A beautiful hymn from the Irish Philharmonic Chorus for this blessed day of Maundy Thursday.
A beautiful hymn from the Irish Philharmonic Chorus for this blessed day of Maundy Thursday.
Today is “Spy Wednesday”, the last full day of Lent. It gets its name because this is the day on which Judas Iscariot slipped away to betray Jesus to the Sanhedrin. His sly actions conjure up the image of a spy.
“The Chief Priests and the Ancients of the people, are met today, in one of the rooms adjoining the Temple, for the purpose of deliberating on the best means of putting Jesus to death. Several plans are discussed. Would it be prudent to lay hands upon Him at this season of the Feast of the Pasch, when the City is filled with strangers, who have received a favourable impression of Jesus from the solemn ovation given to him three days back? Then, too, are there not a great number of the inhabitants of Jerusalem, who took part in that triumph, and whose enthusiastic admiration of Jesus might excite them to rise up in His defence? These considerations persuade them not to have recourse to any violent measure, at least for the present, as a sedition among the people might be the consequence, and its promoters, even were they to escape being ill-treated by the people, would be brought before the tribunal of the Roman Governor, Pontius Pilate. They, therefore, come to the resolution of letting the Feast pass quietly over, before apprehending Jesus.
But these blood-thirsty men are making all these calculations as though they were the masters. They are, if they will, shrewd assassins, who put off their murder to a more convenient day: but the Divine decrees, – which, from all eternity, have prepared a Sacrifice for the world’s salvation, — have fixed this year’s Pasch as the day of the Sacrifice, and, tomorrow evening, the holy City will re-echo with the trumpets, which proclaim the opening of the Feast. The figurative Lamb is now to make way for the true one; the Pasch of this year will substitute the reality for the type; and Jesus’ Blood, shed by the hands of wicked priests, is soon to flow simultaneously with that of victims, which have only been hitherto acceptable to God, because they prefigured the Sacrifice of Calvary. The Jewish priesthood is about to be its own executioner, by immolating Him, whose Blood is to abrogate the Ancient Alliance, and perpetuate the New one.
But how are Jesus’ enemies to get possession of their Divine Victim, so as to avoid a disturbance in the City? There is only one plan that could succeed, and they have not thought of it: it is treachery. Just at the close of their deliberations, they are told that one of Jesus’ Disciples seeks admission. They admit him, and he says to them: What will you give me, and I will deliver him unto you?
They are delighted at this proposition: and yet, how is it, that they, doctors of the law, forget that this infamous bargain between themselves and Judas has all been foretold by David, in the 108th Psalm?They know the Scriptures from beginning to end; — how comes it, that they forget the words of the Prophet, who even mentions the sum of thirty pieces of silver? Judas asks them what they will give him; and they give him thirty pieces of silver! All is arranged: tomorrow, Jesus will be in Jerusalem, eating the Pasch with His Disciples. In the evening, He will go, as usual, to the Garden on Mount Olivet. But how shall they, who are sent to seize Him, be able to distinguish him from his Disciples? Judas will lead the way; he will show them which is Jesus, by going up to him and kissing him!
Such is the impious scheme devised on this day, within the precincts of the Temple of Jerusalem.” – (From ‘The Liturgical Year, by DOM GUÉRANGER, Abbot of Soleses)
But is this “impious scheme” of Judas’ so very different to the way many of us act today? Judas was one of the chosen twelve; he must have gladly followed Jesus at first, when Jesus taught that which Judas could accept. In John 6 Jesus gives the first discourse on the Holy Eucharist, announcing that He is “the living bread” and “the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world” and repeating it again to make His meaning clear, and adding: “He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath everlasting life: and I will raise him up in the last day.” Many said this was “a hard saying” and “no longer walked with Him.” Immediately after Jesus speaks of one of the Apostles as “a devil”, and John tells us that He was speaking of Judas! So it seems clear that Judas, like many of the Disciples, did not like what he heard… just like so many Catholics in the Church today who do not like what they see as “hard sayings”, though these are Jesus’ own teachings given to His Church. They go along when Christianity agrees with their own ideas and views, and abandon Our Blessed Lord and His teaching when it requires faith, trust, humility and sacrifice. Judas is what many of us can become: fine with Catholic teaching when it suits our needs, but scandalised when confronted by a vision that violates our own reasoning.
From Benedict XVI’s Wednesday Audience of Holy Week in 2007:
“In today’s Liturgy the Evangelist Matthew presents for our meditation, the brief dialogue between Judas and Jesus that took place at the Upper Room. “Is it I, Master?” the traitor asked the Divine Teacher when foretold, “Truly I say to you: one of you will betray Me.” The Lord’s answer was incisive: “You have said so.” For his part, John concludes the narrative announcing Judas’ betrayal with a few portentous words: “It was night.” When the traitor left the Upper Room, thick darkness gathered in his heart; it was an inner night. Bewilderment increased in the hearts of the other disciples, they too were moving toward ‘night’; while the steadily darkening twilight of abandonment and hatred hung over the Son of Man, Who was preparing to consummate His Sacrifice on the Cross. What we shall be commemorating in the coming days is the supreme battle between Light and Darkness, between Life and Death. We must also put ourselves in this context, aware of our own ‘night’, of our sins and our responsibility if we want to benefit spiritually from the Paschal Mystery; if we want our hearts to be enlightened through this Mystery, which constitutes the very centre of our Faith.”
As daylight waxes, we, gazing into a mirror, see more plainly the soils and stains upon our face; and even so as the interior light of the Holy Spirit enlightens our conscience, we see more distinctly the sins, inclinations and imperfections which hinder our progress towards real devotion. And the selfsame light which shows us these blots and stains, kindles in us the desire to be cleansed and purged therefrom.
