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Envy is an emotion and one of the seven capital sins. As an emotion it is that feeling of sadness that we experience within because of the good seen in others. It is “a tendency to be saddened by another’s good as if that good constituted an affront to our own superiority. Often it coincides with the desire of seeing the neighbor deprived of the particular good that offends us.” (The Spiritual Life, by Adolphe Tanquerey, S.S.D.D.)

The chief priests and scribes did not like Jesus.  They were envious of his popularity, his gift of teaching, and his way with the crowds. They did not believe in their own gifts; therefore, they failed to utilize them. They had been given much. Even though under Roman rule, they were free to practice their religion and to teach those under their charge, but they failed. Seeing Jesus and his example should have stimulated them to imitate his good qualities. Instead they let envy get the better of them and wanted to do away with Jesus. For those who the envy is towards, this can be crucifying!

Marco_palmezzano,_crocifissione_degli_Uffizi

Crucifixion of Jesus by Marco Palmezzano (Uffizi, Florence), painting ca. 1490

Envy wants to destroy.

The envious speak ill of others and try to darken their character with all sorts of calumny.

Pilate saw this – why what evil has he done?

Pilate asks the crowd, “Do you want me to release to you the king of the Jews?”  For he knew that it was out of envy that the chief priests had handed him over. (Mk 15:9-10) “But the chief priests stirred up the crowd.” (Mk15:11) The envious like to do this – to sow discord. Pilate again asks the crowd what they want him to do with Jesus. “Crucify him” they shouted. Pilate said to them, “Why? What evil has he done?” (Mk 15: 14)

Antonio Ciseri's depiction of Ecce Homo with Jesus and Pontius Pilate, 19th century

Antonio Ciseri’s depiction of Ecce Homo with Jesus and Pontius Pilate, 19th century

It was envy that crucified Christ.

Active purification in this case has to do with what do I do with the envy that I feel. Envy is a feeling but also a sin when acted upon. To counter this temptation to scorn my neighbor I can call to mind that my neighbor’s good qualities in no way lessen mine, but “are a stimulus to imitation”. (Tanquerey) This attitude combined with grace received in prayer and the sacraments can lead me on the path of virtue.

Christ was the passive receiver of the emotions of the envious. In this passive purification one suffers from the actions of others. And these bring with it terrible temptations against charity. Who wouldn’t want to strike back? With patience and persevering prayer one can carry on in charity towards those who do such things to them. Christ patiently bore all this even being mocked while suffering and dying on the cross and was able to say, “Father forgive them, they know not what they do.” (Lk 23: 34)

 

 

During St. Teresa’s younger years she was quite ill and even crippled. After seeing how helpless the doctors were, she began to seek help from the saints in heaven that they might cure her. She writes in her autobiography that she took for her advocate and lord St. Joseph recommending herself to him with all earnest. It is to St. Joseph’s intercession that she was able to walk once again. She writes:

“I saw clearly that as in this need so in other greater ones concerning honor and loss of soul this father and lord of mine came to my rescue in better ways than I know how to ask for. I don’t recall up to this day ever having petitioned him for anything that he failed to grant. It is an amazing thing the great many favors God has granted me through the mediation of this blessed saint, the dangers I was freed from both of body and soul. For with other saints it seems the Lord has given them grace to be of help in one need, whereas with this glorious saint I have experience that he helps in all our needs and that the Lord wants us to understand that just as He was subject to St. Joseph on earth .  .  .  so in heaven God does whatever he commands.”  (The Book of Her Life)

Once she was in need when setting up a new monastery and did not know how she would pay the workmen. St. Joseph assured her that she “would not be lacking”. She hired the workers even though she did not have any money. The “Lord in ways that amazed those who heard about it provided for me.” Her brother, who was living in South America, sent her the money that she needed. In her letter to him on December 23, 1561, she acknowledges his gift and expresses her gratitude. (The Collected Letters of St. Teresa, Vol 1)

On another occasion she writes about the protection she received from this wonderful saint. In the midst of conflicts and exhausted, St. Teresa didn’t worry. Instead she “prayed to the Lord to protect me and to my father St. Joseph to bring me to his house, and I offered God what I would have to undergo.” 

