Sunday, January 31, 2016

SPIRITUAL LIFE DICTIONARY

TODAY'S TERM: HEROIC VIRTUE

Photo: R. Massaro, St. Henry Church Nashville, Tennessee

Our Lady: Full of Grace and model of virtue

In a previous post, I touched on the subject of heroic virtue. Many Catholics believe that a person is canonized because of mystical gifts or supernatural phenomena.  However, this is not the case. A person is canonized because they led a heroic Christian life and possessed all of the virtues and gifts of the Holy Spirit. We know that it takes a very long time for someone to be raised to the Altar and be recognized as a Saint in the Church. It takes a long time because the Church investigates the person's life, their writings, their verbal statements, etc. If witnesses are still living, they are interviewed to help determine if the person led a holy and virtuous life. And, as I stated in a previous post, the Church does not canonize a person because they possessed one virtue, they must possess all of the virtues. 

While discussing this subject, we should make it clear that we are not speaking of natural virtues, those good habits that are acquired through repetition. While this is good, we are speaking of infused virtue. Infused virtue, a gift of God's grace, makes supernatural acts possible, although not necessarily easy, that is why it is considered heroic. The saintly soul cooperates with God's gift and responds in charity when it is clearly not easy.

We could read the lives of the saints and recount each story of the unique gift of heroism particular to that saint. But for the moment, let's bring sanctity into the modern day world. For example, a person in the work place, who is known as a Christian, is ridiculed for their faith day after day after day. The person being ridiculed, in turn, responds in charity, day after day after day. The person ridiculed also does not lose his joy or peace over the mistreatment. This is an example of heroic virtue.

The late Fr. Thomas Dubay, S.M. is a scholar on this subject. He states that there are five traits of heroic virtue. This is from his classic, The Fire Within:

We may indicate five traits that signal when a virtue is practiced to a heroic degree. The first is that one does what is to be done even in difficult or excruciating circumstances. We love truth heroically not simply when we accept Jesus' and the Church's teaching in ordinarily difficult or unpopular circumstances but even if we must undergo persecution or martyrdom rather than deny it...

The next three traits can be grouped together: one acts promptly,easily and joyously. The saint does not delay or procrastinate in reacting in a humble manner or in loving an annoying neighbor. The correct response comes readily and easily, as if by second nature, for it is part of the new creation produced by the indwelling Trinity. What needs to be done is done joyously as well, and for the same reason: one is living a new life...

The fifth trait of heroic virtue is habitual constancy. The preceding characteristics are found not simply on an isolated occasion when one may conceivably act with an apparent ease and joy (prompted possibly by pride or a vain defiance) but are customarily observed in whatever situation calls for the virtue in question. This is the kind of sanctity the Church looks for and requires in her canonization processes. It is a result of reaching the summit of union
Dubay, Thomas, S.M. The Fire Within. San Francisco: Ignatius, 1989. Print.


St. Teresa of Jesus (Avila) warns us that we should be constantly on guard that we do not give up prayer and thus lose virtue. Let us pray for each other, that the Holy Spirit give us a great desire for sanctity. 

St. Augustine's Prayer to the Holy Spirit:

Breathe in me, O Holy Spirit,
That my thoughts may all be holy.
Act in me, O Holy Spirit,
That my works, too, may be holy.
Draw my heart, O Holy Spirit,
That I love but what is holy.
Strengthen me, O Holy Spirit,
To defend all that is holy.
Guard me, then, O Holy Spirit,
That I always may be holy. Amen.


Peace be with you!
Rosemarie, ocds







Sunday, January 24, 2016

The Year of Mercy: The Common Spirituality of St. Therese of the Child Jesus and St. Faustina of Divine Mercy

St. Therese-Victim of God's Merciful Love


St. Faustina-Apostle of Mercy


I recently read the diary of St. Faustina during the same period our community was studying St. Therese's, Story of a Soul . I noticed similarities in their spirituality, with the common thread of spiritual childhood weaved through each of their writings.



St. Therese desired to be a victim of Merciful Love.











St. Faustina desired to be an Apostle of Mercy.





St. Therese desired to make an oblation of herself to God's merciful love to show that He is loved in return for his love (from man to God).

St. Faustina made an act of oblation to show that God loves us. She taught that God wants all souls to be aware of his love and mercy (from God to man).

St. Therese desired to sing the "mercies of the Lord."

St. Faustina desired to be a "mist" before the eyes of the Lord. She did not want him to see all the offenses against His love and mercy. She wanted to shield the Lord from the world!


Abandonment to the will of God is at the heart of St. Therese's Spiritual childhood, in which humility is the foundation.


Jesus demanded of St. Faustina a childlike spirit and calls her to greater simplicity.


