Tag Archives: st. therese

Witness

Today I witnessed a true and undeniable miracle. A few blogs back I wrote about my experience while waiting to enter the baths in Lourdes, France. I was on a pilgrimage and was visiting the famous Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes, which is well known for its healing water that visitors can bathe in. I chose to do it the hopes of receiving some of the healing properties the water possesses, but at the last minute I had a change of heart. A coworker of mine has been struggling with several demons centered around addiction. Before entering the baths I was overcome with the need and desire to pray for her and to enter the baths with the hope that the graces I received would be given to her.

When I returned back to New York the actions of my coworker were unchanged, or so I thought. I continued to lift her up in prayer, but sometimes the rawness of her language made me uncomfortable and I was beginning to wonder if she would ever be open to the healing Mary and the Holy Spirit wanted to give her, until today. Work was slow and I found myself with a lot of free time. Suddenly, this coworker asked if I had time to talk. She had never directly asked me to talk before, so of course I said yes. Evidently, she was dealing with a difficult break-up and she wondered if she had been taken advantage of by this guy she was seeing. After hearing the story it was pretty clear that she had, but that was not the end of the conversation. We talked off and on throughout the rest of the day and she opened up about how she wanted to change her life. She was no longer smoking weed nor seeking out one-night stands and meaningless hook-ups. She was being proactive, making the conscious effort to go to the gym everyday, and cutting ties with bad influences. I was completely awe-stricken. There was an obvious transformation within her.

I dared to go a little deeper and learned her mother is Catholic. Unfortunately, she had negative ties with the Catholic faith because of her mother’s influence. I know there are quite a few crosses that she is carrying and there is much healing that needs to be done. I asked if she knew anything about Saint Thérèse of Lisieux; she didn’t. When I came back from France I brought back a keychain of a rose with Saint Thérèse on it and gave it to my coworker in hopes that it might help in the healing I had prayed for while in the baths at Lourdes. I asked her if she still had the keychain and she said she did. I gave her a little overview of who Saint Thérèse was, and why Saint Thérèse might be able to help her in her pursuit of a better life. I saw genuine hope spark in her eyes. It was a spark that I had never seen before, mainly because before she was severely under the influence of marijuana. She had been in the grip of Satan, allowing her addictions to rule over her, but now there was clarity and it was beautiful. Mary had found a way to touch my coworker’s spirit and transform it. I felt so honored to have the privilege of witnessing it. My coworker is proof of the healing power of Our Lady of Lourdes and that our faith and our prayers can inspire miracles in other’s lives. Bring your prayers and intentions to Mary and Jesus and be persistent, for their mercy will not be outdone.

Originally posted at Kitty in the City.
Image: PD-US

The Seven Deadly Sins in “The Jungle Book”

The Jungle Book (2016) is a masterful adaptation of Kipling’s book, paying due homage to the classic Disney film with its meshing of the familiar soundtrack with exquisitely-rendered new visuals.

It is also a tale of growing up in a dangerous world, of fulfilling one’s telos or true end, and of choosing to practice virtue instead of being consumed by vices which enslave us and lead us to harm others.

[Caution: Spoilers ahead]

Shere Khan is gripped by a burning anger, unable to forgive Mowgli’s father for scarring his face with a firebrand in self-defense. The tiger’s hatred of men is boundless, extending to the innocent Mowgli who was a mere toddler when Shere Khan killed his father. Khan’s insatiable wrath isolates him, making him feared by the other creatures of the jungle, while he spends each day in a terrible rage, enslaved by his fixation on ending Mowgli’s life.

It should in fact be Mowgli who hates Shere Khan for killing his father and hunting him relentlessly, but Mowgli does not seek revenge on Khan even after learning the truth from the serpent Kaa. Even when Mowgli hears of the wolf Akela’s death, he only wants to face Khan and stop him from further devastating the wolf pack for letting the boy walk free. Mowgli even places himself in mortal danger by hurling his torch into the water so as not to frighten the other animals. By this act of making himself vulnerable, Mowgli wins back the trust of the others, although he has accidentally set their forest on fire, and they all band together to fight against Khan. In contrast to Khan, Mowgli only resorts to killing his opponent in self-defense – and by indirect means, allowing Khan’s own rage to fuel his fall into the fire. Furthermore, Mowgli does not allow his losses and scars to bind him in brooding rage over the past, although Khan has twice robbed him of father-figures and his home. He goes on to lead a happy life in the jungle, in the company of his assorted friends.

Similarly, Satan is a roaring lion (1 Peter 5:8) with an undying enmity against the human race (Genesis 3:15), and we are to be ever vigilant against his attacks on our souls; there are times in the spiritual life when we must flee in order to preserve our virtue (as St Thérèse did once)1, and there are times when we must take courage and face the adversary, overcoming him with the purifying fire of the Holy Spirit. Satan knows no peace – Which way I fly is hell; myself am hell2 – but is possessed by a terrible rage against mankind. Yet, when we stand together as the Body of Christ, instead of being divided by fear, we will not succumb to his deadly rule, but will win through to everlasting life in the heavenly communion of saints.

As Satan lured Eve by inciting her lust for the forbidden fruit, of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil (Genesis 3:5), Kaa lures Mowgli with the knowledge of his past, seducing him with lies that he is safe with her. Of course, the python only sees him as a tasty morsel to be gobbled up. (In the book, Kaa is male and a mentor of Mowgli’s.) Kaa is so fixated on her prey that she is unable to react in time when Baloo the bear chances upon them and saves Mowgli from certain death.

Baloo is a sloth bear who lazes around, trying to use monkeys to procure honey for him. He initially lies to Mowgli too, taking advantage of him and allowing him to be stung horribly all over while obtaining honeycombs. However, unlike the other predators in the jungle, Baloo gives Mowgli his freedom to leave whenever he likes, and Mowgli chooses to stay with the bear, forging a firm friendship as they forage for food. Yet, Baloo still uses Mowgli to pander to his gluttony, claiming that he will starve in hibernation if they do not store enough honey. Bagheera the panther, Mowgli’s mentor, turns up and points out that Baloo does not hibernate. Happily, Baloo is ultimately virtuous and self-sacrificing, overcoming his fear of heights to save Mowgli from his next mishap.

King Louie the monstrous orangutan is possessed by greed and envy, longing for “man’s red flower” so that he can rule over the entire jungle, although he already has plenty more than enough, with the simians of the forest waiting on him hand and foot. He wants to be like man, “on top of the food chain”. His boundless lust for power is his downfall, for in trying to capture Mowgli, Louie destroys his own palace and is buried in the ruins of his home.

