Thursday, April 28, 2016

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Revisiting Contemplative Renewal

I have long believed there is a kind of contemplative renewal occurring in the Church. From where I sit, I've seen an ever growing body of evidence that this is the case. An increase of Eucharistic adoration, a re-focus on the Hearts of Jesus and Mary, an emphasis on Divine Mercy, interests in contemplative prayer and monastic life and silent retreats. So many things make me think this has all been growing, hidden, in the darkness of a world increasingly confused about Truth.

This renewal has not arrived with the fire and exuberance of some other movements.  It is growing in a quiet, hidden way. 

One cannot make this sort of thing happen here or there or anywhere; one can only be a yes to God and make oneself available.  And one "yes" - one unconditional, unqualified yes to the will of God - can reverberate throughout the whole earth.  I believe we are seeing fruits of some of these yeses, this very day.

Tough times produce tough yeses. These yeses may not be spoken in the midst of great emotion.  They may be uttered in the pain of darkness, or with the sting of aridity, or with the apprehension of knowing that those who stand for the Truth of Christ are often scorned and looked down upon.  This in itself makes the yeses unconditional. I think the blooms of contemplative renewal are being spotted here, and there, across the earth.  They have been growing hidden, their roots spreading deep under the soil.


It is a struggle to get these words down, for I suspect they sound a bit dramatic.  But in 1995 I made an attempt to speak of this to a priest, a man (now deceased) who traveled the world teaching the Truth of Christ.  He responded:  "you write of a 'contemplative renewal.'  Yes.  We are shoots of a larger growth - of the Spirit - coming up everywhere.  There is hope.  It is He."  

Those looking for fanfare and accolades for their opinions don't pay much attention to little clumps of flowers here and there.  But little clumps of pray-ers, rooted securely in the Church, are the ones God has always used to hold the fertile soil of His world together.    

Yes, there is hope.  It is He.




Reconciled To You and Theology Is A Verb 



Text not in quotes

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

No Wicked Thing




"He who does not wish the enemy to force 
his way into the fortress must keep the gate closed."

St Francis de Sales




"I will set no wicked thing before my eyes." (Psalm 101:3) 

"Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things." (Philippians 4:8)

Sunday, April 24, 2016

The Soul's Uprooting


'Our soul is like a garden in which the weeds are ever ready to choke the good plants and flowers that have been sown in it.

'If the gardener who has charge of this garden neglects it, if he is not continually using the spade and the hoe, the flowers and plants will soon disappear. Thus, my children, do the virtues with which God has been pleased to adorn our soul disappear under our vices if we neglect to cultivate them.

'A vigilant gardener labors from morning till night to destroy the weeds in his garden, and to ornament it with flowers, so let us labor every day to uproot the vices of our soul and to adorn it with virtues.

'See, my children, a gardener never lets the weeds take root, because he knows that then he would never be able to destroy them. Neither let us allow our vices to take root, or we shall not be able to conquer them.'

St. Jean Vianney


Top Painting: Anders Zorn, Dandelions 

Bottom painting: Sir Hubert von Herkomer, The Old Gardener

Thursday, April 21, 2016

His Garden of Delights



'You are an enclosed garden, My sister, My bride, 
an enclosed garden, a fountain sealed.' (Song of Songs 4:12)



Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Revisiting My Dry Garden


Monasteries are not drought-proof.  When skies close up and rains no longer soak the ground, monastery fields and gardens are no less subject to dryness than are any other plots of land.

The monastery of the heart is not drought-proof, either.  Sometimes we feel as if our souls are barren, lifeless, parched.  There are days when our prayers seem to go nowhere, times when we feel that God Himself has left the universe to dry up and wither to dust.

If we’ve ever felt this way, we are not alone.  “I could neither pray nor read,” wrote St. Teresa of Avila about one such experience, “but there I remained, for hours and hours together, uneasy in mind and afflicted in spirit on account of the weight of my trouble, and of the fear that perhaps after all I was being tricked by the devil, and wondering what in the world I could do for my relief.  Not a gleam of hope seemed to shine upon me from either earth or heaven; except just this: that in the midst of all my fears and dangers I never forgot how Our Lord must be seeing the weight of all I endured….”

So:  we’re not alone in having such experiences.  But what do we do about them?

I have found that the saints help in this kind of challenge.   

"If you do nothing else the whole time of prayer than bring your heart back and put it beside Our Lord, although each time you do so it turns away from Him, your hour will be very well employed.” (St. Francis de Sales) 

"His will is, that entering into prayer, we should be prepared to suffer the pain of continual distractions, dryness and disgust, which may come upon us, and that we should remain as constant as if we had enjoyed much peace and consolation.  It is quite certain that our prayer will be none the less pleasing to God nor less useful to ourselves, for having been made with difficulty.” (St. Francis de Sales)


Reconciled To You and Theology Is A Verb 


     

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

In A Monastery Garden


'The beginner must think of himself as setting out to make a garden in which the Lord is to take His delight, yet in soil most unfruitful and full of weeds.  

