November 11, 2018

The Radical Hope of a Generous Heart

Catholics and all Christians are called to live a radical hope - a hope rooted in the resurrection of Jesus from the Dead.  Since we believe that He has conquered sin and death, neither sin nor death can take away our hope.  Our conviction that good has triumphed over evil in the world spills over into our own lives. It gives us the freedom to be completely generous with the Lord because it knows that no matter how much is given, God has already given so much more. Those who ground themselves in the Word of the Father do not fear death or anything, for nothing can stand between them and the love of God.

Radical hope engages in battle. A hope that fights against fear is needed in our families and in the broader community. To be permissive seems like kindness but it is stingy. It lacks confidence in God who is at work in my neighbor. Failures to protect the most vulnerable steal away the hope of others nearly as much as it robs hope from one's own soul. The greed of such despair is only fully revealed under the shadow of the Cross, and it is in this same shadow that radical hope triumphs.

Before the Cross, we find the ground of God's hope for man and man's hope for God. Here, a mysterious Presence enfolds the misery of humanity in mercy. The Father's gaze searches sin and death and finds the loving obedience of His Son. In this mutual gaze, the Holy Spirit convinces us of sin and gives the courage to make a new beginning. Here, cowardice loses its power. The bravery to give all that one has is born. Let the tears that fall from our eyes lift us into prayer. By prayer, let us allow God to move us into action. From the smallest and most informal conversation to a public event where one's reputation is on the line, God is ready to act in and through us - ready to plant hope firmly in His Merciful Love.

November 8, 2018

Hidden Immensity and Secret Harmonies

A hidden Immensity of meaning, a fullness that has only begun to disclose itself, awaits us in the humble act of prayer. This is the Word of the Father. He makes known the truth in ways hidden behind what seems to be routine. This Great Stillness is disguised in the demanding circumstances of the moment. This Beatitude is the hidden solitude one can find even on a busy street. He speaks in the language of silences, most still to be heard, that haunts the noise of the work-a-day world. This Divine Glance is disguised in the lonely stare of a heart that thinks itself forsaken.

Nothing deserves our attention in the way that Divine presence ought to command ours. Fires may rage dangerously close. Floods might threaten. Gratuitous sudden violence leave its trail of broken lives and hearts. Family anxieties and difficult relationships might pile up in overwhelming ways. Menacing political and cultural forces might intimidate. Before our very eyes, the innocent, the marginalized and the weak may be grievously neglected, or harshly crushed, or used. All of this might rightfully require our attention for a time, and often demand decisive action. With time, all of this passes, but God does not change and the love He yearns for us to know is never offered the same way twice. 

For the Holy Trinity envelops and penetrates this whole brief moment of life we share together. So fragile and magnificent, such sorrow and joy all at once, this passing moment rushes to the Heart of the Lord - if we will let it take us there. This very moment was loved into existence - the idea of it so beautiful to God that He willed it should exist. We are bogged down in sluggishness and still something in it echoes and draws us. 

Let the secret harmonies of God draw us out of ourselves.  In ways that defy our ability to guess, the Three Divine Persons have already disclosed their Unity to us, and in this Unity, their Three-ness rings out more beautifully than any earthly music. The great symphony of this uncreated Love resounds at this very moment - and only prayer opens the ears of the heart to hear it.

November 7, 2018

In Praise of the Holy Trinity

In a retreat reflection that she wrote for her sister Marguerite, a mom with small children, Saint Elizabeth of the Trinity sets the life of heaven as the ideal to seek. Yet, she does not propose heaven as simply a remote future possibility. Through a complete surrender of our whole existence to God, the life of heaven is a way of life that begins now. This means that the glory that awaits us is the same glory already present to us now. We are meant to be the praise of this glory - creatures who make known the inexhaustible riches of God:

In Heaven, each soul is a praise of glory to the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. This is because each soul is fixed in pure love. Each one "no longer lives its own life but the life of God" (St. John of the Cross).  The soul "knows itself", says Saint Paul, "as it is known by God." Its will the will of God. Its love the very love of God.  

In reality, the Spirit of love and power transforms the soul.  Given in order to supply what is lacking, as Saint Paul explains, the Holy Spirit accomplishes this glorious transformation in it (see Romans 8:26).  Saint John of the Cross affirms that for the soul that has surrendered to God, little is left to; by the power of the Holy Spirit, it attains the degree of which we are speaking here below! This is what I call a perfect praise of glory!

Heaven in Faith, 42.

November 6, 2018

The Saints' True Knowledge according to Saint Elizabeth

It is good to look into the soul of the saints and to follow them by faith right up to Heaven. They are completely luminous with the light of God. There, they contemplate Him face to face for all eternity. 

The Heaven of the saints is our homeland.  It is “the Father’s House” where we are awaited, where we are loved, where one day we too will be able to soar and rest in the bosom of Infinite love.  When we turn our attention to the sacred world that even in our exile envelops us, the world into which we can move ourselves – oh, how things here below vanish: all of it is for naught. It is all less than nothing. The saints for their part understood true knowledge so well. This knowledge makes us forsake all else, especially ourselves, so that we can soar to God and live only for Him! 

Saint Elizabeth of the Trinity, selected from L 184 – On November, 24, 1903, written to Mrs. Angles, the sister-in-law of Father Angles, a close family friend. After the death of her husband, Mrs. Angles became a Visitation Nun in the final years of her life.

November 5, 2018

The Eucharistic Heart of God According to Saint Elizabeth

Saint Elizabeth writes to her brother-in-law, a seminarian:

Nothing tells us more about the love in God’s Heart than the Eucharist. This union, this consummation of Him in us and we in Him, is this not heaven on earth? This is Heaven in faith while awaiting the vision face-to-face for which we yearn. When His glory appears, we will be satisfied for we will see Him in His light. Does not the very thought of such a meeting refresh you, this conversation with Someone so particularly beloved to you? All else disappears. It is as if you already penetrate the very Mystery of God.

May I be wholly ready to respond, wholly vigilant in faith, so that the Master can take me wherever He wishes. I wish to stay close to Him and to learn everything from Him. He knows the whole mystery, “The language of the Word is the gift's infusion.” Is this not so very true? He speaks to our soul in silence. 

I find this precious silence a blessing.  We have the Blessed Sacrament exposed in the oratory: what divine hours are spent in this little corner of Heaven. Here, we possess the vision in substance under the humble Host. Yes, one and the same, He who the blessed contemplate in light and He who we adore in faith. 

Selected text from Letter 165, to Andre Chevignard, June 14, 1903

November 4, 2018

The Measureless Measure

In 1904, in the days leading up to the Feast of the Presentation of Mary, Father Fages preached a retreat to Saint Elizabeth of the Trinity and the Carmelites of Dijon. In that retreat, the Dominican drew on St. Augustine to describe Mary as a model of contemplative souls. She magnified the Lord because of the love that lived in her heart, "Love, unmindful of its own dignity, thirsts to exalt and to increase the beloved: its only measure is to be without measure."

Saint Elizabeth sees this kind of love as the standard, rallying point and gravitational center for her life and the lives of her friends. Heaven loves without measure and this force of love is at work in our souls - if only we will make space for God.  She identifies love's measureless measure with the "riches of God's glory." The gravitational pull of this glory is drawing us to live "no longer our own life, but the life of Christ in us."  With this in mind, she prays to God "to fill you with this measure without measure." (see Letter 214). 

November 3, 2018

The Flowing Presence of the Holy Trinity

In a poem, John of the Cross describes the life of the Trinity as a river. He describes how this Personal Presence given to us in the Eucharist flows through the heavens and the earth. He even claims that this brimming River of Life surges through hell. Is God actually present where He is definitively and eternally rejected? If He can be present there, triumphant and just in the face of malice, how much more He reveals when the rejection is only indefinite and still confined by time.

As St John was tormented by his persecutors, he understood hell fire, and yet, he also knew that those fires could not constrain the Divine Presence. Not only through the very heart of evil, but through the evil that we cling to in our own hearts, this Living Water floods forth.  How can evil withstand this surge? How long will we resist Mercy's force?

Those who are moved to confess their sins and to do penance have felt this Almighty River. Ready to burst dams of bitterness and set limits on the power of sin and death for the price of a prayer, the currents of Divine Mercy cannot be contained or predicted. As this overflowing Flood surges through the sinful levies that we raise, tender tears begin to flow and snobs comforted by forgiveness realize a new beginning.

