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Archive for the ‘Sacred Heart’ Category

Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus is the Eucharist. The Eucharist is often referred to as the Real Presence. This is because Christ in His fullness abides in the Eucharist. In it dwells both His human and divine natures. The Catechism of the Catholic Church in paragraph 1374 explains this presence:

 “The mode of Christ’s presence under the Eucharistic species is unique. It raises the Eucharist above all the sacraments as “the perfection of the spiritual life and the end to which all the sacraments tend.” In the most blessed sacrament of the Eucharist “the body and blood, together with the soul and divinity, of our Lord Jesus Christ and, therefore, the whole Christ is truly, really, and substantially contained.” “This presence is called ‘real’ – by which is not intended to exclude the other types of presence as if they could not be ‘real’ too, but because it is presence in the fullest sense: that is to say, it is a substantial presence by which Christ, God and man, makes himself wholly and entirely present.”

St. Teresa of Jesus was devoted to the Blessed Sacrament and this especially shows through in her teachings on the Sacred Humanity of Christ. She exhorted her nuns to meditate on the life of Christ and even wrote that to abandon the humanity of Jesus was a hindrance to prayer. She teaches this because God chose to reach out to His people through the human person. Consequently devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus encourages Carmelites to reflect on the humanity of Jesus who loves with a human heart.

So after Christ rose from the dead and ascended into heaven to sit at the right hand of the Father, He did not leave earth. Jesus is present in the Blessed Sacrament in the same way that He is present in Heaven. Therefore His physical heart is there in the Blessed Sacrament.

All this then makes one see why St. Teresa would write, “Certainly, I think that if we were to approach the most Blessed Sacrament with great faith and love, once would be enough to leave us rich. How much richer from approaching so many times as we do. The trouble is we do so out of routine, and it shows.” [Meditations on Song of Songs, 3:13]

It shows. We do see the bread and wine and behind them we believe that Christ is present, since faith supplies what the senses fail to perceive. But how routine has our reception of the Blessed Sacrament become? The Sacrament does confer grace; how could one be in the Presence of Christ and not be affected?  The grace received is the grace to love. Through our faith in the Eucharist, charity grows in us both towards God and others. Does it show?

St. Teresa gives advice on how to receive the Eucharist with greater devotion and profit:  “After having received the Lord, since you have the Person Himself present, strive to close the eyes of the body and open those to the soul and look into your own heart… You should acquire the habit of doing this every time you receive Communion.” [Way of Perfection, 34:12] And “ If you immediately turn your thoughts to other things, if you pay no attention and take no account of the fact that He is within you, how will He be able to reveal Himself to you? This, then, is a good time for our Master to teach us, and for us to listen to Him. [Way of Perfection, 34: 10]

She also wrote that, “From certain things He told me, I understood that after he ascended to heaven He never came down to earth to commune with anyone except in the most Blessed Sacrament.” [Spiritual Testimonies, 13] Therefore it is important to receive the Eucharist in a state of grace. To this she also wrote that, “I understood well how much more priests are obliged to be good than are others, how deplorable a thing it is to receive this most Blessed Sacrament unworthily.” [Life, 38: 23]

Our devotion to the Eucharist and the Sacred Heart of Jesus can be also fostered in Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, whether exposed or reserved in the tabernacle. This is a great way to strengthen our faith and to draw closer in our union with Christ. Many communities, especially religious communities, have Eucharistic Exposition and Adoration available for the faithful. Prayer before the Blessed Sacrament is a great way to foster holiness. St. Teresa made certain that the Blessed Sacrament was in each of her foundations. This was often the first task that she attended to when making new foundations as she writes in her Foundations chapter 29,  “We took the Blessed Sacrament and had it reserved in the church with great and well-organized solemnity. It caused much devotion.”

Since we have such a blessing in the Real Presence let us, “Behold Him here without suffering, full of glory, before ascending into heaven, strengthening some, encouraging others, our companion in the most Blessed Sacrament; it doesn’t seem it was in His power to leave us for even a moment.” [Life, 22: 6]

Need more reasons to visit the Blessed Sacrament? Look here for 24 more reasons.

 

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The greatest obstacles to contemplation is not disposing yourself for it. When we remain dissipated and attached we block the reception of this most sublime gift.

St. John of the Cross in his work  The Dark Night speaks of this desire for contemplation when he writes, “For God does not bring to contemplation all those who purposely exercise themselves in the way of the spirit, nor even half. Why? He best knows.” (Book I, Chap 9) However, in his commentary on The Rule of Carmel, Jerome of the Mother of God, OCD,  says that the saying “He best knows” is a Spanish saying which means: the whole world knows it. Because precisely when one does not do what one ought- then it is clear as day!

How can we excite in ourselves the desire to attain the gift of contemplation?

We often fail to dispose ourselves for contemplation either because we give in to too much activity or because we do not produce enough acts of love. By offering to God a  holy heart, one free from all actual stain of sin, we can at least do our part and strive for perfection.

St. Teresa in The Way of Perfection chapter 17 says, “I don’t say that we shouldn’t try; on the contrary, we should try everything. What I am saying is that this is not a matter of your choosing but of the Lord’s….Be sure that if you do what lies in your power, preparing yourselves for contemplation with the perfection mentioned, and that if He doesn’t give it to you (and I believe He will give if detachment and humility are truly present), He will save this gift for you so as to grant it to you all at once in heaven.”

May all our efforts cooperate with the grace God gives in each moment to prepare a heart, pure and receptive, to receive so great a gift.

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Bernini's St. Teresa of Jesus

Bernini’s St. Teresa of Jesus

 

St. Teresa is best known for her love of God. Jesus Christ increased this virtue and many others in this saint. She experienced many visions and revelations from Christ. One time she saw an angel with a flaming dart piercing her heart. She explains this mystical experience in her autobiography, chapter 19:

“I saw an angel beside me toward the left side, in bodily form…He was not very large, but small, very beautiful, his face so blazing with light that he seemed to be one of the very highest angels, who appear all on fire. They must be those they call Cherubim…I saw in his hands a long dart of gold, and at the end of the iron there seemed to me to be a little fire. This I thought he thrust through my heart several times, and that it reached my very entrails. As he withdrew it, I thought it brought them with it, and left me all burning with a great love of God. So great was the pain, that it made me give those moans; and so utter the sweetness that this sharpest of pains gave me, that there was no wanting it to stop, nor is there any contenting of the soul with less than God”.

This heavenly gift, this flame of divine love in her heart, which penetrated her being and made her so strong that she vowed to always do what seemed to her most perfect and for God’s glory.

St. John of the Cross explains this fire of love in his work The Living Flame of Love:

“When he wills to touch somewhat vehemently, the soul’s burning reaches such a high degree of love that it seems to surpass that of all the fires of the world: for he is an infinite fire of love. Because the soul in this case is entirely transformed by the divine flame, it not only feels a cautery, but has become a cautery of blazing fire.”

“…it does not afflict it: rather, commensurate with the strength of the love, it divinized and delights it, burning gently.”

May God’s love transform our hearts and may our love of God grow, blazing like fire, burning gently.

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St. Therese of Lisieux’s “little way” was one of confidence and love. In her autobiography she wrote often of her feebleness and how she came to discover her vocation which was to be “love in the heart of the Church”. She came to this confidence because of the capacity of God’s heart and the love He had for her. She was certain that the Lord loved her and that this was not due to her own efforts in loving Him.

Our saint wrote a beautiful poem to the Sacred Heart in 1895. In it she expressed the following:

A heart I need, to soothe me and to bless, —

A strong support that can not pass away, —

To love me wholly, e’en my feebleness,

And never leave me through the night or day.

There is not one created thing below,

Can love me truly, and can never die.

God become man — none else my needs can know;

He, He alone, can understand my cry.

May we too have a confident heart one that loves because we are loved by God for He alone truly knows us and knows what we need.

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The heart stirs up an image of that organ which beats within the human body giving it life. It is the heart that preserves our earthly existence. It is also the heart that makes up that place deep within us that gives rise to emotions and desires particularly to love. The heart holds a place of prominence in the spirituality of a Carmelite. Since it is love of God and love of neighbor that are the focus of all our energies, the heart then holds a place of prominence in the spirituality of a Carmelite. For a Carmelite, God is the longing of the heart. Since a Carmelite longs for God deep within the heart, cultivation of this heart to love is necessary so that this heart will be open to those around them.


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The Rule of St. Albert no. 19 mentions the heart and instructs us on how to cultivate the heart:

“Your loins are to be girt with chastity, your breast fortified by holy meditations, for as Scripture has it, holy meditation will save you. Put on holiness as your breastplate, and it will enable you to love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul and strength, and your neighbor as yourself. Faith must be your shield on all occasions, and with it you will be able to quench all the flaming missiles of the wicked one: there can be no pleasing God without faith; and the victory lies in this — your faith. On your head set the helmet of salvation, and so be sure of deliverance by our only Saviour, who sets his own free from their sins. The sword of the spirit, the word of God, must abound in your mouths and hearts. Let all you do have the Lord’s word for accompaniment.”

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It is from the Scriptures that we are to learn to love God and our neighbor. Our preeminent model for how to do this is Jesus. Meditation on the sacred texts will show us what He said and did. It will also reveal to us the well-ordered emotions of our Lord. From the Gospels we know that Jesus had a heart. He had a broken heart and tender emotions. There are also accounts demonstrating his feelings of forgiveness and love.

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“By offering my whole self to You, I understand that I am giving You my free will, so that henceforth, you alone will be the master of my heart and Your will alone will regulate my actions. Therefore, dispose of me always according to Your good pleasure: I am content with everything, since I wish to love You with a love that is patient, mortified, wholly abandoned to you, an active love, a strong, undivided love and, what is more important, a persevering love.” (St Teresa Margaret of the Sacred Heart)

St. Teresa Margaret of the Sacred Heart led a quiet and hidden life. She died at the young age of twenty-two. Despite her short life on earth, she spent five years of it in a Carmelite monastery in Florence, Italy. She did not do anything to gain the world’s attention; there were no great deeds or brilliant performances. Her interior life, however, was rich, fragrance and powerfully charmed all those around her. She was a hidden but ardent disciple of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

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She was born on July 15th 1747 in Tuscany. Even as a young child she often spoke of God and had a strong desire to please Him and to live a holy life. She made her profession on March 12, 1766. Her life in the convent was one of deep faith. “God is love,” was one of her best-loved phrases.

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St. Teresa Margaret was one day snatched up in a rapture while reciting the Divine office. During the recitation the words of St. John’s first epistle were being chanted:

God is love, and he who dwells in love dwells in God and God in him.”

In this vision she beheld that the source of love is centered in the Heart of Jesus. His heart is the source of love, and  Jesus merited for us the power to return this love. “To return love unceasingly to Him who has so loved us,” says this disciple of the the Heart of Jesus.  Love for Love. This was the mindset of this holy Carmelite. This is the attitude we should also have.

 

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The month of June is dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The essence of this devotion is to His mercy and love and to make reparation for the neglect, indifference and ingratitude of man that results in Christ being left alone, abandoned and forgotten in the Blessed Sacrament.

St. Therese had a different approach to the Sacred Heart – it was always that the heart of Jesus was a heart of love – a purifying love. Suffering is part of the process of this purifying love, but it is not the end. For our saint this devotion is an aid in conforming our hearts to the heart of Jesus – one that is burning with love.

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St. Therese particularly emphasized Christ’s love as merciful. In a letter to Maurice Belliere written just weeks before she was to die, St. Therese wrote in order to inspire him, and all of us who call ourselves His friends, that:

 

“the heart of God is saddened more by the thousand little indelicacies of His friends than it is by the faults, even the grave ones, which people of the world commit.” But my dear little brother, it seems to me that it is only when his friends, ignoring their continual indelicacies, make a habit out of them and don’t ask forgiveness for them, that Jesus can utter those touching words which the Church puts on his lips in Holy Week: “These wounds you see in the palms of my hands are the ones I received in the house of those who loved me.”  For those who love Him, and after each fault come to ask pardon by throwing themselves into His arms, Jesus trembles with joy. He says to His angels what the father of the prodigal son said to his servants: “Put his best robe on him and put a ring on his finger, and let us rejoice” Ah! my brother, how the goodness of Jesus, His merciful love, are so little known! 

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The heart of Jesus is full of mercy – an infinite treasure of mercy. St. Therese urges us to go the Jesus with confidence in His mercy. She sees in the Gospel account of the prodigal son a message that applies not only to those who have committed great sins, but even to those who have turned away from venial sins. If we humble ourselves and strive to rise again after each fall or fault committed through a lack of reflection or through weakness, Jesus never tires of forgiving us and is thrilled “with joy” when we humbly acknowledge our faults and throw ourselves “into His arms” asking for forgiveness. Jesus’ love for us will be as tender as ever.


 

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