You will find then, my child, that besides the mortal sins and their affections from which your soul has already been purged, you are beset by sundry inclinations and tendencies to venial sin; mind, I do not say you will find venial sins, but the inclination and tendency to them. Now, one is quite different from the other. We can never be altogether free from venial sin, at least not until after a very long persistence in this purity; but we can be without any affection for venial sin. It is altogether one thing to have said something unimportant not strictly true, out of carelessness or liveliness, and quite a different matter to take pleasure in lying, and in the habitual practice thereof. But I tell you that you must purify your soul from all inclination to venial sin; that is to say, you must not voluntarily retain any deliberate intention of permitting yourself to commit any venial sin whatever. It would be most unworthy consciously to admit anything so displeasing to God, as the will to offend Him in anywise. Venial sin, however small, is displeasing to God, although it be not so displeasing as the greater sins which involve eternal condemnation; and if venial sin is displeasing to Him, any clinging which we tolerate to mortal sin is nothing less than a resolution to offend His Divine Majesty. Is it really possible that a rightly disposed soul can not only offend God, but take pleasure therein?
These inclinations, my child, are in direct opposition to devotion, as inclinations to mortal sin are to love: they weaken the mental power, hinder Divine consolations, and open the door to temptations; and although they may not destroy the soul, at least they bring on very serious disease. “Dead flies cause the ointment to send forth a stinking savour,” says the Wise Man. He means that the flies which settle upon and taste of the ointment only damage it temporarily, leaving the mass intact, but if they fall into it, and die there, they spoil and corrupt it. Even so venial sins which pass over a devout soul without being harboured, do not permanently injure it, but if such sins are fostered and cherished, they destroy the sweet savour of that soul – that is to say, its devotion. The spider cannot kill bees, but it can spoil their honey, and so encumber their combs with its webs in course of time, as to hinder the bees materially. Just so, though venial sins may not lose the soul, they will spoil its devotion, and so cumber its faculties with bad habits and evil inclinations, as to deprive it of all that cheerful readiness which is the very essence of true devotion; that is to say, if they are harboured in the conscience by delight taken therein. A trifling inaccuracy, a little hastiness in word or action, some small excess in mirth, in dress, in gaiety, may not be very important, if these are forthwith heeded and swept out as spiritual cobwebs; but if they are permitted to linger in the heart, or, worse still, if we take pleasure in them and indulge them, our honey will soon be spoilt, and the hive of our conscience will be cumbered and damaged. But I ask again, how can a generous heart take delight in anything it knows to be displeasing to its God, or wish to do what offends Him?
Sports, balls, plays, festivities, pomps, are not in themselves evil, but rather indifferent matters, capable of being used for good or ill; but nevertheless they are dangerous, and it is still more dangerous to take great delight in them. Therefore, my child, I say that although it is lawful to amuse yourself, to dance, dress, feast, and see seemly plays, at the same time, if you are much addicted to these things, they will hinder your devotion, and become extremely hurtful and dangerous to you. The harm lies, not in doing them, but in the degree to which you care for them. It is a pity to sow the seed of vain and foolish tastes in the soil of your heart, taking up the place of better things, and hindering the soul from cultivating good dispositions. It was thus that the Nazarites of old abstained not merely from all intoxicating liquors, but from grapes fresh or dried, and from vinegar, not because these were intoxicating, but because they might excite the desire for fermented liquors. Just so, while I do not forbid the use of these dangerous pleasures, I say that you cannot take an excessive delight in them without their telling upon your devotion. When the stag has waxed fat he hides himself amid the thicket, conscious that his fleetness is impaired should he be in need to fly: and so the human heart which is cumbered with useless, superfluous, dangerous clingings becomes incapacitated for that earnest following after God which is the true life of devotion. No one blames children for running after butterflies, because they are children, but is it not ridiculous and pitiful to see full-grown men eager about such worthless trifles as the worldly amusements before named, which are likely to throw them off their balance and disturb their spiritual life?
Therefore, dear child, I would have you cleanse your heart from all such tastes, remembering that while the acts themselves are not necessarily incompatible with a devout life, all delight in them must be harmful.
Furthermore, my child, we have certain natural inclinations, which are not strictly speaking either mortal or venial sins, but rather imperfections; and the acts in which they take shape, failings and deficiencies. Thus St. Jerome says that St. Paula had so strong a tendency to excessive sorrow, that when she lost her husband and children she nearly died of grief: that was not a sin, but an imperfection, since it did not depend upon her wish and will. Some people are naturally easy, some oppositions; some are indisposed to accept other men’s opinions, some naturally disposed to be cross, some to be affectionate – in short, there is hardly any one in whom some such imperfections do not exist. Now, although they be natural and instinctive in each person, they may be remedied and corrected, or even eradicated, by cultivating the reverse disposition. And this, my child, must be done. Gardeners have found how to make the bitter almond tree bear sweet fruit, by grafting the juice of the latter upon it, why should we not purge out our perverse dispositions and infuse such as are good? There is no disposition so good but it may be made bad by dint of vicious habits, and neither is there any natural disposition so perverse but that it may be conquered and overcome by God’s Grace primarily, and then by our earnest diligent endeavour. I shall therefore now proceed to give you counsels and suggest practices by which you may purify your soul from all dangerous affections and imperfections, and from all tendencies to venial sin, thereby strengthening yourself more and more against mortal sin. May God give you grace to use them.
As Christians we rejoice for Jesus Christ is Lord. God is King. Sin and death have been defeated. At the same time, we mustn’t succumb to a “cheap grace” interpretation of Christianity, whereby Christ is risen and all is well. As Julian of Norwich said, “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.” Notice the future tense!
The definitive battle has been won, but the war continues. St. Paul knew this well. His strategy, as we know, was to go to synagogues first, for the message he had was a distinctively Jewish message: that the long-awaited Messiah had come.
Many Jews listened – and this was the beginning of Paul’s church. We hear that in Antioch practically the whole city gathered to listen to Paul and Barnabas. But “when the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy and with violent abuse contradicted what Paul said.” Please don’t fall into an anti-Semitic trap here, for many of the Jews did listen to him. But from the beginning, this message was opposed.
Why? The most basic reason is that acknowledging the Lordship of Jesus means that your life has to change. For many this is liberating good news, but for others it is a tremendous threat. If Jesus is Lord, my ego cannot be Lord. My country cannot be Lord. My convictions or culture cannot be Lord.
The Resurrection is the clearest indication of the Lordship of Jesus. This is why the message of the Resurrection is attacked, belittled, and explained away. The author of Acts speaks of the “violent abuse” hurled at Paul. What was Paul’s reaction to this? He “shook the dust from [his] feet in protest against them, and went to Iconium” where he was “filled with joy and the Holy Spirit.”
We’re up against a great mystery here. We are called to announce the good news to everyone, but not everyone will listen. Once we’ve done our work, we should move on and not obsess about those who won’t listen. Why do some respond and some don’t? Finally, that’s up to God.
The key to gaining mastery over sin is to realise that you cannot do it alone without inner peace and certainty of success. The more you fear and struggle, the more sin sucks you in. Watch this:
Though Bear Grylls manages to extricate himself, it is only because he is secure in the knowledge that the film crew will save his life, should he fail, by throwing him a rope, and that he is well trained in the practice. Understanding the physics of subduction helps him too.
We face quicksands of sin throughout our lives, right up to the hour of our death. We must rest assured that Mary, the Angels and the Saints are there, watching, ready to offer assistance,
by throwing us a Vine.
A hearty Protest made with the object of confirming the Soul’s resolution to serve God, as a conclusion to its acts of Penitence - (taken from St. Francis de Sales’ ‘Introduction to the Devout Life’.)
Having made our General Confession, let us resolve to maintain our firm purpose of amendment with these words:- “I, the undersigned, in the Presence of God and of all the company of Heaven, having considered the Infinite Mercy of His Heavenly Goodness towards me, a most miserable, unworthy creature, whom He has created, preserved, sustained, delivered from so many dangers, and filled with so many blessings: having above all considered the incomprehensible mercy and loving-kindness with which this most Good God has borne with me in my sinfulness, leading me so tenderly to repentance, and waiting so patiently for me till this (present) year of my life, notwithstanding all my ingratitude, disloyalty and faithlessness, by which I have delayed turning to Him, and despising His Grace, have offended Him anew: and further, remembering that in my Baptism I was solemnly and happily dedicated to God as His child, and that in defiance of the profession then made in my name, I have so often miserably profaned my gifts, turning them against God’s Divine Majesty: I, now coming to myself prostrate in heart and soul before the Throne of His Justice, acknowledge and confess that I am duly accused and convicted of treason against His Majesty, and guilty of the Death and Passion of Jesus Christ, by reason of the sins I have committed, for which He died, bearing the reproach of the Cross; so that I deserve nothing else save eternal damnation.
But turning to the Throne of Infinite Mercy of this Eternal God, detesting the sins of my past life with all my heart and all my strength, I humbly desire and ask grace, pardon, and mercy, with entire absolution from my sin, in virtue of the Death and Passion of that same Lord and Redeemer, on Whom I lean as the only ground of my hope. I renew the sacred promise of faithfulness to God made in my name at my Baptism; renouncing the devil, the world, and the flesh, abhorring their accursed suggestions, vanities and lusts, now and for all eternity. And turning to a Loving and Pitiful God, I desire, intend, and deliberately resolve to serve and love Him now and eternally, devoting my mind and all its faculties, my soul and all its powers, my heart and all its affections, my body and all its senses, to His Will. I resolve never to misuse any part of my being by opposing His Divine Will and Sovereign Majesty, to which I wholly immolate myself in intention, vowing ever to be His loyal, obedient and faithful servant without any change or recall. But if unhappily, through the promptings of the enemy, or human infirmity, I should in anywise fail in this my resolution and dedication, I do most earnestly resolve by the grace of the Holy Spirit to rise up again so soon as I shall perceive my fall, and turn anew, without any delay, to seek His Divine Mercy. This is my firm will and intention, my inviolable, irrevocable resolution, which I make and confirm without any reserve, in the Holy Presence of God, in the sight of the Church triumphant, and before the Church militant, which is my mother, who accepts this my declaration, in the person of him who, as her representative, hears me make it. Be pleased, O Eternal, All-Powerful, and All-Loving God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, to confirm me in this my resolution, and accept my hearty and willing offering. And inasmuch as Thou hast been pleased to inspire me with the will to make it, give me also the needful strength and grace to keep it. O God, Thou art my God, the God of my heart, my soul, and spirit, and as such I acknowledge and adore Thee, now and for all eternity. Glory be to Jesus. Amen.”
HAVING made this resolution, wait attentively, and open the ears of your heart, that you may in spirit hear the absolution which the Lord of your soul, sitting on the throne of His Mercy, will speak in Heaven before the Saints and Angels when His Priest absolves you here below in His Name. Be sure that all that company of blessed ones rejoice in your joy, and sing a song of untold gladness, embracing you and accepting you as cleansed and sanctified. Of a truth, this is a marvellous deed, and a most blessed bargain for you, inasmuch as giving yourself to His Divine Majesty, you gain Him, and save yourself for eternal life. No more remains to do, save to take the pen and heartily sign your protest, and then hasten to the Altar, where God on His side will sign and seal your absolution, and His promise of Paradise, giving Himself to you in His Sacrament, as a sacred seal placed upon your renewed heart. And thus, dear child, your soul will be cleansed from sin, and from all its affections. But forasmuch as these affections are easily rekindled, thanks to our infirmity and concupiscence (which maybe mortified, but which can never be altogether extinguished while we live), I will give you certain counsels by the practice of which you may henceforth avoid mortal sin, and the affections pertaining thereto. And as these counsels will also help you to attain a yet more perfect purification, before giving them, I would say somewhat concerning that absolute perfection to which I seek to lead you. (To be continued.)
I. – The Life
St. Teresa was born in Gotarrendura, Avila, Castile, of Alonso Sanchez de Cepeda and Beatrice (Beatriz) de Ahumada on 28th March, 1515, 500 years ago. As a child she ran away from home in search of martyrdom at the hands of the Moslems Her desire was ‘to see God’, which was later to be realized in her exercise of mental prayer, which particularly in the form of contemplation, is of course nothing else than the knowledge and love of the Most Blessed Trinity as a foretaste of the Beatific Vision.
After a period of a certain levity and frivolity, although in innocence, she was entrusted by her father to the educative care of the Augustinian nuns of Avila, whence she later entered in the order of Our Lady of Mount Carmel.
She was animated with a desire for perfection even if until her forties remained a religious of merely average virtue. One morning as she entered the convent oratory, she was profoundly moved at the sight of the Ecce Homo – the wounds, the blood, the lacerated flesh. In this period she read the Confessions of St. Augustine and felt she had encountered a great spirit, a great heart on fire with the flame with which she also was consumed: love, love to the point of sacrifice, to the point of death.
Exceptional Graces are granted her: the prayer of quiet, of union, and frequent visions. She feels the need to embrace a life of greater austerity and mortification, and receives permission to found a monastery where, in contrast to the laxness and the dissipated spirit of the religious life of her day, the primitive Rule is to be observed in all its severity, where absolute poverty and a prayer-life of great intensity are cultivated.
Another important motive for this foundation is the Lutheran heresy.
‘About this time I heard of the miseries of France’ she writes in the Way of Perfection (1.2), ‘and of the disorders and havoc those Lutherans had committed there, and how rapidly this miserable sect went on increasing. This afflicted me exceedingly; and as if I could have done something, or had been something, I cried to our Lord, and implored Him to remedy so great an evil. It seemed as if I could have laid down a thousand lives, to recover only one of those innumerable souls who are lost in that heresy. But seeing myself only a woman, and so wicked too, and prevented from promoting as I desired the glory of God (and all my care was, and is still, that as He has so many enemies and so few friends – these last at least might continue good), I resolved to do the little which lay in my power, viz. to follow the evangelical counsels with all the perfection I could, and to induce the few nuns who are here to do the same, confiding in the great goodness of God, who never fails to assist those that are determined to leave all things for Him; and hoping (these nuns being such as I had represented them in my desires) that, in the midst of their virtues, my faults and imperfections might have no force, and that thus I might be able in something to please our Lord…’
After the first Monastery dedicated to St. Joseph, many others followed, as the saint undertakes a reform of the Carmelite friars as well. For a while her work is held in check by the Calced, or unreformed, Carmelites, who also detain her collaborator St. John of the Cross in prison, submitting him to scourging and other maltreatments, until at last permission is given to continue the reform. After a long illness she dies on the 4th. October 1582 in profound peace, a smile upon her lips.
II – The Doctrine
On the saint’s Feast day, the prayer of the Mass contains the following words: ‘caelestis eius doctrinae pabulo nutriamur, et piae devotionis erudiamur affectu’. Her doctrine is called ‘celestial’ and indeed forms the basis for her later nomination as Doctor of the Church, together, of course, with St. John of the Cross.
St. Teresa teaches with the same St.John, that all are called to the mystic union with God, even in this life.
The means to this end are the perfection in the virtues and the faithful and diligent practice of meditative prayer. Following her mentor St. Peter of Alcantara, she counsels a form of simple meditation consisting of reading devout literature, particularly the Holy Scripture, and that which speaks of Our Lord Jesus Christ, a little at a time, and pausing to meditate upon the words when they strike one, then proceeding with the reading in the same way. The person must persevere in this practice despite temptations and aridity, and the Lord will perhaps reward him with the prayer of recollection of simple affectionate vision of simplicity. This prayer is however not yet contemplative in the strict sense of passive, infused, contemplation, but only in the active, acquired sense.
