Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The “Kiss” of Divine Love Reflections from John of the Cross and Bernard of Clairvaux

Today is the Memorial of St. Bernard of Clairvaux.
He wrote a series of sermons on the first part of the Song of Songs.

In my email this morning, I found this lovely article and wanted to share it.

source:  http://imgc.allpostersimages.com/images/P-473-488-90/21/2130/37LED00Z/posters/gustav-klimt-the-kiss-der-kuss-close-up-of-heads.jpg

The “Kiss” of Divine Love
Reflections from John of the Cross and Bernard of Clairvaux


Mystics have a way of placing ancient truths in a new light. They present for us what we already believe but in a way that fills us with wonder and awe, as if we were seeing it for the first time. St. John of the Cross is one example, as he introduces us to what may be possible if we are truly in love with God.

Imagine waking up in the morning to the touch or kiss of a loved one. You find yourself rising gently from the depths of the unconscious, like a sailor finally reaching home after wandering distant and foreign shores. In comparison, what is it like to awaken to the “kiss” of divine love in the depths of the heart? St. Bernard of Clairvaux, referring to the first line of the Song of Songs, describes God’s kiss as a secret expression of ineffable love that brings us back to life. According to Bernard, the kiss surpasses anything known in the physical world, and represents the intimate touch of the spirit of Christ.

Who can begin to describe the depth and meaning of the intimate touch of the spirit of Christ on our hearts? We know Jesus Christ as the fullness of God’s revelation to humanity, but we often bracket this as a dogmatic truth rather than looking upon it as God’s personal self-disclosure to us. In other words, God has entered into human experience and has given us in the Person of Jesus a glimpse into divine love. Divine love is so ready and willing to have an intimate relationship with us that it actually becomes one of us in order to reveal itself more. John reminds us that in Jesus Christ, God holds back nothing; he reveals the compassionate depths of divine nature by dying for us on the cross and rising from the dead, holding out the hope that we, too, will one day be transformed.

John was amazed that the Father offered us the gift of his Son, that God became human in Christ: “For this is how God loved the world: he gave his only Son” (John 3:16). It was a gift, he believed, given to each one of us personally. To truly understand John’s teaching, each of us has to claim our fundamental giftedness, namely, that Christ belongs to me and my unique personal history. God not only knows my thoughts, feelings, and experiences but identifies with them in the Person of Jesus Christ, who has become like us in all things but sin (Hebrews 4:15).

When the Word touches our hearts with his personal presence, when we are “kissed” by him, we really know God and are in communion with the divine. Only in the depths of our hearts is the Word fully revealed to us. Imagining Jesus in the Incarnation or on the cross is not enough. The incarnate Word is more than visible and tangible to us; he is a sign and invitation calling us to open ourselves to a fuller experience of revelation, to the divine presence within us. Only by an inner experience of grace—the touch of the Word’s own presence—can we really know Jesus and, in knowing him, know the Father as well.

If we are looking for God to intervene in our lives or for miracles to guide us, then our faith is limited. The faith that Jesus desires, insists John, is the total surrender of ourselves to him so that he can reveal himself intimately to us. According to John, Jesus knows what is in our hearts and will not reveal himself to us if our hearts are not open to his presence. What God wants to communicate to us cannot be expressed externally or in words; it can be expressed only in our awakening to the touch of a loving presence.

Trust, then, that everything is given to us through the Word made flesh, and we need nothing more. This overflowing of the Father’s love transforms us and all of creation. The more we immerse ourselves in the mystery of the Incarnation, the more wisdom we will gain to appreciate the beauty and goodness within ourselves, in others, and in the world at large. John himself saw light everywhere, in the faces of the people he met and in the forms of the natural world, all of which he believed were an extension of his love for Christ.

Once I take the Incarnation personally and accept that God gave his only Son especially for me, then I look at the world around me and see everything in a dramatically different way: It is all given through Christ. My vision changes; my eyes are renewed. In wonder I see the physical world, from quarks to the cosmos, as an expression of the Word made flesh, God’s love taking form.

Wayne Simsic is an author and retreat leader. He teaches at Ursuline College in Pepper Pike, Ohio. This article is adapted from his bookSeeking the Beloved: A Prayer Journey with St. John of the Cross. If you’d like to read another excerpt or purchase the book, please visit our Bookstore.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Litany of Humility

Litany of Humility

O Jesus! meek and humble of heart, Hear me.