'His Majesty uproots the weeds and will set good plants in their stead.  

'We have now, by God’s help like good gardeners, to make these plants grow.  We must water them carefully, so that they may not perish, but may produce flowers which shall send forth great fragrance to give refreshment to this Lord of ours, so that he may often come into the garden to take his pleasure and his delight among these virtues.' 

St. Teresa of Avila






To our e-mail subscribers: this post features a 5-minute video, which may be seen by going to the blog itself. On a personal note: when I began viewing this, I thought it might be too long. By the time it was halfway through and the chant had begun, I wanted it never to end.

Painting: Albert Edelfelt

Monday, April 18, 2016

If a Little Flower

'If a little flower could speak, it seems to me that it would tell us quite simply all that God has done for it, without hiding any of its gifts. It would not, under the pretext of humility, say that it was not pretty, or that it had not a sweet scent, that the sun had withered its petals or the storm bruised its stem.' (St. Therese of Lisieux)

'The splendor of the rose and the whiteness of the lily do not rob the little violet of its scent nor the daisy of its simple charm. If every tiny flower wanted to be a rose, spring would lose its loveliness.' (St. Therese of Lisieux)

Where I live, spring is suddenly upon us. It's a good time for visiting cloister gardens, so I think I'll spend the next few days doing exactly that.

Care to come along?






Painting: Eleanor Fortescue Brickdale, Clare Tending Plants



Sunday, April 17, 2016

For See, the Winter is Past

'Arise, My beloved, My beautiful one, and come!  For see, the winter is past, the rains are over and gone.  The flowers appear on the earth. The time of pruning the vines has come, and the song of the dove is heard in our land. The fig tree puts forth its figs, and the vines, in bloom, give forth fragrance. Arise, My beloved, My beautiful one, and come!'

Song of Songs 2:10-13 

























Friday, April 15, 2016

Every Place, Your Place

'O Holy Spirit, let me never forget Your Presence; never fail to remember Your goodness!
 
Since in every place I am reminded of You, in every place will I worship You. Since You are present every moment, in every moment I will remember You.

For every place is Your place, and every moment Your moment. The whole earth is Your temple. All time is Yours. And my song of thanksgiving, my hymn of praise, my act of adoration is always called for. Here and there and everywhere, always and ever, You are my God. And I am ever and always Your child.' 

(The Living Pyx of Jesus, Pelligrini, 1941, p. 150)

Thursday, April 14, 2016

A Morning Habit



I sometimes forget that the monastic habit is not something one puts on once and for all and for ever. Of course it isn't.

Nuns and monks dress anew in their habits every morning, usually turning even the act of dressing into an opportunity to renew their consecrations to Christ.

'Vesting ourselves each morning in the habit is a prayer and a renewal of our commitment,' wrote the Passionist Nuns of St. Joseph Monastery. Anyone interested in prayer, habits, or cloistered life (yes, I'm smiling) will surely enjoy the Sisters' article "The Clothing of a Nun" (click here to link).

And what about those of us who do not wear the pieces of a habit?

I find great richness in the following morning prayer:

    'As they begin to dress, they will make the sign of the cross and say:
    Cover me, Lord, with the cloak of innocence and the robe of love.
    My God, do not let me appear before You stripped of good works.'
    (St. Francis de Sales, Spiritual Directory)

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Revisiting A Shower of Blessings


Each time I say a deeper yes to God, I battle thoughts about what to expect. Will a giant cavern suddenly open up beneath my feet? Will I be asked to hike barefoot through burning deserts?

I really should know better by now.


Funny that I seldom consider (when I'm uttering deeper yeses) the truth that God's will is always for my good. This does not mean that difficult circumstances won't pop up from time to time, for of course they shall. But they will do so with or without my yes to God. The truth is: God showers me with blessings. I may not always recognize them as such, but the blessings are abundant. Jesus is with me, and nothing can pull Him from my heart. I possess the very satisfaction that all are seeking and that no one can really find without finding Him. 

I know I say it over and over (no doubt because I need to hear it over and over), but every time I step more deeply toward God, I am met with nothing short of a celebration. Whether or not I can "tell this" from my earthly perspective, it is in fact what is happening. 


I really should know that by now. 



"I know well the plans I have for you, says the Lord; plans for your welfare, not for woe!  Plans to give you a future full of hope.”  (Jeremiah 29:11) 


"Freed from the heavy burden of my own will, I may breathe freely under the light load of love.”  (St. Bernard of Clairvaux)


“The height of loving ecstasy is when our will rests not in its own contentment, but in God’s will.” (St. Francis de Sales) 


“I am the Gate. Whoever enters through Me WILL BE SAFE.” (Jesus, quoted in John 10:9)

 
Reconciled To You and Theology Is A Verb 


      


Painting: Federico Andreotti, in US public domain due to age; image cropped and digitally altered

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Suscipe


     'Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty,
     my memory, understanding, and my entire will,
     all I have and possess.