She always celebrated his feast day with as much solemnity as possible. Since she has experienced so much good from this saint, she has done much in promoting devotion to him. “I have not known anyone truly devoted to him and rendering him special service who has not advanced more in virtue.” And who wouldn’t want to advance in virtue? St. Teresa is convinced that he will benefit souls in a powerful way – all they have to do is to recommend themselves to him. “For some years now I have asked him for something on his feast day, and my petition is always granted.”

St. Teresa also says that St. Joseph is someone who persons of prayer should attach themselves. Since he was so good and assisted the Blessed Mother and the Infant Jesus, she is convinced through her own experience that he will not fail to assist anyone who is devoted to him and entrusts themselves to him.

 “Those who cannot find a master to teach them prayer should take this glorious saint for their master, and they will not go astray.” 

Ask St. Joseph to help you pray and recommend all your cares and concerns to him. Perhaps there is a virtue that you need. If so, ask St. Joseph for this, today on his feast day.

!!-St.jo-statue

God dwells in a soul not in grace giving it being and holding it in existence. This soul is not able to receive light from the Lord, however. St. Teresa of Jesus says these souls are “in a dark prison” and that they cannot do anything good nor can they merit anything for themselves. She exhorts us to have pity on these unfortunate souls and to think about our own past sins and the time when we were in this sad condition. Since the Lord had mercy on us, we should also desire that He have mercy on them.

St. Teresa wants us to give alms by praying for those souls in mortal sin:

“Let us take special care, Sisters, to beg this mercy of Him and not be careless, for it is a most generous alms to pray for those who are in mortal sin.” (Interior Castle VII, 1, 4)

A soul in mortal sin is “bound hands and feet” “dying of hunger” because he cannot take hold of the food that is set before him and eat. In truth this soul has a great disgust for the food. But we should not just stand by and let this soul die for the death is an eternal one.

 hands bound

St. Teresa continues in The Interior Castle to say that our prayers can loosen the bonds of souls that are in this sad state:

“For the love of God I ask you always to remember in your prayers souls in mortal sin.” (Interior Castle, VII, 1,4)

This is how Carmelites are to save souls – by praying for them, for to pray is to give. We should beg God’s mercy on them so that the darkness that covers their souls will be lifted and they will receive light.

gems-have-mercy-627x330

Reckless Mercy

God gives gifts without measure. However, we often measure how much we will receive. Prayer changes all this. Prayer changes everything. It opens up our capacity to receive, to receive the gifts God wants to give us.

We are the ones who break friendship with God. It is so ingrained in our nature to dodge His demands. God wants to work in us, but we don’t want it; we have “other interests” or else we want to control God and so the conflict begins. A divided heart settles within and we resist and rebel. 

But our God is a God of Mercy. He only interacts with us as Mercy, yet we want to turn and run from so great a gift! 

All we ever have to do is to turn to Him, a simple lifting up of the heart . . . a whispered prayer. . . “Father!”, and then the Reckless Mercy begins. It washes over us, pours into our soul, penetrates the heart, fills it with blessings and makes us new. And the good news is that He never tires of doing this.

“Souls should remember His words and see what he did with me; before I grew tired of offending Him, His Majesty began to pardon me. He never tires of giving, nor can He exhaust His mercies. Let us not tire of receiving. May he be blessed forever, amen. – and may all things praise Him.” (St. Teresa, Book of Her Life 19,15)

St. Teresa was overcome by the mercy that God showered on her. She discovered in His presence mercy both for herself and for all sinners. God is merciful and His mercy is reckless and this is beautifully expressed in the following prayer by St. Teresa.

