the knowledge and experience of the living God and where we can better apprehend the mystery of his infinite love for each of us.  Silence purifies our vision, cleanses our hearts, and strengthens and deepens our prayer.  The simplicity of silence brings light and clarity to our minds; it grants peace, tranquility, and perseverance as we toil daily.  Silence is the inner source of strength, harmony, and stability in our daily endeavors. It provides with the groundedness we need, keeping us centered, reminding us always of what the Gospels call the unum necessarium...the only one thing that is necessary."

~ Brother Victor-Antoine D'Avila-Latourrette
"The Gift of Simplicity

{Painting by Fransisco de Zurbaran}

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Sacred Fire: Practicing Devotion to the Heart of Jesus {book review}

I had the privilege of reviewing Sacred Fire: Practicing Devotion to the Heart of Jesus by Philadelphia born, Philip Michael Bulman.

Honestly, even though we had our home enthroned to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and we have an image of it on our fireplace mantle as well as over our bed...I really didn't know much about the origin of this devotion and really haven't felt led to look any further.  I didn't know if I would really stick with this book...but that fear was allayed once I glanced at the table of contents and started reading the first chapter.

This book introduces devotion to the Sacred Heart as a simple way to enter into an intimate relationship with God.

This book is rich in scriptural references and even devotes a whole chapter on scriptural foundations and the Heart of Jesus. Did you know the word heart appears 1000 times in the Bible?  God's and ours.

The beginning chapters focus on the many revelations from Jesus to some of our beloved Saints beginning with the beloved disciple, St. John who at the Last Supper reclined on the very Heart of Jesus.  I was edified to see two chapters devoted to the influence of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in Carmel especially St. Teresa Margaret Redi of the Sacred Heart and St. Teresa of the Andes.  These were my favorite chapters of course!

The book is not just limited to the Sacred Heart but also includes the revelations to St. Faustina on the Divine Mercy and the blood and water pouring forth from the Heart of Jesus.

The relationship between Eucharist and the Sacred Heart is also explored.

"The Eucharist is one of the primary means Jesus uses to pour out the treasures of His Sacred Heart on humanity."

The remaining chapters are dedicated to the actual devotion and the many ways one can foster this devotion in their lives.

I can truly say this book was an enjoyable read and has enlightened me and I now feel drawn closer to the Sacred Heart of Jesus asking Him to dwell within.  As St. Teresa Margaret states, "I enclose myself in Your loving Heart as in a desert in order to live in you."

Friday, August 15, 2014

Reflections on silence

Only silence guards the mystery of the journey that a person walks with God, said Pope Francis in his homily at Mass on Friday morning at the Casa Santa Marta. May the Lord, the Pope added, give us “the grace to love the silence”, which needs to be guarded from all publicity.
In the history of salvation, neither in the clamour nor in the blatant, but the shadows and the silence are the places in which God chose to reveal himself to humankind.
The imperceptible reality from which his mystery, from time to time, took visible form, took flesh. The Pope’s reflections were inspired by the Annunciation, which was today’s Gospel reading, in particular the passage in which the angel tells Mary that the power of the Most High would “overshadow” her. The shadow, which has almost the same quality as the cloud, with which God protected the Jews in the desert, the Pope said.
“The Lord always took care of the mystery and hid the mystery. He did not publicize the mystery. A mystery that publicizes itself is not Christian; it is not the mystery of God: it is a fake mystery! And this is what happened to Our Lady, when she received her Son: the mystery of her virginal motherhood is hidden. It is hidden her whole life! And she knew it. This shadow of God in our lives helps us to discover our own mystery: the mystery of our encounter with the Lord, our mystery of our life’s journey with the Lord.”
“Each of us,” affirmed the Pope, “knows how mysteriously the Lord works in our hearts, in our souls.” And what is “the cloud, the power, the way the Holy Spirit covers our mystery?”
“This cloud in us, in our lives is called silence: the silence is exactly the cloud that covers the mystery of our relationship with the Lord, of our holiness and of our sins. This mystery that we cannot explain. But when there is no silence in our lives, the mystery is lost, it goes away. Guarding the mystery with silence! That is the cloud, that is the power of God for us, that is the strength of the Holy Spirit.”

The Mother of Jesus was the perfect icon of silence. From the proclamation of her exceptional maternity at Calvary. The Pope said he thinks about “how many times she remained quiet and how many times she did not say that which she felt in order to guard the mystery of her relationship with her Son,” up until the most raw silence “at the foot of the cross”.