From the desire of being esteemed, Deliver me, Jesus.

From the desire of being loved, Deliver me, Jesus.

From the desire of being extolled, Deliver me, Jesus.

From the desire of being honored, Deliver me, Jesus.

From the desire of being praised, Deliver me, Jesus.

From the desire of being preferred to others, Deliver me, Jesus.

From the desire of being consulted, Deliver me, Jesus.

From the desire of being approved, Deliver me, Jesus.

From the fear of being humiliated, Deliver me, Jesus.

From the fear of being despised, Deliver me, Jesus.

From the fear of suffering rebukes, Deliver me, Jesus.

From the fear of being calumniated, Deliver me, Jesus.

From the fear of being forgotten, Deliver me, Jesus.

From the fear of being ridiculed, Deliver me, Jesus.

From the fear of being wronged, Deliver me, Jesus.

From the fear of being suspected, Deliver me, Jesus.

That others may be loved more than I, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

That others may be esteemed more than I, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

That, in the opinion of the world, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

others may increase and I may decrease, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

That others may be chosen and I set aside, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

That others may be praised and I unnoticed, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

That others may be preferred to me in everything, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

That others may become holier than I, provided that I may become as holy as I should, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

Rafael Cardinal Merry del Val (1865-1930),
Secretary of State for Pope Saint Pius X

Source:  http://rcspiritualdirection.com/blog/2010/03/06/litany-of-humility#ixzz2cHtMoACg

Discerning daily

Prayer for Discernment

(Source:  usni.org)

God our Father,
You have a plan for each one of us,
You hold out to us a future full of hope.

Give us the wisdom of your Spirit
so that we can see the shape
of your plan in the gifts
you have given us,
and in the circumstances
of our daily lives.

Give us the freedom of your Spirit,
to seek you with all our hearts,
and to choose Your Will above all else.
We make this prayer through Christ our Lord.

Being Unsure


Source: http://service.cua.edu/longtermservice/prayersfordiscernment.cfm

My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going.
I do not see the road ahead of me. Nor do I really know myself.
And the fact that I think I am following your will
Does not mean that I am actually doing so.

But I believe that the desire to please you
Does in fact please you.

And I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.
And I know that if I do this,
You will lead me by the right road
Though I may know nothing about it.

Therefore I will trust you always
Though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death
I will not fear for you are ever with me.

And you will never leave me to face my struggles alone.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Carmelite Sisters of the Sacred Heart

The Carmelite Sisters of the  Most Sacred Heart are located in Los Angeles.  Unlike most Carmelite convents, these sisters have a unique charism.  They describe their vocation as "a grace by which contemplation and action are blended to become an apostolic service of the Church. We promote a deeper spiritual life among God’s people through education, healthcare, and spiritual retreats."

Blessed by the Holy Spirit, this vibrant community recently celebrated three major vocational milestones:

Here are two lovely personal reflections by Sr. Gianna and Sr. Maria Goretti which give greater insight into what drew them to giving their lives to Christ.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Ana Vidovic and the beauty of Classical Guitar

“Beauty is the battlefield where God and Satan contend for the hearts of men.”
– Dostoyevsky, The Brothers Karamazov

“Late have I loved thee, Beauty so old and so new; late have I loved thee. Lo, you were within, but I was outside, seeking there for you, and upon the shapely things you have made I rushed headlong — I, misshapen. You were with me, but I was not with you. They held me back far from you, those things which would have no being, were they not in you.”
– Augustine, The Confessions

I recently listened to this lovely classical guitarist:

She is not only extremely gifted, she is also quite attractive.

God has blessed her with so many gifts which she shares with us, the rest of the world.

Whenever I hear lovely music, or see something well crafted, created with care and skill, I see God.
For me, that is beauty and the purpose of beauty.

Fr. TS Reid wrote an insightful blog post, Beauty and Catholic Life, pertaining to this topic.

Here are some excerpts I want to share:

"Beauty and Catholic Life

by Fr. Timothy S. Reid

“Late have I loved you, O Beauty ever ancient, ever new, late have I loved you!”—St. Augustine of Hippo

As Catholics, we know that the whole purpose of this life is to become holy so that we can live with God forever in heaven. Our goal is to become like God Himself, in whose image we have been created.

If God is Beauty Itself, as St. Augustine suggests in the quote above, then perhaps we can refer to this process as beautification! With this in mind, living a Catholic life is really a process of becoming more beautiful.

... Great philosophers of history like Plato, Aristotle, and Aquinas teach us that beauty is a quality, either natural or man-made, that delights the senses, the mind, or the soul. ...

Most importantly, beauty is not something we consume, but it is something that must be contemplated in order to be enjoyed. In other words, we must receive it and allow it to shape us. Beauty is something to ponder or to meditate upon.

To fully appreciate beauty, it is helpful to look at the way St. Augustine used the word “beauty” in the quote at the beginning of this article. For St. Augustine, “beauty” is another word for God Himself. God is not simply beautiful; He is Beauty.

... beauty, along with unity, truth, and goodness, is one of the transcendental attributes of being. 

.... Beauty is not just another attribute or adjective like “prettiness,” or “ugliness.” There is a metaphysical reality to beauty that bespeaks of God Himself, and that’s why Augustine referred to God as “Beauty.” God is Beauty Itself.

...the Russian author Alexander Solzhenitsyn...reflected on the statement of another Russian author, Fyodor Dostoyevsky: “Beauty Will Save the World.”

... most of us don’t see beauty as a necessity, but merely as a pleasant accessory to life. This is where Catholic thought and philosophy must step up to the plate. Dostoyevsky was right. Beauty can indeed save the world, and it does so one soul at a time. ...

All of us live in two spheres of existence, one internal and one external. ...

Beauty’s power to connect us with our interior life stems from its transcendent nature. ....
... beauty draws us out of ourselves. Specifically, beauty draws us toward God, who is Beauty Itself. ....

While so much of our society is wrapped up in physical beauty, as Catholics we know that inner beauty (or moral goodness) is what matters most. ...., the experience of beauty feeds our souls. It reminds us that we have eternal and immortal souls, and that we were created to live eternally with God in heaven.

The experience of beauty is actually a foretaste of heaven because it leads us to God,... Beauty is our portal to the interior life of our soul. It is through beauty that we can come to know and love God better in this life, which will only increase our desire to be with Him in the next.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

God is a Purple Hippo?

Mark Shea of the National Catholic Register recently shared this wonderful anecdote,  told to him by none other than  Peter Kreeft, professor of philosophy at Boston College and King's College (NY) at the recent Defending the Faith Conference at the Franciscan University of Steubenville in Ohio.

Professor Peter Kreeft
source:  http://www.peterkreeft.com/images/kreeft-sunlight.jpg

"... he ...told me of the most spectacular conversion he ever saw: a former student who had been an atheist (ex-Catholic). He was brilliant, got A's in his sleep, had a photographic memory and was as rich as Midas cuz daddy was a heart surgeon. He got into drugs and alcohol, but could handle it and so graduated with a med degree and got a red convertible from dad to celebrate.

On the night of his graduation, he drove to a bridge with the full intention of taking it at 100 MPH and committing suicide for the simple reason that he had everything and his life was completely empty and meaningless. Speeding toward the bridge, he suddenly saw, looming up in front of him, a giant purple hippopotamus. (He swore he was stone cold sober.) Stopping the car, the kid said "Who are you?" and the hippo replied, "I'm God and I want you to do what I say."

The kid agreed and the substance of the command was "Repent. Believe in Jesus Christ. Go to Bible school, become a pastor, save souls." The kid asked, "Why are you a purple hippopotamus?" and God replied, "Because you were so far gone this was necessary to get your attention."

The kid obeyed, went to Bible School, became a pastor, and helped inner city kids get off drugs and alcohol. 

One of Peter's students knew somebody he helped, and that's how word got back to Peter that this brilliant former atheist was now a pastor. Peter met him and got the whole story first hand. A lulu of a conversion story proving yet again that God is weird and that he loves you and has no concern for his own dignity when it comes to emptying himself for our salvation.

Read more: http://www.ncregister.com/blog/mark-shea/what-i-saw-at-defending-the-faith-in-steubenville#ixzz2axp3DD1q

August 9 St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, Martyr

source:  http://www.ignatiusinsight.com/images/featureart1/august22004/stteresabenedicta1.jpg

August 9   

Memorial of St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross
 Martyr, Co-Patroness of Europe

Common of One Martyr

St. Edith Stein was born into a Jewish family at Breslau on 12th October 1891.  Through her passionate study of philosophy she searched after truth and found it in reading the autobiography of St. Teresa of Jesus.

In 1922 she was baptized a Catholic and in 1933 she entered the Carmel of Cologne where she took the name of Teresa Benedicta of the Cross.  She was gassed and cremated at Auschwitz on August 9, 1942, during the Nazi persecution and died a martyr for the Christian faith after having offered her holocaust for the people of Israel.   

A woman of singular intelligence and learning, she left behind a body of writing notable for its doctrinal richness and profound spirituality. 

She was canonized by Pope John Paul II on October 11th, 1998.

Office of Readings - Second Reading

From the spiritual writings of St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross

"We greet you, Holy Cross, our only hope!"  The church puts these words on our lips during the time of the passion which is dedicated to the contemplation of the bitter sufferings of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The world is in flames.  The struggle between Christ and antichrist rages openly, and so if you decide for Christ you can even be asked to sacrifice your life.

Contemplate the Lord Who hangs before you on the wood, because He was obedient even to the death of the cross.  He came into the world not to do His own will but that of the Father.  And if you wish to be the spouse of the Crucified, you must renounce completely your own will and have no other aspiration than to do the will of God.

Before your the Redeemer hangs on the cross stripped and naked, because He chose poverty. Those who would follow Him must renounce every earthly possession.

Stand before the Lord Who hangs from the cross with His heart torn open.  He poured out the blood of His heart in order to win your heart.  In order to follow Him in holy chastity, your heart must be free from every earthly aspiration.  Jesus Crucified must be the object of your every longing, of your every desire, of your every thought.

The world is in flames:  the fire can spread even to our house, but above all the flames the cross stands on high, and it cannot be burnt.  The cross is the way which leads from earth to heaven. Those who embrace it with faith, love, and hope are taken up, right into the heart of the Trinity.

The world is in flames:  do you wish to put them out?

Contemplate the cross:  from His open heart the blood of the Redeemer pours, blood which can put out even the flames of hell.  Through the faithful observance of the vows you make your heart free and open; and then the floods of that divine love will be able to flow into it, making it overflow and bear fruit to the furthest reaches of the earth.

Through the power of the cross you can be present wherever there is pain, carried there by your compassionate charity, by that very charity, which you draw from the divine heart.  That charity enables you to spread every- where the most precious blood in order to ease pain, save and redeem.

The eyes of the Crucified gaze upon you.  They question you and appeal to you.  Do you wish seriously to renew your alliance with Him  What will your response be?

"Lord, where shall I go?  You alone have the words of life."

Ave Crux, spes unica!

source:  http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-U-i29WLtEnc/T2oGceiD6vI/AAAAAAAAAjs/o21wocjinAE/s400/capstone+-+Bryce+%234.JPG


R/.  We preach Christ Crucified, a scandal to the Jews and foolishness to the pagans, * but for those who are called, whether they be Jews or Greeks, we preach Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.

V/.  The desire of my heart and my prayer rises to God for their salvation;

* for those who are called, whether they be Jews or Greeks, we preach Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.

Canticle of Zechariah

Whoever hates his life in this world keeps it safe for life everlasting.


Lord, God of our fathers,
You brought St. Teresa Benedicta
to the fullness of the science of the cross at the hour of her martyrdom.
Fill us with that same knowledge;
and, through her intercession,
allow us always to seek after You, the supreme truth, and to remain faithful until death to the covenant of love ratified in the blood of Your Son for the salvation of all men and women.

Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, Who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God for ever and ever.

Canticle of Mary

The saints find their home in the kingdom of heaven; their life is eternal peace.

for Mass

source:  http://farm5.staticflickr.com/4069/4671540732_6aa88fcc7f.jpg

Entrance Antiphon

The Lord will hear the just when they cry out; from all their afflictions He will deliver them.

(same as above)

Prayer over the Gifts

receive our gifts
as You accepted the suffering and death
of St. Teresa Benedicta
in whose honor we celebrate the Eucharist.
Grant this through Christ our Lord.

Communion Antiphon

If anyone wishes to come after me, He must renounce himself, take up his cross, and follow me, says the Lord.

Prayer after Communion

may the mysteries we receive
give us the spiritual courage which made Your martyr Teresa Benedicta faithful in Your service and victorious in her suffering.
Grant this through Christ our Lord.

First Reading

Book of Esther 4 (varies with version of Scripture)

 Queen Esther took refuge with the Lord in the mortal peril which had overtaken her.  She besought the Lord God of Israel in these words:  'My Lord, our King, the only One, come to my help, for I am alone and have no helper but you and am about to take my life in my hands.  I have been taught from my earliest years, in the bosom of my family, that You, Lord, chose Israel out of all the nations and our ancestors out of all the people of old times to be your heritage for ever; and that You have treated them as You promised.  Remember, Lord; reveal Yourself in the time of our distress.  As for me, give me courage, King of gods and Master of all power.  Put persuasive words into my mouth when I face the lion; change his feeling into hatred for our enemy, that the latter and all like him may be brought to their end.  As for ourselves, save us by Your hand, and come to my help, for I am alone and have no one but You, Lord'.

Responsorial Psalm

R/.  Taste and see that the Lord is good.

I will bless the Lord at all times,
His praise always on my lips;
in the Lord my soul shall make its boast.
The humble shall hear and be glad.  R/.

Glorify the Lord with me.
Together let us praise His name.
I sought the Lord and He answered me;
from all my terror He set me free.  R/.

Look towards Him and be radiant;
let your faces not be abashed.
This poor man called; the Lord heard him and rescued him from all his distress.  R/.

The angel of the Lord is encamped
around those who revere Him, to rescue them.
Taste and see that the Lord is good.
He is happy who seeks refuge in Him.  R/.

Revere the Lord, you His saints.
They lack nothing, those who revere Him.
Strong lions suffer want and go hungry
but those who fear the Lord lack no blessing. R/.


John 4: 19-24

The woman said to him, "Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet.  Our fathers worshiped on this mountain; and you say that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship."  Jesus said to her, "Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father.  You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for such the Father seeks to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth."

The Genius of St. Ignatius

Nave Ceiling of  
Chiesa di Sant’Ignazio di Loyola a Campo Marzio
(Church of Saint Ignatius of Loyola at Campus Martius) 
Rome, Italy
 Andrea Pozzo, 1694
(source: Ken Kaminsesky)


Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty, 
my memory, my understanding
and my entire will,
All I have and call my own.

You have given all to me.
To you, Lord, I return it.

Everything is yours; do with it what you will.
Give me only your love and your grace.
That is enough for me.

Anima Christi
 (St. Ignatius of Loyola)

Soul of Christ, sanctify me
Body of Christ, save me
Water from the side of Christ, wash me
Passion of Christ, strengthen me
Good Jesus, hear me
Within the wounds, shelter me
from turning away, keep me
From the evil one, protect me
At the hour of my death, call me
Into your presence lead me
to praise you with all your saints
Forever and ever

The First Principle and Foundation 
(St. Ignatius of Loyola, as paraphrased by David L. Fleming, S.J.)

St. Ignatius begins his Spiritual Exercises with 
The First Principle and Foundation. 
While not typically thought of as a prayer, 
it still contains much that is worth reflecting on.

The Goal of our life is to live with God forever.
God, who loves us, gave us life.
Our own response of love allows God's life
to flow into us without limit.

All the things in this world are gifts from God,
Presented to us so that we can know God more easily
and make a return of love more readily.
As a result, we appreciate and use all these gifts of God
Insofar as they help us to develop as loving persons.
But if any of these gifts become the center of our lives,
They displace God
And so hinder our growth toward our goal.

In everyday life, then, we must hold ourselves in balance
Before all of these created gifts insofar as we have a choice
And are not bound by some obligation.
We should not fix our desires on health or sickness,
Wealth or poverty, success or failure, a long life or a short one.
For everything has the potential of calling forth in us
A deeper response to our life in God.

Our only desire and our one choice should be this:
I want and I choose what better leads
To God's deepening his life in me.

(Source: http://www.bc.edu/bc_org/prs/stign/prayers.html)

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Memorial of St. Alphonsus Liguori

Spiritual Communion
St. Alphonsus Liguori

My Jesus, I believe that Thou art present in the most holy sacrament.
I love Thee above all things, and I desire to receive Thee into my soul. 
Since I cannot now receive Thee sacramentally, 
come at least spiritually into my heart.
 I embrace Thee as if Thou were already there, 
and unite myself wholly to Thee.
Never permit me to be separated from Thee. 

(Source:  http://www.stalphonsusbalt.org/staprayers.htm)