A Rose from St. Therese

[Last week’s post was destroyed by the re-format monster. This is the second attempt.]

Exactly two months ago, I arrived at the monastery, thus marking the beginning of my Benedictine postulancy. I won’t say too much about my experience; but I would like to briefly share one experience with you.

Adopted by St. Therese and Her Family

Fr. Paul of Moll once remarked that life is full of crosses, and that the easiest path – and the most fruitful – is to do everything for the love of God. The Cross, writes Bl. Dom Columba Marmion, is the root of all fecundity.

Before entering the monastery, I was well aware that I was going to encounter the Cross. I think it was Marcelline Pauper who had a vision of numerous crosses of shapes and sizes, which represented the trials and tribulations that were ahead of her. I think we can all relate to this.

For me, the biggest cross that I have faced in the last 2 months is homesickness. All I will say is this: I wept like a baby in an onion factory. Twice. Or was it thrice? I actually don’t remember; I was a mess. Jetlag doesn’t help either – especially when combined with fatigue, sorrow for one’s sins, and a longing for Heaven that cannot be satisfied in this valley of tears.

Amidst all this, I felt inspired to send up a prayer to St. Therese and her family. (I have been reading the Letters of St. Therese in my spare time, and I must confess my love for St. Therese and her family; they are so pure in their faith, so affectionate, so simple, and so loving).

As I was lying on my bed one day, homesick (though to a much lesser extent than previously!), and reading the Letters of St. Therese, I felt inspired to offer one year of Masses in honour of St. Therese, her recently canonized parents, and her entire family. Immediately after making this intention and offering it to God and these holy souls, I felt inspired to  ask St. Therese and her siblings to adopt me as their little brother. I also asked St. Louis and St. Zelie to adopt me as their son. Then I forgot about it.

‘Longing to Belong’

The following day, I was in the scriptorium/library, which is home to some 3000 books (a rough estimate). I didn’t have much time for reading, so I picked up a random book that caught my eye, and started flicking hastily through the pages. A certain picture stood out. It was a beautiful photo of St. Therese and her family (actually it was a collection of photos that were framed under the heading, ‘Le Martin Familie’ or something French like that). I thought nothing of it at the time.

It was only later than night that I recalled my prayer the previous day. Then I considered the likelihood of stumbling upon a picture of the Martin family… in a book about a Benedictine monk.

“They have adopted me!” I thought. Now, you might think I jumped the gun a bit; but I experienced an overwhelming sense of joy at what seemed to be an answer to prayer.

Then the thought occurred to me: “Why is there a picture of the Martin family in a book about a Benedictine monk? … I wonder if he asked the Martin sisters to adopt him?” I don’t know why, but I half-expected the this. I wanted to check the book to find the answer, but I had to wait another day.

Thursday came, and I entered the scriptorium, full of anticipation and curiosity. I picked up the book (‘Longing to Belong: The Life of Dom Mayeul De Caigny’), and this is what I read:

“It is interesting to note that Sr. Marie du Sacre Coeur [Marie Martin, sister of St. Therese] always addresses Dom Mayeul [born March 29 – the day I arrived at the monastery] as her “brother.” At some early date, Dom Mayeul had asked the Martin sisters if they would accept him as their ‘adopted brother.’ The Martin family consisted of five girls, but no boys. They seemed very happy to welcome Dom Mayeul into the family circle as a surrogate ‘brother.’ (p. 348)

Long story, short: I was thrilled!

[I also discovered, one week later, that the day I made that prayer was May 17, the 91st anniversary of the canonization of St. Therese. How this little one looks after me! I expect the same from my new little family, too!]

That is all I have time for today!

+ Pax +

Infinite Wealth? At What Cost?

“The poorer one is [in spirit], the more the indescribable riches of Christ will find their place in us. When we acknowledge and admit our misery, His generosity is very great.”

– Bl. Dom Columba Marmion (Union with God, Thibaut 1938, p. 156)

In Richard kelly’s movie, ‘The Box‘ (2009), a curious-looking man comes knocking on the door of a middle-class family. He is holding a box with a button inside. The couple let the man in to their house, and he explains to them that, if they are willing to press the button, they will receive one million dollars. The catch? Someone, somewhere, will die. (That is the gist; I won’t explain the whole plot).

The movie raises some very interesting philosophical questions. But even more intriguing, in my mind, are the spiritual implications that come to the fore when confronted with the question: ‘Can evil be committed in order to bring about good?’ Or put differently: ‘Does the end justify the means (if the means is evil)?’

So, how does this question relate to the spiritual life? Consider this real-life example: A man is tempted to evade paying taxes; he owes the government a few thousand dollars, but if he “pockets” some of his cash, and doesn’t inform the government, he will save a few quid/bob/bucks/Benjamins/whatever!

What does the man do? Suppose he takes the money; this would be an illegal and immoral act (the two are not necessarily the same!). Materially, he is guilty of mortal sin. If he acted with sufficient knowledge and consent, he is guilty of formal mortal sin (because the matter is grave).

Is this not the height of insanity? Whereas in ‘The Box,’ the couple are offered one million dollars for the life of another [an unspeakable evil, no doubt], in the aforementioned example, the man is “offered” a few thousand dollars for the “price” of his own soul! Recall that every mortal sin makes us a slave to the Devil, and until we give up our sin, we are heading towards eternal damnation.

That is a sobering thought, but it is must be known. If we are tempted to sin mortally, remember that the Devil can promise us nothing of true or lasting worth; he is all smoke and mirrors – pun intended. Pun regretted.

A Positive Look at Spiritual Riches

On a more positive note, we should consider that, for every little act of love, there is an eternal reward (if we are in a state of sanctifying grace, the seed of supernatural fruits).