In the end, each villain meets their downfall through self-absorption and overweening pride, hankering after something not rightfully theirs; each hero triumphs through humility, overcoming their shortcomings and embracing their true strengths. Bagheera tells Mowgli to fight Khan as a man, not a wolf, and Mowgli, though physically much weaker than any of the animals, triumphs by exercising his intellect, exploiting his fearsome opponent’s weakness and using Khan’s wrath against himself. Similarly, when we are beset by fears and discouragement, we can turn it against Satan, offering up our suffering in union with Christ so that the Kingdom of God may triumph in the hearts of men. As delineated in Plato’s Republic, the body is in harmony when the intellect governs the emotions and the appetites; there is justice in the body politic when each part of society works together for the common good. Then we shall rid our homes of the scourge of evil, and live in peace with all of God’s creation.

___

Image: The Disney Wiki

1  Story of a Soul Ch. 9: “I thought that if I began to justify myself I should certainly lose my peace of mind, and as I had too little virtue to let myself be unjustly accused without answering, my last chance of safety lay in flight.”

2 John Milton, Paradise Lost, Book IV, l. 75.

God is interested in your love life

The Wedding Feast at Cana miracle is a manifestation of more than just Christ’s power. The story also allows us to see our Blessed Mother’s intercessory influence, Jesus’ approval of human marriage, and His care for humanity to the point of assisting us even with the more mundane items such as wine at a wedding reception.

I have come to know these truths through personal experience in my life. When I was 22 years old, I was totally head over heels in love with a girl. We began our courtship with a double date to see the movie Bella with Italian food afterwards. She was the star of my evening sky and I could barely take my eyes off her.

At the time, it was the best month of my life. I was always thinking about her.  More so, I had already mentally and emotionally committed to love her for the rest of my life. However, unbeknownst to me, she was not as excited about me as I was about her.

She broke up with me and I was pretty disappointed. Ok, absolutely devastated. I really had thought she was the one. We had a good friendship formed in the months before we went on that first date, so, while I still failed tremendously at guarding my heart, I had plenty of reasons stored up on why I found her to be so special. Moreover, I had thought that God had wanted us to be together and when she ended it, my newly-returned-to-the-faith heart was fairly confused as to what went wrong.

I thought that I was doing everything right, but I would soon see that I needed to mature in my faith. I would learn to truly discern what God wanted for me in my life and how much He was interested in my happiness. Kicking off the lessons, I met with my spiritual director who suggested I pray a novena to St. Thérèse of Lisieux.

By praying the Novena, I would ask the Little Flower to intercede for me and guide me to know whether I should wait for this beautiful woman to come back to me or move on to find someone else. The novena would either finish with a sign, typically a rose for St. Thérèse, or nothing. The sign would signify whether I should wait.

Needless to say I was terrified. Absolutely. I really wanted to wait for her. But, I desired what God wanted more, so I prayed the first day’s prayer. The prayer was beautiful and I enjoyed praying it as it seemed to help even in that situation. However, the next night the internet went out at my parents’ house and I gave up the novena. It was either the next day or the next that my spiritual director convinced me to pick up where I left off.

I did with great hope, but still some trepidation. It was winter, but I started seeing roses each day. However, it was the ninth day that counted. Furthermore, it seemed like the readings at Mass and the sections of the Imitation of Christ that I was reading at the time were speaking to me vividly in my heartache. There was no doubt that God was speaking to me to console and guide me.

I woke up on the ninth day, prayed the prayer for the novena, and committed myself to only do what others asked me to do. This was to help escape confusion of whether I made the sign happen or if it came from God. Honestly, it would have been super easy to just head over to the supermarket flower aisle.

A college friend was staying with us for Christmas break and I found him in the living room on my way to breakfast. He wanted to share with me something that stood out to him in the morning prayer that day. He said it really helped him with what he was going through. He read it to me:

“Trust in God with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. Acknowledge Him in all your ways and He shall direct your path.” —Proverbs 3:5,6

We talked about it and I shared with him that I found this helpful for my own life. Later, while enjoying my bowl of cereal, I could not take my mind off whether I would see a sign. I specifically had the thought that I would definitely not see it at my parents’ house as I had been living there and had never seen any roses or even rose-like items.

I stood up and walked over to pass a side table and saw something I had never seen before. Whether it had always been there or just placed there that week I could not tell you, but on the table was something I found quite remarkable. A ceramic cross with a rose on each end with the words of Proverbs 3: 5,6 inscribed in the center.

I was blown away. “Was this the sign?” I was not sure, but I had a good feeling. The plan for the day was morning Mass and then assisting a group preparing for a Medical mission to Africa with loading a container with supplies. I wondered if there would be more from God in confirming whether I should wait for this girl.

Needless to say, there was. It was January 2 and even though we were in the bleak midwinter, the statue of Mary in the sanctuary where we celebrated morning Mass was bedecked with roses including a rosary made of roses. I believed this was it. I was amazed by God’s love for me and desire to help me with my love life.

Furthermore, when looking back to this amazing moment in my life several years later, I found out that January 2 is the birthday of St. Thérèse of Lisieux. I can now think of the ninth day of my novena as specially chosen by St. Thérèse to show me that it would be God’s will for me to wait. And on that day, January 2, 2008, I set my face like flint toward my coming spring semester with the divinely-affirmed plan to give this woman the time she needed to come back to me.

Truth be told I thought that it would only be a few weeks. She had just begun to study at my small Catholic Liberal arts school in the south and so I was still able to see her and try to be just friends. Very difficult, but I never told her about the novena.

I also never tried to make any moves on her. Somehow, I believed that she would come back to me and I should not pressure her. However, God was so good to me and let us spend time together sharing in grand memories, such as many meals amongst friends in the school cafeteria, going to a 90’s themed party closer to Atlanta where everyone assumed that we were still going out, and even traveling to New York to see Pope Benedict XVI at the Youth Rally. (An extraordinary moment in our lives. Both of us left Georgia without a ticket, yet were provided for in the end).

I was always careful not to come on too strong or express my feelings to her. I knew she needed total freedom to come back to me without my help. It was a long Fall semester, but I truly grew up and closer to God. I also found myself willing to accept His plan whether it did include my lady or not. He helped me to see that I had already had all the love I needed from Him.

And yet He gave me more. It was Monday December 8, 2008, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception when she came to talk to me in the school cafeteria to invite me to help a mutual friend move. Something seemed different that caused me to wonder… was this it? I had lead the Rosary each night in the school chapel at 9:45 pm and she started to show up each night. Sometimes it was just her, me and Jesus.

I would walk her back to her dorm and we would talk, but I still kept my secret. Furthermore, I learned my lesson and kept my heart guarded. It might have been the most mature I have ever been in my life.

The last day of finals was Friday December 12, the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. School was over and there was nothing left to do but relax. She and I shared a long conversation about life, school, and God amidst a greater group of friends who were all talking. However, it was as if it was just us, and it was very clear that we liked each other. We were together the whole evening.

That weekend we were at the house of the friend who had just moved and we had another conversation. The friend knew us both fairly well and he encouraged me to share my novena with her. I shared everything, but she did not seem as surprised or shocked as I thought she would. It was I would be surprised after I heard what she told me next.

She told me that she realized she had regained feelings for me back in November, but did not want to hurt a friend of hers who had feelings for me as well. To figure out what to do she prayed a novena to St. Thérèse of Lisieux. On the 8th day of her novena her friend gave her a medal of St. Thérèse without knowing about the novena or the reason for it being said.

However, it is the 9th day that really blew me away. Just before Mass she was praying on her knees before a statue of Mary in the chapel asking Mary what she should do. Right at the moment she asked Mary to let her know if she should move forward with her feelings, I came in and knelt right beside her. Truly remarkable as that was the first time we had ever knelt before that statue together.

She doubted though, went to her seat and continued her petition. Once again, at the moment she asked Mary to again make it clear, I sat down right next to her. To make this more amazing, this is something that I had never done since she stepped foot on campus. So for maybe 200 Masses, I had never sat near her, but sat right next to her on the ninth day of her novena, right when she asked Mary to make it clear whether she should move forward.

So move forward we did. We started to spend more time together and talk more. It was on January 20, 2009 that we agreed to officially be a thing again. God had kept His promise. And He showed me that whole year that He was truly interested in my love life.

Looking back He was there the whole time. At times it was painful, but I grew up a lot and learned to trust in Him more. Furthermore, I grew closer to Mary and St. Thérèse, learning that I could rely on them as well.

After a year of courtship and a year of engagement, my wife and I married on January 1, the feast of Mary, Mother of God. We have been outrageously blessed with 3 incredible children and cannot even imagine a better life.

The most amazing part about this story is that I am absolutely average. Your normal high school Theology teacher, nothing spectacular about me. I truly believe that God is not only interested in my love life, but everybody’s. Particularly, the love life that He brings. He wants to lead all people to His plan for them and bring them joy.

This is what Jesus did for the couple at Cana. Furthermore, I have known many other people who have been brought to their vocations in a similar way as I was. God is interested in our love lives and will help us with them if we ask.

The Economy of Mercy

If your brother sins, rebuke him;
and if he repents, forgive him.
And if he wrongs you seven times in one day
and returns to you seven times saying, ‘I am sorry,’
you should forgive him.

—Luke 17:3–4

Sr. Febronie served as subprioress during Therese’s early years in Carmel. She reproached Therese for teaching the novices that they could go straight to heaven after death, calling this presumption. “My sister, if you desire God’s justice, you will have God’s justice,” Therese answered her. “The soul receives exactly what she looks for from God”…

This conversation took place in 1891. The following January, Febronie was among those who died during the flu epidemic. She appeared to Therese in a dream a short time later. Therese saw Febronie was suffering. She looked as though she was confirming that Therese had been right. She was in purgatory, because she had expected to receive God’s justice rather than his mercy.

Here once more we see the importance of our participation in our sanctification. God even allows us to choose the method by which he will judge us! If we believe he will send us to purgatory because we have not been good enough, then he will. If we trust him to make up for our lack of perfection, he will do that instead.

—Connie Rossini, Trusting God with St. Therese

therese_von_lisieux
St. Therese of Lisieux

God longs to extend His mercy to us. He doesn’t want to have to deal with us in terms of justice instead of mercy. He would rather forgive us than punish us, but sometimes justice is what we choose for ourselves. When we judge others harshly instead of forgiving readily, we adopt an economy of justice. When our motivation to perform good deeds stems from a desire to “earn” our holiness instead of out of love for our neighbor, we are are measuring in terms of justice instead of mercy. When we despair over our weaknesses and feel we can never be good enough, we reject the wideness of God’s mercy and cling to justice instead. When we compare ourselves to others, wonder why we have more or less or different gifts than anyone else, and wish we could even out the scales, we are choosing to operate under a prevailing sense of justice.

But fixating on justice alone will not get us to heaven. Jesus didn’t die on the Cross because it was just; He did it out of pure, boundless love for us, love that defied justice. Unless we cultivate a sense of mercy, then we are asking for harsh treatment. Jesus wants better for us. He wants us to trust Him so greatly and to be so sure of His great mercy that we don’t despair in our sinfulness but rather call on Him right away to cover our faults. There is no sin too great for His mercy. He wants to swoop in and rescue us, but sometimes we push Him away out of pride. Once we acknowledge that we can’t do it ourselves, that we would be crushed by an economy of justice, then we can begin to embrace His economy of mercy. And when we understand the incredible gift of God’s mercy, we will be able to demonstrate it to others, joyfully forgiving again and again and again.

Loneliness & Communion

Loneliness has two faces. One is human loneliness, and the other is loneliness for the divine. “My heart shall not rest until it rest in Thee.” Human loneliness is painful and tears one apart sometimes, blurring the face of a divine loneliness that Christ sends. Tenderness, gentleness and understanding help us to live in both types of loneliness, but especially in the human one, the ordinary one.
— Servant of God Catherine Doherty

What draws people to be friends is that they see the same truth. They share it.
— C.S. Lewis, On Friendship

Eight years ago, I left my parents’ home in Singapore to embark on university life in Brisbane. I spent four years in an Anglican college, after which I spent three years in a Catholic college in Sydney. This has been my first year living in share-house arrangements in Melbourne and in Brisbane, and even though my housemates have been really lovely to live with, sometimes it gets pretty lonely.

Sharing a house just isn’t the same as living in a family. I was blessed to transition from college life to share-housing with two months’ stay at a friend’s family home, where their peaceful family life helped me recover after an arduous final semester.

There is a sense of true belonging when one is with family. In a healthy family, one can share one’s innermost thoughts and feelings. This loving communion of persons engenders a sense of identity and security. One feels truly at home when one lives with people who share your inner life. You can be completely yourself with them.Élisabeth Arrighi Leseur

Servant of God Élisabeth Leseur and her atheist husband Félix loved each other dearly, but it deeply pained her that she could not share her profound faith with him. “I thirst for sympathy, to bare my soul to the souls that are dear to me, to speak of God and immortality and the interior life,” Élisabeth wrote in her diary.

My housemates in Melbourne and in Brisbane do not profess any religion, and while they are splendid individuals who have shared not just dwelling-places but also recreation with me, we are unable to connect in the deep way that I can easily do so with my devoutly Catholic friends. We are not on the same wavelength; we inhabit different realities.

In his 1944 presentation “Is Theology Poetry?”, C.S. Lewis concluded, “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.” It is difficult to communicate, let alone commune, with persons who see the world through the lenses of a completely different worldview.

In the end, one has to remember the words of St. Thérèse: “The world is thy ship, and not thy home.” Even in the most loving of families, or the most observant of religious communities, the members cannot fully know and understand each other, or themselves for that matter. Only God can do that. Only in God will we find our true home.

A wonderful fact to reflect upon, that every human creature is constituted to be that profound secret and mystery to every other.
— Charles Dickens,
A Tale of Two Citiesanotherworld-c-s-lewis

When the real want for Heaven is present in us, we do not recognise it. Most people if they really learn to look into their own heart [and that’s what I’m urging you to do right now] most people if they really learn to look into their own hearts would know that they do want and want acutely something that cannot be had in this world. There are all sorts of things in this world that offer to give it to you, but they never keep their promise. The longings which arise in us when we first fall in love or first think of some foreign country or first take up some subject that excites us are longings which no marriage, no travel, no learning can ever really satisfy. I am not speaking of what would ordinarily be called unsuccessful marriages or failures of holidays and so on. I’m speaking of the very best possible ones. There is always something we have grasped at. There’s always something in that first moment of longing but fades away in the reality. The spouse may be a good spouse. The scenery has been excellent. It turned out to be a good job. But it’s evaded us.
…If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.

— C.S. Lewis,
Mere Christianity

Images: Signum-Crucis; Charmolypi.

The Disfigurement of Sin

“He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him,
   nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.
He was despised and rejected by mankind,
   a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.
Like one from whom people hide their faces
   he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.”
—Isaiah 53:2b–3

“My beloved Jesus, Your face was beautiful before You began this journey; but, now, it no longer appears beautiful and is disfigured with wounds and blood. Alas, my soul also was once beautiful when it received Your grace in Baptism; but I have since disfigured it with my sins. You alone, my Redeemer, can restore it to its former beauty. Do this by the merits of Your passion; and then do with me as You will.”
—St. Alphonsus Maria de Liguori, The Way of the Cross (The Sixth Station)

Sin corrupts what is good; it is a parasite that eats away at its host, leaving the host hollow and lifeless, and branding the host with its ugly character. The victims of those with narcissistic personality disorder often end up exhibiting the very traits of their abusers, driven mad by their constant emotional battering. They lose their sense of self and may develop Stockholm Syndrome, clinging to the one who is wounding them, struggling to make sense of senseless behavior.

Soldiers back from war are often stuck in fighting mode, unable to escape the horrible memories of callous mutilation and death. For trauma victims, the world appears as a dark, irredeemable place, with the suffocating snares of sin all around. The cruelty of people and tragedy of circumstance seem arbitrary yet inescapable, and the universe a chaotic void. In such a world, what room is there for hope?

tumblr_m1bty52xam1rrutr7o1_500Christ became sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21). John Zmirak writes: “I read long ago in St. Anselm that Christ could have redeemed us by spilling a single drop of His precious blood. Divine justice could have been appeased, man’s fall and all our subsequent sins—from Cain’s slaughter of Abel to the mass murder of Europe’s Jews—could have been blotted out by the blood Jesus shed… at His circumcision” (“No Morphine on the Cross,” Crisis Magazine, 31 March 2010).

Zmirak reflects: “It may be that Jesus so emptied Himself to show the immensity of His charity, to give us a tantalizing peek at the secret love that fuels the Trinity.”

On the flip side, it may be that, by the instrument of the crucifixion, that terrible way for humans to torture and kill other humans, God wished to display to us the ugly reality of sin, which brings disfigurement and death to that which He created as a wholly good and beautiful gift.

Seek, then, what gives life and beauty, and shun that which brings corruption and death in any way. When you receive a bad impression of someone, try to find goodness in them, or to at least understand their circumstances and what pain they must have been through to turn out the way they are, for it is said, “Hurt people hurt people.” Also, no matter how twisted someone may be, there is always hope, as St. Thérèse knew when she prayed ardently for the eternal salvation of Henri Pranzini, who had murdered two women and a girl in their bedrooms. Every human being is someone God created and Christ died for; no matter how marred by sin, he carries within him the image and likeness of the One Who is Love, and this indelible identity can only be revealed to himself and to others through the eyes of Love. Herein lies our hope, and the antidote for sin—to behold one another and ourselves with the divine eyes of Christ, and treat all accordingly.

“So how can you see what your life is worth
Or where your value lies?
You can never see through the eyes of man
You must look at your life, look at your life through heaven’s eyes.”
—Brian Stokes Mitchell, “Through Heaven’s Eyes,” The Prince of Egypt (1998)

“Remember: God’s grief at the unspeakable things we do to one another is beyond measuring, but so is His mercy. It might seem a terrible thing to say to people who’ve lost and suffered so much at the hands of hatred and violence. But true courage is not to hate our enemy, any more than to fight and kill him. To love him, to love in the teeth of his hate—that is real bravery. That ought to earn people m-m-medals.”
―Tony Hendra, Father Joe: The Man Who Saved My Soul

“It may be too much for each to think too much of his own potential glory hereafter; it is hardly possible to think too often or too deeply about that of his neighbour. The load, or weight, or burden of my neighbour’s glory should be laid on my back, a load so heavy only humility can carry it, and the backs of the proud shall be broken. It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting you can talk to may one day be a creature, which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or other of those destinations… There are no ‘ordinary’ people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, artsthese are mortal, and their life to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub and exploitimmortal horrors or everlasting splendours… Next to the Blessed Sacrament itself, your neighbour is the holiest object presented to your senses.
―C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory


Image: Signum-Crucis

19 Amazing Quotes from the Last Month of St. Therese of Lisieux’s Life

Since St. Therese of Lisieux is a favorite of mine (and is a Doctor of the Church for a reason!), I thought it would be fun to go through some of her quotes from the last month of her life (September 1897). So here are 19 truly baller quotes from the saint’s last month of life on this earth.

Small things with great love
Small things with great love

1. “When we accept our disappointment at our failures, God immediately returns to us.”

Humility level up!

2. “Ah! It’s offered up to God. It no longer matters. Let them think what they want!”

3. “O little Mother, I don’t love one thing more than another; I could not say like our holy Mother St. Teresa: ‘I die because I cannot die.’ What God prefers and chooses for me, that is what pleases me more.”

Detachment was a hallmark of St. Therese’s life and spirituality.

4. “But I don’t want to change, I want to keep abandoning myself entirely to God.”

She was ever-transforming in herself but never failing in her desire for God above all else.