     Thou hast given all to me.
     To Thee, Lord, I return it.

     All is Thine; 
     dispose of it wholly according to Thy will.

     Give me only Thy love and Thy grace,
     for this is sufficient for me.'

     St. Ignatius Loyola







Painting: John Henry Frederick Bacon, Suscipe me Domine


Sunday, April 10, 2016

On the Edge of My Knowing

Photo Attribution: Kitaev Hermitage. Click for link.

In a recent dream, I found myself in an urban neighborhood at dusk, making my way across back yards crammed with people. The yards were narrow strips of land belonging to detached rowhouses standing side by side. The people appeared to be waiting for something; perhaps a baseball game, or fireworks on the fourth of July. Some seemed irritated. Sounds of traffic surrounded us all.

My trek from yard to yard was halted when I reached a building extending farther back than the others. It looked like any other building, but I knew it was a church. There was an entrance facing me; a small, humble, very plain side door. I opened it and stepped inside.

The interior was larger than I expected. Dark, cool, with walls and floors of deep reds and browns.  Every surface gleamed with a warm patina, like stones worn smooth by years of prayer.

The overall sense was of a cavern, one lit only with candles. Small clusters of burning white tapers kept vigil along the long walls.

By now it was dark outside, and I knew the people were still out there, still packed in, still noisy, still waiting. From inside, however, I could no longer hear them. There were no more sounds of traffic. I knew only silence, and subtle scents of incense and beeswax, and a gently growing awareness of someone here, on the edge of my knowing.

I had thought I was alone, all by myself in this silent church. Yet now I knew an unseen sense of Presence.

He was in this place; of course He was.  I'd only needed to come away for a moment from the noise, so I could hear Him. I needed to be where His silence filled the air.

He had been waiting for me to stop and listen.

He had been waiting all along.




"I have a secret dwelling place, a sanctuary closed to the world and occupied by God alone, where I can always say 'O my God! I belong to You!' Neither afflictions, nor tempests, nor the clamour of the world, can tear me away from this secret abode, from this hidden Sanctuary where I can always converse with God, in a mysterious friendship which is the beginning of Heaven." (The Living Pyx of Jesus, Pelligrini, 1941, p. 95) 

'To be with God it is not necessary to be always in church. We may make a chapel of our heart, whereto to escape from time to time to talk with Him quietly, humbly and lovingly.... Begin then; perhaps He is waiting for a single generous resolution.' (Brother Lawrence)  

'We are, each of us, a Living Cathedral. Each is his own chapel. And provided we are in a state of grace, God lives and dwells within us… we must live and act as if we were dwelling in a church in the presence of the Tabernacle.” (The Living Pyx of Jesus)

Photo: Kitaev Hermitage. Click for full attribution.


Friday, April 8, 2016

Am I Not a Living Pyx?



'I shall not become immobile in ecstatic adoration, because my duties oblige me to work. But I shall not work in a turmoil, without an inspiration of adoring love, for my faith reminds me of the Guest whom I bear within me, for am I not a living Pyx?

'I am busy because it is my duty. But I do not work without God, because the Most High God never leaves me alone.'

(The Living Pyx of Jesus, Pelligrini, 1941, p. 103)



Painting: Edouard-Jean Dambourgez, A Pork Butcher's Shop

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Revisiting My Digressions

To digress, says the dictionary, is to turn aside or wander from the main subject temporarily.

The Main Subject:  God.

Digression:  my distractions in the midst of prayer.  Do I turn aside from God?  No, not deliberately.  Do I wander from paying attention to Him?  That is a good question.  My will, in a time of prayer, may or may not stray.

My mind?  Now there's the great wanderer, the little nomad, the part that goes missing in action without so much as a fare-thee-well.  It can later be found in the most unlikely places, having chased every "wheeeeeeeeeeeee, let's follow this!" mental breeze.   

Temporarily is the final word in the dictionary definition.  This is a word that gives me hope.  My distractions are not a permanent condition.  It is only when I will not hope in GOD that I become hopeless .... and that, itself, can be a temporary state.  The instant I turn and place my hope in Him - that's the instant when hope is restored.  That is when God has the last word. 

Even when I ask forgiveness of sin, my repented-of failings are rendered "temporary."  Everything in this life will one day fall into that category.

Imagine being able to concentrate fully on the Main Subject, the one thing necessary.

Imagine dwelling eternally where all digressions have ceased.



Reconciled To You and Theology Is A Verb 


       



Painting; John Singer Sargent, Capri Girl on a Rooftop, detail