“What are all the sorrows of earth, said a deceased Visitandine in a vision to Sr. Marie-Catherine Putigny, “compared with the happiness of seeing God for even one instant!”

Going back to ‘The Box,’ imagine the the same basic plot, but instead of being offered money, you were offered eternal joy (which often spills into earth); and instead of coming at the cost of another person’s life, the gift came by sincerely asking for it. Who would say no?

Has Our Lord not put Himself at our disposal? Is He not the Source of all riches? “What more do you want? Am I not with you?” (Jesus to Mother Anne Margaret Clement)

People spend the greater part of their lives in pursuit of frivolous pleasures, when, all the while, Our Lord offers His grace to us at every moment. Whether we be poor or rich, sinful or virtuous, He offers us His friendship, His peace, His joy, and ultimately, Himself.

‘Lay not up to yourselves treasures on earth: where the rust, and moth consume, and where thieves break through and steal. But lay up to yourselves treasures in heaven: where neither the rust nor moth doth consume, and where thieves do not break through, nor steal.’ (Mt. 6:19-20)

Our Treasure is in the Sacred Heart

“Learn for thine own benefit, and teach it to others, that to obtain solid virtue it must be soughtin the Heart of Jesus- Whoever wishes to be saved has only to take refuge in this Blessed Ark whence he can look out upon the tempest without being shaken by its fury. O beloved spouse, discover to all the place of refuge thou hast chosen for thy perpetual Abode; do Me this charity to teach it to other souls that they may come and find Me. I have immense treasures of grace for all: and whoever comes to Me shall be overwhelmed with them.” – Jesus to Sr. Benigna Consolata (March 12, 1905)

“I am an infinite treasure which My Father has placed at the disposal of all. They who reject Me will comprehend their misfortune only in Eternity. I love men; I love them tenderly as My dear brethren; although there is an infinite distance between them and Me, I make no account of it.” – Jesus to Sr. Benigna Consolata

Dear Jesus, hide me in you Sacred Heart, which was pierced for love of me! Never let me exit therefrom!

Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on us!

 

 

 

Humility Feeds Love…

One day, someone told St. Francis de Sales that they desired to become humble so that they could grow in love. The Saint replied that he preferred to aim at love in order to become humble. Who is correct? Why does this matter?

The answer to the first question, I believe, can be found in the writings of Ven. Louise Margaret, a daughter of St. Francis de Sales (i.e. a Visitandine). Our Lord told her that love and humility grow together; they mutually nourish one another (so, in a sense, both St. Francis de Sales and his interlocutor were correct). Consequently, there can be no true charity without humility, and no true humility without charity. “The more you love Me,” said Our Lord to Madeline Vigneron, “the humbler you are.”

One can verify this doctrine with ease; simply consider that God is Charity and Truth. This, then, is the litmus test of holiness or union with God: charity and humility. A soul might appear charitable and virtuous in the eyes of the world; but if they lack humility, their works are to that extent lacking in supernatural value. It is quite possible to donate generously to charity, serve the homeless, pray for souls, go to Mass, and read spiritual books, when, all the while, one is spiritually dead in mortal sin. Purity of intention is necessary. We will avoid delusion (to a great extent) if we offer our prayers, words and deeds to God, asking that He will act in and through us. He cannot fail to hear and answer such a prayer.

A good sign that we are progressing in the spiritual life is that we often think of God with pleasure. But even more indicative of a great love for God, is a docile will that – feelings aside – says with Our Lady: “Be it done unto me according to Thy word.”

We should always end our prayer with these words: “Thy Will be done.” I purposely capitalised the word “Will,” because God’s Will is not distinct from Himself, and therefore deserves to be adored (bearing in mind that God is the First Cause of all good, and merely permits evil).

Humiliations Help to Uproot Self-Love

It is very easy for self-love to creep into our actions. We think that we are serving God, but the moment something doesn’t go according to plan, we get irritated, or we throw in the towel. Really, we should accept failure as we would success, and suffering as we would joy; both are fruitful, so long as our will is directed towards God, Who works all things to our good.

If we are humble, we won’t be so surprised at our falls, nor will be so inclined to judge others, or to distrust, or to any other evil, all of which stem from the same root: pride.

Because God loves us so much, and wants to lavish His graces on us, He often sends or permits humiliations of various sorts. Remember that sharp word someone addressed to you? God wanted it to be a means of sanctifying you. Remember that time you fell into impatience, despite your best efforts? God wanted you to humble yourself and rely more on Him. Remember that time you couldn’t focus during prayer? God wanted to let you know what you are without Him, and to reward your perseverance and patience.

‘Son, when thou comest to the service of God, stand in justice and in fear, and prepare thy soul for temptation. [2] Humble thy heart, and endure: incline thy ear, and receive the words of understanding: and make not haste in the time of clouds. [3] Wait on God with patience: join thyself to God, and endure, that thy life may be increased in the latter end. [4] Take all that shall be brought upon thee: and in thy sorrow endure, and in thy humiliation keep patience. [5] For gold and silver are tried in the fire, but acceptable men in the furnace of humiliation.’
– Eccles. 2:1-5

In all difficulties, we must remember that God wants us to be humble. Without humility, there is no union with God, no peace, no happiness, no salvation. By bearing humiliations we give God a precious gift; by acknowledging our misery, rather than rebelling against it, we draw God to us. He seeks only to give.

“My child, the more humble you are, the more love will increase in you.”
– Jesus to St. Veronica Giuliani (August 23, 1715)

“Nothing is more pleasing to Me than to find a soul seeking the humility and meekness of My Heart.
– Jesus to Mother Marie-Dominique Claire Moes (1832-1895)

+PAX+