"Young Religious ought to enter blogs and correct the opinions of the youth, showing them the true Jesus" - Cardinal Camillo Ruini, Vicar for Rome

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Love Expands the Heart

"I feel I shall be more useful to you in heaven than on earth…I really count on not being inactive in Heaven. My desire is to work still for the Church and for souls.”  -St. Therese to Fr. Adolphe Roulland
St. Therese and the Priesthood Reflection, Part I

Today marks the anniversary of the death of St. Therese in 1897.  Tomorrow we celebrate her Feast Day.  Here at Our Lady of Solitude she is among our most beloved friends.  Reflecting on the life and love of St. Therese leads one to reflect on her life and love for priests.  In her honor, I want to offer a little reflection on what it means to be a true intercessor for our priests.  Throughout the month of October, I hope to offer other reflections on St. Therese, as well as some thoughts on Our Holy Father Francis. But let's start here for now... 
Love Expands the Heart
Expanding and contracting:  2 divergent terms.  Love expands.  Sin contracts.  Love sets the world on fire.  Sin snuffs out the wavering flame.  Each day we face a spiritual battle between love and sin.  In a unique way, the priest – an altar Christus – is at the forefront of this battle.  In Persona Christi, he forgives sin and plants love anew in the soul.  But such an uprooting and planting does not come without a cost. 

As intercessors for our priests, it is our job to fight our sometimes small and insignificant battles faithfully – all for love.  Our Blessed Lord takes the spoils of such battles and uses them as armor for his Priests. 

Such selfless love expands our hearts.  Such selfless love sees in every moment an opportunity to draw closer to Christ.  St. Therese teaches us that “the most trivial work, the least action when inspired by love, is often of greater merit than the most outstanding achievement.  It is not on our face value that God judges our deeds, even when they bear the stamp of apparent holiness, but solely on the measure of love that we put into them.” 

She goes on to say:  “I am glad to recognize that when we love God our heart expands, and we can give incomparably more tender love to those who are dear to us than when our love is selfish and barren… Love is fed by and develops from sacrifice. The more we deprive ourselves of natural satisfaction, the stronger and the more disinterested our love becomes."

There are several stories of Therese using seemingly insignificant daily occurrences.  In the convent garden, she would walk with energy and vigor, saying that she was “walking for a missionary.”  Such an attentive love pleases the Heart of Jesus.  Such an Other-centered existence expands the heart and makes it capable to pure love.  And as St. John of the Cross says: “The smallest movement of pure love is more useful to the Church than all other works put together.” 

Let us resolve anew to offer sacrifices for priests – selflessly offering the big and small things in life for the fruitfulness of their priestly ministry and their personal sanctification.  This will not only expand their hearts, but ours as well.

St. Therese, Pray for Us...

Monday, September 20, 2010

Blessed John Henry Newman, Pray for us

Written by Sr. Marie St. Paul on September 19, 2010

Br. Francis with 2 of his paintings: Servant of God John Paul II and BLESSED John Henry Newman!
At 1:30 am this morning, four dedicated nuns cuddled up on the couches of the living room to watch with slightly bleary eye the Beatification of Cardinal John Henry Newman.  Thanks to EWTN and their great coverage, the sisters and I have been avidly accompanying the Holy Father these past three days during his visit to Scotland and England.    

What a beautiful and grace-filled visit!  We’ve watched with great joy the crowds greeting the Holy Father with loud cheers and heard his words calling not only the faithful of Great Britain but all of us “to look into our hearts each day to find the source of all true love.  Jesus is always there, quietly waiting for us to be still with Him and to hear His Voice.”  The Holy Father in his inimitable way always points his flock to Jesus.

But I digress…we’re celebrating the beatification of Cardinal John Henry Newman, beatified by the Holy Father himself in Birmingham, England!  What an honor for that great and heroic man who endured so much during his lifetime.  Reading about the influence of Cardinal Newman and his Oratorians on JRR Tolkien piqued my own interest to learn more about the Cardinal.  Following Fr. Bassett’s suggestion that one of the best biographies on Newman was written by Meriol Trevor, I first read her two volume work about ten years ago.  The Cardinal’s friendship and example have enriched my life immensely!  He is truly a beautiful soul.

One of the tidbits that particularly touched the sisters and I during the Holy Father’s visit was seeing the photos of Blessed John Henry’s dearest friends hanging in his little chapel to the right of where he prayed.  Friendship was a key element to the formation of our new Blessed.  This morning, Sr. Fidelis and I discussed the importance of spiritual friendship and the reality of Christ's love any good friend brings to one’s life, whether they reside on this earth or in Heaven.  They too, as the words of the Holy Father do, lead us to Jesus.    

Many depictions of Blessed John Henry Newman have been circulated during the Holy Father’s visit, but I want to share with you one of the best portraits that I’ve ever seen, lovingly painted by Br. Francis Edkins, CFR (a photo of the painting is seen below!).

Blessed John Henry Newman, pray for us!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Touch of the Eternal

"The Cross is the most profound condescension of God to man . . . The Cross is like a touch of eternal love upon the most painful wounds of man’s existence" 
(Pope John Paul II, Dives in Misericordia)

THE PHOENIX - to the right you see the cloistered portion of the reredos with an awesome wood-carved Phoenix. 

Before moving to the great Southwest about 5 years ago, I never gave much thought to the symbolic meaning of the Phoenix.  Sure I knew it was a bird that rose from the ashes, but I never gave it a second thought.  But that was yesterday and yesterday is gone!

In case, like me, you've never given the Phoenix much thought nor made the Christian symbolic connection, allow me to share what I've learned:  The Phoenix is a mythical creature with beautiful gold and red plumage.  At the end of its life-cycle the phoenix builds itself a nest of cinnamon twigs that it then ignites; both nest and bird burn fiercely and are reduced to ashes.  But that's not the end of the story.  The Phoenix would then rise from the ashes in victory.  

Thinking of the today's Feast, the Triumph of the Cross, it's not hard to see the correlation between the Cross and Resurrection AND the 'death of the Phoenix' and it's rising in victory.

Our Beloved Lord is the King of Kings - robed in gold!  He is also the King of Martyrs - robed in red.  The fire of His Love set the world aflame, as He hung upon the Cross.  His death brought life.  But at first glance, everything seemed to be reduced to ashes...

Yes, with only a cursory look, the Cross looked like defeat.  But that wasn't the case, was it? We know the end of the story.  We know that our salvation was won upon that mount.

We remember the garden, the Gardener, and Mary Magdalene: "Mary!"- "Rabboni!"  "Go and tell me brothers..."  The Lord is risen as He promised - Alleluia.  We know the Victory was won...The Phoenix rising from the ashes gives us all hope.  It reminds us of our ultimate hope - The Tomb is Empty...Alleluia!

(Check out more pics at: http://medievaldreams2reality.blogspot.com/2010/09/more-pics-at-long-last.html)

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Finders Seekers

Those who have found in Jesus the truth, joy and beauty which give meaning and direction to their lives will naturally desire to bring this grace to others. Undaunted by the presence of difficulties, or the enormity of the task at hand, they will trust in the mysterious presence of the Holy Spirit who is always at work in the hearts of individuals, in their traditions and cultures, mysteriously opening doors to Christ as "the way, and the truth and the life" (Jn 14: 6), and the fulfillment of every human aspiration.- Pope Benedict XVI

How can a cloistered nun open the doors to Christ?  How can she bring Him to others?  I spoke with a man this weekend who posed this very question.  He asked, "What is your apostolate?"  When I explained that we were contemplative nuns whose main work is perpetual adoration, he looked at me with much sincerity.  Nearly inaudibly he said: "It takes a lot of faith to believe that your prayers bear fruit for the Kingdom - especially since you can't see the fruit."  This man summed up the hidden life of a contemplative.  It is a life of faith.  

A cloistered nun opens the doors to Christ through her prayers and sacrifice - through the faithful living out of her humble and hidden life.  She brings Him to others by bringing others to Him - through her work of intercession.

As the Sisters and I are entrusted with building a new Eucharistic Throne for our Bridegroom, we have before us a unique opportunity to open the doors for Christ, to bring Him to others.  Our Lady of Solitude Chapel will sit there upon the desert sands, as if it were a ship sailing on the boundless ocean.  Majestic.  Awesome.  A reminder that we are pilgrims, and that God is unchanging.

When the doors are opened, and the new Eucharistic Throne is unveiled, the Sisters and I will have the immense JOY of opening the doors to Christ for all those who visit.  We have found Him in Whom our hearts find rest.  Now we want to bring that grace to others.

Like Pope Benedict XVI said so beautifully in the quote above, we strive to remain undaunted by the presence of difficulties or the enormity of the task at hand.  Continually we are faced with our weak humanity.  Weak knees, weak stomachs, trembling hands, pounding heart...And yet, we keep pressing onwards.  Why?  Because He is worth it!  Bringing others to Him is worth it!  Bringing Him to others is worth it!  In such matters there can never be any counting of the cost!

Sr. Fidels' mom, Peg, with Sr. Augustine - standing in front of the newly erected reredos

Alexander, our amazingly talented wood carver, going over the plans

Alexander showing the cloister Mass choir grille to Jill and Sr. Esther Marie

Ta Da!  The reredos with statues!  WOW.  More pics to come.  Isn't it awesome?!?