To help us see what the Divine Persons begins and causes to progress, Saint Elizabeth of the Trinity describes not a river but an Ocean. What mysterious Water holds us afloat on these unfathomable seas! Great tides pull us beyond what is comfortable and convenient. Deep currents can suddenly take us where no one can see. Yet, it is not to nothingness but to fullness of life the Divine Persons draw us.  Christ, the Radiant Star, captivates us and at the same time helps us navigate these Waters in which we lose ourselves. As we surrender, God surrenders - and the Holy Spirit renews this saving Mystery and the Father overshadows with His creative love anew.

Saint Elizabeth's Promise

Saint Elizabeth of the Trinity, before her death, promised to help her friends from heaven. She claimed that it would increase her joy to do so.  What she most wanted for her friends is that they should thrive, and that they should render-vous with her again in our heavenly homeland. Yet this homeland was not something that she envisioned in the distant future or remote from the heart. Instead, our true home, the place where we belong, for Saint Elizabeth, is the "Bosom of the Trinity" which is ours by a mutual indwelling - God in us, and we in God.  For her, prayer is meant to lead us out of ourselves and into a great silence that is vulnerable to the Presence of God, and such contemplative prayer knows communion with "infinite beatitude," not only in the glory that awaits us after this life, but right now, by faith. That is why she is praying for us even now. She has a special mission to lead us out of self-occupation and to open us up to the interior grace of contemplative wonder, its adoration, its mystery, its loving surrender. 

October 27, 2018

Fighting the Good Fight

Many of my closest friends, though they live disciplined and prayerful lives, struggle with various kinds of depression and painful sorrows.  They are tested beyond what seems humanly possible to bear.  Sometimes this struggle is related to exterior circumstances - a disease, the loss of a friend or an accident at work. At other times, this struggle emerges from within. Although counseling sometimes helps and other therapeutic efforts help them manage the interior pain, they sometimes are overwhelmed. They long for some kind of relief or release, and they turn to prayer. The answer they often receive is not easy or a quick fix. Sometimes, for months and years, words of a psalm become their own words,"My tears have become my bread by day and by night, while men say to me all day long 'Where is your God'" (Psalm 42:3)?

In the midst of difficult struggles, the Apostle Paul counsels Timothy to press on in righteousness, holiness, faith, love, patience, and meekness (see 1 Tim. 6:11). We must not think that such a pursuit did not involve bouts of deep sorrow and even feeling at times tormented and overwhelmed. Saint Paul himself was tormented until he discovered the strength of God in his own weakness (see 2 Cor. 12: 7-9).  Our weaknesses, dispositions, inadequacies, even the voids of our life are never obstacles to pursuing this course and fighting this fight. These interior hardships are simply a different kind of stepping stone, the next foothold for the climb that Christ leads us on.

This race, this fight, this course we are on ... it does not avoid pain and hardships. It is not intimidated by the riddles of human existence or the struggle for integrity and dignity. It is not a pathway to meaninglessness - but out of death's nihilism it journeys by faith. This is a battle for something beautiful.  It claims the ground of what is good and true. Our hope in this fight is in something more powerful than human industry and cleverness. Strength for this journey is not drawn from this world below or from the broken cisterns of self-preservation, but from above.

The evil against which we contend is not without limits, and our failures are not the last word about who we are or where we stand. Those painful voids that we fall into are not deeper than His love. When we feel cast down, even as we fight to remember God and to believe in the salvation that comes from Him, He is not indifferent to our plight, but fights for us, for He has taken our side. He lifts high His banner of love over us. Will we stand with Him?

Away from escapism, this pathway of love cuts deep into misery and contends against everything that threatens our nobility. Let us press on and run to our fatherland. Let us fight hard for what is true. We are not too young to make good progress. We are not so old that we cannot quicken our pace. Indeed, we are closer to the finish line than when we first began. It is not the second wind of limited human effort - but the new wind of the Spirit that carries us forward.  No depth, no height, no creature can stand between us and the prize that is held out.

October 25, 2018

Waters of Prayer

The gift of prayer is watered by the stream that flows from the side of the Savior. Blood and water flow out for the Church and for each soul that enters into this sublime mystery. To receive these waters, to allow them to baptize one's own existence, one must draw close to the Cross.

Before the Cross one finds the threshold of heaven, the narrow entry-way into the vast horizons of the Father's Heart. Prayer patiently searches this Heart and surrenders to its joys and sorrows. Prayer gradually discovers how much His Heart was broken on that piece of wood - for His Son possessed His Heart, and when we broke His Son, we broke the Father's heart too. Yet prayer also is also filled with the affirmation that the Father would not have it any other way. Prayer unfolds on the sure conviction that our Father would rather His Heart be broken open for us, than remain closed to our misery.

What comes from the Heart of the Father through the keyhole of the Cross? The Gift of the Holy Spirit is poured out in the Blood that makes prayer possible. The Living Presence of God is found in that water that alone quenches the thirst of prayer.  What an inexhaustible treasure! What an undeserved Gift? For the Spirit whom the Father and the Son have shared for all eternity, their mutual gift one to the other, they have given freely to us - at the price of only a few tears and a humble request. By blood and water, prayer has made us partakers of the unity, the love, the truth, and the very life of Life Himself.

October 23, 2018

Prayer's Courage

It is possible to approach prayer recklessly. Many treat the Lord as if He were a vending machine or a personal servant, or a projection of their own ego. They are impatient when the Mighty God does not gratify their momentary whims. They do not realize that it is possible to offend Him. Hardly mindful of what they have just asked and from whom they have asked it, some even rashly rebuff the One who only desires their good. This happens often when the heart allows itself to be ruled by anxiety or greed or hubris.

In a humble cry to the Lord, we can find freedom from the tyranny that possessions and power hold over us. In adoration before the Holy One, anxieties can be made subject to true hope. In repentance, sin to compunction. In attentiveness to the Word of the Father, self-delusion to truth.

Such efforts at prayer, when offered with a bowed head and bended knee, can even find reverence and awe. When the shoes of the daily routine are removed and the cacophony of one's own self torment is silenced, there is space in the heart to acknowledge the awesome majesty of God.  Jesus humbly whispered on loving lips and in the trusting heart stills every storm.

It is also possible to approach the Lord without courage.  Rather than humbly acknowledging one's place before the Lord and respectfully unfolding the deep pain that troubles one's heart, we can hold up a protective distance. It is not respect but fear to think that if we ask from Him, He will ask of us.  It is cowardly to reject the desires of the Almighty God simply because they do not respect the familiar limits that we prefer for ourselves.  It is timid then to tell ourselves that our lives are good enough, that we do not need to change.  We are afraid that the Lord just might call us out of Ur, that He might extend an unexpected friendship, and that we might have to leave everything familiar, convenient and comfortable behind.

What He asks is inconvenient because love is inconvenient: fearful of what this might mean, we draw back from the Lord even as we use just the right formulas to convince ourselves that this is not what we are actually doing.  We not only fear the truth about what He will ask of us: we fear the truth that He is showing us about ourselves.  We have not yet guessed the greatness of the sacrifice that He has created us to render. We would prefer to remain ignorant of this hidden secret. What will we have left if we give Him whatever He wants?

To offer a contrite spirit to the Lord takes great courage.  To be humble and vulnerable before His majesty takes more heart than anyone can generate on their own. Yet the courage to offer prayer in a manner that searches the deep things of God does not come from ourselves. It is a gift given from above. Those who know this gift also know confidence in the goodness of the Father. They have discovered a strength to stand, even before the gates of hell, with the triumphant Heart. 

October 22, 2018

Saint John Paul II

St. John Paul II believed that believers have nothing to fear amidst the deep cultural crisis that threatens contemporary society.  Instead, we need "to show to what depths the relationship with Christ can lead"in Novo Millennio Enuente, 32.

He observed that we live at a time of deep spiritual hunger and that cultural forces opposed to the Church are unable to address this growing need. The Modern Metropolis, no less than any ancient one, is waiting for the word of hope that the Christian faith provides. To build a culture of life and civilization of love in these tough times, Pope John Paul was convinced that a vital Christianity "returns continually to the sources" of our faith. "The great mystical tradition of the Church of both East and West has much to say in this regard" Novo Millennio Enuente, 33.

The contemporary magisterium, before and after Saint John Paul II, has also invited us to bring "the great mystical tradition of the Church" into our contemporary situation. That is why, starting in the early 1970s, Popes have proposed seven new Doctors of the Church. After Saint Paul VI added St. Teresa of Avila, St. Catherine of Siena and St. John of the Cross, John Paul II advanced St. Therese of Lisieux to this status. Since then, St. Gregory of Narek, St. Hildegard of Bingen, and St. John of Avila have also been named.