O my God! Source of all mercy! I acknowledge Your sovereign power. While recalling the wasted years that are past, I believe that You, Lord, can in an instant turn this loss to gain. Miserable as I am, yet I firmly believe that You can do all things. Please restore to me the time lost, giving me Your grace, both now and in the future, that I may appear before You in “wedding garments.” Amen.

Seeking Jesus

 jesusinthehomeofzaccheus

Luke 19: 1-10

“Zacchaeus…was seeking to see who Jesus was; but could not see him because of the crowd.” (vs 3)

Obstacles get in the way; they crowd out Jesus in my life and prevent me from seeing him. I want to see him. I am always seeking him, but many things crowd him out of my time.

“So he ran ahead a climbed a sycamore tree in order to see Jesus.” (vs 4) Like Zacchaeus, I need to move away from the crowds, the obstacles, and change my perspective. This move will help me to see Jesus better.

Just like with Zacchaeus, Jesus wants me to spend time with him. He wants to come to my house. “Zacchaeus, come down quickly, for today I must stay at your house.” (vs 5)

Reflecting on these scripture passages about Zacchaeus made me think about the importance of mental prayer and its place in the life of a Secular Discalced Carmelite. Our Constitutions state: “Carmelite Seculars will commit themselves daily to spending a time in the practice of mental prayer. This is the time to be with God and to strengthen their relationship with Him so that they can be true witnesses to His presence in the world.” [Cons.Sec. III, no. 21]

St. Teresa of Jesus explains mental prayer as “nothing else than a close sharing between friends; it means taking time frequently to be alone with him who we know loves us.” (Way of Perfection) And there is the key to all this seeking and climbing trees! I need to be alone with him, taking time to meet with him, to invite him in to my house and to enjoy his presence while developing a relationship with him.

In order to do this I can again look to our Constitutions. “The Carmelite Secular will make sure to have special times set apart for prayer, as times of greater awareness of the Lord’s presence and an interior space for a personal and intimate meeting with Him.” [Cons. Sec. III, no. 20] I need to have a special time set aside. This is going to require me to give away “half of my possessions” (Lk 19:8), those attachments that occupy my time and space that leave no room for Jesus!

I have many distractions that keep me from setting aside time each day for mental prayer. Many of these distractions are really attachments. What are your attachments? What keeps you from devoting yourself to God and making time for mental prayer each day?

Stay With Us

Here it is evening. I have just finished evening prayer which closes with the following prayer:

“Stay with us, Lord Jesus,
for evening draws near,
and be our companion on our way
to set our hearts on fire with new hope.
Help us to recognize your presence among us in the Scriptures we read
and in the breaking of bread,
for you live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit,
one God for ever and ever.”

           (Evening Prayer, Monday Week IV, The Liturgy of the Hours)
This prayer is reminiscent of the story of the disciples on the road to Emmaus. “ And it happened that while they were conversing and debating, Jesus himself drew near and walked with them.” (Luke 24:15) As I reflect over my day, filled with conversations and various activities, I wonder if I had been aware of His presence with me. Perhaps he was there along and my “eyes were prevented from recognizing him.”

But now it is evening, things have quieted down “the day is almost over”. It is time to urge the Lord to “stay with” me as I break open the Scriptures. Pouring over these words I will let him speak to me and set my “heart burning”.

As a Carmelite the Scriptures hold an important place in my daily life and prayer. Secular living does have an impact on the amount of time I can devote to this each day, but even a short amount of time spend in Scripture reading will help to foster love and devotion for the Lord.

Tomorrow I will arise early and go to Mass. There I will meet the Lord in the “breaking of the bread” and in hearing him speak as the priest “opens the scriptures to us” who have gathered to hear Mass. Another opportunity in my day for the Lord to “make himself known” and to be my “companion along the way”.

emmaus

Mary is the Mother of God, and today we celebrate her under this title. She is also our Mother. The Carmelite Doctors of the Church: St. Teresa of Jesus, St. Therese of Lisieux, and St. John of the Cross, each had a unique devotion to the Mother of God.