To find God, St Teresa explains in the same Way of Perfection, ‘the soul does not require wings to fly and seek Him, but she can compose herself in solitude and behold Him within herself: and let her not separate from so good a Guest, but with great humility speak to Him as a Father, entreat Him as a Father, relate her troubles to Him, and beg a remedy for them, knowing that she is not worthy to be His daughter….This kind of prayer, though it be vocal, recollects the understanding much sooner, and is a prayer that brings with it many benefits. It is called the prayer of recollection, because in it the soul recollects all the faculties, and enters within herself with her God; … Those that can thus shut themselves up in this little Heaven of our soul, where He abides who created heaven and earth; and they who can also accustom themselves not to behold, or stay where these exterior senses distract them, let them believe that they walk in an excellent way, and that they shall not fail of being able to drink the living water from the fountain…’
At this stage in the ascent of the soul to God, there follows the ‘Night of the Senses’, with its pain, illnesses, aridity, violent temptations, and contradictions, which serves to detach the subject from creatures, pleasures, and self, to attach him to God in a state of passive recollection, at the beginnings of infused contemplation. In her ‘Relation to Father Rodrigo Alvarez’ the saint writes: ‘The soul seems to desire to withdraw itself from the external tumults retreating into herself; and sensing that they sometimes come after her, feels the need to close the eyes and not see, nor hear, and not understand anything but that with which she is now occupied, that is to to be able alone to treat with God alone.’
Then it is that a deep and delightful peace inundate the soul in a sweet and supernatural sleep which dilates and enormously expands her love. This is the ‘prayer of quiet’. It is most of all the will that participates in this joy, happy to be enslaved in this way by God and happy to enjoy this union with Him, like St. Mary Magdalen in the presence of Our Lord.
In the ‘prayer of union’, not only the will but all the other faculties – intelligence, memory, imagination – are suspended and immersed in God. The soul feels so united with God that it is impossible for her to doubt their interpenetration. She is inundated with an extreme loving tenderness and filled with courage. This is the time for heroic resolutions, and ardent desires, accompanied by a horror for the World and all worldly vanities. This prayer admits of various degrees and can assume an ecstatic quality. Despite the fact that God wounds the soul with arrows of love and inflames her with the most holy desires, He does not cease to purify her with great internal and external trials. This is the ‘passive night of the spirit’ in the words of St. John of the Cross. ‘When I think of these pains’, writes the saint in ‘The Interior Castle’, ‘I fear that if we had foreseen them, it would have been very difficult for our natural weakness to have resolved to bear them.’
These trials prepare the soul to enter the ‘Seventh Mansion’, the state of ‘transforming union’, or ‘spiritual marriage': the highest and most sublime degree of prayer possible on this earth. This prayer too has various phases or stages. the Divine Spouse communicates his invitations of a more and more intimate and delicate nature, and unites Himself to her to such an extent that she forgets all things and has only one thought: how to please Him. He immerses her in a calm and sweet state, usually without raptures and ecstasy, in which she sees the Three Divine Persons of the Most Holy Trinity communicate Themselves to her ‘in a representation of the Truth’, whereby it is especially the Second Person Who contracts an alliance of affection with her. The soul resolves zealously to pursue the interests of the Beloved, with an immense desire to suffer and to labour therein, while at the same time exclaims with St. Paul: ‘Cupio dissolvi et esse cum Christo’.
This then is the mystical doctrine of St. Teresa, always combined with the ascetic doctrine (as we have already seen at the initial stage of the spiritual life): the perfection of the soul notably in the virtues of humility, detachment, abnegation of self, and of Charity.
III – A Message for Us
Sometimes people will ask about Church teaching: ‘How is all that relevant to us?’ The answer is that the Church teaches the Truth, and the Truth is always relevant, even in its smallest details. But the life and doctrine of St. Teresa do indeed have a particular relevance to-day in that they teach us what is prayer and give witness to the importance of self-sacrifice.
Today there is, in the first place, much ignorance about prayer, and, in the second place, a spirit of activism which either supplants prayer or attempts to insinuate itself within it. When one speaks to the faithful of prayer to-day, they will probably think immediately of vocal prayer such as the Rosary, or prayers of petition in general. If they know anything about mental prayer, they will think of meditation, the type of mental prayer that involves the exercise of the mind. Who thinks of contemplation, where the mind is completely passive, the type of prayer to which Our Lord is calling us all?
As for self-sacrifice, this virtue essential for the Christian life is but seldom preached by the contemporary men of the Church, while they have done their best to suppress that great model and teacher of self-sacrifice which is the Holy Mass according to the venerable Roman rite: this rite about which St. Teresa said that she would have gladly given her life for the least of its rubrics. This is the virtue, then, that resonates from every page of her writings: essential for progress in prayer and for the work of perfection of oneself: that is for our sanctification, for the attainment of that degree of Glory in Heaven for which God has created us.
So, dear reader, take courage after the example of this great saint: dedicate yourself to prayer with greater seriousness, and any-one contemplating a religious vocation, dare to follow the example of St. Teresa and her first communities: ‘True cenacles of souls thirsting for perfection, desirous to repair with their love the innumerable offenses against God, longing for a life of cordial intimacy with Him’ (Fr. M.N. Morando, Introduction to the ‘Opere di Santa Teresa di Gesù’ on which this short treatment is principally based). We have only one life, and there follows Eternity.
So if we want to celebrate the fifth centenary of a famous figure and their Reform, let us not turn to Martin Luther along with certain of our more muddleheaded contemporaries, but to St. Teresa, inspired, not to praise him or to ‘clamber up mirrors’ trying to reconcile Truth and Falsehood, but to repair the damage he caused to Our Holy Mother the Church with all the strength of her soul. Let us follow in her footsteps in a life of self-sacrifice: to console His Divine Majesty as much as lies in our power, and to sanctify our souls for the love of His Most Holy Name. Amen.
Saint Teresa of Avila, Pray for us!
Without Mary the Mother of God, we fallen creatures would be provided with Divine Justice and Mercy which are pure masculine.
May God preserve us from that!
And so He did. From the Cross, Jesus gave us His own Mother as our own. A Mother able to soften the heart of God Himself, to move Him to Mercy on our behalf for She is a creature just like us except sin.
I do wish our separated brethren would learn to see Mary in this light. We Catholics do not worship Her as divine for she isn’t, but She is the Mother of God nonetheless.
Today, the Pope commended all the souls lost in the Alps disaster to the care of Mary. (I do the same for all my dying patients.) In her keeping they are safest.
We would like to invite you to sign the letter below, to be sent to the press in support of them, and to encourage others to sign it.
To sign, please leave your name and your diocese in the comments box below, or if you prefer email them to us via. our ‘Contact Us’ link, or to one of the coordinators:
Mark Lambert (email@example.com) or Andrew Plasom-Scott (firstname.lastname@example.org)
We, the undersigned, wish to endorse and support the letter signed by over 450 priests in the recent edition of the Catholic Herald, http://bit.ly/19kuBkl
As laity, we all know from our own family experiences, or those of our friends and neighbours, the harrowing trauma of divorce and separation, and we sympathise with all those in such situations.
It is precisely for that reason that we believe that the Church must continue to proclaim the truth about marriage, given us by Christ in the Gospels, with clarity and charity in a world that struggles to understand it.
For the sake of those in irregular unions, for the sake of those abandoned and living in accordance with the teachings of the Church, and above all for the sake of the next generation, it is essential that the Church continues to make it quite clear that sacramental marriage is indissoluble until death.
We pray, and expect, that our hierarchy will represent us, and the Church’s unwavering teaching, at the Synod this autumn.
On this Palm Sunday, I should like to reflect on a King and an ass. A donkey, an ass, was in Jesus time much what it is today: a humble, simple, unassuming little animal, used by very ordinary people to do their work. The wealthy and powerful might own horses or a team of oxen and a political leader might ride a stately steed, but none of them would have anything to do with donkeys.
All of his public career, Jesus had resisted when people called him the Messiah. He sternly ordered them to be silent. When they came to carry him off and make him King, he slipped away. But he is willing to accept these titles precisely at the moment when he rides into Jerusalem on an ass. The Gospel is clear: this is not only an ass; it is a colt, the foal of an ass, on whom no one had ever previously sat. This is a young, inexperienced, unimpressive donkey. And this is the animal upon whom Jesus rides into town in triumph.
This is no ordinary King; this is not the Messiah that they expected.
Now let us look even more closely at the ass. Jesus tells two of his disciples to go into a neighboring town and to find this beast of burden. “If anyone asks, respond, ‘the Master has need of it.'” The humble donkey, pressed into service, is a model of discipleship. Our purpose in life is not to draw attention to ourselves, to have a brilliant career, to aggrandize our egos; rather our purpose is to serve the Master’s need, to cooperate, as he sees fit, with his work.
What was the donkey’s task? He was a Christopher, a Christ-bearer. He carried the Lord into Jerusalem, paving the way for the passion and the redemption of the world. Would anyone have particularly noticed him? Probably not, except perhaps to laugh at this ludicrous animal.
The task of every disciple is just the same: to be a Christopher, a bearer of Christ to the world. Might we be unnoticed in this? Yes. Might we be laughed at? Of course. But the Master has need of us and so we perform our essential task.
From “Introduction to the Devout Life” by St. Francis de Sales.
Having then gone through this course of meditations, approach your General Confession with humility, yet confidently; but do not allow yourself to be perplexed with fears. The scorpion who stings us is venomous, but when his oil has been distilled, it is the best remedy for his bite;—even so sin is shameful when we commit it, but when reduced to repentance and confession, it becomes salutary and honourable. Contrition and confession are in themselves so lovely and sweet-savoured, that they efface the ugliness and disperse the ill savour of sin.
Simon the leper called Magdalene a sinner, but Our Lord turned the discourse to the perfume of her ointment and the greatness of her love. If we are really humble, my daughter, our sins will be infinitely displeasing to us, because they offend God;—but it will be welcome and sweet to accuse ourselves thereof because in so doing we honour God; and there is always somewhat soothing in fully telling the physician all details of our pain.
When you come to your spiritual father, imagine yourself to be on Mount Calvary, at the Feet of the Crucified Saviour, Whose Precious Blood is dropping freely to cleanse you from all your sin. Though it is not his actual Blood, yet it is the merit of that outpoured Blood which is sprinkled over His penitents as they kneel in Confession. Be sure then that you open your heart fully, and put away your sins by confessing them, for in proportion as they are put out, so will the Precious Merits of the Passion of Christ come in and fill you with blessings.
Tell everything simply and with straightforwardness, and thoroughly satisfy your conscience in doing so. Then listen to the admonitions and counsels of God’s Minister, saying in your heart, “Speak, Lord, for Thy servant heareth.” It is truly God to Whom you hearken, forasmuch as He has said to His representatives, “Whoso heareth you, heareth Me.” Then take the following protest, as a summary of your contrition, having carefully studied and meditated upon it beforehand: read it through with as earnest an intention as you can make.
There are a number of Catholic bloggers and sites that are ringing some very loud alarm bells these days. The question is being asked: What is happening in our Catholic Church that heresy is being tolerated, and (dare I say it?) even defended, whilst those Catholics who stand firmly by the Magisterium of the Catholic Church’s teachings are being bullied, silenced and scorned! That these things should happen coming from those outside the Catholic Church is only to be expected – we know the ‘Bride of Christ’ will always be “a sign of confrontation between the forces of good and evil” in the world – but here we are talking of certain members of the Catholic Church’s hierarchy itself, and baptised fellow Catholic laymen, who are not upholding the Church’s doctrinal teachings.