This mystical tradition offers a pathway to human maturity and to the greatness that God fashioned us to realize. It challenges conventional thinking and causes us to look beyond what is comfortable or convenient. Indeed, this wisdom is about God raising us above ourselves and leading us our of those routine ruts that lead no where. By directing us to this mystical wisdom, John Paul II invites us into this same undertaking, the holiness that lives in this tradition, the adventure into which a relationship with Christ leads.

The recently declared Doctors of the Church open us up this wisdom and we need to revisit their writings -- to allow their ideas to shape our own and to impact how we live. This is what John Paul II meant when he encouraged us to draw from these sources.  As their insights purify our own judgments, we become capable of a more intense engagement with our human vocation.  In their works we discover the wonders of the Lord and find ways to make all our relationships and our entire way of life into something beautiful for God. 

October 21, 2018

Action and Contemplation

Many believe that action and contemplation are mutually exclusive efforts. Some argue that a prayerful life is an escape from the difficult effort of loving service. Others argue that the apostolic life lacks a certain depth and devotion to the Lord. Yet the greatest mystics never saw a tension between apostolic service and contemplative prayer -- for them, it would be impossible to have one without the other.  The deeper into prayer they went, the greater their apostolic zeal. The more dedicated their love of neighbor, the more they relied on prayer for strength. How is it that these prayerful people did more than those who feel they are too busy for prayer?

In her retreat, Heaven in Faith #40, Saint Elizabeth of the Trinity looked to the Virgin Mary to resolve this paradox. She notes that during the months between the Annunciation and the Visitation, the Virgin is a model for contemplative souls.  Indeed, soul who lives by the interior life of love of the Indwelling of the Trinity is especially chosen by God to know the kind of peace that Mary knew in all her activities.

A contemplative who pondered everything in her heart, Mary was ready for action. When a command from heaven arrives, she does not hesitate to makes haste into the hill country to serve her cousin. Putting her love for God into action did not diminish her prayer. As soon as she completes her service to Elizabeth, she returns to her life of contemplation in Nazareth. The reason why she so easily goes between the two is the simplicity of her soul - her soul is simplified, unified, made simple by its wholly loving movement to the Lord whether in service to others or in prayer.

This same loving movement can lead us out of ourselves and into a great silence. In the exquisite silence of faith, every obstacle to such self-donation is removed. In particular, the stranglehold of self-occupation and fear is broken. Stripped of all that can hold it back, in this wonderful stillness, the soul is vulnerable even to God's slightest wish - and God will never hold Himself back.

The dynamism of the Bride of Christ - the mystical Body constituted by the Gift of the Holy Spirit. Love draw His Love all the more. Here, in this silence, the same silence that Mary knows, whether for love of neighbor or for love of God, the soul is always ready to give itself. Such a self-gift is at the heart of true and mature contemplation. The same self-gift defines true apostolic mission.

This peaceful readiness desires only that the will of the Father be fulfilled. If the Spirit of the Father prompts such a contemplative into action - its efforts are always fruitful. When the action is complete, the Farther delights in the prayerful gaze of such a devoted heart - for He sees His own Son reflected there. Nothing can thwart this kind of love -- for Divine Love animates and sets this heart in movement and at rest. The Trinity has become the very life of this soul - and this same soul, for its part, is transformed in its image and likeness to the Three Persons in One God.

October 18, 2018

The Indwelling of the Trinity

What animates Christian Contemplation is the most beautiful and intimate mystery of the universe -- the Glory out of which all things visible and invisible have issued forth.  This unseen Glory causes all that is to exist and holds all things in existence for no other reason than sheer love and goodness. By an utterly excessive outpouring of love, in a divine and wholly gratuitous gift of sheer grace, this inexhaustible treasure has been entrusted to the heart to be known and loved.

Such is the Divine Indwelling - beyond holding us into existence, the Trinity manifests its goodness and truth to those who believe in the Risen Lord. This is no ordinary knowledge, no simple accumulation or mastery of information. It is sacred truth - the kind of truth that when humbly received shatters all rash judgments and helps us find the way home.

The prayer that receives this knowledge and love is called mystical. It is produced, not by human effort, but by the gentle touch of the Holy Spirit.Only the most humble act of faith and determined devotion makes the soul vulnerable enough to receive this Divine Gift.

The Holy Trinity may dwell in a soul for many years before the soul become conscious of the gift that it has been given. The humble love that such a gift requires can take years of constant vigilance and silent readiness. Steeping the imagination in holy images prepares the soil. Baptizing our intelligence with revealed truth makes the necessary space. Surrendering affections and offering painful sorrows with love draws this powerful blessing. 

This hidden secret cannot be grasped by mental gymnastics or intellectual feats.  This deepest spiritual truth evades the proud and powerful. The wise of this world are confounded by its simplicity. The clever stumble over its shocking liberty.  Only poor beggars are ready for this hidden bounty.

Pierced and disjointed in helter-skelter agony, hung on dead splintered wood between heaven and earth, the last wordless cry of the Word of the Father fills the empty voids of this world with this living fullness. It flows like a font from the deepest center of Holy Spirit bathed baptized souls. It falls like rain on the contrite and runs like streams from their eyes to their hearts. Its fragrance awakens and draws love. It shakes the foundations of human existence and rips open the veils that separate Bride from Bridegroom.  

Such is the august mystery of the Holy Trinity. An endless sea of love and life flows immutably from its tenderness toward humanity while its patient purpose remains un-thwarted by our hostility.  Oh,  that we might share in that same great stillness that this boundless Presence knows -- the peace of love poured out and received. In this magnificent stillness is the humble Greatness that resists our pride and the gentle Immensity that silences our aggression.

Generously implicated in our misery, the Father sends His Son in the power of His Spirit again and again into our hearts anew -- a pure, total and personal gift -- as if always for the first time. For, in the image of the unrepeatability of God's majesty, this astonishing gift never comes the same way twice.  A personal gift of mutual relations, enkindling with bright warm splendor, this indwelling mystery is the hidden uncreated form of every created gift of self given and received in love.  

October 15, 2018

St. Teresa of Avila


St. Teresa of Jesus draws us to the light of Christ.  She does this by moving our minds, our imaginations and our hearts into the humanity of the Lord. She baptizes our imagination with the night of the Agony in the Garden so that the King might illumine us. She explains His teachings on prayer to help us see just how far heaven is beyond what we can see. She exhorts us to be mindful of His majesty and humbled by His great love so that when we ask we might receive. She argues that our prayer lives by His Body and Blood so that no matter how sublime the experiences we might have, we will stay grounded in real life.  We need this mystical wisdom in these difficult days -- for it reminds us about who we are and of the great things to which we are called.

For more on this amazing Doctor of the Church:

https://stpaulcenter.com/unmasking-popular-spiritualities-what-teresa-of-avila-can-teach-us-today/

October 11, 2018

On Keeping the Word of the Father

How do we remain in the Word? The night before He died, Christ commanded his disciples to remain in Him - and, explained, that this means to keep His Word. (See John 15.) Obeying this command goes beyond any moralism or fulfillment of minimal obligation. Minimalism does not keep the Word - for the Word, in its sheer grandeur and inexhaustible wonder, is maximal. We need to live with a maximal response if we are to hear and keep this Word whom the Father fully speaks into our lives. Such is the great task of being Christian -- and the constant effort of contemplation in the Catholic Tradition.

Keeping His Word is painful - because to receive the Word of the Father is to accept being stripped, pruned of what is not fruitful in one's life. The Father cuts off dead branches from our lives as we keep His Word in our hearts.  If we try to keep what is not fruitful, there is no room for what is fruitful. We are dissipated, wasting energy on what has little or nothing to do with the Word. So the Father prunes away what is lifeless.

He does so in respect to our freedom -- for He will not prune what we do not allow Him to. That is why remaining in the Word requires great effort. It costs us trust and confidence in the Father and surrendered openness. It means a receptivity that welcomes what the Father desires and that readily gives permission, assents to all that He yearns to do. When we freely surrender to the Father's purifying action - room is made in our hearts for the new life that the Word makes fecund within. 

October 8, 2018

Prayer and Discouragement

Sometimes, when you offer all that you have and there is no more to give, all the good that you intended seems to crash down around you. All of your efforts seem to have been for naught. Hidden sacrifices and hidden tears seem to have paid no dividends.

Sometimes, while offering a noble sacrifice and tender act of mercy, you only accomplished your own humiliation. Not only the project that you failed to bring to completion, but your own weakness and inadequacy stares you in the face. No noble feelings are left. Only void remains.

