This is an episode in the monthly series of talks by Deacon Rusty Baldwin, a Secular Discalced Carmelite who gives a presentation to our Community in Dayton each month. These are recorded live during our Holy Hours. In this program, Deacon Baldwin discusses the language of God.
The Lord Thy God is a Consuming Fire: St. Teresa Margaret Redi of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Dark Night of the Spirit
After the great grace of “Deus Caritas Est/God is Love,” the Discalced Carmelite St. Teresa Margaret Redi of the Sacred Heart of Jesus enters a stage of marked passivity in which God is purifying her soul. This stage is referred to as the Dark Night of the Spirit and falls in the 6thMansion of the Interior Castle of St. Teresa of Avila. How does this purification through the dark rays of contemplation occur? Why is it so painful? St. John of the Cross uses the analogy of the log of wood and the fire to describe the process of purification of this more interior, darker night. He also portrays the journey in this Dark Night of Spirit as going up a Secret Mystical Ladder of Love made up of 10 steps. What are those steps? How do they differ from each other? How is a soul in this darkest of nights described? What kind of language does St. Teresa Margaret use to describe her interior sufferings? What can we learn from all of this?
One of the single most important disciplines we can adopt is the continual practice of the presence of God in our lives. This practice is not achieved by simply thinking about God be everywhere, though certainly He is all around us as well as in us, and we should take great comfort in this reality. Beyond this, however, we should recognize that the real challenge of the practice of the presence of God, is for us to make ourselves present to Him. It is for us to be continually aware that He is looking at us with His loving gaze, and that we should constantly be desiring to respond to the promptings of the Holy Spirit dwelling within us. In this program, France Harry takes us through the very practical means St. Teresa Margaret of the Sacred Heart used to keep herself continually aware of and present to God. The central focus of Teresa Margaret's practice was her devotion to the Blessed Sacrament. In this regard, she not only fulfilled all of the communities requirements for adoration, but she also remained constantly disposed to a state of adoration whenever she was anywhere near where the Blessed Sacrament was retained. She would literally genuflect towards the room where the tabernacle was kept, whenever she entered the hallway outside that room. She was known to rest her head on the wall, while sitting on a bench, just outside the same room. Just as important as these physical gestures directed toward the Blessed Sacrament, were Teresa Margaret's charitable commitment to her sisters in the convent. She realized that because she herself could not actually serve Christ in a physical way, she would have to find Christ in all the individuals she came in contact with in her life in Carmel. Regardless of whether these individuals responded to her with equal charity, Teresa Margaret always labored to be as kind and patient towards everyone as she could. Indeed, if there were some who may have treated her with disdain, and some did, then Teresa Margaret sought to serve these women all the more. She always maintained the guidance provide to her by our Lord:
‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family,] you did it to me.’ (Matthew 25:40-45)
If you are seeking a little guidance, some encouragement, and a model for how to advance in the practice of the presence of God, then this is a very valuable program to help provide you all three.
Do you have a loved one who was raised Catholic and is no longer practicing their faith? Do you wish there was something you could do to help bring them “home?” Carmelite Conversations host, Frances Harry, interviews Teresa Gooding, a Secular Order Discalced Carmelite, on the “St. Monica Ministry” that she was inspired to introduce to her parish, in Beavercreek, OH. What is the St. Monica Ministry? Here is the answer as quoted from the book, St. Monica Ministry, by Dr. Jack Buchner: “The St. Monica Ministry is a pastoral outreach to all those adults who have friends and relatives who are not active in their practice of the Catholic faith at this time. Through the virtues of faith and persistent prayer, we hope to become more like St. Monica in our conviction that the grace of Christ will change hearts and lives. We hope to draw closer to God, thereby placing our trust and faith in God and His timing as it relates to our loved ones.” We continue the conversation discussing the basis of the formation of this ministry (in the life of St. Monica and her son, St. Augustine), what happens at a St. Monica Ministry meeting, and what are the guiding principles governing this ministry. What sources are used? What are the fruits of this ministry? For anyone who has fallen to their knees in prayer regarding a prodigal Catholic, this podcast will be helpful. “St. Monica, intercede for us!”