5. “I’m afraid I’ve feared death, but I won’t fear it after it takes place; I’m sure of this! And I’m not sorry for having lived; oh! no. It’s only when I ask myself: What is this mysterious separation of the soul from the body? It’s my first experience of this, but I abandon myself to God.”

There is room for fear and curiosity, but God alone suffices 😉

6. “Should I fear the devil? It seems I should not, for I am doing everything out of obedience.”

No need to fear the Evil One when you are totally consumed by Love!

7. She was unpetalling a rose over her Crucifix, touching each petal to the wounds of Our Lord. “When unpetalling for You the springtime rose, I would love to dry Your tears! Gather up these petals, little sisters, they will help you to perform favors later on…Don’t lose one of them.”

Prophetic much?

8. “Yes, I’m like a tired and harassed traveler, who reaches the end of his journey and falls over. Yes, but I’ll be falling into God’s arms!”

Running so as to win, although I’m sure St. Therese would insist that she could not run if she tried, so she would let God run for her.

9. “Yes! What a grace it is to have faith! If I had not had any faith, I would have committed suicide without an instant’s hesitation…”

She intimately understood the hope that faith instills so personally and entirely.

10. “O Mother, it’s very easy to write beautiful things about suffering, but writing is nothing, nothing! One must suffer in order to know! I really feel now that what I’ve said and written is true about everything….It’s true that I wanted to suffer much for God’s sake, and it’s true that I still desire this.”

-and-

11. “All I wrote about my desires for suffering. Oh! it’s true just the same! And I am not sorry for delivering myself up to Love. Oh! no, I’m not sorry; on the contrary!”

Kinda like when St. Thomas Aquinas said all his writing was like straw.

12. “No, it isn’t frightful [what she was going through]. A little victim of love cannot find frightful what her Spouse sends her through love.”

-and-

13. “When shall I be totally suffocated!…I can’t stand any more! Ah! pray for me! Jesus! Mary!…Yes, I will it, I really will it…”

-and-

14. “Oh it’s pure suffering because there are no consolations! No, not one!”

And we whine when we’re suffering BUT ALSO being consoled!

15. [Last words] Looking at her Crucifix: “Oh! I love Him! My God…I love you!”

16. “You must become gentle; never any harsh words, never a harsh tone; never take on a harsh look, always be gentle.”

Good life advice, awesome parenting advice!

17. “Believe me, don’t wait until tomorrow to begin becoming a saint.”

The time is NOW!

18. “You will call me little Therese.”

-and-

19. “When I am in heaven, you will have to fill my little hands with prayers and sacrifices to give me the pleasure of casting these as a shower of graces upon souls.”

She never wanted to sit still, not even in death; she always wanted to work for the glory of God by pouring out love upon the earth!

All quotes taken from the book St. Therese of Lisieux: Her Last Conversations, translated by John Clark, O.C.D.

 

A version of this post originally appeared at EpicPew

Tidbits from St. Therese: Anecdotes, Books, and Prayer

When I was little, I decided that I was going to take a new and unusual saint for my confirmation patron. I wanted to stand out from the crowd and show off my knowledge of hagiography at the same time. But when confirmation time did come, I didn’t know how I could choose anyone other than my sister in Heaven, St. Therese of Lisieux. I wouldn’t stand out—about half of the girls I know chose St. Therese as their confirmation patron—but a relationship was more important to me than a name. From an early age I had read about St. Therese- I was attracted by her self-sacrificing humility (which was something I definitely needed) and struck by her genuine love for God and everyone around her. She is especially famous for her “little way”, a path to sainthood. Last week, October 1st, was the feast day of St. Therese, and this post is in remembrance of her.

St. Therese anecdotes

Many people now know the story of the little girl who entered the convent at 15 and, despite her early death, lived a life filled with love. I always enjoy learning more about her, and hearing some of the lesser-known stories from her time on earth.

  • St. Therese was baptized Marie Therese Francois, after the Blessed Virgin Mary, St. Theresa of Avila, and St. Francis Xavier. Therese was never able to fulfill her wish to be a missionary in foreign lands like her patron St. Francis Xavier. But today, she and he are the patron saints of the missions.
  • St. Therese admired St. Joan of Arc and even wrote a play about her life. Therese herself acted in the title role.

    Therese12Jc
    St. Therese as Joan of Arc
  • Eclairs were a favorite treat of St. Therese (who had a sweet tooth). They weren’t served in the convent, though, and Therese ate whatever was given to her.
  • St. Therese went to Rome to ask the Pope for permission to enter the Carmelite convent at an earlier age than usual. She was told not to speak to the Pope, but her resolve to enter the convent was so great that she did. In fact, Therese had to be dragged from the audience room when she wouldn’t stop pleading with the Pope for her intention.
  • “Our Lord does not look so much at the greatness of our actions, or even at their difficulty, as at the love with which we do them.” St. Therese once said that even picking up a pin off the floor could save a soul, if it was done with love for God. She would offer up every small thing this way. When Therese was once erroneously blamed for breaking a vase, she offered it up and asked for forgiveness rather than try to correct opinions.
  • One story from near the end of St. Therese’s life is (I think) very typical of her. As Therese lay in bed, she often suffered too much pain to sleep, so she prayed silently instead. One of the sisters asked her what she talked to Jesus about during these times. Therese replied, “Nothing. I just love Him.”
  • The Story of a Soul, St. Therese’s autobiography, was alternatively titled by her as The Story of the Springtime of a Little White Flower. It was written under obedience, and Therese would not have had it otherwise. In fact, she advised another of the nuns against writing memoirs, saying, “You cannot do it without permission…It is more humble not to write anything about oneself.”

But under obedience, St. Therese’s book was written, and so many more were written after her death that people of nearly every age group can be introduced to St. Therese.

Books about St. Therese

  1. “Catholic Treasure Box” series, edited by the Maryknoll Sisters- For children ages around 3-8, with crafts, stories, and poems. In the beginning of the first six issues are simple stories about St. Therese.
  2. The Little Flower by Mary Fabyan Windeatt- For ages 7+, this biography of St. Therese is told in first person, similarly to her autobiography.
  3. Olivia and the Little Way by Nancy Carabio Belanger- Written for tweens. The story is about Olivia, a girl who builds a friendship with St. Therese amid the challenges of her new school.
  4. The Story of a Soul– St. Therese’s autobiography. Its sweetness and profoundness in its simplicity have made this book a Catholic classic, and its author is now beloved around the world. (There are also several letters and poems of St. Therese which are easily available to read through an Internet search.)
  5. I Believe in Love by Fr. Jean d’Elbee- Wonderful spiritual reading for teens and adults, this is an insightful discussion of love, humility, faith, and more, highly influenced by St. Therese’s “little way”.

