Tuesday, April 29, 2014

St. Catherine of Siena calling her spiritual director to greater courage

(I long) to see you grow out of your childhood and become a 

grown man…For an infant who lives on milk is not able to fight 

on the battlefield; he only wants to play with other children. So 

a man who is wrapped in love for himself only wishes to taste 

the milk of spiritual and temporal consolation; like a child he 

wants to be with others of its kind. But when he becomes a 

grown man he leaves behind this sensitive self love…He has 

become strong, he is firm, serious and thoughtful, he hastens to 

the battlefield and his only wish is to fight for the truth.

St. Catherine of Siena

Monday, April 28, 2014

How simple it is!

“Take power from the power of the saints. From the power of the holy one. Be one with them. Give Me the joy of helping and transforming you. Surrender everything. Let yourself go. Tell Me often about your great longing. Do you think I would resist? That would be to misunderstand Me. If you are generous, how much more am I! You know the violent wind? The bird of prey? I too carry off. I am the ravisher. Don’t struggle. And because you let yourself be taken captive, I’ll bring you into my secret garden among the flowers and fruit. You will wear the wedding ring on your finger. Your step will be in tune with Mine, and I’ll stoop down to your littleness so that we may talk together easily. How beautiful it will be like that My friend, My little soul. You too will ask Me for pavilions . . . But we shall make only one. And as you gaze on Me you will understand that the suffering that passes leads to life eternal, and you will say, ‘How simple it is!’ Because in love, everything is simple. You will say, ‘You were nothing but goodness and mercy and I didn’t know it.’ Then the veil will be rent and you will have the face-to-face vision of all that I suffered for you. Now you are working and fighting in the dark, in the night . . . But even now you must say, ‘Lord, I believe, I adore You in the mystery of it all. To whom should I go but to You?’

“Then surrender yourself to Me in peace . . . Oh, may I have the consolation of leading My daughter wherever I wish. ”

Excerpt From: Gabrielle Bossis. “He and I.”

Distraction after Communion

“That’s nothing. Can one stop the leaves from stirring when the wind blows? But take Me back right away into your thoughts, just as though you had never left Me.

I take My rest in people who give themselves to Me; the more work I have to do in them, the more I rest. And while I’m working in you, if you keep your eyes on Me all day long, my work will be more fruitful.”

Excerpt From: Gabrielle Bossis. “He and I.”

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Give comfort

“All day long remember that My body has lived in your body.  Even your gestures will take on gentleness from this.  Bring as it were a spring tide of graciousness to this country.  The misery of others is Mine.  Give comfort with your little cheering words. Don’t ever grow weary.  You know that I’m there.”

“But who should utterly abandon themselves to Me if not My most intimate friends, My chosen ones? So practice this abandonment frequently in these hours that have struck your people and you will please Me so much, My little child.”

Excerpt From: Gabrielle Bossis. “He and I.” 

The security blanket of busyness and clutter

In the silence of prayer I come face to face with myself.  With my fears, my pain, my sin.  Any sadness or anxiety or unclean thing seems to rush right to the surface of my consciousness and grip me.  Can this be why prayer is sometimes painful?  Can this be why the busyness of life is much more comforting, more secure?  Can this be why I sometimes run - flee - to hide in the mighty forest of Martha's "many things?"  To take comfort and solace in the clutter I gather to myself like a security blanket?  For if I am worried and anxious about many things, I do not have to face the one thing needful - coming face to face with the God I love more than anything.

The Cloistered Heart
Nancy Shuman

Do you believe in My love?

“Have this blessed assurance that the anxieties and toil of the world are not to be compared with the reward. And the reward is your Christ. Just think of it!

“So take heart. Bear everything for love in order to win love. To win paradise, to win the eternal God . . . there is your work. You have seen how ephemeral everything of time is. But remind yourself of that understanding you had of eternity. It was as though you had always just arrived and the earth seemed so small to you, a mere point, so far away and like a dream. Then since you are still in the midst of earth’s battle, accept the loss of everything. You will find everything again, and for always.

“Do you believe in My love?”
“Yes, Lord.”

“Do you firmly believe in My love?”
“Yes, Lord.”

“Do you always believe in My love?”
“Yes, Lord.”

“Then give yourself in your wholeness to Me without ever taking yourself back. That means denying your preferences, wanting My joy and My kingdom of love. It means forgetting yourself and remembering Me—My being—not an exacting tyrant but a Lamb slain for love.

Excerpt From: Gabrielle Bossis. “He and I.”

Saturday, April 26, 2014

God's Mercy in abundance

Congratulations to the nine new Daughters of St. Philip Neri who this morning committed themselves to a year long period of discernment.  We had a beautiful Mass which included their Act of Consecration and reception of the holy medal of St. Philip. I thank God for the great gift they are to the Oratory family and ask Him now to bless them with His Spirit of Joy.  May God enflame their hearts so that they may enfold within their maternal love the many souls entrusted to their care and the priests for whom them have become true spiritual mothers.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Stretch out your hands to Me

“You come to Me so that I may gift you. You show your pity for Me by easing My heart, always so eager to give. Oh, My little children, let Me enrich you. Give Me every freedom to sanctify you; can you beautify yourselves . . . alone? Call Me. ”

“Stretch out your hands to Me.  Look at Me very simply and trustfully.  Think, ‘He is great. He can do whatever He wishes, and He is my Father, my friend.’ After that . . .

