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Why I veil

Chapel veilSeveral times since coming into full communion with the Catholic Church I have been asked by friendly parishioners why I cover my head at Mass or at Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.

My short answer is this: because Jesus is there.

My long answer is that it is an outward way in which I seek to humble myself as well as give supreme honor to the presence of the Almighty God, which in turn arouses my inner heart toward humility and reverence.

I don’t see veiling myself as a sign that I am somehow inferior to men. As I understand it, in the 1960s many women took hold of the feminist banner and rejected veiling as an outdated means in which women were “suppressed.” I see it as being just the opposite. In the Bible everything that is associated with veiling was done because of its unique sacredness. For instance, when Moses came down from Mt. Sinai after speaking with God, his face radiated such sacredness that it was veiled. Also consider that the Ark of the Old Covenant was kept in the veiled Holy of Holies because of its sacredness. In the Catholic Church today we continue to see uniquely sacred things veiled. The Chalice is kept veiled at Mass until the Offertory because it is the sacred vessel that holds the Precious Blood of Jesus, and the Ciborium in the Tabernacle is kept veiled because it is the sacred vessel which holds the Precious Body of Jesus.

If that weren’t enough, the Immaculate Conception, the Ark of the New Covenant, the Queen of Heaven herself — Mary, the Mother of God — was veiled. (And she continues to remain veiled in all of her apparitions.) God has not raised any earthly being higher than she, and still she is veiled. Why? Because of her sacred nature.

Because of all this, I view veiling as a truly great and privileged honor.

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Qualities of a Saint

Saints in Heaven

Maxims for the Direction of a Soul that Desires to Obtain Perfection in the Love of Jesus Christ

by Saint Alphonsus Liguori

 

1. To desire ardently to increase in the love of Jesus Christ.

2. Often to make acts of love towards Jesus Christ. Immediately on waking, and before going to sleep, to make an act of love, seeking always to unite your own will to the will of Jesus Christ.

3. Often to meditate on his Passion.

4. Always to ask Jesus Christ for his love.

5. To communicate often, and many times in the day to make spiritual Communions.

6. Often to visit the Most Holy Sacrament.

7. Every morning to receive from the hands of Jesus Christ himself your own cross.

8. To desire Paradise and death, in order to be able to love Jesus Christ perfectly and for all eternity.

9. Often to speak of the love of Jesus Christ.

10. To accept contradictions for the sake of Jesus Christ.

11. To rejoice in the happiness of God.

12. To do that which is most pleasing to Jesus Christ, and not to refuse him anything that is agreeable to him.

13. To desire and to endeavor that all should love Jesus Christ.

14. To pray always for sinners and for the souls in purgatory.

15. To drive from your heart every affection that does not belong to Jesus Christ.

16. Always to have recourse to the most holy Mary, that she may obtain for us the love of Jesus Christ.

17. To honor Mary in order to please Jesus Christ.

18. To seek to please Jesus Christ in all your actions.

19. To offer yourself to Jesus Christ to suffer any pain for his love.

20 To be always determined to die rather than commit a willful venial sin.

21. To suffer crosses patiently, saying, “Thus it pleases Jesus Christ.”

22. To renounce your own pleasures for the love of Jesus Christ.

23. To pray as much as possible.

24. To practice all the mortifications that obedience permits.

25. To do all your spiritual exercises as if it were for the last time.

26. To persevere in good works in the time of aridity.

27. Not to do nor yet to leave undone anything through human respect.

28. Not to complain in sickness.

29. To love solitude, to be able to converse alone with Jesus Christ.

30. To drive away melancholy.

37. Often to recommend yourself to those persons who love Jesus Christ.

32. In temptation, to have recourse to Jesus crucified, and to Mary in her sorrows.

33. To trust entirely in the Passion of Jesus Christ.

34. After committing a fault, not to be discouraged, but to repent and resolve to amend.

35. To do good to those who do evil.

36. To speak well of all, and to excuse the intention when you cannot defend the action.

37. To help your neighbor as much as you can.

38. Neither to say nor to do anything that might vex him. And if you have been wanting in charity, to ask his pardon and speak kindly to him.