Do not let this abyss of humiliation go to waste! Do not let the opportunity to pray in the midst of failure pass you by. For here, we are finally able to offer something of real worth in the eyes of God. Here, in the place where plans are shattered and the heart is broken, Christ Crucified awaits us in love - and the Author of our Faith waits to make our own faith perfect.

The King of Glory prefers these places of poverty and failure: consider where He was born and how He died. The Image of the Invisible God has chosen to make our humiliation His own.  When we are humiliated for His sake, He who is Mighty stands ready to exalt us.

That is why, precisely when we are engulfed in disappointment, we should not torment ourselves with what we thought ought to happen, but give thanks for what the Lord Himself will accomplish. We do not need to know how or what He will do. We only need to trust that His work will be so much more beautiful than anything that was limited by our own categories of success.

Faithfulness, not success, is the good soil of prayer. In failure and defeat the frailest act of love and trust makes the whole world vulnerable to a new work that the Creator yearns to accomplish. In such a sacred place, the smallest act of gratitude is like a mustard seed. When the heart is crushed, one instant of praise in such circumstance is like a priceless pearl in His eyes. Such an act opens fissures in this world and into these the Fount of Living Waters waits to pour the inexhaustible treasuries of His great mercy.

October 6, 2018

The Personal Presence of God

God's presence in the world is personal and intimate. He is vulnerable to every concern and attends with tender care to every request. He does not approach with programs or agendas. He approaches in true friendship - offering forgiveness, salvation, a new beginning and a bond of love. He longs that we might know peace with Him and with one another.

God's personal presence in the world unveils a great mystery of love and truth that cannot be circumscribed. In His inexhaustible Fullness, He overflows the barriers of malice and contempt and shatters prisons of confusion and deception. The shrill cry that fears love and truth is silenced before His holiness. His Truth in silent majesty is always victorious when clamor of darkness would stand in His Way. Where there is no love, the Author of our Faith fills with love until love is found -- and all our clever calculations are confounded when what seemed impossible is suddenly accomplished.

God's intimate presence in love and truth is shared with us by the grace that comes from the Cross. We pull back and fear what this might mean. Yet the the King of Righteousness suffered our hostility to the end and marched into Hell so that death could not have the last word about our humanity. The power of His presence confronts our every sin and, in the face of our ignorance, makes known His justice -- so that we might come to our senses, give up our rebellion, turn to Him and know His merciful kindness. For He awaits us with open arms.

October 1, 2018

The Hidden Way

St. Therese teaches us the hidden way. It is not the way of convention. Nor is it the way of convenience. It often goes against what seems opportune. It always opens out into what is not comfortable. It goes beyond all these things to our fatherland - a place where love is unimpeded by the narrow limits of our own cleverness and achievement. She calls this hidden journey "living by love."

We are pilgrims in this world who travel with the trust of children -- this means never forgetting the goodness of the Father even when it seems most absent. The hidden way goes past our insecurities and our need to be in control. It takes us far past personal gain and even our own health. It takes us deep into the heartache of others - for there Our Bridegroom waits for us. Not suffering in itself, but the love He sees us offer in the midst of life's challenges pierces His heart.

In this face to face, the heart cries out not only in sorrow but also joy. Such is the oblation to merciful love one makes in this hidden way. Y
et it costs dearly - for who can learn to love except at their own expense? And of what use is a love that has never been tested by suffering?

For to live by love takes us on a pathway into the deepest voids -- it is in precisely such painful places that His healing touch is most felt. Finally, where His mercy touches our
misery at last, our frail humanity finds its rest - not in what it achieves but in its very inadequacy, in its very failures to lov
e. Only here, where we spend ourselves and pour out our last effort, falling short even as we hold fast to Him, do we finally learn to be confident in the goodness of the Father.

Confidence in the love of God - that is the path and it is the destination. He draws us into this great mystery by the immensity of His love - beyond every barrier, every seeming impossibility, into a place of mystery that even those closest to us do not understand ... but somehow yearn for.

September 30, 2018

Of Immeasurable Things

There is a temptation to live by the measures of others. Yet, the most noble and beautiful mysteries of this present life cannot be measured. What is born in the heart of mother and child when each beholds the other for the first time is hidden from the external observer. The exchange in the glances between the forgiven and the forgiver remains un-circumscribed by the merely calculable. How much more immeasurable is the explosion of noble affection, joy and spiritual tears known in the heart of someone who has glimpsed the tenderness of God.

We allow what is visible and material to command so much of our attention. The weight of loving things lower than the greatness of our dignity drags us down.  For this reason, whims of the moment rob us of a deeper peace that we are meant to know and anxieties distract us from giving our hearts in trust to the only One who can truly relieve our fears.  We try to control and to contain, but we are all the less secure. How many tears are shed over the loss of tangible but passing things that could never have satisfied our heart no matter how hard we clung.

It is not that there is no place for the measurable. This visible world is a wondrous gift from God and our natural power of reasons reckons so many of his wonders in amazement. These are gifts and love letters bestowed on us because we are, more than anything else, beloved. A multitude of astonishing creatures flows over our existence and is entrusted to us with such tender care. Our ability to behold this great bounty allows us to give thanks and, in response, to become good stewards. Yet we must never forget that what is measurable is only a sign of something so much more -- the faintest shadow of a great mystery that eagerly awaits us in an excess of love. 

September 29, 2018

Angels on Our Side

In the battles and challenges of this life, we have an army of holy angels on our side. Working in invisible and spiritual ways, they stand with us against everything that would threaten our dignity or undermined our integrity. Because they have been sent by God Himself, they rejoice in this great project -- safeguarding, guiding, encouraging and sometimes warning us - just when we need them to be close.

What an awesome gift they are to us!  Their presence with us speaks to the greatness of our vocation as well as the great battle that we fight. Each soul is precious to the hosts of heaven -- for the hosts of heaven have contemplated how that soul is precious in the eyes of God. They have seen the Divine Plan and they yearn that this plan might be realized for each of us.

The drama of God's love and human freedom plays out against a story that preceded this present world and that will last long after it has past away. Angels help us hold on to this perspective so that we do not allow ourselves to be subject to the tyranny of urgent circumstance and emotional frenzy. Their spiritual presence creates space in the visible world in which we thrive.

In Christ, good has triumphed over evil. If diabolical intelligences seem to have dominion in the chaos and confusion of this world and its politics, it is only an appearance. For indeed, twice the myriads of angels serve the living God -- and the Son of the Living God leads them to bring order and peace in all those hearts where the love of the Father is most needed. Who can stand against our God and His Heavenly Hosts?

September 28, 2018

Mysterious Movements of the Holy Spirit

Mysterious movements of the Holy Spirit seize the soul in prayer when serious truths are at stake. That is why, in our daily affairs, we must pray constantly. 

Sometimes, you do not know the words to say, but your heart knows something must be said: this is a critical moment for prayer. 

Sometimes, in the midst of tension, the right thing is not to diffuse the tension, but to make space for it and to allow it to sink it: prayer makes this space. 

Sometimes, clever narratives seem to win the day: prayer unmasks the myth. 

Sometimes, when courage fails, and evil seems to be unchallenged: one finds the heart to act because the mind is raised to God.

The reason turning to prayer at such times is the right thing to do is not because prayer provides an escape or serves as a coping mechanism. We pray in faith because the Holy Spirit has been sent into the nitty gritty of our daily lives, and the Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness cannot overcome it.

September 25, 2018

The Vessel of Elizabeth of the Trinity

[For 24 September 1906—on the occasion 
of M. Germaine’s 12th Anniversary of her Profession]

Immensus Pater, immensus Filius,
Immensus Spiritus Sanctus
-St. Athanasius


Behold the vessel of Laudem Gloriae,
O Mother, what a splendid journey was made! . . .
Through the peaceful night, all wrapped in silence,
Gently drifting upon the Ocean immense,
All at rest under the vault of Heaven,
“The great voice of God” she hears beckon.
Swept up suddenly by fathomless swells,
The frail little skiff lost under the waves.

It was the Trinity, opening to me His breast,
And I found my center in the Divine Abyss!
Not on shore’s edge will I remain,
Into the Infinite I plunge, my share there contained.
My soul rests in this immensity,
And lives with the Three as in eternity!
O Mother, listen well to the end of this story,
So to rejoice for your Praise of Glory.

Her homecoming to God, celebrates your feast
Her deep longing to stay “in that spacious place.”
All her sojourn always unchanged,
Behold her heart designs a sacred crusade:
Your feast will last until that solemn eve,
When Laudem Gloriae to Heaven flees,
To commence once again, surpassing life’s days,
In the Divine Secret of the Father’s Face.