~ Vatican Radio 
Feast of the Annunciation

Friday, August 8, 2014

{my} Reflections on silence

Calm...tranquility...peace...those words whispered on lips is enough to invoke peace in the soul.

"God was not in the earthquake..."

In 1 Kings 19:11, we read that Elijah was told to "Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the LORD, for the LORD is about to pass by..."

In the wind, the fire, the earthquake...God did not speak to to Elijah. But "in the gentle whisper". This message is essential to Carmel even all of us seeking His Presence...His voice.

God is not in the inner turmoil, the ceaseless activity, the sensational. He can be found only in interior calm. For if we are fleeting from one task to another, or spending all our extra time on the computer, phone, or TV...there is little room left to hear Him.

In Carmelite Ascetism by Father Anastastius of the Holy Rosary, OCD, he states:

"There is a calm which, avoiding illusion and idleness, helps the soul to correspond generously with the intimate workings of grace, and shields it from the weariness of inward or outwads disturbance, the frequent cause of the most perilous inconstancy...Without peace of soul and equilibrium there can be no lasting results. It is in peace of soul that the God of peace wills to be served." (my emphasis)

That is not to say God is not present when the house is a mess, or children are acting up, and our home is anything but peaceful...but interiorly there has to be a peace that stems from that God has everything in control even amongst chaos.

And yet it is vital to the spiritual life to take just a bit of time for nurture that interior silence and peace that will carry us through the crazy moments. It is possible for us...God is ready with the graces...we have only to ask. He is not asking for hours of silence as practiced in the monasteries, but only silent moments that we can offer Him during the course of our day. God sees our intentions and our efforts, and that is very pleasing to Him.

The question is "When?" For me personally, I take the time after I have read aloud to my youngest daughter and she is settling in. I take time to place myself in His Presence, to do some spiritual reading to initiate meditation, and then taking the time to listen. It's not always easy to tame the thoughts that are racing through my what's still left to accomplish, is that bill paid yet, what I am wearing to that party this weekend, what am I cooking this know...really deep spiritual matters! I at least try to calm my mind at first by doing some deep breathing and repeating the "Jesus Prayer". Spiritual or scriptural reading is a must for me to refocus my attention on the Lord.  Sometimes...there are no words and I rest in His Presence.

If it is at all possible, I find it a wonderful practice to get up maybe 15 minutes earlier than the rest of the household and sit by the window with a cup of coffee Morning Prayer and thank God for the new day He has blessed me with. I love this time...those sacred moments just as dawn is approaching and the house is silent. The anxious thoughts of the day haven't quite woken up yet! Unfortunately, since I take call several nights a week for work and do get called in the middle of the night, this is not always a extra 15 minutes of sleep in the morning can seem more heavenly to me than prayer itself! Despite the difficulties, if you can get into this practice, you will be truly spiritually enriched.

If either of the above are not an option at all, think of all those scattered moments throughout the day (or night!) when you can grab a few moments of silence. How about those precious moments of nursing a baby in the middle of the night? Despite our grogginess, we can still offer that time of silence to God and open our hearts to what He wants to tell us. If you ever get the opportunity to drive alone or with a quiet one, don't turn on the radio. If you get a rare chance to soak in a tub, or shower, don't let the thoughts and anxieties of the day clutter your mind...instead practice some deep breathing and place yourself in the Presence of God. Do you get some free moments in the laundry room? I find the repetition of folding laundry can induce a quiet state of listening. Nature also gives us wonderful opportunities for reflecting on God's beauty in creation, so take advantage of those moments during your nature walks or looking out your window. Exteriorly, we can also maintain a "spirit of silence" by keeping the radio or TV to a minimum or decreasing the time we spend on the phone or emailing (if extended for too long, it can lead to idle chatter).

One of the wonderful and blessed consequences of making an effort to embrace being alone in quiet to become aware of God's Presence is that we might just discover the One Thing that can fill the emptiness of our hearts and once filled our soul will rest tranquility.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Prayer life in the Transfiguration

I picked up the scripture reading for today the night before.  It is one I have heard and read hundreds of times before.  It is the beautiful story of the Transfiguration of Christ.

I realized it is also the journey of prayer.

Jesus took Peter, John, and James 
and went up the mountain to pray.

And behold, two men were conversing with him, Moses and Elijah, 
who appeared in glory and spoke of his exodus 
that he was going to accomplish in Jerusalem.