39. Always to speak with mildness and in a low tone.

40. To offer to Jesus Christ all the contempt and persecution that you meet with.

41. To look upon [religious] Superiors as the representatives of Jesus Christ.

42. To obey without answering and without repugnance, and not to seek your own satisfaction in anything.

43. To like the lowest employments.

44. To like the poorest things.

45. Not to speak either good or evil of yourself.

46. To humble yourself even towards inferiors.

47. Not to excuse yourself when you are reproved.

48. Not to defend yourself when found fault with.

49. To be silent when you are disquieted.

50. Always to renew your determination of becoming a saint, saying, “My Jesus, I desire to be all Yours, and You must be all mine.”

Source: The Incarnation, Birth, and Infancy of Jesus Christ 1927

You cannot be half a saint; you must be a whole saint or no saint at all.

I am certain, then, that You will grant my desires; I know, O my God! That the more You want to give, the more You make us desire.

(St. Therese of Lisieux)

Catholic Church and Reformed doctrine

A worthy repost:

Protestant Reformers

The Catholic Church and Reformed Doctrine by Taylor Marshall

Is the Catholic Church “Semi-Pelagian”?

First of all, despite what popular preachers say or what you’ve read in Tabletalk or Modern Reformation, the Catholic Church is not Pelagian or Semi-Pelagian. These heresies were formally condemned by episcopal councils of the Catholic Church. The term “Pelagian” is only known today because Catholic bishops assembled and anathematized the heresies. Pelagianism was defined and condemned by the Council of Carthage (418). The canons relating to this council are as follows:

1. Death did not come to Adam from a physical necessity, but through sin.
2. New-born children must be baptized on account of original sin.
3. Justifying grace not only avails for the forgiveness of past sins, but also gives assistance for the avoidance of future sins.
4. The grace of Christ not only discloses the knowledge of God’s commandments, but also imparts strength to will and execute them.
5. Without God’s grace it is not merely more difficult, but absolutely impossible to perform good works.
6. Not out of humility, but in truth must we confess ourselves to be sinners.
7. The saints refer the petition of the Our Father, “Forgive us our trespasses”, not only to others, but also to themselves.
8. The saints pronounce the same supplication not from mere humility, but from truthfulness.

(Note that Baptists are technically “Pelagian” because they reject canon #2.)

The Catechism of the Catholic Church rightly teaches that grace is wholly unmerited and received by grace alone:

The charity of Christ is the source in us of all our merits before God. Grace, by uniting us to Christ in active love, ensures the supernatural quality of our acts and consequently their merit before God and before men. The saints have always had a lively awareness that their merits were pure grace. (no. 2011)

The Catechism of the Catholic Church then goes on to quote one of the Doctors of the Catholic Church, St. Thérèse of Lisieux as an example of how this life of grace is supposed to be lived out and confessed by Catholic Christians:

“After earth’s exile, I hope to go and enjoy you in the fatherland, but I do not want to lay up merits for heaven. I want to work for your love alone. . . . In the evening of this life, I shall appear before you with empty hands, for I do not ask you, Lord, to count my works. All our justice is blemished in your eyes. I wish, then, to be clothed in your own justice and to receive from your love the eternal possession of yourself.” (St. Thérèse of Lisieux, “Act of Offering” in Story of a Soul.)

Did you see the part about “All our justice is blemished in your eyes”? That is official Catholic theology and devotion.

The 2nd Council of Orange (529) condemned “Semi-Pelagianism” and it is worth noting that Calvinists of today would deny at least one of its canons – especially Canon #13:

CANON 13. Concerning the restoration of free will. The freedom of will that was destroyed in the first man can be restored only by the grace of baptism, for what is lost can be returned only by the one who was able to give it. Hence the Truth itself declares: “So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:36).

In other words the theologians at the Council of Orange (529) used baptismal regeneration as the antidote to the Semi-Pelagian heresy. The great irony is the theologians of the Scottish and American Reformed tradition technically fall under the heading of “Semi-Pelagian” because they deny that baptism is the “sacrament of regeneration” – to use borrow a term use by St Augustine.

What about Predestination?

As to the doctrine of predestination, and more specifically, the doctrine of unconditional election, the Catholic is allowed to hold the doctrine of unconditional election – so long as he does not espouse the doctrine of double-predestination. All Thomists (Catholic theologians that favor St. Thomas Aquinas) believe and teach the doctrine of unconditional election.

St. Thomas Aquinas wrote the following:

“God wills to manifest his goodness in men: in respect to those whom he predestines, by means of his mercy, in sparing them; and in respect of others, whom he reprobates, by means of his justice, in punishing them. This is the reason why God elects some and rejects others…. Yet why he chooses some for glory and reprobates others has no reason except the divine will. Hence Augustine says, ‘Why he draws one, and another he draws not, seek not to judge, if thou dost not wish to err.'” (Summa Theologia I, 23, 5)

This is a clear exposition of unconditional election, and it is taught by the Church’s most celebrated theologian since St. Augustine.

 

What about sola fide and sola scriptura?
Justification through faith alone and the hermeneutic of Scripture as the sole authority for Christian doctrine are rightly identified as the sine qua non of the Protestant Reformation. Without sola fide and sola scriptura buttressing Protestantism, all roads lead to Rome, plain and simple. They are rightly identified as the material and formal causes of the magisterial Reformation.

It’s no secret that the Catholic Church unequivocally rejects these two doctrines as dangerous to the Christian soul and to the Church at large. The Catholic Church can appreciate what these two doctrines try to protect. “Faith alone” attempts to preserve the radically gracious nature of the Gospel, and this intention should be commended. “Scripture alone” seeks to protect the doctrine of Divine Revelation and protect the Church from the erroneous doctrines of men. Again, good intentions. The Catholic theologian Louis Bouyer discussed the “good intentions, bad doctrines” of the Reformation at length in his The Spirit and Forms of Protestantism – a book I highly recommend to anyone interested in the Reformation debate. Bouyer shows that the Protestant Reformers were speaking out against abuses, but unfortunately employed the nominalistic worldview available to them. There were not equiped to handle the nuances and made conclusions that ultimately undercut their project.

If this one-two punch of the Reformation (sola fide and sola scriptura) is so key, why doesn’t the Bible ever articulate these two doctrines? The words “faith” and “alone” only appear together once and that is in James 2:24 – “You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone.” Christ never proclaims the doctrine of justification by faith alone. St Paul speaks of the importance of justifying faith, but his just condemnation of “works” is always the “works of the law” – by which Paul means the “works of the Mosaic Torah,” a reference to circumcision, the lunar calendar of Israel, etc. If you’ve read the New Testament, you know that Christ and His Apostles did not once articulate “justification by faith alone.” It derives from Luther’s insertion of the word “alone” into his translation of Romans 3:28.

“Scripture alone” is self-refuting, because it too is not found in Scripture. There are some who will immediately want to quote both 2 Tim 3:116-17 and 2 Peter 3:15-16 as evidence for sola scriptura but neither passage teaches that Scripture alone is the final authority. “Scripture alone” is one the extra-biblical doctrines that hovers over the Reformed worldview.

Ultimately, the Reformed tradition attempted to reform the nominalist mess of the late 15th century-early 16th century into a Christ-centered, grace-centered system. In their eagerness to posit human salvation in the will and power of God, they neglected the fact that human salvation could only be accomplished in human time and space and that God’s eternal will included the ecclesial dimension of salvation. Like the incarnation, life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Christ, so the Church belongs as a tangible element of the history of redemption. Abstracting the Church is the same gnostic tendency used to abstract the incarnation or resurrection of our Lord the Christ.