Take a look at this Remnant video that uncovers clearly just some of the troubles. It is placing a lot of the blame on the Supreme Pontiff, Pope Francis, who appears to be doing nothing to confront any of these issues, sorry to say.
Three days ago the Catholic Herald reported that almost 500 priests of England and Wales are petitioning the Holy Father and the next Synod on the Family that doctrine and practice must ‘remain firmly and inseparably in harmony’ . This has been discussed in further detail by Catholic bloggers here, here and here… among others I might add, including the great canonist, Ed Peters. These are good and faithful priests, but why should it even be necessary for them to have to voice such an appeal? And why are some of them not receiving loyal back-up from their bishops or cardinals?
John Henry Westen, Co-Founder & Editor-in-Chief of LifeSiteNews.com is a strong defender of Life, the Family, and Catholic orthodoxy; he has this to say:
“Right now, confusion is spreading among Catholics “in an alarming way.”
Those are the startling words of Cardinal Raymond Burke, from LifeSite’s in-depth exclusive interview with him published yesterday.
The Cardinal’s statement may seem stark, but unfortunately, I think he’s right.
Like the Cardinal, every day I read and hear of more and more people who are claiming that the Catholic Church has somehow changed Her perennial teachings on issues like marriage, homosexuality, contraception, abortion, and divorce.
Of course, we know that’s not true, and that those teachings will never change. But that doesn’t change the fact that this widespread confusion is seriously damaging the Church’s efforts to build a Culture of Life, and to save souls!
Just take a look at a handful of the unbelievable stories we’ve had to report on in just the past few days:
* A New Jersey bishop supports a Catholic school that fired a teacher because she defended traditional marriage on her personal Facebook page, even citing Pope Francis as a reason for the firing!
* San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone faces outright mutiny from his Catholic teachers, simply because he clarified that they must follow Catholic teachings.
* The general secretary of the Ontario bishops assembly openly supports the province’s new sex-ed curriculum, which promotes gay unions and “gender identity” from the earliest grades.
* For the first time in the New York St. Patrick’s Day parade’s history, a group of homosexual activists marches under their own banner, which Cardinal Dolan, the grand marshall of the parade, called a “wise decision.”
And these are just the tip of the iceberg!
At LifeSiteNews, we have been doing everything in our power to cut through this confusion, and to defend the Truth! That’s why we have been significantly stepping up our coverage of Catholic issues over the past year.”
[N.B. I do not know if my Team-mates agree or not to the views I have expressed in the introduction to this article, or to the article’s content and links, or to the Remnant video I post here. Any disagreement should be directed towards me and not towards them.]
Today we celebrate the Seven Sorrows of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The Mother of the Saviour co-operated in the Mystery of the Redemption. It shows her in this season of the Passion at the foot of the Cross where Christ is dying. “An ineffable union is established between the Oblation of the Incarnate Word and that of Mary; the Divine Blood and tears of the Mother flow together and are mixed for the redemption of the human race” – (Dom Guéranger, “The Liturgical Year”: Friday in Passion Week.)
Collect for Holy Mass today in the Extraordinary Form: “O God at whose passion, according to the prophecy of Simeon, a sword of sorrow pierced the most sweet soul of the glorious Virgin and Mother Mary; grant in Thy mercy that we, who call to mind with veneration her soul piecrced with sorrow, through the glorious merits and prayers of all the saints faithfully standing by Thy Cross, may obtain the blessed result of Thy Passion. Who livest and reignest.” *
History of the Devotion
The purpose of the Devotion of the Seven Sorrows is to promote union with the sufferings of Christ through union with the special suffering that Our Lady endured because she was the Mother of God. By uniting ourselves with both the Passion of Christ and His holy Mother, we enter into Jesus’ Heart and honour Him greatly; He is more honoured because we have so honoured His Mother.
The Seven Dolours are taken from Scriptural events and the devotion has a long history, although it was not officially promulgated by the Church until the early nineteenth century. Before Pope Pius VII’s formal approval, the Servite Order had permission in 1668 to celebrate the Feast of the Seven Dolours because the Order was instrumental in popularising the Seven Sorrows Devotion.
THE SEVEN SORROWS
1. The prophecy of Simeon. (Lk 2: 34-35)
2. The flight into Egypt. (Mt 2:13-14)
3. The loss of the Child Jesus in the temple. (Lk 2: 43-45)
4. The meeting of Jesus and Mary on the Way of the Cross. (Lk 23:27)
5. The Crucifixion. (Jn 19, l8-30)
6. The taking down of the Body of Jesus from the Cross. (Mk 15, 43-46)
7. The burial of Jesus. (Jn 19, 41-42)
John 19:25-27 : “Now there stood by the cross of Jesus, his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalen. When Jesus therefore had seen his mother and the disciple standing whom he loved, he saith to his mother: Woman, behold thy son. After that, he saith to the disciple: Behold thy mother. And from that hour, the disciple took her to his own.”
The Blessed Virgin Mary grants seven graces to the souls who honour her daily by saying seven Hail Mary’s and meditating on her tears and dolours (sorrows). The devotion was passed on by St. Bridget. Find out more.