St. Therese's abandonment was an imitation of Christ's total abandonment to the will of the Father. This abandonment was reflected in Therese's life; she obeyed her superiors in the smallest of details.

St. Faustina was obedient to her superiors, especially in things concerning the growing devotion of Divine Mercy. Jesus tells her he is pleased by her great obedience.

St. Therese sought permission to make the act of Total Abandonment. She has a priest approve the text she wrote.

St. Faustina sought permission to make the Oblation to Divine Mercy on Holy Thursday (she made a holy hour every Thursday).

After St. Therese makes the Act of Oblation she describes a transport of Love in which she realized God accepted her offering of self. She described the great love that filled her being and states she has no fear of purgatory.

St. Faustina suffers great torments after her act of oblation-she undergoes dryness, despair, distrust, all the torments of sinners enters her heart.


St. Therese desired to be a priest, missionary and martyr.


St. Faustina desired to be a priest, missionary and martyr.

Mercy is the heart of the Gospel. As Carmelites, we are called to be apostles of Mercy by living the Beatitudes in imitation of the merciful heart of Jesus. It is preparation for the kingdom where we will live this life of beatitude forever.


St. Therese's Act of Oblation to the Merciful Love of God:

O my God, Most Blessed Trinity, I desire to Love You and make You loved, to work for the glory of Holy Church by saving souls on earth and liberating those suffering in purgatory. I desire to accomplish Your will perfectly and to reach the degree of glory You have prepared for me in Your Kingdom. I desire, in a word, to be a saint, but I feel my helplessness and I beg You, O my God! to be Yourself my Sanctity!

I offer You, too, all the merits of the saints (in heaven and on earth), their acts of Love, and those of the holy angels. Finally, I offer You, O Blessed Trinity! the Love and merits of the Blessed Virgin, my dear Mother. It is to her I abandon my offering, begging her to present it to You. Her Divine Son, my Beloved Spouse, told us in the days of His mortal life: "Whatsoever you ask the Father in my name he will give it to you!" I am certain, then, that You will grant my desires; I know, O my God! that the more You want to give, the more You make us desire. I feel in my heart immense desires and it is with confidence I ask You to come and take possession of my soul. Ah! I cannot receive Holy Communion as often as I desire, but, Lord, are You not all-powerful? Remain in me as in a tabernacle and never separate Yourself from Your little victim.

I want to console You for the ingratitude of the wicked, and I beg of You to take away my freedom to displease You. If through weakness I sometimes fall, may Your Divine Glance cleanse my soul immediately, consuming all my imperfections like the fire that transforms everything into itself.

I thank You, O my God! for all the graces You have granted me, especially the grace of making me pass through the crucible of suffering. It is with joy I shall contemplate You on the Last Day carrying the scepter of Your Cross. Since You deigned to give me a share in this very precious Cross, I hope in heaven to resemble You and to see shining in my glorified body the sacred stigmata of Your Passion.

After earth's Exile, I hope to go and enjoy You in the Fatherland, but I do not want to lay up merits for heaven. I want to work for Your Love alone with the one purpose of pleasing You, consoling Your Sacred Heart, and saving souls who will love You eternally.

In the evening of this life, I shall appear before You with empty hands, for I do not ask you, Lord, to count my works. All our justice is stained in Your eyes. I wish, then, to be clothed in Your own Justice and to receive from Your love the eternal possession of Yourself. I want no other Throne, no other Crown but You, my Beloved!

Time is nothing in Your eyes, and a single day is like a thousand years. You can, then, in one instant, prepare me to appear before You.

In order to live in one single act of perfect Love, I offer Myself as a Victim of the Holocaust to Your Merciful Love, asking You to consume me incessantly, allowing the waves of infinite tenderness shut up with You to overflow into my soul, and that thus I may become a martyr of Your Love, O my God! May this martyrdom, after having prepared me to appear before You, finally cause me to die and may my soul take its flight without any delay into the eternal embrace of Your Merciful Love. I want, O my Beloved at each beat of my heart to renew this offering to you an infinite number of times, until the shadows having disappeared I may be able to tell You of my Love in an Eternal Face to Face!