To put it another way, you can’t have Augustine’s soteriology without Augustine’s ecclesiology. Soteriology and ecclesiology should be happily married and not squabbling as with a divorce.

Why Calvinists convert to Catholicism

Assessment by a former Calvinist:

 

Mental prayer according to St. Francis de Sales

“Just as little children learn to speak by listening to their mothers and lisping words with them, so also by keeping close to our Savior in meditation and observing his words, actions, and affections we learn by his grace to speak, act, and will like him.”

St. Francis de Sales


One of the most useful books I have found for the lay Christian who earnestly desires to cultivate a holy life is St. Francis de Sales’ Introduction to the Devout Life, published in 1609. It is there that he provides instruction on how to practice mental prayer, which is sometimes termed meditative prayer or, simply, meditation. (This should not be confused with the non-Christian practice sharing the same name, for their aims and means are radically different.)

To many, mental prayer is an enigma. As in the days of St. Francis, its practitioners are few — whether one is Catholic or Protestant. From my experience, this is due to lack of instruction as well as due to fear (“Meditation sounds too mysterious and New Age-y. I am safer sticking with my prayers of petition and/or my Rosary and/or other formal prayers.”)

However, if we look upon the Saints, we shall see that not only did mental prayer permeate their lives, but they insisted on its practice by all Christians. Consider the devout St. Teresa of Avila, who experienced tremendous heights in her mental prayer: “He who neglects mental prayer needs not a devil to carry him to hell, but he brings himself there with his own hands.” St. John of the Cross said, “Without the aid of mental prayer, the soul cannot triumph over the forces of the demon.” And St. Alphonsus de Liguori concluded, “All the saints have become saints by mental prayer.”

So how does one begin on the road of mental prayer? I shall seek to provide a condensed teaching below, based on St. Francis de Sales’ instruction (one should know there are other equally acceptable methods [Carmelite, Ligorian, Sulpician…], if one wishes to explore them also):

A Brief Method on Mental Prayer

Part I: The Preparation

1. Place yourself in the presence of God

To prepare for mental or meditative prayer, one must begin by summoning a “lively, attentive realization of God’s absolute presence.” Our goal is to be mindful of God’s nearness to us, and that He is beholding us at all times, but most especially at this moment as we pray. St. Francis proposes several different ways of focusing our mind on this truth, but I will only provide one: through use of the simple imagination, consider that Jesus is physically near. Perhaps he is sitting in the chair across from us, or standing before us. If one is praying before the Blessed Sacrament then all the better, for then one knows he is truly there observing them and the imagination is assisted by the Lord’s real presence.

2. The invocation

By this St. Francis means we are to prostrate our soul before God “with the most profound reference.” The invocation is where one’s soul acknowledges its utter unworthiness to appear before His Majesty, and “implores His grace in order to serve and adore Him properly.” St. Francis suggests using various brief words found in Scripture, such as, “O God, cast me not out from your presence and your Holy Spirit take not from me,” or “I am your servant; give me discernment.”

Secondly we should invoke our guardian angel as well as the holy Saints who had part in the particular Scripture passage on which we are going to meditate. “For example,” St. Francis instructs, “when meditating on the death of our Lord, you can invoke our Lady, St. John, Mary Magdalene, and the good thief, begging that the affections and interior movements they then conceived may be shared with you.”

3. The subject of the mystery

The third thing we must do to prepare to meditate is simply use our imagination to picture the entire mystery as if it were taking place in the present time before us. An example would be this: the “mystery” we might meditate on could be the time while Jesus was on the cross dying. Using one’s imagination, they would picture themselves as being there with him, seeing and hearing all that was done or said. If one likes, they may draw upon the particular Scripture passages that describe our Savior’s Passion in order to assist them (this is especially useful if your mind wanders and has difficult staying on task).