Consecration to Our Lady of Sorrows
“Most holy Virgin and Queen of Martyrs, Mary, would that I could be in Heaven, there to contemplate the honours rendered to thee by the Most Holy Trinity and by the whole Heavenly Court! But since I am still a pilgrim in this vale of tears, receive from me, thy unworthy servant and a poor sinner, the most sincere homage and the most perfect act of vassalage a human creature can offer thee. In thy Immaculate Heart, pierced with so many swords of sorrow, I place today my poor soul forever; receive me as a partaker in thy dolours, and never suffer that I should depart from that Cross on which thy only begotten Son expired for me. With thee, O Mary, I will endure all the sufferings, contradictions, infirmities, with which it will please thy Divine Son to visit me in this life. All of them I offer to thee, in memory of the Dolours which thou didst suffer during thy life, that every thought of my mind, every beating of my heart may henceforward be an act of compassion to thy Sorrows, and of complacency for the glory thou now enjoyest in Heaven. Since then, O Dear Mother, I now compassionate thy Doluors, and rejoice in seeing thee glorified, do thou also have compassion on me, and reconcile me to thy Son Jesus, that I may become thy true and loyal son (daughter); come on my last day and assist me in my last agony, even as thou wert present at the Agony of thy Divine Son Jesus, that from this painful exile I may go to Heaven, there to be made partaker of thy glory. Amen.”
A final word from the saints:
“As mariners are guided into port by the shining of a star, so Christians are guided to Heaven by Mary.” – St. Thomas Aquinas
“Love Mary!… She is loveable, faithful, constant. She will never let herself be outdone in love, but will ever remain supreme. If you are in danger, she will hasten to free you. If you are troubled, she will console you. If you are sick, she will bring you relief. If you are in need, she will help you. She does not look to see what kind of person you have been. She simply comes to a heart that wants to love her. She comes quickly and opens her merciful heart to you, embraces you and consoles and serves you. She will even be at hand to accompany you on the trip to eternity.” – St. Gabriel of Our Lady of Sorrows
“Let us ask the Lord to grant us one very special grace—to love Our Lady, especially through all the work we do for Jesus, with Jesus, and to Jesus. We must ask him to deepen our love for Mary, making it more personal and intimate. We want to: Love her as he loved her. Be a cause of joy to her as he was. Keep close to her as he did. Share everything with her, even the cross, as she did when she stood near the cross on Calvary. We must love her unconditionally, trust her fully, abandon ourselves to her totally and without reserve. Nothing is impossible for those who call Mary their mother. During the day, let us often raise our hearts to her and ask her how we can love God as she loved him, that we, too, can love him with her heart.” – Bl. Mother Teresa of Calcutta
* (Ed. The Collect has been substituted for the earlier-quoted Introit.)
And so we reach our tenth and final meditation in Chapter XVIII from the “Introduction to the Devout Life” by St. Francis de Sales in our preparation to make a good and worthy Confession in time for Holy Week.
1. PLACE yourself in the Presence of God.2. Humble yourself before Him, and ask His Aid.
1. Once more imagine yourself in an open plain, alone with your guardian Angel, and represent to yourself on the left hand the Devil sitting on a high and mighty throne, surrounded by a vast troop of worldly men, who bow bareheaded before him, doing homage to him by the various sins they commit. Study the countenances of the miserable courtiers of that most abominable king:—some raging with fury, envy and passion, some murderous in their hatred;—others pale and haggard in their craving after wealth, or madly pursuing every vain and profitless pleasure;—others sunk and lost in vile, impure affections. See how all alike are hateful, restless, wild: see how they despise one another, and only pretend to an unreal self-seeking love. Such is the miserable reign of the abhorred Tyrant.
2. On the other hand, behold Jesus Christ Crucified, calling these unhappy wretches to come to Him, and interceding for them with all the Love of His Precious Heart. Behold the company of devout souls and their guardian Angels, contemplate the beauty of this religious Kingdom. What lovelier than the troop of virgin souls, men and women, pure as lilies:—widows in their holy desolation and humility; husbands and wives living in all tender love and mutual cherishing. See how such pious souls know how to combine their exterior and interior duties;—to love the earthly spouse without diminishing their devotion to the Heavenly Bridegroom. Look around—one and all you will see them with loving, holy, gentle countenances listening to the Voice of their Lord, all seeking to enthrone Him more and more within their hearts.
They rejoice, but it is with a peaceful, loving, sober joy; they love, but their love is altogether holy and pure. Such among these devout ones as have sorrows to bear, are not disheartened thereby, and do not grieve overmuch, for their Saviour’s Eye is upon them to comfort them, and they all seek Him only. 3. Surely you have altogether renounced Satan with his weary miserable troop, by the good resolutions you have made;—but nevertheless you have not yet wholly attained to the King Jesus, or altogether joined His blessed company of devout ones:—you have hovered betwixt the two.
4. The Blessed Virgin, S. Joseph, S. Louis, S. Monica, and hundreds of thousands more who were once like you, living in the world, call upon you and encourage you.
5. The Crucified King Himself calls you by your own name: “Come, O my beloved, come, and let Me crown thee!”
1. O world, O vile company, never will I enlist beneath thy banner; for ever I have forsaken thy flatteries and deceptions. O proud king, monarch of evil, infernal spirit, I renounce thee and all thy hollow pomp, I detest thee and all thy works.
2. And turning to Thee, O Sweet Jesus, King of blessedness and of eternal glory, I cleave to Thee with all the powers of my soul, I adore Thee with all my heart, I choose Thee now and ever for my King, and with inviolable fidelity I would offer my irrevocable service, and submit myself to Thy holy laws and ordinances.
3. O Blessed Virgin Mother of God, you shall be my example, I will follow you with all reverence and respect.
O my good Angel, bring me to this heavenly company, leave me not until I have reached them, with whom I will sing for ever, in testimony of my choice, “Glory be to Jesus, my Lord!”
I have just been blown away by the great quality of this Catholic News video programme. Well done EWTN and thank you. I shall watch you again more often!