-St. Elizabeth of the Trinity [Poem 115]
Translated by Julie Enzler (2018)

September 24, 2018

Battle of Contemplative Prayer

There much pre-occuaption with ecclesiastical authority. It is time to remember that the Church not only has a head, but a heart - and for the heart of the Church, the Head, the Bridegroom laid down His Life. No one can act in the person of Christ the Head and betray this self-gift of the Lord - to do so is to lose one's own integrity and poses a threat to the integrity and dignity of others. The royal road to the heart, to the self-donation for the sake of the heart, this is the humble pathway and great battle of contemplative prayer.

There is a certain cynicism in ecclesiastical circles regarding contemplation and the mystical tradition of the Church. Too many mistake silent prayer for self-absorption and so cut themselves off from the source of the Church's holiness. Others limit themselves to an outward show to garnish credibility, admiration and political capitol. This is a foolish mistake.

Whoever believes that contemplative prayer is an escape from the troubles of this world or else some other therapeutic occupation has never really prayed. This most vulnerable forms of prayer is not about religious feelings and safe ideas. This surrender of the heart peers into a dangerous abyss -- if you are not careful, you will fall in.

Yes. This tearful abyss is dangerous for mediocrity and a half lived life. This spiritual death is perilous to a comfortable existence. In this prayer of self-abnegation, one slips down a slope of human misery and heartache.  One suffers the truth about one's own life and the world. One faces off against all kinds of irrational and diabolic powers. It is a fight to the death -- and it is one's own life that is given up and sacrificed.

For this abyss and the battle fought there is circumscribed by an even deeper abyss. Human misery and evil are not deeper or more extensive than the mercy of God. They are limited -- Divine Mercy limitless.  In this divine limitlessness is the ground of our existence - the place where all that is true about human is held up. Silent prayer is drawn by the gravity of this love no matter the misery it suffers or battles it fights on the way.

Here, in the immensity of Divine Love, we find the only hope for the holiness of the Church. Here we find the gravitational center that draws us is the very source of her life. Go here and find the power to tear down walls of corruption and secrecy that threaten her fruitfulness. Go into this great silence and receive that undying energy that builds up honesty, purity, and solidarity. For Love rebuilds what we have destroyed. This purifying Fire is the source of renewal and reform - its radiance unmasks deceit and its warmth melts the coldest heart. 

September 23, 2018

Heaven Breaking In

Through branch and leaf sky falls
Into cracks breaking sidewalk crawls
Light humble
Deep into roots unseen

Through veils of smiles and tears besought
In the crevices of unfinished thought
Beholding alone
Deep into desires unseen

Through shadows of strife
Amidst disappointments rife
Journeys He
Deep into sorrows unseen

Oppression and conventions shatter
Scheme and social agenda scatter
Before Truth
Deep because sin is now seen

Heaven breaking in
Creating new heart, under Spirit wind
And hope's
Deep, the Undying One now seen.


September 20, 2018

Plunge into Prayer Because Christ Has Plunged into Our Humanity

Christian's plunge into prayer because Christ has plunged into our humanity. He penetrated the depths of the human heart in all its earthiness and scaled its heights, circumscribing its vast horizons in glory.  This means He is familiar with everything, our whole range of experience, all our hidden secrets, all our secret sorrows, those burdens of which we are conscious and mysteries about ourselves of which we have not the faintest inkling. He rejects nothing that is true but embraces all, holds us close, treasures who we are with all the affection of His Heart.

Christ has plunged even into our death and that is why death becomes a supreme moment of prayer, and every other trial practice for this final offering. He is not afraid of the meaninglessness that threatens human dignity or the painful riddles of life or the unresolved questions that haunt our hearts. He has already walked into all of this- He who is Ultimate Meaning shines His healing light into this darkness. Every tear that is shed for a loved one, every heartache over the loss of someone close, even the anger that can come with loss, and the anxiety for those we fear to leave behind - He knows it all and walks with us through this dark valley. No enemy, not even death, can thwart His love for us or His desire to save us.

This is why, no matter the evil or the trial or the sacrifice that we must endure, we can always pray. Forever and irrevocably immersed in our humanity, He is always with us. Our minds might be confused. Our emotions numb. Our bodies exhausted. But the frailest effort, the tiniest act of will - He receives like a precious pearl and He treasures, for He knows exactly what it costs.

When we are drowning under a flood of anxieties and painful tears, it is time for us to plunge into prayer even more. The immensity of His love is ever greater than anything that threatens us. The farther away He might seem, the closer He is - the smallest act of faith opens His Heart and  the floodgates of His Mercy. Having plunged into our humanity, He overflows its banks with Divine Hope.


September 18, 2018

The Power of Contemplative Prayer

Contemplative prayer has immense power against all kinds of evil. This silent movement of the heart unveils self-contradictions and rash judgments that threaten one's own integrity and, at the same time, this vulnerability to God is healing balm for the integrity of others. This deep stillness of spirit allows God to establish one's whole being in His very Presence so deeply that one cannot remotely guess how profoundly hidden one's life has become. At the same time, in this hiddenness, life flows anew in this old, tired world.

This kind of prayer involves renunciation. One must renounce all forms of bitterness and resentment, even when these are evoked by seemingly just causes, to protect the delicate work that God's love is bringing to perfection. One must renounce the frustrated anger that would lash out and assert itself when circumstances and events seem to be spiraling out of control.  This means humility -- what Divine Presence is unfolding within can never be controlled by any created power. One must also renounce all self-pity and anxiety -- indulging such self-occupation renders the heart too small for the Living God. All lesser loves must find their proper place before this one Love.

This adoration soaked in tears also involves sacrifice. Though a thousand schemes and opportunities for self-preservation flood the mind, this movement of the Holy Spirit requires us to be resolute not only in renouncing these, but also in picking up the Cross of self-abnegation out of an obedient love for God. Though other dreams and ambitions shine from every side, this surge of the heart to the Lord evokes a singleminded faithfulness that stays the course. Some have gladly sacrificed careers, worldly honors, and friends to attain this pearl of great price. Others have even left family, and language, and country because of where this humble pathway leads. Once one begins this difficult pilgrimage from the surface of life to the depths of God's love, there can be no looking back.

Only this prayer can traverse the abyss of human misery. As it climbs the steep ravines of virtue, of insight, of integrity, it slides down further the slopes of inadequacy, of powerlessness, of painful voids. What draws it forward is not desire for victory or fear of failure, but the Hidden Presence of Love Crucified. What gives it confident assurance is not its own progress or industry, but the One who has Risen from the dead.  Rooted in His Presence by faith, this quiet stillness knows that deeper than the abyss of misery is the abyss of mercy - to fall into this abyss is to be raised to heights that this world cannot contain.

No wonder this kind of prayer allows us to pray in reparation for our own sins and the sins of the world. When one can no longer weep for one's own sins, it is possible to begin to weep for the sins of the world. When one knows how much one needs the mercy of God, one self-identifies with everyone who needs this mercy - and deep heartache for the plight of humanity grips the soul. Such grief is honored by God. No sin can bend as low as this humbled knee. No evil can reach as high as this bowed head. No rant can be heard as clearly as the confession of this tongue.  Such prayer knows the deep things of God and opens up space in the wilderness of human freedom for the Lord to make all things new. 

September 15, 2018

The Tears of Mary

The tears of Mary, treasured by God, are poured out for those who are powerless and vulnerable. She stands with all those who have been abused by the powerful. She takes her stand with those who have no one to take their side. She listens patiently to their grief and anger, and she hears the heart of her Son on the Cross.  She suffers their indignity until the pain dissolves into tears. She lets her heart be pierced by the wounds that that have pierced their innocence and goodness.  She never fails to see in the forgotten and the lowly, in the abused and humiliated, in the marginalized and the oppressed, in the suffering and the poor an image of her own Son.

Of all the closest friends of Christ, only one stood with His Mother when it most counted. Today, also there are shepherds who stand on this holy ground, where hearts are pierced. As when the Church was born from the side of Christ, they are too few who have the courage not to abandon Him.  The Lord invites us to stand with them - to allow our own hearts to be pierced with them just as His Mother's heart was pierced.

Let our own tears fall as these good shepherds make reparation for the evil wrought, not only by thieves and marauders, but by His unfaithful friends. These good shepherds see the heartache of the people of God and we should not fear to see this with them.  Their hearts break because of the confusion caused by the Lord's own disciples and we should let our own hearts break too.