Part II: Considerations

After the scene is composed in our imagination, we are then to use our intellect to consider various points about the mystery that “raise our affections to God and the things of God.” Using the last example concerning Christ’s crucifixion, one might be drawn to consider Jesus’ profound forgiveness of those present who reviled him and even drove the nails into his hands. St. Francis suggests we stay on that specific consideration as long as our minds find “enough appeal, light, and fruit” in them. When we have extracted what we are able, we are to calmly and slowly proceed to another aspect of the mystery.

Part III: Affections and Resolutions

From these considerations, one’s soul will experience various “affections,” such as:

“Love of God and neighbor, desire for heaven and glory, zeal for the salvation of souls, imitation of the life of our Lord, compassion, awe, joy, fear of God’s displeasure, judgment, and hell, hatred of sin, confidence in God’s goodness and mercy, and deep sorrow for the sins of our past life.”

However tempted we may be to do so, the most essential part of meditation is not reflecting at length on these affections, but using them to make resolutions for our specific correction and improvement. If by meditating on the Lord’s forgiveness during his crucifixion one’s soul experiences a “holy longing” to imitate him, one should turn that longing into a specific resolution applicable to their own life. For instance, one may resolve not to be angered or interiorly disturbed by a particularly disagreeable family member, neighbor, co-worker, or other acquaintance and that when they next encounter them, they will say or do such-and-such thing in order to appease him or her. “In this way…you will correct your faults in a short time, whereas by affections alone it would be a slow, difficult task.”

Part IV: Conclusion and Spiritual Bouquet

Meditation is concluded with three acts, done with great humility:

  1. Act of Thanksgiving, “by which we return thanks to God for the affections and resolutions he has given us and for his goodness and mercy.”
  2. Act of Offering, “by which we offer to God his own goodness and mercy, his Son’s death, Blood, and virtues, and in union with them our own affections and resolutions.”
  3. Act of Supplication, “by which we beseech God and implore him to share with us the graces and virtues of his Son and to bless our affections and resolutions so that we may faithfully fulfill them.”

St. Francis advises us then to take time to pray for the Church, our pastors, family, friends, and so on. For this purpose it is appropriate to ask for the intercession of the Blessed Virgin, the angels, and the Saints. To conclude we must say the necessary prayers of all the faithful: the Our Father and Hail Mary (which St. Francis suggests we learn to say in Latin, the common language of the Church).

Lastly, we are to “gather a little devotional bouquet.”

“People who have been walking about in a beautiful garden do not like to leave without gathering in their hands four or five flowers to smell and keep for the rest of the day. In the same way, when our soul has carefully considered by meditation a certain mystery, we should select one, two, or three points that we liked best and that are most adapted to our improvement, think frequently about them, and smell them spiritually during the rest of the day.”

Other Notes and Instructions

– This practice of prayer should be done daily, for no more than an hour unless otherwise advised by one’s spiritual director, and preferably in the morning hours.

– Before entering into mental prayer, one should begin by saying the Our Father, Hail Mary, and Apostle’s Creed. Other formal, vocal prayers (Litanies, the Rosary, etc.) may be said before entering into mental prayer, but if God draws us into mental prayer at any point we should not refuse it, for mental prayer is more pleasing to the Lord and profitable for our souls than vocal prayer.

– One must strive to put their specific resolutions into effect that very day. “This is the great fruit of meditation and without it meditation is often not only useless but even harmful. Virtues meditated on but not practiced sometimes inflate our minds…and we think that we are really…as we have thought and resolved to be.”

– Be careful as you leave prayer to enter into your duties of daily life, lest your heart “spills the balm that it has received.” St. Francis recommends we keep silent as long as possible and strive to keep our minds focused on the desires and decisions produced in our meditation.

“The lawyer must be able to pass from prayer to pleading cases, the merchant to commerce, and the married woman to her duties as wife and her household tasks with so much ease and tranquility that their minds are not disturbed. Since both prayer and your other duties are in conformity with God’s will, you must pass from one to the other with a devout and humble mind.”