St. Faustina's Oblation to Divine Mercy:


Before heaven and earth, before all the choirs of Angels, before the Most Holy Virgin Mary, before all the Powers of heaven, I declare to the One Triune God that today, in union with Jesus Christ, Redeemer of souls, I make a voluntary offering of myself for the conversion of sinners, especially for those souls who have lost hope in God‟s mercy. This offering consists in my accepting, with total subjection to God‟s will, all the sufferings, fears and terrors with which sinners are filled. In return, I give them all the consolations which my soul receives from my communion with God. In a word, I offer everything for them: Holy Masses, Holy Communions, penances, mortifications, prayers. I do not fear the blows, blows of divine justice, because I am united with Jesus. O my God, in this way I want to make amends to You for the souls that do not trust in Your goodness. I hope against all hope in the ocean of Your mercy. My Lord and my God, my portion – my portion forever, I do not base this act of oblation on my own strength, but on the strength that flows from the merits of Jesus Christ. I will daily repeat this act of self-oblation by pronouncing the following prayer which you Yourself have taught me, Jesus: O Blood and Water which gushed forth from the Heart of Jesus as a Fount of Mercy for us, I trust in You!”



St. Therese, victim of Merciful Love, pray for us!

St. Faustina, Apostle of Divine Mercy, pray for us!




Peace be with you!
Rosemarie, OCDS

Sunday, January 17, 2016

THREE WORDS OF WISDOM

VENI SANCTE SPIRITUS

Photo: R. Massaro-Immaculate Heart of Mary Church Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio


For those not familiar with Latin, today's three words are translated, "Come Holy Spirit."

When I first launched Spirit Singing, I wrote a series on the gifts of the Holy Spirit in light of Carmelite spirituality.  In the next few weeks, I'll be re-posting some of those early writings. I hope you are blessed by them. You can also click on the labels at the end of this post to access to them.

I have been thinking a lot about the gifts of the Holy Spirit lately. Pope Francis has declared this year, a "Year of Mercy." In light of this, I have been thinking about the souls in purgatory and trying to find ways to be merciful and to pray for the deceased in a special way. The Spiritual Works of Mercy state that we should "pray for the living and the dead." One day, while praying, I felt inspired to begin a "Novena for the Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit," and I would ask God to apply it to a particular soul and to all the souls in purgatory. I felt my inspiration was confirmed,when, a few days later, I found an old prayer pamphlet entitled, "Novena to the Holy Ghost." It received an Imprimatur in 1948. Please keep in mind that this is a general Novena to the Holy Spirit that has a plenary indulgence attached to it. In this post, I am only sharing that I am praying it as a private devotion for the souls in purgatory. 




Why am I focusing on the gifts of the Holy Spirit for those in purgatory?  The Church teaches that canonized saints are those who lived a virtuous life.  In fact, the requirement is that they lived a heroically virtuous life, meaning, they possessed the theological virtues (faith, hope, charity) and the cardinal virtues (prudence, justice, fortitude, temperance). When the Church canonizes someone it means it recognizes the sanctity of the person. Therefore, the person must be filled with the gifts and fruits of the Holy Spirit, the Sanctifier. 

Years ago, I was privileged to attend a conference by the late Fr. Thomas Dubay, S.M. He stated, "A saint must possess ALL the gifts of the Holy Spirit. You can't just have one or two and get into heaven." He explains heroic virtue in his classic work, The Fire Within:

To appreciate more fully the next facet of the contemplative culmination, we need to reflect on the meaning of heroic virtue. This term does not refer merely to the ordinary fidelity we commend when we say that another is a good and sincere person. Rather, we envision a degree of loving uprightness and moral excellence that, left to our own native resources, we find humanly impossible. It is the living of a Gospel virtue (faith, hope, charity, temperance, fortitude, patience, humility) in a manner surpassing human strength.
The Fire Within, Thomas Dubay, S.M. Ignatius Press, 1989.

So, I am on a spiritual mission to ask the intercession of the Holy Spirit to purify the holy souls in purgatory and to fill them (and us) with his gifts. We can ask the Church to join us in our effort: the Church Triumphant, includes the saints in heaven, the Church Suffering are the holy souls in purgatory, and the Church Militant are the faithful on earth. 

I unite myself with all the faithful on earth, with all the holy souls in purgatory, and with all the saints in heaven, as I pray this Novena to the Holy Spirit.  



A NOVENA PRAYER FOR THE SEVEN GIFTS 
OF THE HOLY SPIRIT

O Lord Jesus Christ, Who, before ascending into heaven promised to send the Holy Spirit to finish your work in the souls of your Apostles and Disciples, please grant the same Holy Spirit to me, that He may perfect in my soul the work of Your grace and your love. Grant me the Spirit of Wisdom, that I may despise the perishable things of this world and aspire only after the things that are eternal, the Spirit of Understanding to enlighten my mind with the light of thy divine truth, the Spirit of Counsel, that I may ever choose the surest way of pleasing God and gaining heaven, the Spirit of Fortitude, that I may bear my cross with You, and that I may overcome with courage, all the obstacles that oppose my salvation, the Spirit of Knowledge, that I may know God and know myself and grow perfect in the science of the saints, the Spirit of Piety that I may find the service of God sweet and amiable, the Spirit of Fear that I may be filled with a loving reverence towards God, and may dread in any way to displease Him, mark me, dear Lord, with the sign of your true disciples and animate me in all things with your Spirit. Amen.