It is painful to live in the light of this truth, yet this is a healing pain.  To stand in this place with the Beloved Disciple and His Mother, this is to stand at the epicenter of a new creation no human evil can circumscribe. Here, in this sacred place, is where integrity is born and wholesomeness reclaimed.

For the faithful of the Lord, those who cling to Him night and day, and those who suffer the loss of all things for His sake - the Living God takes your side. As you weep for those who have been abused and for their abusers, as you beg for the Holy Spirit to reveal to us our sins and to lead us all to deeper conversion, He bends over you like a mother her child. The Father has covered you with His mighty shadow, and His Holy Spirit is renewing the mystery of Christ in you.

Just as are treasured the tears of Mary, your prayers are heard.  Those who most need healing today are being blessed by your intercession and your hidden sacrifices. Your cries, that Mary knows with you, are accepted by the Vindicator. Structures of sin are falling down. The Gates of Hell will not prevail. Those holy feelings and noble thoughts that lead to courageous acts of mercy testify to this new work in you. Hidden in His tenderness, hidden in the tears of His Mother, He is unleashing a beautiful new work in you and through you, He is making all things new.

September 14, 2018

To Console the Heart of Christ

In this time of scandal, the Holy Spirit moves hearts to console the Heart of Christ. I saw this at the SCRC on September 1, 2018. In a filled arena after mass, Bishop David O'Connell, an auxiliary bishop of the Los Angeles, offered a healing mass. After a Eucharistic Procession, he prepared to repose the Blessed Sacrament on the Altar. But then he stopped and offered a short catechesis on praying the name of Jesus and being mindful of His presence in the heart. A great stillness filled the thousands gathered in the arena. Then, sobbing, he began to pray for all the victims of clerical abuse, and their healing. He begged for the mercy of Jesus for all the failures of the clergy and for the grace of conversion. In tears, he humbly asked Jesus "how can we console your heart?"

I had closed my eyes for most of this. When I opened my eyes, a group of priests were kneeling around me - their eyes were also wet with tears. Indeed, most of those gathered that evening were pierced to the heart by this prayer to console the heart of Jesus. What consoles His Heart but our humble awareness of the immensity of His love for each of us, especially for the vulnerable and afflicted?  Our sorrow over how He continues to be rejected by his friends and our own sluggishness creates space in our hearts for Him to do something beautiful in the world and in our lives. In that arena, many who came to seek healing from the Lord, but through the bishop's ministry, suddenly were caught up in this act of reparation for the healing of the Church. 

September 11, 2018

The Spiritual Castle and Monsters that Threaten it

In times of crisis and confusion, if we do not wish to be swept away, we must return to "ourselves" and remember who we are. This is what St. Teresa of Avila's Spiritual Castle introduces in the life of prayer. To help us understand this movement of interior recollection and contemplative prayer, she shows us a crystal radiant with light whose brightness increases the closer we draw to its center. God's own light shines forth from such a soul as a beacon in this dark world. But to become such a beacon for others, St. Teresa explains that we must deal with monsters who threaten us not only on the outside of the Castle, be even on the inside.

She speaks of lizards, toads and snakes - and she has in mind demonic and worldly influences on our emotions and thinking.  Making what is merely peripheral the priority of our heart leaves us vulnerable, and mindlessly going with the emotion of the moment can leave us poisoned in the cold darkness of this world. St. Paul similarly warns us against conforming our minds to this age and living with our minds darkened. St. Teresa wants us to raise our minds to the light of truth in prayer. The closer we draw to the light that is Christ, the more we overcome the threats that these monsters represent.

This is a call to great vigilance especially in stormy times. Emotions stirred up by the news cycle, or gossip or even our own rash judgments about the world can often betray where we would otherwise desire to stand in life. We forget to be true to ourselves when we are caught up in the bellicose or vindictive movements of the moment. We become weighed down in a spiral of self-torment when we are not wise about our own impulses against what is true and good. We take nihilistic plunges - blowing up trust, relationships and opportunities, because without self-knowledge, we forget the task of who we are and the divine gift that our neighbor is. Long before we can ever effectively deal with difficult circumstances that beset us from without, we must be masters of the challenges that we confront from within.

Father James V. Schall reminds us of this point through his reflections on Samuel Johnson's Idler: 
things we would rather remain hidden from ourselves, it is best to pull out and deal with. Is it not true that often we allow ourselves to be driven by the emotion of the moment so that we are distracted from this painful truth? Yet, those who find this truth - who have the courage to accept their strengths and weaknesses for what they are - they are the one's who discern best how to respond to the value at stake. They become beacons for those who have lost their way.

September 9, 2018

Time to Pray, Fast and Offer Sacrifice

Painful truths are coming forward and evil swoops down like a terror of the night. Apostles have betrayed the Church. Abuse. Denial. Fear. Silence. Confusion. Rancor. Yet this terror does not get the last word -- and will never be victorious. Let us instead attend to the heart of God and be concerned about what concerns Him. Let us console the heart of Christ over the plight of His mystical Body, the Church - over the wounds suffered by the powerless and vulnerable, the lowly and humble.  For God weeps for them -- and so should we. He sought us out in our brokenness. Now it is time for us to stand with Him and makes space in our lives for Him to act.

What do we do to console the heart of Christ, we who have no ecclesiastical power or authority? Obviously, walls of secrecy must fall and thresholds of justice and mercy be built. This begins in our hearts and in our families - from the smallest every day habits to the big life time decisions. All must be purified and reformed and made new. This transformation of the heart cannot stop in one's private sphere, however - like all new life, it must extend to our parishes, local churches and communities. This gathering tide of reform continues from these humble beginnings to reach ever deeper and farther and higher through the wounds of Christ's Body. Such a flood of wisdom for this does not come from human industry or cleverness. It is a gift from the Father -- He has a plan for peace that He desires us to know. This plan is opened up by His Son, crucified for our sake. If we want to know this plan, we must find and abide with Him.

To find the Crucified Image of the Invisible God, we do not need to search far. Instead, we pray, we fast and we offer sacrifices - with confidence that Christ's love is more powerful than every abuse and betrayal. If we remember Judas's betrayal, Peter's denial, and the nine who abandoned their Friend; we will be saddened, but not astonished, by evil in the Lord's House. Only one remained to stand with his Mother as He suffered abuse, humiliation and death. Only those who will stand by those who suffer in this way will ever know what the Beloved Disciple knew at Mary's side. Solidarity with our humiliated sisters and brothers requires us to go beyond what is convenient and face truths that are uncomfortable to live with. Only love humbled by prayer and fasting allows one to enter this Holy of Holies.

Under the shadow of the Cross, the glory of God shines forth. The power of the Risen One is seen in ecclesial leaders who stand with the truth, who comfort the sorrowing, who thirst for justice, who for mercy's sake ask for clarity and who act as good shepherds -- not hired-hands and thieves. Not afraid of wolves, these peacemakers protect the meek and the lowly -- through them, those who have chosen the Cross find themselves overshadowed by the truth that He who is mighty is doing great things.

Indeed, in this night of faith, the passion of Christ is renewed and the soul is filled with grace. Those who do not pray cannot find this holy ground because only prayer openness to that fresh newness that waits there. Those who do not fast cannot enter under this soul-filling shadow, they are already too full. Those who will not bear hardships or renunciations or sacrifice for the love of the Lord can never stand with the Woman and the Beloved Disciple - because one can only enter into the mystery of the Cross at one's own expense.

Under the outstretch arms of the One who cries out for the plight of humanity, heaven and earth embrace, injustice is overthrown and evil vanquished. Here is the chastisement that makes us whole. Here, the blood and water that purifies from the stain of sin and give new life. Here, the truth of human dignity finds shelter. Here, the proud are cast down and the humiliated raised up.  Here, reform for broken structures of hubris and secrecy. Here, renewal of hope - born in the darkness that cannot overcome it.  Here, in the very bosom of God, we stand with the One who weeps that the true peace He holds out for us might at last reign in our hearts. 

September 7, 2018

Prayer in the Catholic Tradition

Prayer in the Catholic Christian tradition immerses us in the love of the Word of the Father. An activity of the heart of Christ, this cry to the Father flows from and leads to the Holy Trinity. Emptying and humbling of "self," this going out from self implicates us in the plight of humanity. Opening up a vision that looks beyond the veils of this present life, this baptism of the mind in truth demands purification, renunciation and sacrifice. Bringing to completion God's work in us, this silent fullness confronts all manner of challenges and hardships. Never offered alone, even in extreme loneliness and humiliation, this spiritual worship is in solidarity with the Mother of God, and all the angels, and all the saints in endless praise. A gift from above, even when there are no more words to say, this prayer groans with divine meaning and love. 

