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 me...my 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 God...how 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 prayers...how can you even approach Him after the day you had?...do 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 day...how 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 habit...to throw myself in the very arms of mercy and love as St. Therese did.

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

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Reminiscing...





As I pulled down my memory box from the shelf to put a couple of things away to remember Gabriel (one of our children resting in Heaven), I decided to go through it while sitting with my husband and two daughters.

Homemade Mother's Day gifts...jewelry boxes and crosses made from popsicle sticks, bubble gum machine rings, handmade picture frames, a pillow with "Mother" on it...

...all the cards my children have given me since they were born...19 years worth...construction paper cards with innocent scribblings and sentiments of love, cards made on the computer or bought at the store, notes of appreciation from struggling teens...

...the many cards my husband made or gave me since we started dating...he chuckles as he looks over them and says "Did I really write that?"...

...my Girl Scout sash with merit badges, a creative writing book from 4th grade, several report cards (yes...I did quite well!)...

I marvel at the many years stashed away and wonder in awe where the time went?

Some memories remain, some have faded with time...God knows which ones are necessary to preserve and those we need to let go of...good and bad...in order to de-clutter our souls to make room for the here and now...this gift of the present moment. 

...which in the blink of an eye will be a memory...to eventually let go of, or hold onto, or maybe tuck away in a box...waiting for another day to be opened once again in order to be filled with gratitude for the time God has blessed us with here on Earth.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Reflections on silence


"I am writing this ahead of time. At the time of this post, my family will be upstate attending my mother-in-law's funeral. She has suffered for many years after a stroke left her almost paralyzed. There is much peace that she is now no longer suffering and is resting in the arms of God.
We appreciate any prayers you can offer...perhaps...a moment of silence."

Blessings ~ Theresa ~

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Conclusion--The Our Father

I have two reflections to share in these concluding posts on the Our Father/Pater Noster: 


From The Way of Perfection, St. Teresa of Jesus states: "We ought to give praise to the Lord for the sublime perfection of this evangelical prayer. Each of us, daughters, can apply the prayer to her own needs since it was composed by so good a Master. I marvel to see that in so few words everything about contemplation and perfection is included; it seems we need to study no other book than this one.

"It has seemed to me that since this prayer was intended for general use so that each of us could petition according to our own intention, be consoled, and think that we have a good understanding of the prayer, the Lord left it in this obscure form. Contemplatives and persons already much committed to God, who no longer desire earthly things, ask for the heavenly favors that can, through God's goodness, be given on earth. Those who still live on earth, and it is good that they live in conformity with their state in life, may ask also for bread. They must be sustained and sustain their household. Such a petition is very just and holy. But both should consider that two of the things mentioned pertain to all: giving him our will and forgiving others." (my emphasis)




In He Leadeth Me, Father Ciszek states: "...only slowly did I come to experience how perfect a prayer is the Our Father, the Lord's Prayer. 'Lord, teach us to pray', the disciples had said, and in his answer the Lord had explained the whole theology of prayer in the most simple of terms, exhaustive in its content and yet intended for the use of all men without distinction. The human mind could not elaborate a better pattern in prayer than the one the Lord himself gave us.

"He begins by placing us in the presence of God. God the almighty, who has created all things out of nothingness and keeps them in existence lest they return to nothingness, who rules all things and governs all things in the heavens and on earth according to the designs of his own providence. And yet this same all-powerful God is our Father, who cherishes us and looks after us as his sons, who provides for us in his own loving kindness, guides us in his wisdom, who watches over us daily to shelter us from harm, to provide us food, to receive us back with open arms when we, like the prodigal, have wasted our inheritance. Even as a father guards his children, he guards us from evil--because evil does exist in the world. And just as he can find it in his Father's heart to pardon us, he expects us to imitate him in pardoning his other sons, our brothers, no matter what their offenses.

"The Our Father is a prayer of praise and thanksgiving, a prayer of petition and of reparation. It encompasses in its short and simple phrases every relation between man and his Creator, between us and our loving, heavenly Father. It is a prayer for all times, for every occasion. It is at once the most simple of prayers and the most profound. One could meditate continuously on each word and phrase of that formula and never fully exhaust its riches. If one could only translate each of its phrases into the actions of his daily life, then he would indeed be perfect as his heavenly Father clearly wishes him to be. Truly, the Lord's Prayer is the beginning and end of all prayers." (my emphasis)


Friday, July 18, 2014

Reflections on silence


"We don't mean to imply all noise is sinful, nor do we intend to imply that all silence is virtuous. However, I think you will agree that much of the disturbing noise in the world can be traced to confusion, turmoil, and despair. Apart from this disquieting effect this pandemonium has on the nervous system, there is still a more serious effect on the soul. The constant chatter of people and the din of mechanical monsters have a way of filling the mind with sounds and confusion from without. The soul cannot hear the still, small voice within; nor can it recollect itself in the midst of the bedlam of its own mind.

From my own experience in the world, I know it is possible, despite the external noise, to listen and hear God in the silence of one's own heart - but I also know it is not easy. People in the world can and do become oblivious of the turmoil; many rise above the turbulent restlessness of created things and spend some time each day in silent prayer."

~Mother Catherine Thomas
"My Beloved: The Story of a Carmelite Nun"

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

O Blessed Feast Day {July 16}


{Icon: Come Lord Jesus by the Carmelite Sisters of Terre Haute, IN}

"May the most holy Virgin Mary confirm you in your Carmelite vocation. May she safeguard your love for the things of the spirit. May she obtain for you the graces you need in your holy, laborious ascent towards the knowledge of the divine realm and the ineffable experiences of its dark nights and light-filled days. May she give you the desire for sanctity, the desire to bear eschatological witness to the kingdom of heaven. May she make you models for all the members of God's Church, and bind you to them in brotherhood. And may she one day lead you into that possession of Christ and his glory which, even now, is the goal towards which your whole life is directed."

Office of Readings for the Solemnity of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel
Reading by Pope Pius VI

Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, pray for us! 

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

St. Teresa and the Lord's Prayer {but deliver us from evil, amen.}


St. Teresa states that, "By the 'amen' I understand that since with this word all things come to an end, the Lord asks that we be freed from all evil forever.

"Deliver me, Lord, from this shadow of death, deliver me from so many trials, deliver me from so many sufferings, deliver me from so many changes, from so many compliments that we are forced to receive while still living, from so many, many, many things that tire and weary me. This weariness must come to me because I have lived so badly, and from seeing that the way I live now is still not the way I should live since I owe so much. I beseech the Lord to deliver me from all evil forever since I do not make up what I owe; it could be that perhaps each day I become more indebted. And what is unendurable, Lord, is not to know for certain that I love you or that my desires are acceptable before you. O my Lord and my God, deliver me now from all evil and be pleased to bring me to the place where all blessings are."

Padre Pio in Secrets of a Soul states "Life here below...is a sorrow for me. Living the life of an exile is such a bitter torment that I can hardly bear it. The thought that I could lose Jesus at any instant causes me such anxiety that I cannot express it." (my emphasis)

So, we do suffer from many evils that threaten and tempt us to forget Jesus while in this life. We ask for the grace to be delivered from what could lead us to lose Him. We ask God to draw us at last away from every evil forever.

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