Following her entry into Carmel, at the young age of 17, the future St. Teresa Margaret of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, committed herself unflinchingly to two great Carmelite practices for those who aspire to holiness. In this program, Mark and Frances discuss how these ascetical (which in the Greek means exercise) contributed to Teresa Margaret being raised to such a high degree of union with the Lord in such a brief period of time - only five years in her case. These practices, or exercises were detachment and recollection. Consistent with the teachings of her great patron, St. Teresa of Avila, Teresa Margaret would later add the practice of humility to her program of discipline. She of course practiced many of the better known means of detachment, including fasting, praying at night, sleeping on a hard surface and always attempting to deny her own desires. But she would soon come to understand that the greatest challenge is in detaching ourselves from our own will. As for recollection, Teresa Margaret was already well schooled in this art of prayer, one which requires us to re-collect our faculties and enter within ourselves to commune with the Lord who never leaves us. Indeed, the Lord is constantly waiting in the little Bethany of our Heart for us to come and spend time with Him. Teresa Margaret perfected this practice to such a degree that she was known to lose herself, like St. Teresa of Avila before her, even in the midst of her busy chore. The prayer of recollection is absolutely essential for anyone who wishes to make progress in the spiritual journey, and Mark and Frances provide a perfect model for this practice in their discussion of the life of St. Teresa Margaret of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Finally, this conversation explores St. Teresa Margaret's deep understanding and devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. In many ways, her insights and practice of this devotion preceded and even informed Popes who would later write about and institute the formal celebrations dedicated to the Sacred Heart. This devotion, and St. Teresa's motto to "Return Love for Love," represent the very center of her great progress in the spiritual journey, and is the main reason she is so important for us to study today.
God is Love, Saint Teresa Margaret: Her Life, by Margaret Rowe ICS Publications.
From the Sacred Heart to the Trinity: The Spiritual Itinerary of Saint Teresa Margaret of the Sacred Heart, by Father Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalene ICS Publications
June is the month the Church dedicates to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. This is a very rich and powerful devotion, and one all Catholics should take the time to learn more about. In this conversation, Mark and Frances discuss the importance of devotion to the Sacred Heart and how it can serve as an avenue into deeper union with God. The discussion begins by discussing the image of the narrow door, found in Luke 13:24 (also in Matthew 7 where it is referred to as a gate). Then Mark and Frances explore the image of Christ as this door into the state of union with Lord. Jesus refers to Himself as the door through which the sheep must enter (John 10:7). The analogy to Christ's heart then is discussed from the perspective of our invitation to conform ourselves to the image of Christ, specifically, that our hearts are to love in exactly the same way as Christ loves us. For it is through our transformation in love that we will fulfill the entire purpose of our human existence. We were created in love, by love, that we might become love itself. The most necessary practice for us to dispose ourselves to this work of transformation, is to be before the Lord in prayer. It is in refusing to "conform ourselves to this world" (Romans 12:32), placing our greatest desire on the treasure that resides within our hearts, and focusing less and less on self, so that Christ might "increase in us" (John 3:30), that we will allow the Holy Spirit the room to work this transformation of our hearts into the Sacred Heart of our Savior. If you desire to draw rich spiritual fruit out of this devotion to the Sacred Heart, this conversation is a good place to start."
The Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus by Fr. John Crosiet S.J., Tan Publishers
Imitation of the Sacred Heart of Jesus by Fr. Peter J. Arnoudt S.J., Tan Publishers
It is always important for each of us to take deliberate steps to make the most of our preparation for the Advent Season. In this particular conversation, Mark and Frances present an interesting idea of one way we can begin and continue that preparation. Drawing from previous conversations on the prayer of St. Elizabeth of the Trinity, they reemphasize the request of Elizabeth to have the Holy Spirit bring about within her another incarnation of the Word. This very prayer of course evokes the scene of Mary and the Nativity, which we can all reflect on at this time of year. For Elizabeth, Mary's silence and courageous acceptance of her mission, from the Annunciation to the Nativity, is the very model for interior souls, those souls who wish to be the resting place for God within them. With this as a backdrop, Frances and Mark then go on to explain each of our roles as members of the Mystical Body of Christ, Christ who is born within us, but of whom we are also members. They provide supporting scripture verses and other sources, including the Catechism and Papal documents, to explain this important teaching on our participation as members of Christ's mystical body. Finally, as it is clear that the heart is the very center and support of the physical body, