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Archive for the ‘Grace’ Category

Lent is such a good time of God’s grace. St. Therese of Lisieux expresses this well in this stanza:

Living on Love is keeping within oneself

A great treasure in an earthen vase.

My Beloved, my weakness is extreme.

Ah, I’m far from being an angel from heaven!…

But if I fall with each passing hour,

You come to my aid, lifting me up.

At each moment you give me your grace:

I live on Love.

(Poem 17, p. 91 The Poetry of Saint Therese of Lisieux, trans. Fr. Donald Kinney, OCD, ICS Publications)

Isn’t this just what we are all doing?!?! Keep on living on love faithful readers!

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I come before you
with empty hands…
all the secret store of grace
I fling into needy hearts,
crying in the bitter night
of fear and loneliness…..
Spendthrift of your Love
I keep before me
your empty Hands – 
empty and riven 
with the great nails 
hollowing out 
rivers of mercy…..
until all your substance 
was poured out…..
So, I, my Jesus,
with hands emptied 
for your love 
stand confident 
before your Cross,
love’s crimson emblem. 
It is the empty 
who are filled:
those who have made 
themselves spendthrifts 
for You alone,
fill the least 
of your brethren 
while they themselves 
are nourished by your Love…
more and more emptied 
that they may be filled 
with You.

– St. Therese

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“The Lord has always revealed to mortals the treasures of his wisdom and his spirit, but now that the face of evil bares itself more and more, so does the Lord bare his treasures more.”

~ Sayings of Light and Love #1 (by St. John of the Cross)

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Elijah is the prophet of mercy. Why? Because mercy is a gift and a call. It is a generous gift and a call to conversion. This can be seen in the life of the “father” of prophets. After considering a reign like that of Ahab, who wouldn’t be left downcast and sorrowful in spirit? Dark clouds loom, every light seems extinguished, and voices are silenced – with death on the horizon. What a scene where all seems to be in the control of Satan himself! But God had a plan. In His mercy, He raised up a prophet. Elijah was to be a witness bringing light and power.

God is wise and full of compassion.

“As a father has compassion on his children,

so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him.

For he knows how we are formed,

remembers that we are dust.” (Ps 103:13-14)

It is the mercy of God that raises up a prophet in a day of ruin. This He does with Elijah. God seeks out Elijah who is deserting, hiding under a broom tree! But God does not say, “Get up, go back to Jezreel!”

Elijah+theAngel

God is wise and full of compassion. 

The Lord tells Elijah first to rest and sleep. “ “Get up and eat!” He looked and there at his head was a hearth cake and a jug of water. After he ate and drank, he lay down again.” (1Kings 19:5-6) It has all been too much for Elijah, and he is crushed and unable to think or act clearly.

God is wise and full of compassion. 

He knows that Elijah is unable to process any correction nor is he able to take in any instruction. First, in order for him to be profitable, he needs to regain his physical and emotional strength.

“After Elijah had learned mercy during his retreat at the Wadi Cherith, he teaches the widow of Zarephath to believe in The Word of God and confirms her faith by his urgent prayer: God brings the widow’s child back to life.” (CCC 2583) The Catechism goes on to explain that it is “in their “one to one” encounters with God, the prophets draw light and strength for their mission. Their prayer is not flight from this unfaithful world, but rather attentiveness to The Word of God. At times their prayer is an argument or a complaint, but it is always an intercession that awaits and prepares for the intervention of the Savior God, the Lord of history.”(CCC 2584)

Hyla blue largposter copy

According to the visions of St.          Faustina, the Divine Mercy chaplet’s prayers for mercy have a threefold purpose. First, to obtain mercy, then to trust in the mercy of God, and finally to show mercy.

Christians know that they are not called to bring judgment. They know that they are to bring the Good News of Christ’s redeeming sacrifice to others. When faith is weakened people soon abandon the path to conversion because of their many sins. Then they are ladened with the guilt of these sins which slowly devour them. The role of the prophet is to help others to accept their faults and weaknesses while trusting in the mercy and hope that is found on the road towards forgiveness and conversion which leads to Jesus Christ.

To obtain “mercy” means to be given something that we do not deserve. As sinners we clearly do not deserve anything from God. But here is where we insert the prophetic message – God is merciful:

Merciful and gracious is the LORD,

slow to anger, abounding in mercy.

He will not always accuse,

and nurses no lasting anger;

He has not dealt with us as our sins merit,

nor requited us as our wrongs deserve.

For as the heavens tower over the earth,

so his mercy towers over those who fear   

him.” (Psalm 103:8-11)

When we live in, with, through and for Christ, He will supply us with every grace.Then we can show others the way with God’s mercy. Mercy is God’s love, a compassionate love that seeks and meets the needs of others and relieves them of their miseries.The prophet, Elijah, prays for the widow’s son and he is returned back to life for her. “The woman said to Elijah, “Now indeed I know that you are a man of God, and it is truly the word of the LORD that you speak.” (1 Kings 17:24) 

Sadly, prayer among Christians is a neglected exercise and especially at at time when it is needed most. There is a mutual weakness felt among us, and along with this there should be a united utterance of this weakness that would therefore result in a renewal of our collective strength. From a shared, heartfelt prayer we could, no doubt, expect an outpouring of God’s refreshing grace that would revive those who are resting and satisfied with their dead, cold lives.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that, “St. James refers to Elijah in order to encourage us to pray: “The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective.”” (2582) On this Feast of Divine Mercy and inspired by Elijah, the prophet of mercy, let us renew our efforts at prayer entering into that “one to one” encounter with God, and from this draw light, and strength, for our prophetic mission.

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St. Teresa’s mother died when she was about twelve years old. Since her older sister married, it didn’t seem prudent for Teresa to stay at home without a mother; therefore, St. Teresa’s father placed her in a convent boarding school as a young teenager of about sixteen.

Her first week or so at the convent school were not happy ones, but soon she become content there and even more so than she was at her father’s house. (The Book of Her Life, 2:8)

The convent school was run by Augustinian nuns and the name of the school was Our Lady of Grace. St. Teresa was greatly influenced by the nuns there. She began “to return to the good habits of early childhood”. (The Book of Her Life, 2:8)

The title of Our Lady of Grace is originally of French origin. Images of Our Lady under this title usually show the mother and child in a tender embrace with their faces touching like in the icon below.

Mother and child in a tender embrace – how appropriate for St. Teresa at this time to be placed in the care of Our Lady under this title when she no longer had an earthly mother of her own, but was in desperate need of a mother! No longer receiving the tender physical embraces of her earthly mother, she now will receive the tender spiritual embraces of Our Lady of Grace. 

The motherhood of Mary is important to all the faithful. She helps to restore supernatural life into our souls, just like she did with St. Teresa. The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains the Blessed Mother’s role in our lives in paragraphs 968 -969:

“Her role in relation to the Church and to all humanity goes still further. “In a wholly singular way she cooperated by her obedience, faith, hope, and burning charity in the Savior’s work of restoring supernatural life to souls. For this reason she is a mother to us in the order of grace.”  “This motherhood of Mary in the order of grace continues uninterruptedly from the consent which she loyally gave at the Annunciation and which she sustained without wavering beneath the cross, until the eternal fulfillment of all the elect. Taken up to heaven she did not lay aside this saving office but by her manifold intercession continues to bring us the gifts of eternal salvation . . . . Therefore the Blessed Virgin is invoked in the Church under the titles of Advocate, Helper, Benefactress, and Mediatrix.”

And in paragraph 970 her function is further clarified:

“Mary’s function as mother of men in no way obscures or diminishes this unique mediation of Christ, but rather shows its power. But the Blessed Virgin’s salutary influence on men . . . flows forth from the superabundance of the merits of Christ, rests on his mediation, depends entirely on it, and draws all its power from it.” “No creature could ever be counted along with the Incarnate Word and Redeemer; but just as the priesthood of Christ is shared in various ways both by his ministers and the faithful, and as the one goodness of God is radiated in different ways among his creatures, so also the unique mediation of the Redeemer does not exclude but rather gives rise to a manifold cooperation which is but a sharing in this one source.”

Since Our Lady was able to help St. Teresa in her conversion, leading her back to her “good habits of early childhood”, then she will be able to help me in my ongoing conversion and growth in holiness!

Our Lady of Grace, pray for us!

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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!

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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)

 

 

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“I was doing a lot of spiritual reading – Lives of the Saints – Joan of Arc, St. John Bosco, St. Benedict, I was going through St. John of the Cross’ Ascent of Mount Carmel and the first parts of the Dark Night for the second time in fact, but for the first time with understanding.

The big present that was given to me, that October, in the order of grace, was the discovery that the Little Flower really was a saint, and not just a mute pious little doll in the imaginations of a lot of sentimental old women. And not only was she a saint, but a great saint, one of the greatest: tremendous! I owe her all kinds of public apologies and reparation for having ignored her greatness for so long, but to do that would take a whole book, and here I have only a few lines to give away.

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… However, no sooner had I got a faint glimpse of the real character and the real spirituality of St. Therese, than I was immediately and strongly attracted to her – an attraction that was the work of grace since, as I say, it took me, in one jump, clean through a thousands psychological obstacles and repugnances.

And here is what strikes me as the most phenomenal thing about her. She became a saint, not by running away from the middle class, not by abjuring and despising and cursing the middle class, or the environment in which she had grown up; on the contrary, she clung to it in to as far as one could cling to such a thing and be a good Carmelite. She kept everything that was bourgeois about her and was still not incompatible with her vocation: her nostalgic affection for a funny villa called “Les Buissonnets,” her taste for utterly oversweet art, and for the little candy angels and pastel saints playing with lambs so soft and fuzzy that they literally give people like me the creeps. She wrote a lot of poems which, no matter how admirable their sentiments, were certainly based on the most mediocre of popular models.

To her, it would have been incomprehensible that anyone should think these things ugly or strange, and it never even occurred to her that she might be expected to give them up, or hate them, or curse them, or bury them under a pile of anathemas. And she not only became a saint, but the greatest saint there has been in the Church for three hundred years – even greater than the two tremendous reformers of her Order, St. John of the Cross and St. Teresa of Avila.

….What can such a one do with his new idol? Stare at her picture until it makes him dizzy. That is all. But the saints are not mere inanimate objects of contemplation. They become our friends, and they share our friendship and reciprocate it and give us unmistakable tokens of their love for us by the graces that we receive through them. And so, now that I had this great new friend in heaven, it was inevitable that the friendship should begin to have its influence on my life.”

(Thomas Merton, The Seven Story Mountain)

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