We are called, too, to go *up the mountain*.  To seek solitude and silence away from the busy distractions of daily life.  St. John of the Cross invites us to ascend Mt. Carmel.  Moses went up the mountain to receive God's law. Elijah climbed the mountain to hear the still small voice of God.  Jesus climbed the mountain of Calvary to fulfill the law. It is by ascending above earthly things that we can then prepare ourselves to receive the Word.

Peter and his companions had been overcome by sleep, 
but becoming fully awake, 
they saw his glory and the two men standing with him.

Sometimes we are overcome by sleep during prayer...overcome by depression, weariness, dryness.  But we are called to remain vigilant...the Bride awaiting the visit from the Bridegroom.  St. Teresa of Avila reminds of the need for determined determination.  We need to be fully awake, aware of His Presence, to be able to welcome Him and to behold Him in contemplation, if He so chooses to grant this grace to us.  By remaining *awake*, we will be rewarded.

As they were about to part from him, Peter said to Jesus, 
“Master, it is good that we are here;
let us make three tents,
one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”
But he did not know what he was saying.

And we should proclaim the same, "Lord it is so good to be here in Your presence, to talk with you and to listen!"  We may receive many consolations in the beginning of our prayer journey and there may be the desire to remain in those consolations, never to return to the daily...the ordinary...the mundane...the dry. We may even become attached to these feelings and concepts of God that we are receiving.

While he was still speaking, 
a cloud came and cast a shadow over them, 
and they became frightened when they entered the cloud.

There will come a point in the spiritual journey, if we have been determined, vigilant, and faithful, that we will enter a period of darkness...the *Dark Night* referred to by the Mystical Doctor of Carmel, St. John of the Cross. First our sense will be purified, then the spirit.  It will seem as if we have a dark cloud hanging over us. It will be obscure, foggy, frightening, lonely.  We have to cling to our faith and know that God is there in the dark cloud, speaking to us subtly, calling us to Him.

Then from the cloud came a voice that said, 
“This is my chosen Son; listen to him.”
After the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone.
They fell silent and did not at that time 
tell anyone what they had seen.

No matter where we are on our spiritual journey, we must always keep the humanity of Jesus Christ before meditate imitate.  We are called, most importantly, to listen to Him.  But unless we fall silent, we will not hear his voice.  It is in hiddeness that He speaks, in the depths of our soul and we, experiencing this contemplation, will not find the words to express what takes place in our soul.  In emptiness and darkness, we receive the Indwelling Trinity...we are filled with light.

{post from the archives that I love to share every year on this day}

Friday, August 1, 2014

Reflections on silence

"Without oxygen our bodies cannot live: without silence there can be no spiritual life for a Carmelite.

"Silence has been defined significantly by one Carmelite as 'solitude of the soul'.

"'In the day of judgment men will be brought to account for every thoughtless word they have spoken,' is to realize the importance of stilling the tongue. External though it may be, to neglect this control, even in a small way, would be a grave mistake.: we should thereby endanger our spiritual silence which is the very soul of our Carmelite ideal. 

"Note how it is the asceticism of detachment...that must still the voice of created things in the soul. It is the demands of the sense appetites, the turmoil of the imagination, the curiosity of the mind, and the desires of the will, that have to be overcome by the peace of interior silence, in preparation for the gift of divine silence which will be ours, if God so will, at the summit of the ascent.

"In this divine silence, too, God's promise will be fulfilled: 'I shall lead her into solitude and speak to her heart.'

"The deep silence of Carmel is, then, neither empty nor desolate. God is true to His word: He is ever present, and the mysteries of His voice fill the solitude of our hearts."

~ Fr. Anastastius of the Holy Rosary OCD
"Carmelite Asceticism"

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Trusting God with St. Therese {a book review...and why I love this book!}

I am excited about this book and when I am passionate about a book, I love to share what I think.  I am writing this review of "Trusting God with St. Therese" by Connie Rossini of my own accord and not on behalf of any company.

As a Secular Carmelite, I have been exposed to many different writings from our great Carmelite Saints.  In regards to St. Therese, I have only read A Story of a Soul.  Seeing that there was already a plethora of books on her, I felt overwhelmed by the choices and also felt that one too many books have been written regarding her, even though she is my patron saint.  I kept a safe distance.

A fellow blogger who knows my personality very well highly recommended Trusting God with St. Therese by Connie Rossini.  I was already familiar with Connie's blog and loved her writings which emanated from a contemplative, Carmelite soul.

