Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Fourth Song: Piety

By the gift of Piety, the Holy Spirit infuses in us a reverence for God and the things of Heaven. This gift prompts us to love God and neighbor.

St. Teresa writes about the state of this soul with the gift of piety in her third mansion of the Interior Castle. She says these people love to spend time with His Majesty. They are fond of hearing the Word of God and listening to sermons, which may cause them to shed gentle tears.

We may have a perverted notion of the gift of piety. When you call someone pious, it almost has a negative connotation to it. The true gift of piety, is sincere, holy, and a condition of the heart. It is not merely "appearing" to be holy by our behavior and actions.

Thinking of the Gift of Piety brings to mind Jesus' Sermon on the Mount:Blessed are those who hunger for holiness, they will have their fill. As Carmelites called to contemplative prayer, we need to constantly challenge ourselves and ask the hard questions:

*Do I simply observe the letter of the (Carmelite) Law by just giving to God what is required and nothing more; 1/2 hour of mental prayer each day. Or do I seek to spend extra time in silent prayer, perhaps in adoration before the Blessed Sacrament. Do I have a real hunger to spend time with the Lord?

*Do I love the Word of God and spend time with the Lord in silent meditation, listening for Him to speak? Or, do I just do the minimum requirement of 1/2 hour of spiritual reading per day, and even that is a drudgery for me. Do I hunger for the Word of God and ponder it in my heart in imitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary?

*Do I try to live a Eucharistic centered life by attending daily mass when possible? Do I have a real hunger and longing to receive Jesus in the Holy Eucharist?

As Carmelites, we are called to seek the face of God in prayer on behalf of the Church. We have promised to do this with our brothers and sisters and all of heaven as witnesses of our holy commitment. We are also called to live the Beatitudes. Our promise formula states:

I, ______________desiring to follow the Crucified and risen Christ in the Secular Order of Carmel, renew my profession/vow, and I promise to tend toward Evangelical Counsels of Chastity, Poverty and Obedience, and of the Beatitudes, according to the Rule of Life of the Secular Order of Discalced Carmelites.

I confidently entrust my promise/vow to the Virgin Mary, Mother and Queen of Carmel.

Let us ask Our Lady of Mt. Carmel to obtain for us from the Holy Spirit the true gift of infused Piety. A piety that will set our hearts of fire for God and the things of Heaven!

Peace be with you!
Rosemarie, ocds

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Third Song: Fear of the Lord

The Gift of the Fear of the Lord is that childlike fear which causes us to dread no misfortune so much as that of displeasing God.
True Fear of the Lord may be hard to discern in the life of the beginner on the road of prayer. There are some souls who experience a great and painful trial: Scrupulosity! Even our Carmelite Saint, Therese of Lisieux, a Doctor of the Church, experienced this spiritual trauma.

True Fear of the Lord is what a soul experiences in St. Teresa's third mansion of the Interior Castle. These souls, she says, "are very sensitive to the offenses against God...They are keen to the ugliness of even venial sins..." She says these souls striving for holiness do not want to displease His Majesty in any little thing.

The soul that is scrupulous is centered on itself, concentrating on what "I" have done. The soul with the gift of holy fear is aware of its own weakness and sins and knows that it has failed, yet cries out, " I'm sorry, I have offended "You." We can see where the focus lies. St. Therese is a great example of this dilemma. She was deeply aware of her own littleness, her own weakness before God, but she trusted in Him to be her strength.

Anyone who has suffered from scrupulosity knows the torture it can inflict on the whole person. It is necessary to have a spiritual director who has dealt with this situation and knows how to instruct the soul. The person who suffers must be obedient to the confessor and not go confession hopping in order to find some peace by confessing the same sins over and over, because they believe they were not forgiven, or did not confess right, and so on.

These souls need patience on the part of the confessor. If the right director is found, the soul can achieve great heights because of this spiritual purification. The soul must be humble and ask the Holy Spirit for light and guidance.

Here is Fr. Angelus' (formerly of EWTN) ten commandments for dealing with scrupulosity:

1). Do not repeat prayers! No matter how badly they may have been prayed, even if the prayers were given as a penance in confession. Never!

2). Do not repeat the confession of sins that have already been confessed. Never ever!

3). If you doubt the earnestness of your sorrow in confession, consider the sorrow as having been adequate.

4). A doubtful sin is no sin for those suffering from scrupulosity.

5). Should you be in doubt that you have already confessed a sin, always consider the sin as having been confessed.

6). Examine your conscience for no longer that one minute each day, and for no longer than 5 minutes before a confession.

7). If you have prayed at the time of temptation, you can be sure that you did not commit a grave sin.

8). If you have ever made a general confession do not make another one. Once a month is a good norm for the frequency of confession.

9). If possible, go to confession to the same confessor. This one is very helpful and important. If I even start to slip into Scrupulos behavior, Father L. will cut me short too.

10). Cultivate a humble heart by complete obedience to the direction of the confessor. Be patient with yourself. Love is the goal of all of our lives. And this is the only way to secure peace. And peace is the Lord’s farewell gift to you and to me.

These two examples of fear I have mentioned above reflect examples of perfect and imperfect fear. Imperfect fear is a concentration on ourselves and the soul's fear of the pains of hell. The perfect or childlike fear is an example of the fear that the Saints possessed. They did not want to displease God the loving Father, and did not want to hinder their union with him.

St. John of the Cross exhorts us to climb Mt. Carmel to reach the Summit. We have the teachings of the Carmelite Saints to help us in our quest. May Our Lady of Mt. Carmel lead us by the hand to overcome our egos, die to ourselves and reach the summit-Christ our Lord!

Our Lady, Queen and Beauty of Mt. Carmel, pray for us.

Peace be with you!
Rosemarie, ocds