“Ask the Father to let Me live in people.  How could they be said to live if they don’t cultivate My life in them? How wonderful it would be if I were there like a guest, the dearest of all guests, the one surrounded with every attention by night and day, knowing that every little act of tenderness touches His tenderness and that His poverty is often so great that the smallest offering pierces Him with love!”

Excerpt From: Gabrielle Bossis. “He and I.”

Act of Entrustment and Consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary

"May the Church Be Thus Renewed by Priests Who Are Holy"

It is with great joy that I find myself privileged to be with you tomorrow as you entrust yourselves to God during this year of discernment as Daughters of St. Philip Neri and in which you seek to consecrate yourselves as true spiritual mothers to all of God's children and especially to His priests.  Therefore, with you and before God and St. Philip Neri I wish to entrust and consecrate myself to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, Mother of Priests in order that I may more fully serve you, my brothers Oratorians and those God has given into my care.  

Immaculate Mother,
in this place of grace,
called by the love of your Son Jesus
the Eternal High Priest, I,
son in the Son,
consecrate myself to your maternal Heart,
in order to carry out faithfully the Father’s Will.

I am mindful that, without Jesus,
I can do nothing good (cf. Jn. 15:5)
and that only through him, with him and in him,
will I be an instrument of salvation
for the world.

Bride of the Holy Spirit,
obtain for me the inestimable gift
of transformation in Christ.
Through the same power of the Spirit that
overshadowed you,
making you the Mother of the Savior,
help me to bring Christ your Son
to birth in my heart.
May the Church
be thus renewed and may I be made holy and 
transfigured by the grace of him
who makes all things new.

Mother of Mercy,
it was your Son Jesus who called me
to become like him:
light of the world and salt of the earth.

Help me,
through your powerful intercession,
never to fall short of this sublime vocation,
nor to give way to my selfishness,
to the allurements of the world
and to the wiles of the Evil One.

Preserve me with your purity,
guard me with your humility
and enfold me within your maternal love
that is reflected in so many souls
consecrated to you,
who have become for me and all priests
true spiritual mothers.

Mother of the Church,
I desire to be a pastor
who does not feed himself
but rather gives himself to God for others,
finding my happiness in this.
Not only with words, but with my life,
I want to repeat humbly,
day after day,
my “here I am”.

Guided by you,
I want to be an Apostle
of Divine Mercy,
glad to celebrate every day
the Holy Sacrifice of the Altar
and to offer to those who request it
the sacrament of Reconciliation.

Advocate and Mediatrix of grace,
you who are fully immersed
in the one universal mediation of Christ,
invoke upon me, from God,
a heart completely renewed
that loves God with all its strength
and serves mankind as you did.

Repeat to the Lord
your efficacious word:
“They have no wine” (Jn. 2:3),
so that the Father and the Son will send upon me
a new outpouring of
the Holy Spirit.
Full of wonder and gratitude
at your continuing presence in my midst,
in the name of all priests
I too want to cry out:
“Why is this granted me,
that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” (Lk. 1:43).

My Mother for all time,
do not tire of “visiting me”,
consoling me, sustaining me.
Come to my aid
and deliver me from every danger
that threatens me.
With this act of entrustment and consecration,
I wish to welcome you
more deeply, more radically,
for ever and totally
into my life as a priest and son of St. Philip Neri.

Let your presence cause new blooms to burst forth
in the desert of my loneliness,
let it cause the sun to shine on my darkness,
let it restore calm after the tempest,
so that all mankind shall see the salvation
of the Lord,
who has the name and the face of Jesus,
who is reflected in my heart,
for ever united to yours!


Adapted from the Act of Entrustment and Consecration of Priests to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, prayed by Benedict XVI at the conclusion of the celebration of vespers with the religious, seminarians and diocesan priests at the Church of the Most Holy Trinity in Fatima (2010).

Act of Consecration

Tomorrow, a group of very special women will embrace the commitment to enter into a year of discernment as Daughters of St. Philip Neri.  It has been evident from the very beginning that God's providence was very much at work in preparing for this day.  Nearly fifteen years ago, we began extended hours (75 per week) of Eucharistic Adoration at the Oratory, that then by the grace of God developed into Perpetual Adoration seven years ago.  This alone has borne great fruit for the Fathers of the Oratory and all who are a part of the Oratory family.  Through a renewed practice of the First Friday devotions there also evolved a greater desire to make reparation to the Sacred Heart of Our Lord and the Immaculate Heart of Mary and from this flowed a greater intimacy with St. Philip Neri, our patron and guide, whose heart burned for love of Christ and Our Lady.  All of this gained a sharper focus when in 2007 Cardinal Hummes of the Congregation for Clergy presented the Church and Her Bishops with a document entitled "Adoration, Reparation, and Spiritual Motherhood for Priests" which called for a renewal of a vocation that has existed from the Church at its inception and is rooted in the  Divine Motherhood of Mary, who was entrusted with the Beloved Disciple as her son at the foot of the Cross.  At that moment, a spiritual maternity was established in which all women have a share and to which some are called to embrace in a particular and very special fashion: Women called like Mary to hold in their hearts through prayer and in a spirit of reparation all of God's children and in particular those called to share in Christ's own priesthood.  For these, they offer themselves to God and offer all the sacrifices of their daily life, small and great.  They are women from every station in life and often the depth and the beauty of their oblation remains hidden to the eyes of all but God.  Such are the women of the Daughters of St. Philip Neri, and as Secular Oratorians they take up this "vocation within a vocation" in a spirit of joy, always seeking to emulate their holy patron.  

The beauty of this calling has not been lost on me as I have had the privilege of being a part of its growth here in Pittsburgh.  In fact, it has been one of the most profound and life changing experiences for me as a priest and Oratorian and I am grateful for the humble love, joy, prayerfulness, and self-sacrifice that these women bring to the Church and that they will now offer as Daughters of St. Philip Neri. 

After a mediocre day

“You see that you can do nothing by yourself. Throw yourself into My arms every morning and ask Me for strength to pay attention to the little details.

“Life is made up of little things, you know. Don’t count on yourself any more. Count on me.”

Excerpt From: Gabrielle Bossis. “He and I.” 

Thursday, April 24, 2014

I am the Presence, the loving look

“You don’t always feel Me in the same way, but don’t let the darkness hinder you from going forward. Humble yourself and go on your way faithfully. Keep going. You don’t see Me or feel Me, but I’m there—love itself, holding out My arms to you. Nothing ever makes Me lose sight of My children on earth. Their ideas and thoughts are short-lived, and so they imagine I am like them in this. But I am perfect poise, the same yesterday, today, and forever. I am the Presence, the loving look. The entire cosmos is cradled in Me. I am this second of time and I am eternity. I am the lavishness of love, the one who calls so that you may come without fear and throw yourself upon My heart.  I call.  You, at least you, My child, be the response.”

Excerpt From: Gabrielle Bossis. “He and I.” 

Throw yourself into My arms

“Don’t drag your past along with you constantly if it burdens you and hinders you from coming close to Me. Just as you are, throw yourself into My arms for your joy. Can I give you anything else?”

Excerpt From: Gabrielle Bossis. “He and I.”

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Be the kindest of all women . . .

In a coach, as I was tempted to be sharp with a traveler who was sharp:

“The more Christian one is—that is, the more one is Mine—the kinder one is. So you be the kindest of all women.”

Excerpt From: Bossis, Gabrielle. “He and I.”

One life is all we have . . .

Every woman gives her life for what she believes. Sometimes people believe in little or nothing, and so they give their lives to little or nothing. One life is all we have, and we live it as we believe in living it…and then it’s gone.

But to surrender who you are and to live without belief is more terrible than dying – even more terrible than dying young.

St. Joan of Arc

A wound of inner discontent

Only in desiring God more intently do we become more silent toward ourselves, more insignificant, poorer before God . . . 

Our internal poverty of soul hinges on our absolute dependency on God.  It is a recognition of our incapacity for God unless he draws us.   We are not freed from ourselves unless he draws us.  We are not freed from ourselves unless released by another hand.  But this freedom is not a desperate venture we can hardly expect to occur.  Our nothingness attracts God's love in the way a poor child's smile draws our own emotion . . . 

A deeper love for God is inseparable from being wounded over time.  Only by a divine wound does our love for God intensify.  This is in part a wound of inner discontent within our soul, the powerlessness of never giving ourselves adequately to love.  Over a lifetime we may find that it is not healed with more love.  Every increase of love only magnifies a demand to love more.  Whenever God draws from us a deeper longing for himself, we should expect this wound will be felt.  There is something of a strange consequence to this.  We realize better the insufficiency of our love whenever God draws closer to our soul.  Nearer to God, we become poorer.

Father Donald Haggerty

Monday, April 21, 2014

Will anyone understand?

Why is it so hard for us to imagine a soul so deeply in love with Christ, that the mere thought of His breathing His last on the Cross could make her feel as though she was going to dissolve into nothingness?  The sensitivity of a soul wholly given over to Christ and seeking His love as her primary occupation and preoccupation can seem foreign to those given over to dissipation and self-absorption.  The beauty of such a soul enveloped by Love is captured in these few lines from St. Faustina's diary and they are reminiscent of the longing described in the Song of Songs. 

When Jesus had given up His last breath, my soul dissolved from the pain, and for a long time I could not come to myself. I found some relief in tears. The One whom my heart had come to love has died. Will anyone understand my grief?
— St. Faustina, Diary

Sunday, April 20, 2014

They will know a joy they have never known before

“Write! I don’t want people to be afraid of Me anymore, but to see My heart full of love and to speak with Me as they would with a dearly beloved brother.

For some I am unknown. For others, a stranger, a severe master, or an accuser. Few people come to Me as to one of a loved family. And yet My love is there, waiting for them. So tell them to come, to enter in, to give themselves up to love just as they are. Just as they are. I’ll restore. I’ll transform them. And they will know a joy they have never known before. I alone can give that joy. If only they would come! Tell them to come. . . .” 

Excerpt From: Gabrielle Bossis. “He and I.” 

Just give yourself as you are.

“You worry about not thinking of me constantly. You worry about your many shortcomings and are afraid to look at Me any more. You mustn’t do this. Just give yourself as you are. I know all about human nature. I came to help and restore. Transplant yourself in Me not because of your worth but because of My yearning.

Unite the weariness of your face with My face disfigured by blows, to make amends for your shortcomings and those of the world. Seize upon every opportunity to be one with Me. If you only knew what a joy this union with souls on earth is to Me, you would understand that I reward those who offer Me the frequent thoughts of their hearts.”

Excerpt From: Gabrielle Bossis. “He and I.”

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Be faithful . . .

My daughter, be faithful.  Recall with what joy you promised to give yourself to Me without reserve and to live for Me.

I need your fidelity to gain to My love those who are unfaithful.

Be faithful in prayer, to true prayer, ardent, profound prayer, prayer which attracts My Spirit.  You ought to be a professional pray-er.  You have be consecrated for that.  It is your first mission.

Be faithful to prayer, in union with those who pray and in the name of those who do not pray.  One should pray in the plural.

Be faithful to prayer, while blending your prayer in Mine, while inviting Me to pray Myself through your prayer of praise to My Father, in petition for all your human brothers and sisters.

Be faithful to work in union with Me.  Without Me you can do nothing solid and durable.  Without Me you build on sand.  With Me you build strongly, you work profoundly, you defy time.

Be faithful to obey.  It is by your meritorious obedience united to Mine that you expiate human revolts against divine laws.  

Be faithful to humble yourself.  Do not look upon humiliation as an evil, but as a treasure which can redeem many faults of pride and destroy the principal obstacle to the action of My grace in souls.

Be faithful to humble yourself.  Never attribute to yourself the good which I help you to do.  Mistrust spiritual self-complacency which makes you forget your weakness, your misery.  As long as you are on earth, you are not confirmed in grace.

Be faithful to love.  That above all!  For it is love which makes for unity, for value, for fruitfulness in your life.  It is love which judges you every hour.

Be faithful to love.  Have you not lost something of your first fervor?  I do not speak of sensible fervor but of that impulse which makes you more easily forget yourself to think of others.

Be faithful to love.  It is not sufficient to know that I am present in your brothers and sisters.  You must understand what I expect of you in them: gentleness, kindness, consideration, good example, amiability, comfort, encouragement, sometimes firmness, deep love always.

Be faithful in spite of the fatigue of weary days, of the monotony of unvarying tasks.

Be faithful in spite of the apparent uselessness of your efforts and the absence of any progress or brilliant results.

I passed thirty out of thirty-three years of My life on earth in leading a hidden existence, ignored by all.  I did very simple things, without show, and thus I saved the world, sanctified the work of men, and conferred a redemptive value on their humble daily labor.

Be faithful in spite of misunderstandings, misapprehensions, discourtesies, slanders, and even calumnies, of which you may be the object.  See how I have been treated.  The disciple is not above his Master.

Be faithful in spite of deceptions, lack of attention, ingratitude on the part of those to whom you have given most.  Be not discouraged.  On the contrary rejoice, for the reward will be greater in heaven that you have not had a reward on earth . . . and then there is nothing like it to purify your heart and your intentions.

Be faithful in spite of the obscurities of faith and the icy tunnel of spiritual aridity.  It is normal that, having been associated with the work of Redemption, you should know by experience something of Gethsemani or Calvary.  But confidence!  Your fidelity in the hours of your sorrowful mysteries produces grain a hundredfold.  It is at such moments that you accomplish your best work.

Be faithful for yourself.  An unfaithful soul is never a happy soul.  By seeking herself she finds herself, but she clasps only nothingness, at the most ashes bitter to taste.

A faithful soul - without finding here below the fullness that she can have only above - tastes, however, even in the midst of the normal difficulties of this life, the deep peace promised on earth to souls of good will.

Be faithful for all the souls which are bound to yours; they constitute an innumerable posterity.  Be not an unworthy mother.  The souls of your sons and daughters acceding to the Spirit need you.  Know how to hear in the silence of your maternal heart their appeals for help.  Think of those who struggle, of those who doubt, of those who fall, of those who weep, of those who are dying, of those who hunger in body or in soul, of those who suffer in heart or body.

Have pity on them.  Do not refuse them the precious help which your generous fidelity can be to them.

Be faithful for your community of faith.  People judge it through you.  It is not a written rule that makes for fruitfulness, but the lived rule in the heart.  It is not the splendor of buildings, but it is the beauty of souls, fruit of a joyous fidelity, which attracts people to Me.

Be faithful for Holy Church.  Above all you are a daughter of the Church.  You must bear in your heart all the interests of your Mother, but also her trials, her sufferings, her cares, her hopes.  Your fidelity consoles her, your generosity rewards her, your will for sanctity enriches her.

Be faithful for Me, your Christ, who have loved you unto death, and who make My birth and My growth in many souls depend upon your fidelity.

Be faithful in little details, for there is nothing small or petty for she who loves.

Be faithful unto the end to permit Me on the day of the great reunion to press you unto My Heart and to say: "Come, My dearly loved daughter, come.  Because you have been faithful, receive the thanks of your God and taste in the kingdom of joy the surprises which My Love has prepared for you."

"An Hour with Jesus"
Gaston Courtois

Psalm of Love

By the cross God perfects the loving soul that offers Him a fervent and generous heart.

Oh, what can I say of the precious and divine treasure that our great God has hidden in suffering?

But this is a great secret, known only to she who loves; and I, who have had no experience of it, but be content to admire it from afar.

Happy the heart that keeps itself on the cross, in the arms of the Well-Beloved, and that burns only with divine love!

Happier the one that suffers without joy, and is thus transformed into Christ!

Happy she who suffers without being attached to her suffering, desiring only to die to herself, in order to love yet more Him Who inflicts the wound of love!

"Flowers of the Passion"
St. Paul of the Cross

Friday, April 18, 2014

May I never be able to find again the road which leaves You

"My beloved One. My Jesus. Today I make a gift of my whole life to You, and ask You to consecrate it, and make it Holy. I renounce all fear, all selfishness, and all control. I hold nothing back. My whole heart is now Yours. I wish to become one with You, and Your Blessed Mother Mary in uttering a perfect Fiat. Fiat! My Jesus, Thy will be done.

My intention is to spend all my life in adoration of You; to be a constant beholder of Your Holy Eucharistic Face, and a sacrifice on the altar of reparation to Your Sacred and ever-broken Heart. Accept my heart, My Jesus, as a chalice in which Your Precious Blood is received with reverence and love; as a mantle thrown over Your broken body to shield and comfort You amongst the scorn, mockery, and ridicule of the world; as a vessel, filled with the sweet unction of Your love, until at the efficacious time You break this vessel and allow Your love to pour out over the whole world.

On all the world, yes, but most especially on Your priests, for whose sake I make this offering. As mother to them I desire to be a means by which Your priests are purified and sanctified – a source of nourishment, encouragement, and above all love. As mother, where my sons fall short of their glorious calling, allow me to take their place: when they do not pray, I will pray; when they do not make sacrifice, I will make it. I will never cease this act of reparation until every priest has become the perfect likeness of You, the perfect High Priest, and spotless Lamb of sacrifice. In my heart, not one of them will be lost.

To this end, I call down upon myself the special protection, patronage, and guidance of St. Philip Neri. As his daughter, I desire to grow in the virtues he so beautifully exemplified: Humility, Purity, Hiddenness, Compassion, Charity, and Joy.

My Jesus, let my whole life be concentrated on Your divine love, and allow me to enter so deeply into the wound in Your precious side that I may never be able to find again the road which leaves You."


The above is the first draft of the Act of Consecration potentially to be used by the faithful women who will become Daughters of St. Philip Neri on Saturday April 26th

Ah! to be wounded by divine charity

My very dear daughter in Jesus crucified, I invite you to Calvary, to assist at the obsequies of Our Savior.  Ah!  would that we could, for once, remain there, wounded by divine charity - wounded so deeply as to die of love and sorrow over the Passion and death of our only Good!  I will celebrate the divine mysteries during these holy days and each time I do so I will place the heart of this spiritual daughter whom God has given me in the most pure and agonizing Hearts of Jesus and Mary.  Do likewise for the poor spiritual father whom divine Providence has given to you.  Adieu, my daughter; may Jesus bless you, and inflame you with divine love.

"Flowers of the Passion"
St. Paul of the Cross

Let the Passion be about your neck

Wear, if you wish, a necklace of pearls when you go out; but when you put it on remember that Jesus wore the rope and the heavy chain about His neck.  Wear that pearl necklace only in order to please God, and humble yourself by saying: Jesus was bound with ropes and heavy chains during his Passion, and I wear pearls.

"Flowers of the Passion"
St. Paul of the Cross

The Furnace of Divine Love

Our sweet Jesus has pierced your heart so deeply with the thorns of His sorrows that you will say henceforth: To suffer and not to die! or else: To suffer or to die!  or better still: Neither to suffer nor to die, but entire submission to the good pleasure of God.  Love has a unitive quality, and makes the sufferings of the beloved its own.  If you feel yourself penetrated interiorly and exteriorly with the sufferings of your divine Spouse, rejoice; but I may say that this joy is experienced only in the furnace of divine love, for the fire which burns into the marrow of the bones transforms the loving soul into the object of her love; and there, love and sorrow are so sublimely blended that the one can no longer be distinguished from the other, and the loving soul rejoices in her sorrow, and finds her happiness in her dolorous love.  Persist in the study of your nothingness and be faithful in the practice of virtue, above all in the imitation of our sweet Savior in His patience, for this is the cardinal point of pure love.  Never neglect to offer yourself as a holocaust to the infinite goodness of God.  This sacrifice ought to be made in the fire of divine charity; light it with a bouquet of myrrh, that is, with the sufferings of your Savior.  All this should be done behind closed doors, that is, apart by yourself, in pure and simple faith.

"Flowers of the Passion"
St. Paul of the Cross

The sufferings of your heavenly Spouse

Keep a continual remembrance of the sufferings of your heavenly Spouse.  Endeavor to fathom the love with which He endured them.  The shortest way is to lose yourself completely in that abyss of sufferings.  Truly does the prophet call the Passion of Jesus a sea of love and of sorrow.  Ah! therein lies the great secret which is revealed only to humble souls.  In this vast sea the soul fishes for the pearls of virtue, and makes her own the sufferings of her Beloved.  I have a lively confidence that your Spouse will teach you this divine method of fishing; He will teach it to you if you keep yourself in interior solitude, your mind free from all distraction, detached from all earthly affection, from every created thing, in pure faith and holy love.

"Flowers of the Passion"
St. Paul of the Cross

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Come close to Me, Look well at Me, Speak to Me

 COME CLOSE to Me with confidence, My daughter.  I am not a severe Master as you too often imagine.  I am an exacting Master, to be sure, but My demands are the exactions of love, to help you to make your prayer more efficacious and your life more useful.

Yes, look upon Me with that glance of faith which makes you discover My presence in yourself, a living Presence, a loving Presence.

I, too, look into the innermost part of your being.  Nothing in you escapes Me.  I know you better than you now yourself.

In you I see the gifts, the talents which My Father has given you.  I see in you the marvelous possibilities, if only you will cooperate with My grace.  I see in you all the good that, through you, I might accomplish for the glory of My Father, if only you are docile to the inspirations of the Holy Spirit.

I see all the souls that are linked to yours and on which you can exercise a blessed influence, in the Communion of Saints.

I see your irreplaceable status in the holy history of My growth in the world, your manner of loving, of praising, of serving Me, a manner that is original, incommunicable.

Do not shy away from it: there is a type of good that no other can do in your place.  The good that you do not do will be an eternal loss.

Look well at Me, and understand that I expect much of you.  I have wished to have need of you, and I have taken your collaboration seriously.

Look well at Me, and put into that glance all possible confidence, love, and a desire to carry out the dream of My Father for His creature.

Look well at Me, and be thoroughly impressed by all that I am in you.  Be docile to My invisible but real influence.

Look well at Me.  It is to become little that one contemplates.  By looking at Me you will come to resemble Me.

Speak to Me.  Tell Me what engrosses you, what troubles you, what saddens you; but tell Me also what you desire, what you hope for, in what you rejoice.

Speak to Me: tell Me what you need.  Do not fear to present too long a list of the graces which you need to become what I desire you to be, or to carry out the mission I confide to you.  Write it in detail, do not fear to make it longer each day.  Come with it and read it to Me.  Ask much from Me: it is not more difficult to give much than to give little.

Speak to Me, but do not speak only of yourself.  Speak to Me of others, of those whom I have give to you as companions, of those whom I have confided to you to serve Me in one way or another, of the poor, the aged, the sick, of children, of priests, of all those whom you know, of all you do not know.

When you are near to Me widen the horizon of your thought and of your prayer.  Speak to Me of all human difficulties, of all the great needs of this poor world.

Speak to Me of the unfortunate ones for whom your heart suffers, of the dying who are abandoned, of the refugees whose misery must excite your compassion, and of the sinners whose conversion you desire most.

Remind Me without fear of My promise that every prayer made in My Name will be answered.  If you but knew the power over My Heart that one prayerful soul has!

Speak of Me also of Myself.  Tell Me again why you love Me and why you want to serve Me faithfully.  Speak to Me of My growth in the world and of the obstacles which are opposed to My reign in so many hearts.  Try to guess My joys, but also My anxieties.

Speak to Me, but listen to Me also.  I speak to you in the Scripture and in the liturgy of My Church.  When I spoke such or such a word, I knew that one day you would read it and in it I hid light for your soul.  Try to study it carefully, to search its hidden meaning, and above all listen to Me reading it to you again, such as you are, in the circumstances in which you are.  This word is Spirit and Life.

I speak to you in the depths of your heart without noise of words.  Why should I not speak to you, since I am the Word, the Word par excellence, the living Word, which contains everything?  Why should I not speak to you, since I dwell in you, and I am more intimate to you than you are to yourself?  Do you think that it is difficult for Me to direct the course of your thoughts, insofar as you permit Me to?  The choice of words to translate is for you to make, but can the value of the ideas with which I inspire you reveal the suggestions of My Spirit?

By the fruit the tree is judged. If I inspire you to more humility, to obedience, to generosity in work and in sacrifice, to charity above all, be at peace and hear without fear the Voice of the Well-Beloved.

"An Hour with Jesus"
Gaston Courtois

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Love and Affliction

I return once more to Simone Weil who draws us ever deeper into the mysteries of divine love and the experience of affliction.  She does not shy away from exploring the dimensions of both and as one continues to read a trembling comes upon the soul as the vision of reality she seeks to express comes into clearer view.  Weil relentlessly pursues the great enigma of life that is profound and fierce - the Love of the Cross - a Love that both wounds and heals.

“The great enigma of human life is not suffering but affliction. It is not surprising that the innocent are killed, tortured, driven from their country, made destitute or reduced to slavery, imprisoned in camps or cells, since there are criminals to perform such actions. It is not surprising either that disease is the cause of long sufferings, which paralyse life and make it into an image of death, since nature is at the mercy of the blind play of mechanical necessities. But it is surprising that God should have given affliction the power to seize the very souls of the innocent and to take possession of them as their sovereign lord. At the very best, he who is branded by affliction will only keep half his soul.

As for those who have been struck by one of those blows which leave a being struggling on the ground like a half crushed worm, they have no words to express what is happening to them. Among the people they meet, those who have never had contact with affliction in its true sense can have no idea of what it is, even though they may have suffered a great deal. Affliction is something specific and impossible to describe in any other terms, like the sounds of which nothing can convey the slightest idea to anyone who is deaf and dumb. And as for those who have themselves been mutilated by affliction, they are in no state to help anyone at all, and they are almost incapable of even wishing to do so. Thus compassion for the afflicted is an impossibility. When it is really found we have a more astounding miracle than walking on water, healing the sick, or even raising the dead.

Affliction constrained Christ to implore that he might be spared; to seek consolation from man; to believe he was forsaken by the Father. It forced a just man to cry out against God; a just man as perfect as human nature can be; more so, perhaps, if Job is less a historical character than a figure of Christ. ‘He laughs at the affliction of the innocent! This is not blasphemy but a genuine cry of anguish.  The Book of Job is a pure marvel of truth and authenticity from beginning to end. As regards affliction, all that departs from this model is more or less stained with falsehood.

Affliction makes God appear to be absent for a time, more absent than a dead man, more absent that light in the utter darkness of a cell. A kind of horror submerges the whole soul. During this absence there is nothing to love. What is terrible is that if, in this darkness where there is nothing to love, the soul ceases to love, God’s absence becomes final. The soul has to go on loving in the emptiness, or at least to go on wanting to love, though it may only be with an infinitesimal part of itself. Then, one day, God will come to show himself to this soul and to reveal the beauty of the world to it, as in the case of Job. But if the soul stops loving it falls, even in this life, into something which is almost equivalent to hell. That is why those who plunge men into affliction before they are prepared to receive it, kill their souls. On the other hand in a time such as ours, where affliction is hanging over us all, help given to souls is only effective if it goes far enough really to prepare them for affliction. That is no small thing.

Affliction hardens and discourages us because, like a red hot iron, it stamps the soul to its very depths with the scorn, the disgust and even the self-hatred and sense of guilt and defilement which crime logically should produce but actually does not. Evil dwells in the heart of the criminal without being felt there. It is felt in the heart of the man who is afflicted and innocent. Everything happens as though the state of soul suitable for criminals had been separated from crime and attached to affliction; and it even seems to be in proportion to the innocence of those who are afflicted.
If Job cries out that he is innocent in such despairing accents, it is because he himself is beginning not to believe in it, it is because his soul within him is taking the side of his friends. He implores God himself to bear witness, because he no longer hears the testimony of his own conscience; it is no longer anything but an abstract, lifeless memory for him.

Men have the same carnal nature as animals. If a hen is hurt, the others rush upon it, attacking it with their beaks. This phenomenon is as automatic as gravitation. Our senses attach all the scorn, all the revulsion, all the hatred which our reason attaches to crime, to affliction. Except for those whose whole soul is inhabited by Christ, everybody despises the afflicted to some extent, although. practically no one is conscious of it.

This law of sensibility also holds good with regard to ourselves. In the case of someone in affliction, all the scorn, revulsion and hatred are turned inwards. They penetrate to the centre of the soul and from there colour the whole universe with their poisoned light. Supernatural love, if it has survived, can prevent this second result from coming about, but not the first. The first is of the very essence of affliction; there is no affliction without it.

‘Christ…being made a curse for us.’ It was not only the body of Christ, hanging on the wood, which was accursed, it was his whole soul also. In the same way every innocent being in his affliction feels himself accursed. This even goes on being true for those who have been in affliction and have come out of it, through a change in their fortunes; that is to say if the affliction ate deeply enough into them.

Another effect of affliction is, little by little, to make the soul its accomplice, by injecting a poison of inertia into it. In anyone who has suffered affliction for a long enough time there is a complicity with regard to his own affliction. This complicity impedes all the efforts he might make to improve his lot; it goes so far as to prevent him from seeking a way of deliverance, sometimes even to the point of preventing him from wishing for deliverance. Then he is established in affliction, and people might think he was satisfied. Further, this complicity may even induce him to shun the means of deliverance. In such cases it veils itself with excuses which are often ridiculous. Even a person who has come through his affliction will still have something left in him which impels him to plunge into it again, if it has bitten deeply and for ever into the substance of his soul. It is as though affliction had established itself in him like a parasite and were directing him to suit its own purposes. Sometimes this impulse triumphs over all the movements of the soul towards happiness. If the affliction has been ended as a result of some kindness, it may take the form of hatred for the benefactor; such is the cause of certain apparently inexplicable acts of savage ingratitude. It is sometimes easy to deliver an unhappy man from his present distress, but it is difficult to set him free from his past affliction. Only God can do it. And even the grace of God itself cannot cure irremediably wounded nature here below. The glorified body of Christ bore the marks of the nails and spear.

One can only accept the existence of affliction by considering it as a distance.  God created through love and for love. God did not create anything except love itself, and the means to love. He created love in all its forms. He created beings capable of love from all possible distances. Because no other could do it, he himself went to the greatest possible distance, the infinite distance. This infinite distance between God and God, this supreme tearing apart, this agony beyond all others, this marvel of love, is the crucifixion. Nothing can be further from God than that which has been made accursed.

This tearing apart, over which supreme love places the bond of supreme union, echoes perpetually across the universe in the midst of the silence, like two notes, separate yet melting into one, like pure and heart-rending harmony. This is the Word of God. The whole creation is nothing but its vibration. When human music in its greatest purity pierces our soul, this is what we hear through it. When we have learnt to hear the silence, this is what we grasp more distinctly through it.  Those who persevere in love hear this note from the very lowest depths into which affliction has thrust them. From that moment they can no longer have any doubt.

Men struck down by affliction are at the foot of the Cross, almost at the greatest possible distance from God.  It must not be thought that sin is a greater distance. Sin is not a distance, it is a turning of our gaze in the wrong direction.

As for us men, our misery gives us the infinitely precious privilege of sharing in this distance placed between the Son and his Father. This distance is only separation, however, for those who love. For those who love, separation, although painful, is a good, because it is love. Even the distress of the abandoned Christ is a good. There cannot be a greater good for us on earth than to share in it. God can never be perfectly present to us here below on account of our flesh. But he can be almost perfectly absent from us in extreme affliction. This is the only possibility of perfection for us on earth. That is why the Cross is our only hope. ‘No forest bears such a tree, with such blossom, such foliage and such fruit.

When an apprentice gets hurt, or complains of being tired, the workmen and peasants have this fine expression: ‘It is the trade which is entering his body.’ Each time that we have some pain to go through, we can say to ourselves quite truly that it is the universe, the order and beauty of the world, and the obedience of creation to God which are entering our body. After that how can we fail to bless with tenderest gratitude the Love which sends us this gift?

Joy and suffering are two equally precious gifts which must both of them be savoured to the full, each one in its purity without trying to mix them. Through joy, the beauty of the world penetrates our soul. Through suffering it penetrates our body. We could no more become friends of God through joy alone than one becomes a ship’s captain by studying books on navigation. The body plays a part in all apprenticeships. On the plane of physical sensibility, suffering alone gives us contact with that necessity which constitutes the order of the world, for pleasure does not involve an impression of necessity. It is a higher kind of sensibility which is capable of recognising a necessity in joy, and that only indirectly through a sense of beauty. In order that our being should one day become wholly sensitive in every part to this obedience which is the substance of matter, in order that a new sense should be formed in us which enables us to hear the universe as the vibration of the word of God, the transforming power of suffering and of joy are equally indispensable. When either of them comes to us we have to we have to open the very centre of our soul to it, just as a woman opens her door to messengers from her loved one. What does it matter to a lover if the messenger be polite or rough, so long as he gives her a message?

But affliction is not suffering. Affliction is something quite distinct from a method of God’s teaching.

The infinity of space and time separates us from God. How are we to seek for him? How are we to go towards him? Even if we were to walk for hundreds of years, we should do no more than go round and round the world. Even in an aeroplane we could not do anything else. We are incapable of progressing vertically. We cannot take a step towards the heavens. God crosses the universe and comes to us.

Over the infinity of space and time, the infinitely more infinite love of God comes to possess us. He comes at his own time. We have the power to consent to receive him or to refuse. If we remain deaf, he comes back again and again like a beggar, but also, like a beggar, one day he stops coming. If we consent, God puts a little seed in us and he goes away again. From that moment God has no more to do; neither have we, except to wait. We only have not to regret the consent we gave him, the nuptial yes. It is not as easy as it seems, for the growth of the seed within us is painful. Moreover from the very fact that we accept this growth, we cannot avoid destroying whatever gets in its way, pulling up the weeds, cutting the couch-grass, and unfortunately the couch-grass is part of our very flesh, so that this gardening amounts to a violent operation. On the whole, however, the seed grows of itself. A day comes when the soul belongs to God, when it not only consents to love but when truly and effectively it loves. Then in its turn it must cross the universe to go to God. The soul does not love like a creature with created love. The love within it is divine, uncreated; for it is the love of God for God which is passing through it. God alone is capable of loving God. We can only consent to give up our own feelings so as to allow free passage in our soul for this love. That is the meaning of denying oneself. We are created for this consent, and for this alone.

Divine Love crossed the infinity of space and time to come from God to us. But how can it repeat the journey in the opposite direction, starting from a finite creature? When the seed of divine love placed in us has grown and become a tree, how can we, we who bear it, take it back to its origin? How can we make the journey which God made when he came to us, in the opposite direction? How can we cross infinite distance?

It seems impossible, but there is a way—a way with which we are familiar. We know quite well in what likeness this tree is made, this tree which has grown within us, this most beautiful tree where the birds of the air come and perch. We know what is the most beautiful of all trees. ‘No forest bears its equal.’ Something still a little more frightful than a gibbet—that is the most beautiful of all trees. It was the seed of this tree that God placed within us, without our knowing what seed it was. If we had known, we should not have said yes at the first moment. It is this tree which has grown within us and which has become ineradicable. Only a betrayal could uproot it.

When we hit a nail with a hammer, the whole of the shock received by the large head of the nail passes into the point without any of it being lost, although it is only a point. If the hammer and the head of the nail were infinitely big it would be just the same. The point of the nail would transmit this infinite shock at the point to which it was applied.

Extreme affliction, which means physical pain, distress of soul and social degradation, all at the same time, constitutes the nail. The point is applied at the very centre of the soul. The head of the nail is all the necessity which spreads throughout the totality of space and time.

Affliction is a marvel of divine technique. It is a simple and ingenious device which introduces into the soul of a finite creature the immensity of force, blind, brutal and cold. The infinite distance which separates God from the creature is entirely concentrated into one point to pierce the soul in its centre.

The man to whom such a thing happens has no part in the operation. He struggles like a butterfly which is pinned alive into an album. But through all the horror he can continue to want to love. There is nothing impossible in that, no obstacle, one might almost say no difficulty. For the greatest suffering, so long as it does not cause fainting, does not touch the part of the soul which consents to a right direction.

It is only necessary to know that love is a direction and not a state of the soul. If one is unaware of this, one falls into despair at the first onslaught of affliction.

He whose soul remains ever turned in the direction of God while the nail pierces it, finds himself nailed on to the very centre of the universe. It is the true centre, it is not in the middle, it is beyond space and time, it is God. In a dimension which does not belong to space, which is not time, which is indeed quite a different dimension, this nail has pierced a hole through all creation, through the thickness of the screen which separates the soul from God.

In this marvellous dimension, the soul, without leaving the place and the instant where the body to which it is united is situated, can cross the totality of space and time and come into the very presence of God.

It is at the intersection of creation and its Creator. This point of intersection is the point of intersection of the branches of the Cross.

Saint Paul was perhaps thinking about things of this kind when he said: ‘That ye, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; and to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge.’

Excerpt From: Weil, Simone. “Waiting on God"