Trusting God with St. Therese
is a unique book written in a style that I appreciated very much.  It is a hard book to put down and yet, you have to put it down at times to really reflect on the writings and questions at the end of each chapter.

I loved how the author chronologically went through important aspects of St. Therese's life, pulling from various resources.  In each chapter, a facet of St. Therese's life was highlighted, then the author shared a similar experience from her own life and within each chapter, a specific aspect of trust was explained and they all tied together perfectly.  The author's life experiences were honest, real and raw and though I did not undergo the same situation in every case, I could truly relate to what she was sharing and was able to really empathize.  In addition, you will learn the signs of distrust in God.  Each chapter concludes with questions for consideration as well as some practical points to help one begin the journey of trusting God more. 

This book will challenge you in a way you may never have thought of before...a challenge to trust God with our whole being.  I received much consolation in the mercy and love of God after reading this.  I cried, I prayed, and I experienced a peace I have not in a while.  Through the author's insights into the life of St. Therese and even of her mother, Zelie Martin, I realized it is not perfection that makes us saints but learning to trust God in every situation and at every moment.

                            "She knew the desert lay ahead of her, as it did for all Carmelites."

I started reading Trusting God with St. Therese during a time of many exterior and interior trials. The Holy Spirit has definitely led me to read this book at a time when I needed it the most. It was time for me to learn how to really trust in God.

"Self-absorption makes holiness impossible."

I realize some of the symptoms/signs of distrust in God listed in the book are similar to the long term depression that I am experiencing.  One of the quotes from the book aptly describes how the Evil One can use our psychological ills to lead us to despair, "The Devil could have used Therese's psychological distress to bring her to the point of utter helplessness."  He tries to do this in my own life, especially when I am sleep deprived. But I also recognize that a large majority of my signs were due to my lack of trust in God, not only in great trials...but also in the little vexations, imperfections and irritations that I deal with on a daily basis.  I was not trusting God with all the circumstances and situations that surrounded weaknesses, finances, jobs, house repairs, car accidents, adult children away from the Church, ailing parents.  These are only a small portion of the greater circumstances threatening our world in which we also need to trust God with.

"Imagine viewing the annoyances of our days not as personal affronts, but as gifts we can give to Jesus with love!"

"To suffer according to the heart of God, one need not suffer with courage like a hero.  It is enough to suffer as Jesus did at Gethsemane."  (Therese and Lisieux)

I received much consolation in reading in regards to our loved ones who are away from the Church, especially our children.  "I firmly believe that God will answer our prayers for our loved ones to be saved.  We can never trust God too much.  If we place complete trust in Him, miracles will occur, as they did for Abraham.  Let us offer our loved ones to God.  Let us believe that he can raise them from the death of sin, even as Abraham believed God could raise Isaac."  "Let us hope against hope." (my emphasis)  I realized I was carrying the burden of parental mistakes as well as the poor decisions some of my adult children have made.  When I focused on this area in particular, I felt I could not raise my eyes to displeased He must be looking down on me as a mother!  How wrong I was in creating my own yoke and burden when God was asking that I carry only His!

"Then I realized I had created my yoke and burden with my preconceived ideas about parenthood."

One of the most powerful chapters was the last one in which the sickness and death of St. Therese is described.  Although in spiritual darkness with no consolation, Therese trusted in God's great mercy.  This quote from St. Therese just blew me away: "My sister, if you desire God's justice, you will have God's justice.  The soul receives exactly what she looks for from God."  It really opened my eyes to how I was judging myself and how I viewed God was judging me...that I was displeasing to God because I failed Him daily...carrying the burden of my children's mistakes as well as my own.  I felt unworthy going to prayer although God gave me the graces to keep my commitment to prayer despite what the Evil One was trying to make me believe: "You failed again...God does not want to hear your can you even approach Him after the day you had? you realize what a failure you are as a mother?"  Reading this book has strengthened my resolve to continue to run to God in my weakness and nothingness regardless of how many faults I committed that many times I did MY will, not God's.

Like the author, one of my favorite images is the penitent woman at Jesus' feet...bathing them in tears...wiping with her hair...anointing them with oil.  In the book, one of the practices she mentions is asking Jesus for a kiss...a blessing...when we sin...when we are doing the best we can with God's graces but still failing in a particular area.  I started picturing myself as the woman kissing Jesus' feet and asking for a blessing in return. This is a practice that I hope will become a throw myself in the very arms of mercy and love as St. Therese did.

{all quotes in italics are taken directly from the book}

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