Sin vaccine

The Blessed Sacrament

The surest means of remaining immune to the pestiferous disease that surrounds us is to fortify ourselves with Eucharistic food.

St. Padre Pio

Feast of St. Luke the Evangelist

St. Luke Today the Church celebrates the feast of St. Luke, the writer of the Gospel as well as the Acts of the Apostles.

St. Luke, whose name means “Bringer of Light,” was born a pagan in Antioch and was very  possibly was a slave. He likely did not witness Christ’s life personally and we know nothing of his conversion, but we see in Acts that he joined up with St. Paul at Troas around 51 AD and helped him evangelize Greece and Rome.

Luke is the loyal comrade who stays with Paul when he is imprisoned in Rome about the year 61: “Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, sends greetings to you, and so do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, and Luke, my fellow workers” (Philemon 1:24). And after everyone else deserts Paul in his final imprisonment and sufferings, it is Luke who remains with Paul to the end: “Only Luke is with me” (2 Timothy 4:11).  — Source

Luke’s Gospel contains 6 miracles and 18 parables not found in the other Gospel writings. It is only in Luke’s gospel that we hear the story of the Angel’s visit to Mary, Mary’s visit to Elizabeth, Mary’s Magnificat, the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple, and Jesus’ disappearance in Jerusalem. It is only Luke who tells the story of the Rich Man and Lazarus. It is only Luke who relates the story of the Prodigal Son. And it is only Luke who tells us about the woman who washed Jesus’ feet with her tears.

We don’t know definitively when or how he died, although some accounts indicate he was martyred. His relics reside in Italy and Greece and have produced many miracles.

How (and why) I Swam the Tiber: My Catholic Conversion Story (II)

It wasn’t long after my convictions on contraceptives changed that my husband and I stopped attending our church. There was concern over a variety of issues that had presented themselves in our congregation, and then with the birth control conviction (which did not go over favorably with those members we shared it with — “you know,” *pause*…*whisper* “the Catholic Church teaches that“) there was the feeling that there were little other options . My greatest desire was to find a “church home” that taught the truth in its entirety. At that point I was quite hopeful. I knew deep down God had to have preserved a church out there that was faithful to ALL of His teachings — it was simply a matter of finding it. However, as I quickly realized, it wasn’t nearly as easy as I had originally figured it would be.

Now dear reader, I want you to understand something. In my particular town and its surrounding areas in Montana (somewhere around 50,000 people), there were 94 different Christian churches that publicized themselves in the local paper. (This was not counting the Catholic Church, the Jehovah’s Witnesses, or the Mormons — all groups we considered to be definitively non-Christian.) Knowing that there were several churches that did not advertise, the total number was somewhere around 100 churches to choose from! Talk about intimidating!

(Statistics show that about 40% of our town’s population affiliate themselves with a religion [not necessarily Christian, however], which comes to about 20,000 possible church attendees. All said and done, that is a separate and unrelated church congregation, each with its own unique theology and practices, for every 200 people!)

I sat down with the list of churches available to us and began by striking off all those we knew outright wouldn’t be an option. We already had the deep and unwavering conviction on the necessity of baptism for the forgiveness of sins (but at the time rejected infant baptism), and so almost every church on the list was struck out of the running immediately. With our contraceptive views, the selection became even narrower. In fact, it was essentially nonexistent. I think only two or three “possibles” remained. In many ways this saved us a lot of time — we didn’t have to spend Sunday after Sunday church hopping until we found “the one.” But on the other hand, the possibility of finding the church we both desired was looking rather bleak.

After checking out the “possibles” via websites, only one seemed like a viable option. It was a very small, fundamentalist church that was part of the Quiverfull movement. We packed up and drove 40 minutes away to attend the church one Sunday, the address firmly in hand. What we found was a fly fishing shop and nobody in sight. Looking back, I can’t help but chuckle. That obviously wasn’t where God wanted us. 🙂  But at the time what I felt was that I was so lost, alone in a sea of churches and absolutely nowhere to go without compromising.

I knew I couldn’t do that. It was all or nothing now. “Go big or go home,” a friend said recently. That was me. I had to have it all because I believed God wanted me, and everybody, to have it all. There was no point in settling for “almost.”

I don’t recall exactly how or when it happened but it was somewhere around this time that my husband and I were flipping radio stations in the car, becoming increasingly appalled with the shallow and worldly content on our local “non-denominational” Christian radio station, when we stumbled upon Relevant Radio — the local Catholic talk radio. My husband and I were so impressed with the knowledge and orthodoxy of the various hosts, and the depth with which they discussed Christian topics, that we left it on. Over many months we continued to listen to it, and every time a distinctly Catholic doctrine or practice was discussed we would angrily mutter our rebuttals at the car speakers.

Then one day, driving home with my 1 year old daughter in tow and my son growing in my belly, I heard something that would change my life forever.

During a commercial break on the radio a soft-spoken man came on and began reading from John 6 (specifically from what is known as Jesus’ “Bread of Life” discourse, John 6:22-71).

“Oh good, some Scripture,” I thought, pleased.

“Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”

I had read these verses many times. They were peculiar. They made me feel a bit uncomfortable, actually. I had to admit, I tended to just gloss over them. Yet, something was catching my attention this time…

“The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, ‘How can this man give us his flesh to eat?’ So Jesus said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink.'”

“Hold on a minute,” I thought to myself. “Whoever feeds on his flesh? His blood is true drink? Is he saying what it sounds like he’s saying? …No, surely not.”

“Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like the bread the fathers ate and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.”

My mind was reeling. It sounded so clear. So black and white. But…certainly Jesus didn’t intend for it to be taken literally…right?

The soft-spoken man on the radio didn’t stop, and thank God he didn’t because what he read next stopped me dead in my tracks.

“When many of his disciples heard it, they said, ‘This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?’ But Jesus, knowing in himself that his disciples were grumbling about this, said to them, ‘Do you take offense at this?’… After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. So Jesus said to the Twelve, ‘Do you want to go away as well?’ Simon Peter answered him, ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.'”

I couldn’t believe my ears. The disciples had understood it exactly as I just had, and instead of correcting them or chiding them for their literalness, what did Jesus do? He challenged the fact they were offended! In fact, the words Jesus had just said were so explicit and taken so literally, with absolutely no correction or further explanation by Jesus, that many who had followed him up until that point just…walked away. It must have been so many that Jesus felt compelled to ask if even the Twelve wanted to turn back! (He risked losing even them?)

My heart burned within me. I felt as if I could burst. Yes…yes! What Jesus said is…true. It has to be. How could I have missed it?! All these years I understood nothing. Suddenly I felt like I had just walked out of a dark tunnel into incredible light.

So, dear reader, now you know. It was there: two blocks from my house on a warm afternoon in early summer, listening to a soft-spoken man do nothing but read the Bible, that God made my ears to hear and my eyes to see. And in a flash, in a matter of mere moments, I believed.

Whatever You will

The sorrows that once would have mortally wounded me now inflame my heart with love and the deepest gratitude towards my Beloved. Jesus, I want what You will! Whether it is compassion or cruelty, justification or condemnation, favor or disdain, compliment or insult, truth or falsehood, good or evil…I accept it as all from Your hand and I am pleased to take everything and anything that You see fit to give. What was bitter is now sweet and what I once hated I now love…that is why I have pleaded with You to give it to me! Just keep me from sin and I will fear nothing.

And still, look at me. I can be so silly. My sufferings are so small! They are almost entirely insignificant in light of Your lifelong Passion and the bloodshed of Your Saints. Oh that I wish I didn’t even notice myself at all, Jesus! For that would mean I was completely and wholly surrendered — as I should be. But I am not yet perfect because I still grumble.

I will not refuse the crown, and thus I will not refuse the wounds. No one can get to Heaven without first walking the Via Dolorosa and dying upon the Cross.

Whatever is Your perfect and pleasing will, O Lord,  is my profound pleasure to endure. ♥ I love You.

Feast of St. Teresa of Avila

St. Teresa of Avila sculpture in Santa Maria della Vittoria, Rome

Remember that you have only one soul; that you have only one death to die; that you have only one life, which is short and has to be lived by you alone; and there is only one glory, which is eternal. If you do this, there will be many things about which you care nothing.

– St. Teresa of Avila, 1515-1582

 

Today is the feast day of St. Teresa of Avila, one of 33 recognized Doctors of the Church and of which only three are women. I have a special kinship with St. Teresa and find in her story a similar reflection of my own spiritual condition — as well as a reason for great hope that perhaps someday I, too, can be a Saint.

St. Teresa did not start out particularly holy or devout, even as a nun in the Carmelite Order. She neglected prayer and true devotion for many years, and by self-admission often busied herself with foolish gossip and vain worldly activities. At age 41 a priest convinced her to go back to her prayer, but she found it difficult. “I was more anxious for the hour of prayer to be over than I was to remain there. I don’t know what heavy penance I would not have gladly undertaken rather than practice prayer,” she said. After awhile Teresa underwent a profound conversion of heart due to what she believed was the extraordinary grace of God alone. She became filled with zealous devotion.

God began gifting her with special graces during prayer, enabling her to see visions and enter into prolonged raptures. Sometimes her whole body was raised from the ground! She would call  nuns in her convent to sit on her and hold her down. Far from being happy or eager about these events, she “begged God very much not to give me any more favors in public.” Priests and many of her fellow nuns suggested that her experiences were from the Devil, and in fact at one point her writings on this mystical experience of prayer was examined by the Spanish Inquisition. They determined, however, that her writings were in accordance with the faith and her name was cleared.

With the help of St. John of the Cross, a fellow mystic, she reformed most of the Carmelite convents and founded new ones. Throughout it all she was opposed and reviled by many. She had only a few who helped her. Despite the constant criticism and obstacles put in her path, Teresa put all of her faith in God and persevered, believing fully that if Jesus willed it, it would happen.

One of the greatest pieces of advice I personally have received from St. Teresa by way of reading her works is the understanding that one should not be attached to things of this world, especially friendships. Teresa herself was very attached to friends until God told her, “No longer do I want you to converse with human beings but with angels. With this understanding she learned to detach herself and realized the great pitfalls that can occur in placing too much value on natural friendships or even the desire of obtaining them.

“It may seem that for us to have too much love for each other cannot be wrong, but I do not think anyone who had not been an eye-witness of it would believe how much evil and how many imperfections can result from this. The devil sets many snares here which the consciences of those who aim only in a rough-and-ready way at pleasing God seldom observe — indeed, they think they are acting virtuously — but those who are aiming at perfection understand what they are very well: little by little they deprive the will of the strength which it needs if it is to employ itself wholly in the love of God.”

Teresa advised her nuns of the evils which can befall a person, and the entire community, when one is inordinately attached to friends and has special love and inclinations toward one person over another. “The harm which it does to community life is very serious,” she warned. “One result of it is that all the nuns do not love each other equally: some injury done to a friend is resented; a nun desires to have something to give to her friend or tries to make time for talking to her, and often her object in doing this is to tell her how fond she is of her, and other irrelevant things, rather than how much she loves God. These intimate friendships are seldom calculated to make for the love of God; I am more inclined to believe that the devil initiates them so as to create factions.”

St. Teresa died in the arms of Venerable Anne of St. Bartholomew, with the sight of our Lord and many Saints before her, on the feast of St. Francis on October 4, 1582. She was canonized in 1622.

Anyone who wishes to learn more about St. Teresa of Avila can find a more complete and beautiful account of her life on the EWTN website.