Building upon last week’s conversation and using the spiritual navigational tools of 1) rest on the bosom of Jesus/in His Heart/in adoration; 2) embrace Jesus in the night via night vigils; 3) silence the faculties of the soul and listen interiorly to the Lord, Mark and Frances share a perspective on the actions of St. Peter during Holy Week and how that applies to the purification of the memory and the advancement of the soul in receiving God’s love. Mark also brings up a movie, called The Mission, which exemplifies the points we are trying to make. When seen through the eyes of both a Hermit and Crusader spirit, we see how important prayer is before action, which is also the call of Secular Discalced Carmelite.
The life of contemplation is itself a lifetime journey. Just as with any significant journey, and there is no more important journey then the journey to the interior of our soul, we must make preparations. We must understand the mode of transportation we will use for different parts of the journey, and we have a few means of navigation to ensure we stay on course, or that we are able to find our way back on course if we should become lost. Finally, we must be able to anticipate the obstacles that we may encounter along the way. In this first of a series of conversations, Mark and Frances discuss the work we must do in our prayer life to allow us to advance, and to make sure we can stay on the right path. Beginning with the very foundation of the Order of Carmel, they offer a series of practical tips and a narrative explanation of how the journey of faith, guided by contemplation, might play out in someone's life. This particular program is an excellent introduction to an understanding of how the memory can serve as an impediment to our progress in the life of prayer. More importantly, through the introduction of various means of navigation, they present solid advice on how on anyone can learn to avoid the obstacles along the journey.
In this second part of the two part series titled, 'Fifteen Days of Prayer with Blessed Fr. Marie-Eugene and the Child Jesus,' Mark and Frances explore more deeply the need for each of us, as we begin to make more progress in prayer, to begin to dispose ourselves more completely to the Lord's will. Our entire lives must become a total self-giving in exactly the same way as Christ gave Himself to His Father's will. This of course requires a great deal of confidence in God's faithfulness to His promise that He will always be with us, even if quite often His presence seems hidden. We must also begin to develop more intensely the virtue of Hope, which is often discovered in the midst of our spiritual poverty. Fr. Marie-Eugene teaches that we must become audacious in our trust, but we must also understand that God's action in our lives is to be found in the little, often monotonous events that make up our days. He also teaches that we draw strength from the realization that Christ is always with us, not only as our model, but also as our servant, as demonstrated by His willingness to wash the feet of His disciples. As one of the more outspoken proponents for our reliance on the Holy Spirit, Fr. Marie-Eugene advocates not only our need to pray to the Holy Spirit, but also to allow the Spirit to transform our prayer life from one of transforming ourselves, to one of transforming the world around us. Finally, as any good Carmelite, Blessed Fr. Marie-Eugene strongly encourages us to rely on the intercession of the Blessed Mother. No matter where you find yourself in your prayer life today, this two part series will have something to offer you to help move to the next level of intimacy with our Lord.
Lk 23:46, Romans 8:20; Mt 5:3; Mk 10:45; Jn 13:8; 1 Jn 4:19; Acts 10:38
“Fifteen Days of Prayer with Father Marie-Eugene of the Child Jesus, Carmelite, Founder of Notre-Dame de Vie” by Roselyn Declare and Joelle Guichard; St. Paul’s.
Mark and Frances chat with Sally Read, author of the book, Night's Bright Darkness: A Modern Conversion Story. Sally was staunchly atheist yet converted to Catholicism in the space of only nine months. In 2010, she was heralded as one of the bright young writers of the British poetry scene. Feminist and deeply anti-Catholic, she was writing a book about female sexuality when, during her research, she spoke with a Catholic priest. The interview led her on a dramatic spiritual quest that ended up at the Vatican itself, where she was received into the Catholic Church. All along the way, Carmelite saints influenced her conversion. Also joining the conversation is Tim Bete, another member of the Our Lady of Good Counsel Secular Carmelite Community.
Night's Bright Darkness: A Modern Conversion Story by Sally Read
Divine Intimacy by Father Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen