Turn your face toward the mountains – St. John of the Cross

photo: Paul Badde
photo: Paul Badde

“Hide yourself, my love; turn your face toward the mountains, and do not speak; but look at those companions going with her through strange islands.”–Stanza 19, Spiritual Canticle, St. John of the Cross

The great mystical Doctor of the Church, St. John of the Cross, wrote a beautiful commentary on Stanza 19 of his Spiritual Canticle, on prayer–the desire of the soul to communicate with God, the need of silence on the part of the soul, and the darkness or obscurity of faith in the soul who is seeking God’s Face.

  St. John says that the bride-soul asks four things of the Bridegroom (Christ): First, that He “communicate very inwardly” in the hidden place of the soul. Second, that He inform and “shine on her faculties” with His glory. Third, “that this communication be so sublime and profound that she may neither desire nor know how to give a description of it…” Fourth, that He be enamored of the graces and virtues He has placed in her.” 

“Hide yourself, my love;”

St. John says this means to ask God “to communicate Yourself in secret, manifest Your hidden wonders, alien to every mortal eye.”

“turn your face toward the mountains”

“The ‘Face’ of God is the divinity and the ‘mountains’ are the soul’s faculties  (memory, intellect, and will).” The verse is saying: “Let your divinity shine on my intellect by giving divine knowledge, and on my will by imparting to it divine love, and on my memory with the divine possession of glory.” The soul, St. John writes, “can only be satisfied with God’s Face.”

“and do not speak”

The communication God grants to the soul are too high and deep to be apprehended by the senses. “Let the depth of the hiding place, which is spiritual union, be of such a kind that the senses will be unable to feel or speak of it…,” says St. John of the Cross.

“but look at those companions”

When God looks, He loves and grants favors.  And the companions whom the soul tells God to look at are the many virtues, gifts, perfections, and other spiritual riches He has placed in her as the pledges, tokens, and jewels of betrothal.” This verse, says St. John is like saying, “But, Beloved, first turn to the interior of my soul, and be enamored of the company–the riches–You have placed there, so that loving the soul and through them You may dwell and hide in her.  For, indeed, even though they are Yours, since You gave them to her, they also belong to her.

“going with her through strange islands.”

Here the soul is saying, “Since I go to you through a spiritual knowledge strange and foreign to the senses, let Your communication be so interior and sublime as to be foreign to all of them.”

To “seek God’s Face” is to seek Him in prayer; to “look at Him” is to take the time to contemplate Him. When we do this, St. John of the Cross tells us, God is doing great things in our soul…He shines His Face upon us!

Drawing by St. John of the Cross of his vision of the Crucifixion of Jesus from above.
Drawing of vision of the Crucifixion by St. John of the Cross, Feast: December 14

The Lord is the Spirit, and where the spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.  And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being changed into His likeness from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. (2 Cor 3:17-18)

Longing to see His Face – The Souls in Purgatory

FullSizeRender-38“Every family has an Uncle Louie.”  I was told this fact while discussing funerals with a priest.  “Uncle Louie” represented those “black sheep,” who, though beloved by their family and friends, we all knew were no saints and unless Heaven had lowered the bar considerably, didn’t stand much chance of walking straight through the Pearly Gates when they died.  However, as Christians we hope that through the mercy of God and the prayers of the Church that “Uncle Louie” did make it into Purgatory.  Perhaps before he died, “Uncle Louie” mumbled a heartfelt pray from childhood and turned back to God.

“All who die in God’s grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven.” (CCC 1030)  The Church gives the name Purgatory to this final purification of souls that they may attain the beatific vision, or gaze on the Face of God.  Theologians have said that the purification or suffering of the souls in Purgatory is their intense longing for the Face of God.  This is expressed beautifully in Dante’s Divine Comedy, which is recommended reading by Pope Francis for the Year of Mercy.  In the poem, a soul in Purgatory proclaims:

“We were all sinners till our latest hour/… when light from Heaven made us wise to see our sins,/ and we repented and forgave,/ leaving our lives at last in peace with God,/ who now torments our hearts with the desire,/  to see His Face.”

Since the faithful departed being purified are also members of the communion of saints, we can help obtain indulgences for them, so that temporal punishments due for their sins may be remitted through the merits of Jesus Christ.  (Explanation of indulgences here.) Throughout November the Church, in charity, remembers the Faithful Departed in its prayers.  “It is therefore a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead, that they may be loosed from sins.” (2 Macch. 12, 46) There are many ways to obtain indulgence from God through the Church such as visiting a cemetery and praying for the dead. A plenary indulgence for the souls in Purgatory can be obtained by visiting a cemetery each day between November 1 and November 8 or by a visit to a church or public oratory on November 2nd and reciting the Our Father and The Creed.  A partial indulgence can be obtained for the souls in Purgatory, especially in the month of November, when we recite:

Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them.  May the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.  Amen.

In your charity, please pray for the souls in Purgatory, so that they may soon see God face to face.

Holy Face of Manoppello Photo: Paul Badde
Holy Face of Manoppello
Photo: Paul Badde

 

St. Teresa of Avila – A gaze of faith fixed on Jesus

St. Teresa of Avila Icon by Patricia Enk
St. Teresa of Avila, Feast Day Oct. 15th Icon by Patricia Enk

“It is the Church’s task to reflect the light of Christ in every historical period, to make His Face shine also before the generations of the new millennium.  Our witness, however, would be hopelessly inadequate if we ourselves had not first contemplated His Face.”

–Pope St. John Paul II

Contemplation is a gaze of faith fixed on Jesus in silent, loving, attentiveness. It is a gift and a grace from God. Theologians have written volumes about what has been called by the Catechism of the Catholic Church “the simplest expression of the mystery of prayer,” yet when the Catholic Church wants to teach anyone about contemplative prayer it invariably directs them to St. Teresa de Jesus, Doctor of the Church and Foundress of the Discalced Carmelite Order.  St. Teresa is a “down-to-earth” sort of saint who can explain prayer to us in the most understandable terms.  “Contemplative prayer” says Teresa, “in my opinion is nothing more than a close sharing between friends, it means taking time frequently to be alone with Him who we know loves us.”

Image of the Holy Face of Jesus that captivated St. Teresa
Image of the Holy Face of Jesus that captivated St. Teresa

St. Teresa suffered for years as a religious from an inability to pray, so she gives some solid advice to those who struggle as they seek the Face of God in prayer: “Never set aside the Sacred Humanity of Christ.” We cannot come to the Father except through Him.  Intimacy with Jesus draws us into the life of the Trinity. “If we can, we should occupy ourselves in looking at Him Who is looking at us; keep Him company; talk with Him; pray to Him; humble ourselves before Him; have our delight in Him.”  St. Teresa complained that she didn’t have much of an imagination, so she found it helpful to have an image of Christ to look at as she prayed, especially an image of Jesus in His Passion. “Speak with Him as with a Father, a Brother, a Lord and a Spouse–and, sometimes in one way and sometimes in another.  He will teach you what you must do to please Him… Remember how important it is for you to have understood this truth–that the Lord is within us and that we should be there with Him.”

He is only waiting for us to look at Him!

Statue of Jesus Scourged St. Teresa's moment of conversion occurred while praying before this image.
Statue of Jesus Scourged
St. Teresa’s moment of conversion occurred while praying before this image.

 

Contemplation and Praise of The Trinity through the Face of Christ

The mystery of the Trinity is the beginning and end of all revealed truth. We are baptized in

Sr. Lucia's vision of The Trinity at Tuy
Sr. Lucia’s vision of The Trinity at Tuy

the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit and our souls enter into relationship with each of the Three Divine Persons.  We are daughters and sons of the Father, brothers, sisters and co-heirs with the Son and sanctified by the Holy Spirit continually to make us resemble Jesus Christ.

But, how can we contemplate something so great as the Holy Trinity when we are such lowly creatures?  St. Teresa wrote that  she was “amazed at seeing so much majesty in a thing as lowly as my soul;” then Our Lord said to her: “It is not lowly, my daughter, because it is made in my own image.”  This should give us the courage to come in prayer before The Most Holy Trinity through Jesus Christ, through whose human face God chose to reveal Himself to us.

"Show us...Your Face, that mirror mystery-laden, of God's infinite mercy."--Pope Benedict XVI
“Show us…Your Face, that mirror mystery-laden, of God’s infinite mercy.”–Pope Benedict XVI Photo: Paul Badde

 

Words are not needed, we need only rejoice in the splendor of His Face. Pope Benedict XVI tells us, “To rejoice in the splendor of His Face means penetrating the mystery of His Name made known to us in Jesus, understanding something of His interior life and of His Will, so that we can live according to His plan for humanity.  Jesus lets us know the hidden Face of the Father through His human Face; by the gift of the Holy Spirit poured into our hearts.” 

We rejoice in the splendor of His Face as we gaze at Him, and while we gaze at Him, He gazes at us: “How beautiful is this gaze of Jesus – How much tenderness is there!” says Pope Francis.  Pope Francis urges us to reflect on Jesus gaze upon us: “How is Jesus looking at me?

Pope Francis adoring The Eucharistic Face of Christ
Pope Francis adoring The Eucharistic Face of Christ

With a call? With a pardon?  With a mission? But on the path He created, all of us are being looked at  by Jesus.  He always looks at us with love.  He asks us something, he forgives us for something and he gives us a mission… May each one of us think: ‘Lord, You are here, among us.  Fix your gaze on me and tell me what I must do:  how I must repent for my mistakes, my sins; what courage do I need to go forward on the path that You first created.”   St. John of the Cross says the gaze of God is active, “for God’s gaze is to love and to work favors.  His Gaze is love and love does things.  God’s gaze works four blessings in the soul: it cleanses her, makes her beautiful, enriches her and enlightens… making her like Himself.”

By this mutual gaze of love between the Face of God and the soul man, God restores His Image in our souls where, incredibly, He chooses to dwell.  In The Spiritual Canticle, St. John of the Cross exclaims “O, then, most beautiful soul who dost so much desire to know the place where your Beloved is in order to seek him and to be united with him, He tells you now that you yourself are the abode wherein He dwells, and the closet and hiding place where He is hidden.  It is a matter of great contentment and joy for you to see that all your good and all your hope are so near that you cannot be without them.  ‘Behold’ says the Spouse, ‘the kingdom of God is within you’ (Luke 17:21), and his servant the Apostle Paul says: ‘We are the temple of the living God’ (2 Cor 6:16).”

Divine Mercy in the waters of Baptism
Divine Mercy in the waters of Baptism when the Holy Trinity comes to dwell in the soul.

St. Elizabeth of the Trinity on receiving news of the baptism of her niece, wrote to her sister, “I feel full respect, for this little temple of the Blessed Trinity…If I were near her I would kneel down to adore him who dwells within her.”

Prayer to The Holy Trinity by St. Elizabeth of the Trinity

“My God, Blessed Trinity!  Draw from my poor being what most contributes to your glory, and do with me what you wish both now and in eternity.  May I no longer place between us any voluntary hindrance to your transforming action… Second, by second, with a forever ‘actual’ intention, I desire to offer you all that I am and all that I have.  Make my poor life, in intimate union with the Word Incarnate, an unceasing sacrifice of glory to the Blessed Trinity…

Discalced Camelite Nun - St. Elizabeth of The Trinity
Discalced Camelite Nun – St. Elizabeth of The Trinity

My God, how I wish to glorify you!  O, if only in exchange for my complete immolation, or for any other condition, it were in my power to enkindle the hearts of all your creatures and the whole of creation in the flames of your love, how I would desire to do so!  May at least my poor heart belong to you completely, may I keep nothing for myself not for creatures, not even a single heartbeat.  May I have a burning love for all mankind, but only with you, through you and for you… I desire above all to love you with the heart of Saint Joseph, with the Immaculate Heart of Mary, and with the adorable Heart of Jesus; and, finally, to submerge myself in that infinite ocean, that abyss of fire that consumes the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit for ever and ever.

O Jesus, who said:  ‘No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and any one whom the Son chooses to reveal him’ (Matt 11:27) ‘Show us the Father, and we will be satisfied!” (John 14:8)

And you, O Spirit of Love!  ‘Teach us all things’ (John 14:26) and ‘form Jesus with Mary in us’ (Gal 4:19) until we ‘become perfectly one; (John 17:23) in ‘the bosom of the Father’ (John 1:18).  Amen.

 

“The World is all in Flames”: Join World Prayer for Peace March 26th

IMG_1022

“The world is all in flames…and are we to waste time asking God for things of little importance?”  This was the lament of St. Teresa of Jesus as she contemplated the wars, conflicts and divisions of her own time.  March 28th marks the 500th anniversary of her birth.  Today, ever increasing wars, terrorism and violence seem to rage in every corner of the globe. Yes, “the world is in flames!”

St. Teresa of Jesus, Doctor of the Church
St. Teresa of Jesus, Doctor of the Church

We (the sons and daughters of Holy Mother Teresa, the Discalced Carmelite Order of Friars, Nuns and the Secular Order) would like to offer her a 500th birthday present, of which, she would approve; we invite all persons of good will to join us in an hour of prayer for World Peace, which we hope will fill the day with prayers for peace, as people unite in prayer around the world, on March 26 (beginning at 6:00 GMT)and continuing till March 27th. This is the proposal of the Father General of the Discalced Carmelite Order, Fr. Saverio Cannistra.

Our Holy Father Pope Francis has looked kindly on this initiative and on March 26th will unite with us in supplication to God, Father of us all, so that through the intercession of His Son Jesus Christ, He will pour His Holy Spirit over all the nations, so that dialogue will triumph over violence and conflicts that scourge our world.”  Please share this message and join with us on this day, “holding tightly to the power of the redeeming Cross of Christ” and lifting our eyes to heaven, let us beg the Father to look upon the Face of His Son, the Prince of Peace, Jesus Christ, and grant us the gift of peace  Not the peace the world gives, but the peace that Jesus promised us, which nothing can take from us. Through the powerful intercession of The Blessed Virgin Mary, Our Mother the Queen of Peace and St. Teresa of Jesus let us also “beseech God for the opportunities for dialogue and encounter among men, that we learn to ask for forgiveness so that peace may grow in the world like the fruit of the reconciliation that He has come to bring us.” Nothing is impossible with God!

Pope Francis adoring The Eucharistic Face of Christ
Pope Francis adoring The Eucharistic Face of Christ

 

 

St. Joseph Restoration, and Reparation

Last year I had not one, but three statues of St. Joseph in my house, old, broken, with decades of

St. Joseph in need of restoration
St. Joseph in need of restoration

different layers of flaking paint. I have restored countless numbers of such statues of Jesus, Mary, St. Joseph, Saints, Angels, even lambs and camels… large and small, in various distressed conditions; some nearly smashed to smithereens, seemingly beyond hope.  Some of the worst had been through Hurricane Katrina.  All the statues had one thing in common, they were dearly loved by someone who couldn’t bear to get rid of them.

The first one showed up on my doorstep twenty years ago.  I am a watercolor artist, so when a friend asked me if I could “fix a statue” because I “painted,” I was confused but decided to give it a shot.  The statue was in terrible shape –but it was me or the trash can. (Not a great choice.)  So, I did some research on restoration and got to work.  Statues have been showing up ever since and I repair them for one reason: I can’t bear to see them broken.  For me, it’s a labor of love.

Restored St. Joseph
Restored St. Joseph

I’ve often wondered if this is how God looks at our souls; broken, disfigured, and in various states of decay.  He looks on us with love and a desire to restore us to our original beauty.  When we come back to His “doorstep,” which is the Church, and “turn back to His Face,” the Divine Artist restores His Image in us.

Our Lord revealed the work of reparation, which is devotion to the Holy Face, “the most beautiful work under the sun,” to Sr. Marie St. Pierre, a Carmelite nun.  Jesus told her that the image of His Holy Face is like a Divine Stamp, which, if applied to souls through prayer, has the power of imprinting anew within them the image of God.

This is Sr. Marie St. Pierre’s beautiful prayer to reproduce the image of God in our souls, “I salute you!  I adore you and I love you, Oh adorable face of my beloved Jesus, as the noble stamp of the Divinity!  Completely surrendering my soul to You, I most humbly beg You to stamp this seal upon us all, so that the image of God may once more be reproduced in our souls.  Amen.”

In fact, anytime we turn to His Face, in prayer, He is beautifying and restoring our souls… and that is THE “labor of love!”

Teresian Sr. Martha and her beloved St. Joseph.
Teresian Sr. Martha and her beloved St. Joseph.

 Happy Feast of St. Joseph!