St. Teresa of Jesus.

“I remember that when my mother died I was twelve years old or a little less. When I began to understand what I had lost, I went, afflicted, before an image of our Lady and besought her with many tears to be my mother. It seems to me that although I did this in simplicity it helped me. For I have found favor with this sovereign Virgin in everything I have asked of her, and in the end she has drawn me to herself.” (Book of Her Life, chapter 1)

St. Teresa was very pleased to be a member of the Order of Carmel that claims to be Mary’s Order. Members of the Carmelite Order consecrate themselves to Mary and see her as a model of prayer and contemplation. “All of us who wear this holy habit of Carmel are called to prayer and contemplation.” (Interior Castle, V:1, 2) They also strive to imitate her virtues, “Let us imitate the Virgin’s great humility.” (Way of Perfection, 13: 3)

St. Teresa, in a mystical experience, noted that in response to her service to the Mother of God, Christ thanked her for “what she had done for his Mother,” and she saw Mary “in great glory, wearing a white mantel with which she seemed to enfold us all.” (Book of Her Life, 36: 24)

Read more here about St. Teresa of Jesus and the Virgin Mary.

St. Therese of Lisieux.

St. Therese also had a strong devotion to the Mother of God and was heard to exclaim, “How I love the Blessed Virgin! If I had been a priest, how I should have spoken of her. She is sometimes described as unapproachable, whereas she should be represented as easy of imitation. She is more Mother than Queen. I have heard it said that her splendor eclipses that of all the saints as the rising sun makes all the stars disappear. It sounds so strange. That a Mother should take away the glory of her children! I think quite the reverse. I believe that she will greatly increase the splendor of the elect….Our Mother Mary….How simple her life must have been.” (Story of a Soul)

St. Therese wanted to follow Mary’s example and not to only live and work under the Blessed Mother’s watchful eyes. She wanted to follow in the footsteps of her Mother and to learn from her “how to remain little”. The one virtue above all others that the Blessed Mother possessed that impressed St. Therese the most was her simplicity. Mary taught her in simplicity the practice that characterized this saint as her “little way”. The Mother of God also taught her that suffering out of love – is joy.

When St. Therese made her First Communion at Lisieux following a three day retreat, she expressed her reception as “fusion” with Jesus. It was her Heavenly Mother, in the absence of her real earthly mother, who accompanied her to the altar to receive the Lord in the Eucharist for the first time. St. Therese states, “it was she herself who on that morning of the 8th of May placed her Jesus into my soul.” (Story of a Soul)

The great love St. Therese had for Mary is beautifully illustrated in a poem she wrote shortly before she died:

Why I Love Thee, Mary

Oh ! I would like to sing, Mary, why I love you,
Why your sweet name thrills my heart,
And why the thought of your supreme greatness
Could not bring fear to my soul.
If I gazed on you in your sublime glory,
Surpassing the splendor of all the blessed,
I could not believe that I am your child.
O Mary, before you I would lower my eyes !…   (read the rest of the poem here)

St. John of the Cross.

St. John of the Cross also was devoted to the Mother of God. He did not write much about the Mother of God, but she was significant in his life. From St. John we learn about her role for Carmelites in the passive receptivity that Mary teaches us. Read more about Our Lady and St. John of Cross here.

St. John of the Cross does mentions the Blessed Mother in one of his Sayings of Light and Love. This saying expresses that all things are the soul’s when it seeks and finds God. The Mother of God, then, is our mother, too:

“Mine are the heavens and mine is the earth. Mine are the nations, the just are mine, and mine the sinners. The angels are mine, and the Mother of God, and all things are mine; and God himself is mine and for me, because Christ is mine and all for me.” (Sayings of Light and Love, 27)

mary mother of god

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