September 5, 2018

Truth

Truth does not rant or rage,
This silent Stranger patiently knocks at the door of the heart.

Truth does not change to avoid conflict.
This Suffering Servant is the still point around which the world turns.

Truth does not impose itself or presume.
This Neighbor waits to be freely welcomed. 

Truth cannot be purchased or controlled.
This Life never fails to enrich the soul and to provide self-mastery.

Woe to those whose hubris blinds them to this kindly Light,
if they do not come to their senses,
they may lose their way forever.

No one can stop the Truth --
Though abused, betrayed, denied, abandoned,
Even by His friends,
The Word of the Father rises against death itself unvanquished.

September 3, 2018

Purity of Heart

In the midst of crisis, Christ looked to the Father with infinite confidence. So must we. He knew, with infinite confidence, that the Father also gazed on Him with love.  In Him, the Father also gazes on us.  The Father delights to show us in His Son the immensity of His love -- this is why He is constantly sending His Word and His Spirit into our hearts in ever new ways.

How do we contemplate the Father? Jesus declared that "whoever sees me, sees the Father" (John 14:9). The image of the invisible God, faith in Him gives real access to the Father. This means, if we approach the Father in the name of Jesus, the Father always hears us -- if we persevere in calling on the Name of Jesus, the Father will not fail to pour out His blessings on us.

Yet to believe in Jesus, the Word of the Father, implicates us in a difficult task. To believe in the One who is Truth Himself means that we commit ourselves to believing the true faith - and this means our false beliefs must fall away.  To believe in the One whose body was crucified for our sake, we must live our faith out in our bodies by keeping ourselves chaste in all our relationships. To believe in the One who loved us to the end, we must live our faith by laying our lives down for one another.

Confidence in the Father through faith in Jesus commits us to purity of of heart -- a life long pursuit that the Blood shed for us makes possible.  Pure of heart by our teaching, our chastity and our love, we will see the living God.  Holding nothing back in our devotion to Christ, the Father will hold nothing back from us. 

August 22, 2018

The Glory of God in this Time

In the midst of distress and anxiety, the glory of God crashes in around us. This glory is revealed in the plight of our brothers and sisters who have been abused, abandoned, betrayed and denied by those entrusted with their care. When apostles betray Christ, this glory unveils the truth about who we are and what we have done against the standard of God's love. When God's shepherds fail to protect the sheep, this glory manifests all the more the warmth and light of heaven in the dark cold of our hearts and our society. When hearts fail and compromise themselves at the expense of others, this glory establishes justice and offers a pathway of mercy.

Though some defensively rant to preserve themselves, in this glory is chastisement and purification, a time to renew our dedication to the Lord and to His Little Ones. Though some cast about with accusations and blame, before this glory is an invitation to pray the Magnificat mindful of how the Lord deals with the proud and strong, and how He takes the side of the poor and powerless. Though some deflect and avoid, the radiance of this glory offers the opportunity to repent of our indifference to sin and to the harm sin causes. Though some are bogged down in dismay and self-loathing, this glory calls us to turn back to the Lord with our whole heart, and allow His love to challenge us to the core.

In this glory of God's coming, there is no time for business as usual. No time for righteous excuses or empty promises. No time for hubris. Not time for cynicism. No time for presumption. No time for fear. No time for righteous displays and empty words in prayer. No time to worry about spin and liability. No time to search for scapegoats or to point the finger at others. No time for conventional thinking. No time to hang on to our old way of life. There is no time for noisy rancor in the glory of the coming of the Lord.

In this glory is the newness of the Word who makes all things new. In the glory of this Just Judge, it is time to allow ourselves to be shaken out of complacency and self-occupation. Time for a new beginning. Time to take stock. Time to return to our senses. Time to start the journey home. Time to take responsibility for what we have done. Time to rescue the wounded and dress the wounds. Time to realize that whatever we do, it is never enough. Time to submit our whole manner of living to the Gospel of Christ. Time for the renewal of our mind.  Time to seek forgiveness. Time to learn to forgive. In the shadow of the justice this glory declares, it is time for sobered silence humble before the Word.

For in the midst of catastrophes of our own making, God speaks His word of hope. While the sun and moon fall out of the sky, and every corporate structure in the Church passes away, this Word does not waiver -- the Word who dwells with us remains forever. Hear the Word whose wordless cry rings from the Cross and echoes in the empty tomb. Allow this great canticle to lay bear your heart. This is the Word that the Father hears and the Word that tells everything the Father longs for us to know. This Word can teach our hearts to ache with compassion for those who have been abused, betrayed, denied and abandoned. For those who will keep this Word, the passion of Christ is unveiled again through the suffering of His Little Ones; and because of this Word, we find the courage to take their side, to hear their suffering cry, and to stand with them in this difficult hour. 

August 12, 2018

Only the Love of God the Father Can Restore Us

The moral and spiritual crisis of our time is a crisis in fatherhood - a refusal to allow the Father to love us and the lack of courage to reveal the Father's love and concern for the most vulnerable.  We see this reflected in the mentality that Church problems are fixed by money and programs - rather than conversion of heart and prayer. Just as no program can heal the heart of a child as much as the love of father and mother, no committee or policy can heal the Church apart from the love of God the Father. Yet, because so many have been abused or neglected by their fathers, we are afraid to draw attention to God the Father.

We see the Father as neither comfortable or convenient politically, socially or culturally.  We pretend that we do not come from Him and that we are not in His image and likeness. We presume that we have a right to take the blessings that belong to the Father, and to use them for our own social agendas and projects. To live on our own terms rather than His, we distance ourselves from His Love.

Since we will not draw close to our heavenly Father, we ourselves have forgotten how to be fathers.   Afraid to offend against dehumanizing ideologies, we do not speak of the Father's goodness or wisdom, or offer His blessing to those who most need it. Shamed into silence and afraid to sound unsophisticated, we have allowed heartless jargon to replace what we can only find if we go to the heart of the Father. And fatherless societies beget walking wounded, children whose gaping emptiness torments them ... even to the point that to relieve the pain, they abuse themselves and others. These fatherless children become adults -- and now we live with generations suffering this nihilistic vacuum in which all that is innocent, good, holy, and true is sucked away. Even those who we trust have become like pigs -- and have we not been drawn to their sty?

The love of the Father is so much more, so far beyond, so much more beautiful and tender than the limits of our feeble hearts allow us to feel or know. We are afraid of his paternal affection because we will not allow ourselves to become familiar with it -- we are ignorant of just how much we are loved to our own downfall.  If only we would calm the internal rancor of our own thoughts and allow ourselves to listen to the deep movements of tender concern and gentle understanding that live in His Word!

To be kissed by the Father, to be taken into HIs embrace, this is no less than to surrender into a love that at once heals, purifies, reconstitutes, and transforms. This is the Gift of the Holy Spirit - its intensity and power cannot be overestimated. Such loves moves us against presumption to penance; against callousness to make restitution; against arrogance to humbly atone for what unaided human effort can never atone. The sheer immensity of the Father's love raises us above ourselves -- not only in our giftedness and excellences, but in our weaknesses and inadequacies -- especially in the painful voids. Yes, there where love seems most absent, the Father is there with us -- aching over our humiliation and shame, with life giving tears.

The Father's heart is pierced by the plight of his children -- He is never indifferent or aloof. This is what we read in the story of the Prodigal Son... Luke 15:11-32. The Father is deeply moved when He sees His son coming from a long way off.  The verb in Greek for "to pity, to have compassion" (ἐσπλαγχνίσθη) means that the deepest parts of one's very being are moved, implicated, in the plight of another. This is the same word used in the parable of the Good Samaritan. It is also used when Jesus sees the crowds who have come to follow him.

When applied to God the Father, this means that the mysterious depths of God are implicated in our plight ... that like of Father of the Prodigal Son, God the Father has taken our side. He is already running to us, ready to embrace, to kiss us with the affections of His love for us. Anyone who allows himself or herself to become the object of the Father's love, such a person becomes like the Father, capable of being moved by the plight of those in distress. Such a movement of heart never sees strangers or enemies to be feared or used ... only family to be cherished.

We live at a time when all of us need to come to our senses and consider how generous and good the Father is to everyone who serves Him.  Betrayal, denial, abandonment are not more patient than this healing love that both awaits and evokes our contrition. Avoiding responsibility has baptized us in desperate plight - it is time for the courage to face who we are, what we have done and to whom we have done it. No program or policy can  replace humility. No optics or media spin can heal the shame or cure the wounds we have caused. We may not feel that we are worthy to be his sons or daughters -- but the One who begets, who loves life, wants us to live life to the full.

To approach the Father, we must follow the way of His Son - empty ourselves of our projects and ambitions, humble ourselves about our need for salvation, die to ourselves and our hubris. We approach Him in penance, fasting and prayer, realizing that in the immensity of His generous love, we are not worthy to be his slaves for His Son took the form of a slave... and, on this very cross road that His Son trod, the Father runs to meet us with the same love that He bears "the One in whom I am well pleased". And in a silent fullness, we feel at once the comfort of His embrace; and the overwhelming goodness of His kiss. Healing and restoration await in the tender touch of those wetted cheeks and in those tears, divine and human, mingled through that hoped for, but surpassing, joy. 

July 29, 2018

Avila and Signs


Around Avila, as the holy soul by love,
Walls witness signs above.
Wisdom here, against rancor, raises
Ramparts, crying out, "God never changes."

Blood's anger before these walls will pass -
Testimony that loss is not the last
word, for only one Word abides.
Trial, for the humble, after a time subsides.

His strength and goodness remain
Reflected, and in silent stillness sustain,
Above all dark dread on earth's slope,
a sign, her one great unvanquished hope.


June 22, 2018

To Live by Faith

To live by faith in the Risen Lord is to root one's existence in a personal reality far deeper and far higher than the exigencies of the moment. Tenderly relational, this faith makes a mutual indwelling of the heart in God and God in the heart. Faith that seeks Him, though He seems so hidden, allows the winds of eternity to blow into time. Faith in His living presence renders an unnoticed instant vulnerable to eternal meaning.  Faith's gift opens the heart's door to this Divine Guest - that mysterious neighbor whose benevolence remains unmatched. 

Living by such faith is to be liberated from chains of rash judgments and the weight of painful memories. To cleave to God in this way alone sets one free on the vast horizons and sure ground of truth. The substance of our hope, only this faith opens to a love stronger than death and more powerful than the dark forces that threaten human dignity. Only this faith forgives sin and gives standing before the Almighty. 

Stretching earthly existence beyond what natural reason can calculate, this radiant light inspires the loftiest of thoughts but is never circumscribed by them. This new beauty baptizes the imagination with heart-piercing symbols and signs but no mere myth contains it. No projection of one's own ego or project, this astonishing power carefully purifies and heals deep seated instincts and urges, patiently submits them to the One who conquered sin, and humbly raises them above to glory. 

To die by faith in this Bridegroom, the One whose coming no power in heaven or on earth or under the earth can deter, this is to offer in love the most beautiful of deaths. Faith in the Life, the Truth, and the Way, who died for love of us, empowers us to offer our own bodies as a living sacrifice, so that even our last breath is taken up into spiritual worship.  For by faith, even as we die, His power is given to us and is accomplishing in us a work so rare and so vital, the whole world awaits its revelation. 

May 3, 2018

The Grace that Silence Knows

In the deepest center of the abyss of one's being there is a fountain of life-giving waters. This fount flows forth from an even deeper abyss into abyss of the heart - for deeper than the misery of the heart is the mercy of the One who knows it. Ever deeper the farther from its center - sanctifying, forgiving, healing, renewing. This life giving spring lives unfathomably deeper than either sin or death can know.

If the truth revealed to us did not propose the secret of such a hidden place, that haunting ache for the One who we do not know remains a mysterious witness. For in the painful emptiness that prayerful silence hears suggests the fullness that eagerly waits to fill it. In the silent cry of the heart one discovers that the ennui that creation suffers for the Creator is only a dim reflection of the ennui the Creator has freely embraced for humanity.

The Cross has unleashed this torrent relentless in pursuing its course -- making all things new. The ocean of mercy that issues forth from such glory can never be exhausted. The empty tomb is proof that the vast horizons out to which these waters stream remain, to this very day, largely unexplored. The real presence of the Risen One ensures that this hidden but mighty river will flow in us always until the end of the ages.

The grace that makes holy the human heart invites, calls and challenges each one. Like the morning sun invites and the beauty of spring calls, grace evokes new confidence and enkindles fresh hope.  Like the love of a bridegroom challenges his bride, this wonderful gift surrenders itself into the surrender that each heart renders. For the grace that makes holy makes youthful and new every heart that receives it - no matter how aged.

This freely given gift liberates a soul from its own ego. An immense overflowing flood of love and life, its currents are not imposed, are not extrinsic.  For this most precious and delicate of gifts refuses to coerce what is most interior to man. This grace floods a person's interiority until the body itself is freed for love. This mysterious power makes chains of selfishness fall away. The ability to do something beautiful for God and one's neighbor is unlocked.

With tender gentleness, this gift from above re-constitutes and subtly perfects what is most noble within us. It conceives truths and movements of heart by which God Himself is enjoyed and brought to bear for solemn purpose. To resist such a priceless gift is to resist no less than the truth about oneself and the dream that God has kept from before the foundation of the world.

May 1, 2018

From the Deepest Abyss to the Furthest Frontier

Your body is a temple. It is not inconsequential. You have been set apart - not as an abstract spirit, but enfleshed.  A dwelling place for God, there is something sacred about who you are. How you offer your body reveals your spiritual worship. If you allow Christ to renew your mind, your whole existence can be entirely transformed.

Just as at the dawn of creation, the Living God has fashioned each one's being not unlike an open sea. The shores of each one's existence are only found beyond one's own horizons. On this ocean, ripples from a single thought begin in deepest secret and move beyond anywhere unaided reason might strain. Blown by the Spirit, they can even enter into the heart of another. And the ripples that this same thought causes to flow from the heart of a stranger can also suddenly pierce through one's own indifference.

These Spirit blown ripples of new life go out with gathering speed and magnitude until, as mighty waves, they surge toward the rugged coastline of humanity's furthest frontier -- their final destination, not a place, but a Heart who eagerly awaits them. Against the Rock Ages, their foam and spray reach for the heavens, and for pure joy, their roar and crash crescendo. For indeed, words fall short of this happy meeting, the pledge of something that this world cannot contain. Pounding again and again, as if always for the first time, rock and water mutually surrender, one to the other, while each remains in total otherness, entwined. Is it the waves or the shore that has caused this jubilation?

At this mysterious frontier where humanity and divinity meet, all restlessness, guilt and death is circumscribed. All that threatens the greatness and dignity of humanity finds its limit on this obedient shore. On this rocky fastness one's very integrity and all noble hope find safe haven. Tears are dried. Sorrows consoled. Confidence given. A new beginning awaits. For such is the limitlessness of Divine Mercy - that exotic coast whose untamed freedom defies all mastery.

Yet what thought goes from the deepest abyss to these furthest frontiers of human existence? This fiery sword cuts free, severs and penetrates deeper than marrow. This shining star captivates, draws to heaven, and radiates one's very existence with truth. An anchor for one's whole being, body and soul, that suffers storms only to establish an even deeper peace.

Not a tempest threatening with passionate violence, yet this sudden spark can sting one's conscience until one's life turns in a new direction. Not a abstract ideal, yet a coming to one's senses that leads from pigsty to the Father's embrace. Not a program of self-improvement, but this gentle call of love evokes solemn resolve. Not understood or grasped by any natural capacity, but in unaware fruitfulness, this contemplation is given and received in naked faith.

Filled with the Word who makes all things new, this vulnerable prayer vanquishes death and gives birth to a life undying. Born in the impoverished ambiguity weighing on the world below, this ray of truth enriches with the most delightful treasures and raises everything to what is above -- so that even the heavy of heart wonder over how light the burden, how easy the yoke.

To allow this holy thought to sanctify your heart, turn your thoughts to Him. His Tomb is empty yet His Cross stands at the very center of your life. In the face of meaninglessness, Christ Crucified lives to free, purify, and graft us in truth. On the waters of our hearts, He processes in sovereign freedom. In heart-breaking silence, His prayer to the Father still echoes with hope and His life, poured out for the world, still pours out with love.

The holy sanctuary of your  heart yearns for memory of His passion to be renewed. Your very body, fashioned by the Father to be a temple, longs for His Son's life giving water and blood to burst the banks of the sin and misery that have imprisoned you.  Your soul starves for the only food that can feed it, the only drink that can satisfy its thirst. Once surrendered to His humility by humble prayer, nothing can stand between your heart and the inexhaustible torrents of our Savior's love.