Let us pray:

O God, who by the light of the Holy Spirit did instruct the hearts of the faithful, grant us by the same Holy Spirit to be truly wise and to ever rejoice in His consolation, through Christ our Lord. Amen.






Peace be with you!
Rosemarie, ocds

Saturday, January 9, 2016

The Fruits of the Holy Spirit- Sixth Hymn of Virtue: Gentleness




Sixth Hymn of Virtue: Gentleness

Because you are God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with heartfelt compassion, with kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. (Colossians 3:12)

(Click on picture to learn more about angels)

People are given to complimenting each other's clothing, hair and external accessories. That is the way of the world. As Christians, we are striving to weave holy garments with the fabric of virtue provided by the Holy Spirit.

St. Paul tells us to clothe ourselves in virtue. This holy attire should be evident for all to see, but as St. Teresa tells us, people who possess true humility and virtue usually are unaware that they possess these spiritual gifts and are constantly striving to achieve it.

I recently saw a statue of Our Lady and the Infant Jesus. The statue is a representation of Our Lady of Perpetual Help. I have only seen icons of Our Lady under this title, never a statue. And it is truly a beautiful statue that is displayed in the chapel of Walsh University in Canton, Ohio. I bring up this point because of Our Lady's garment on this statue. Icons are typically full of symbolism. The gold in the background of Icons represents the glorious light of heaven. If you look closely, you will see the gold shining through Our Lady's garment. This light symbolizes what Christ said to the apostles and to us, “Let your light shine before men.” Not that they will say how wonderful we are, but for others to give glory and praise to God.

The Gospel reading this past Saturday was about Our Lord's Transfiguration. We heard in that gospel that his clothes became shining white. This manifestation was a glimpse of his glory that the three apostles were blessed to witness. Jesus,a living icon, displaying his glory and the brilliant light of heaven! And then the voice of the Father: "This is my beloved Son, listen to him."

Reflecting on this statement, I can't help but see the similarity between the Father's command and what Our Lady said at the wedding feast at Cana. She stated, "Do whatever he tells you." In other words, listen to Him. I'm confident she said this with great gentleness and charity.

As Christians, we can ask ourselves, have I displayed the holy attire of gentleness in my dealings with family, friends and co-workers? Or, am I harsh and demanding? St. Therese tells us she (through the Holy Spirit) perfected her physical manner to become gentle in her voice and in the way she looked at others.

As Carmelites, we know that we must strive for this holy gem of virtue. Why is gentleness so important? Because the holy garment of gentleness has the light of mercy shining through it! If we, as sinners, want to be treated gently and mercifully by Our Lord, we must treat others in this same manner.

I believe these virtues, are angelic qualities we must long for and possess before we are fit for the kingdom of heaven. We know that St. Paul even names one rank of angels as Virtues.

I think of the gentleness that Gabriel exhibited to the Virgin Mary at the Annunciation. “Do not be afraid Mary, you have found favor with God.” Wouldn't those be lovely words to hear at our judgment, with Our Lady by our side defending us poor sinners before the throne of God, “Do not fear, John, or Paul, or insert your own name, you have found favor with God.”

Hail Mary, Gentle Woman, pray for us!

Peace be with you!
Rosemarie, ocds

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Stained-Glass Flowers: Little Accounts of the Miraculous


Photo: R. Massaro
From the Life of St. Teresa of Jesus (Avila):

Once, while I was holding the cross in my hand, for I had it on a rosary, He took it from me with His own hands; when He gave it back to me, it was made of four large stones incomparably more precious than diamonds--there is no appropriate comparison for supernatural things. A diamond seems to be something counterfeit and imperfect when compared with precious stones that are seen there. The representation of the five wounds was of very delicate workmanship. He told me that from then on I would see the cross in that way; and so it happened, for I didn't see the wood from which it was made but these stones. No one, however, saw this except me.


Photo: R. Massaro Our Lady of Lourdes
Lourdes, France
When I began to try to obey the command to reject and resist these favors, there was a much greater increase in them. In seeking to distract myself, I never got free from prayer. It even seemed to me that I was in prayer while sleeping. There was an increase of love and of the loving complaints I was addressing to the Lord; the pain became unbearable, nor was it in my power to stop thinking of Him no matter how much I tried and even though I wanted to...
The Book of Her Life Chap. 29, No. 7


Peace be with you!
Rosemarie, OCDS