Prayer to St. Therese

rnimagesFor me, prayer is a surge of the heart; it is a simple look turned toward Heaven; it is a cry of recognition and of love, embracing both trial and joy.

Many are also familiar with Therese’s promise that after her death, she would “let fall from Heaven a shower of roses”. The novena to St. Therese, to be prayed every consecutive day for nine days, is quite powerful. When you pray it for a specific intention, St. Therese will sometimes send roses your way to assure you. Now even when I am not praying the novena, seeing a rose makes me smile and think of her.

I encourage all of you to pray for the intercession of St. Therese in your lives and get to know her better. I know that she will help you and me, as she has helped many others, to approach sanctity and a more perfect love of God.

 

 

To what is God calling you?

Hendrick ter Brugghen [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Discerning God’s will in our lives can be a difficult and confusing endeavor most of the  time. I can still remember hearing the many epic tales about the heroic Saints in our Church’s life and thinking, “If I really love God, wouldn’t I do the same? Wouldn’t I give up everything, move to a different country, and start a new life devoted only to God?” This is a question that has stayed with me for many, many years, and I am sure that many of us can identify with it. What, then, are we to do?

In the spirit of honesty and transparency, I must first say that this article is not going to reveal God’s particular direction for your life to you. If only! What I do hope to share with you is a way of understanding God’s will that is more comprehensive, graspable, and, hopefully, sanctifying. Here are three key realities that we must all keep in mind when discerning God’s call in our lives.

Our fundamental call begins in baptism.

More important than one’s call to religious life, the priesthood, or holy matrimony is the call to holiness that is specific to and rooted in the Sacrament of Baptism. This is our baptismal call to the “fullness of the Christian life” (as stated by Lumen Gentium #40 of the Second Vatican Council). It is the reality that absorbs, uplifts, and transforms our entire self. Consequently, there is no aspect or part of our life — whether it be chosen or thrusted upon us, a strength or weakness, good or bad, joyful or sad, painful or pleasant — that can fall outside our call to live completely in Jesus Christ.

Through our baptism, we are plunged into the waters of purification and death, and we rise into the newness of a life in Christ. From then on there is nothing “ordinary” about life. Since we have the privilege and honor to be made anew in the Spirit of Christ, every facet of our life is God-touched and bears the weight of eternal significance. With this newness of life, St. Thérèse of Lisieux was able to “eternalize” even the smallest and most commonplace of actions — “I prefer the monotony of obscure sacrifice to all ecstasies. To pick up a pin for love can convert a soul.”

God’s will is for us to love others.

This brings us to the second half of our enlightening excerpt from Lumen Gentium — We have all received, through our baptism, a call to the “fullness of the Christian life and to the perfection of charity” (#40). This “perfection of charity” does not, however, refer to giving the perfect donation to our parish and the poor in our communities. Instead, it is referring principally to the type of love that gives without expecting any recompense.

When questioned which of the commandments is the greatest, Jesus responded with the simplest, yet most difficult, commands of all — love of God and neighbor (cf. Matt 22:37-38). If only Jesus had responded with any of the other 613 commandments, then perhaps we could all breathe a sigh of relief! The call to love is a lofty call, as anyone who has ever tried to love someone deeply knows. The vocation (call) to charity, however, does simplify our ability to understand God’s will in our lives. Therefore, more fundamental and important than discerning and discovering a call to a state in life (priesthood, religious life, marriage) is the call to love (cf. 1 Cor 13).

God encounters us in the present moment.

God’s will for us is not some lofty, abstract path that is either unattainable or forever missed if we commit one misstep along the pilgrimage of life. God, in his utter transcendence and immanence, is present to us at every moment of our lives. This brings us back to the Little Way of St. Thérèse. If St. Thérèse could participate in the salvation of others by picking up a pen in love, then is it far stretch to think that we can do the same by changing diapers, filing tax returns, shuttling children to and from school, cleaning the dishes, or withholding a sarcastic retort in love?

When love is present, God is present. Love infuses all times and places with the grace and presence of God, revealing to us the sacramentality of the present moment. While God has encountered us in the past and certainly will encounter us in the future, He, most importantly, encounters us in the present. Before we can truly discern a calling from God to plant ourselves in a foreign land as a missionary or to simply stay where we are filing tax returns, completing homework, changing diapers and picking up pins, then we must first acknowledge and respond to our baptismal call to the fullness of the Christian life by the simple and mundane path of everyday life and love.

Francesco Albani [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The Secrets to Happiness

The Funeral of Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati
The Funeral of Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati

How happy really are we today? How do we define that we have really ‘lived’?

We live in a marketing led world – a place of big dreams and bucket lists. Generally we have a high standard of living, yet we are constantly on the hunt to get more out of life.

We have everything we could possibly need, but still feel that our lives are incomplete. According to what comes across from the media this isn’t until we’ve taken selfies on the latest iPhone while flying over Europe wearing a size 0 designer dress and eating a sugar/grain/dairy free cronut. First world problems huh?

We are left feeling that our life is lacking because it is filled with impossible dreams that mean you haven’t lived. Impossible because they aren’t real. They are scripted, photoshopped, or we are unable to access them without personal trainers, dietitians, stylists, nannies, freebies and finances. All of them center on us as the individual and turn us into narcissists.

Unfortunately, most days of our lives are filled with what could be the mundane. Living every day can be hard.  Social media puts a glamorous face on everyday life, but underneath lurks despondency and depression.

The best secrets to everyday happiness (nay, joy) have been tried and tested by some wise people who went before us. People who lived not only through the trials of everyday life, but through true hardships – adversities like illness, wrongful imprisonment and concentration camps.

Their secrets?

“I will not wait. I will live the present moment, filling it to the brim with love.”
Servant of God Francis Xavier Nguyen van Thuan is a great source of wisdom about living happily everyday. This is coming from a man who spent many years of his life imprisoned, including nine years in solitary confinement in a small dark room. Yet to live the present moment to the fullest was the decision he made when he was first imprisoned to counter his feeling of sadness, abandonment and exhaustion. He decided not to live his life waiting for freedom.

“If I spend my time waiting, maybe the things I look forward to will never arrive. The only thing certain to arrive is death.”

If you focus on the present moment and doing it well, you can’t be too hung up on the past or the future. There can be no regrets that you didn’t live moments well in the past if you were focusing on them in the present.

“Do the Little Things with Love
St Therese of Lisieux was all about doing the little things with love. Hence, she was called the ‘Little Flower’. St Therese lived a relatively plain and basic life as a nun, though she often was ill. But what makes her a saint, famous worldwide was her resolve to “miss no single opportunity of making some small sacrifice, here by a smiling look, there by a kindly word; always doing the smallest right and doing it all for love.”

