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 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.