Don’t seek all your satisfaction in earthly things
Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati had it all. He was a handsome, fun-loving, athletic, courageous man born into a prominent Italian family. Yet instead of living the “good life” he spent much of his life giving to others: growing in spiritual life and prayer; serving the sick, needy orphans and veterans; being involved in political activism; giving constantly to charity; leading his friends in apostolic works and focusing on others. His wisdom was that we “must not squander the best years of our lives as so many unhappy young people do, who worry about enjoying the good things in life, things that do not in fact bring any good, but rather the fruit of immorality in today’s world.” Instead we need constant prayer, organization and discipline to be ready for action at the right moment and to sacrifice ourselves.

Through this he constantly gave himself with joy and called sadness a disease:

“A Catholic cannot help but be happy; sadness should be banished from their souls. Suffering is not sadness, which is the worst disease. This disease is almost always caused by atheism, but the end for which we are created guides us along life’s pathway, which may be strewn with thorns, but is not sad. It is happy even through suffering.”

He died at the young age of 24 and to the surprise of his family, who didn’t know the work he had done in secret, his funeral was attended by thousands of people lining the streets.

Remember, all the little things make a great life
Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa, preacher to the papal household, once explained it this way:

“A mother . . . goes home and begins her day made up of a thousand little things. Her life is literally reduced to crumbs, but what she does is no little thing: It is Eucharist with Jesus! A religious sister . . . goes to her daily work among the old, the sick, the children. Her life too might seem split by many small things that leave no trace at night—another day wasted. But her life too is Eucharist. . . . No one should say, ‘What use is my life? What am I doing in this world?’ You are in the world for the most sublime of reasons, to be a living sacrifice. To be Eucharist with Jesus.”

The “crumbs” of our lives are gathered together and bring hope to other people. Each one of us is a treasure.

Most of these ‘secrets’ involve seizing the opportunities that we are given on a daily basis. Enjoying each moment, offering what we have to others and putting away worry, in exchange for hope.

With that, we can weather whatever comes, with joy.

And that is what makes a good life.

Our Lady of the Smile: A Reflection

Special thanks to my sister-in-Christ, Liesl Grace Dowd, for helping me with this reflection! Her words are towards the end.

Our Lady has many titles, of which only some are official. That doesn’t mean the unofficial titles are invalid—and I found this particular title brought warmth to my heart. It’s so unknown that the first mention of it was strange but beautiful. Our Lady of the Smile is a title given to the Blessed Mother by St. Therese of Lisieux, in loving honor of the miracle that healed her from illness.

O Thou who cam’st to smile on me at dawn of life’s beginning! / Come once again to smile on me. / Mother! the night is nigh.
From St. Therese’s poem, 
Why I Love Thee Mary

Just hearing the title Our Lady of the Smile made me feel safe. It sank in how directly she is involved in our happiness. She intercedes for us to be full of joy! This is a comfort when we struggle to see the positive side of things. Even when life gets hard, with Our Lady there is always hope. We should find comfort in the unending promise of happiness!

She wants to share with us the joy that’s given in our Savior. We’re told in the Bible so many times to rejoice in Him! Even when times are hard, it’s possible to rejoice, and there’s no reason not to. Everything will work out for those who love and serve Him. So the Blessed Mother wants to share the joy she kept in her heart throughout His life. She intercedes for it, and her intercession is strong–take comfort in that joy is always within reach.

The Blessed Mother not only intercedes for the sake of my joy; she IS my joy. Jesus loves His mother dearly and wants us to do the same; to not only love and honor her, but to venerate her. She is so holy and pure, and deserves great recognition. Mother Mary helps me in every situation, and every time that I receive reconciliation, I can feel the Blessed Mother praying for me, as well as my sins being lifted from my soul, and washed away with the precious blood of Christ.

The Blessed Mother, I believe, is the reason why happiness exists, because she prays for all of her children, that they would all be filled with the joy and the love of her Son. Every time I laugh, I thank Mary for her prayers and for interceding, for through her faithfulness in God, we are given the gift of happiness. She is the Queen of heaven, and the Queen of happiness.

I believe we should spread devotion to Our Lady of the Smile. If anyone can intercede to make the world joyful again, it’s Mary. If we’d just turn to her and ask for happiness–or in other words, ask for Jesus–everything else will come to us in pleasant unexpected ways. There’s nothing to be lost at all! Here is a prayer to Our Lady of the Smile, and may St. Therese intercede for your spiritual happiness today.

Dark Nights

A Godly Depression: Dark Nights and Interior Gardens

A person’s thoughts during the Dark Night of the Soul

What is the Dark Night of the Soul to me? It’s depression–but a different kind of depression. Why should the above thoughts in the animation be going through my head? There are people who have been in failed relationships, lost parents/siblings, and could relate because of their terrible loss. They have a physical emptiness, something they could hold and touch that was there and now it’s gone. Then there’s me: Never dated, never “liked” anybody, haven’t lost anyone in the past 3 years that could leave such an emptiness in my heart. I lost my Grandpa but I’ve healed from that.

 

I’m not the only Christian struggling with this. It’s not new. It’s called the Dark Night of the Soul. Devout Christians feel this emptiness. It’s an unbearable feeling; It’s proof that we can never have enough of the Lord. If you think you’re praying “enough,” and then feel this emptiness, you’re probably not.

 

The Saints have stories of this empty feeling. What is it? Here’s a passage from the first chapter of Dark Night of the Soul by St. John of the Cross:

 

It must be known, then, that the soul, after it has been definitely converted to the service of God, is, as a rule, spiritually nurtured and caressed by God, even as is the tender child by its loving mother, who warms it with the heat of her bosom and nurtures it with sweet milk and soft and pleasant food, and carries it and caresses it in her arms; but, as the child grows bigger, the mother gradually ceases caressing it, and, hiding her tender love, puts bitter aloes upon her sweet breast, sets down the child from her arms and makes it walk upon its feet, so that it may lose the habits of a child and betake itself to more important and substantial occupations.

 

Every great Saint has gone through something like this. I read that Mother Teresa spent most of her life feeling lost and devoid of the presence of Jesus. St. Faustina struggled with it, too. This article describing St. Faustina’s experience also has a good summary of what a Dark Night is:

 

If, however, one truly knew what the dark night is like, he or she wouldn’t wish for it. To sum up in a few words what properly takes a book: the dark night of the soul is the feeling of utter abandonment, an interior suffering that seems as if it will never end.

 

That’s why a lot of people feel so utterly lonely half the time, even when everyone they love is very much alive and around them. This experience is going to benefit you in the end, but it’s not something anyone in their right mind would ask for! Nobody wants to feel like God’s abandoned them, but during a Dark Night, it truly feels like so–even though the Bible says that He’s never gone. (Christ said, “I am with you always, to the close of the age.” Matthew 28:20, RSV.) I can tell you, it happens to me all the time–and He always pulls through and uses the experience to help me. It’s kind of like the potter shaping the clay. I know I’m a better Christian because of all the times I’ve felt so empty, since He fills me up with more than He takes!

 

How do I get through these Dark Nights? I pray, even if it feels like a one-sided conversation. I cry if I have to. I keep going on with my duties. It’s important to read your Bible and have a devotion to the Rosary–Mother Mary will intercede and make this period of darkness end more quickly. The Rosary has always given me a feeling of God’s presence when nothing else works.

 

If you’re going through something like this, here are some Psalms for you to meditate on. Read them slowly. Let the meaning of each one sink in. Memorize the words if possible. (All of the following passages are from the RSV version of the Bible.)

 

Whither shall I go from thy Spirit? Or whither shall I flee from thy presence? If I ascend to heaven, thou art there! If I make my bed in Sheol, thou art there! If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there thy hand shall lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me. If I say, “Let only darkness cover me, and the light about me be night,” even the darkness is not dark to thee, the night is bright as the day; for darkness is as light with thee. Psalm 139:7-12

I say to the LORD, Thou art my God; give ear to the voice of my supplications, O LORD! Psalm 140:6

I cry with my voice to the LORD, with my voice I make supplication to the LORD, I pour out my complaint before him, I tell my trouble before him. When my spirit is faint, thou knowest my way! In the path where I walk they have hidden a trap for me. I look to the right and watch, but there is none who takes notice of me; no refuge remains to me, no man cares for me. I cry to thee, O LORD; I say, Thou art my refuge, my portion in the land of the living. Give heed to my cry; for I am brought very low! Deliver me from my persecutors; for they are too strong for me! Bring me out of prison, that I may give thanks to thy name! The righteous will surround me; for thou wilt deal bountifully with me. Psalm 142

 

*Try going through as many Psalms as you possibly can: Mark the passages that make your heart feel in the presence of the Lord, at least for a moment, so that you can come back to them next time.

 

Understand that, as much as the Dark Night hurts, you will rejoice after. Remember not to take the presence of the Lord for granted when He ends your test. If you let your mind wander back to worldly things, you’ll be drifting away by your own personal choice. Don’t stop reading the Bible when it’s over; let His voice be ever-present in your heart. Be consistent in prayer and know your priorities. Jesus won’t be put aside for worldly things. He wants, and He deserves your everything. He will either throw stones at your window–or wait for you to notice His absence. I wouldn’t want either of the two. I want Him with me at all times, but for that, I need to treat Him like a friend–a best friend, a confidante–and not put him aside to watch in the corner of my room, while I’m filling my heart with distractions. There should be a special part of me, an area of my heart set aside for Him alone, a part of me that nothing worldly can penetrate–only then will He be able to dwell within me, and I’ll have less Dark Nights.

 

It’s fitting to share another excerpt from the Dark Night:

 

The loving mother is like the grace of God, for, as soon as the soul is regenerated by its new warmth and fervour for the service of God, He treats it in the same way; He makes it to find spiritual milk, sweet and delectable, in all the things of God, without any labour of its own, and also great pleasure in spiritual exercises, for here God is giving to it the breast of His tender love, even as to a tender child.

 

 

Start working on a special place in your heart where only Jesus can enter. We’ll call it a garden. Weed out the distractions; plant the flowers of prayer and thanksgiving. Scripture memorization is important for this. If you plant a Scripture in your heart, it’ll grow and blossom into something beautiful. If you can’t find the gates to your interior garden, ask Mother Mary to show you the way. She knows how badly Jesus wants to be with you! As His mother, she’ll do the favor for both of you. She’ll help arrange for a meeting-place with your Loving Savior, but only after you decide that you have time for Him.

 

Your depression will lift as your garden flourishes. Depending on the person, it could take weeks or years. Keep searching for it; then, don’t forget to water the seeds you’ve planted. It’s hard to start a garden, so don’t let it die.

 

Tip: Ask St. Therese the Little Flower for help with your garden! Here’s a great page of pictures and quotes from her.

 

Ah! If God had not showered His beneficent rays upon His little flower, she could never have accustomed herself to earth, for she was too weak to stand up against the rains and the storms. She needed warmth, a gentle dew, and the springtime breezes.  Never were these lacking.  Jesus had her find them beneath the snow of trial!

You know, dear Mother, how much I love flowers; when making myself a prisoner at the age of fifteen [when Therese entered Carmel of Lisieux], I gave up forever the pleasure of running through the fields decked out in their springtime treasures.  Well, never in my life did I possess so many flowers as after my entrance into Carmel.  It is the custom for fiancés to often give their fiancées bouquets and Jesus didn’t forget it.  He sent me in great abundance sheaves of corn flowers, huge daisies, poppies, etc., all the flowers that delighted me the most.  There was even a little flower called corn-cockle which I had never found since our stay at Lisieux; I wanted very much to see it again, that flower of my childhood which I had picked in the fields of Alencon.  And at Carmel it came to smile at me again and show me that in the smallest things as well as the greatest, God gives the hundredfold in his life to those souls who leave everything for love of Him. 

-St. Therese the Little Flower

 

Not a Carmelite nun? Create a garden anyway in your heart where you can retreat! It is a place for you and Jesus only!

 

The Dark Night of the Soul today has increased with more distractions and less time in one’s daily life for prayer. Society’s pushing Jesus away. Make Him a place in your heart, a garden where the Holy Spirit can dwell. The difference will be radical. God will send you less Dark Nights when you have more time with Him in the first place. Cooperate with the training and don’t be lazy with prayer. If you come to Him, He will come to you.

 

One last passage to meditate on:

 

I will not leave you desolate; I will come to you. Yet a little while, and the world will see me no more, but you will see me; because I live, you will live also. In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. John 14:18-20, RSV

 

So start building that garden already!

 

[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’]http://www.ignitumtoday.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/Mariella-Hunt.png[/author_image] [author_info]Mariella Hunt is determined to become a saint–or at least prove that it’s possible to be one. In 18 years she’s been many places, but the most beautiful place she’s entered was the Catholic Church at age 13. Since then she’s faced many trials, physically and emotionally, but is now prepared to spread the Gospel and tell the world that Jesus is real and so is His love. Her interests vary from classical literature to apologetics to country music. She hopes to someday have a big family and live by Lake Geneva, but for now she can be found blogging as A Catholic Sheep contributing to Universal Faith.[/author_info] [/author]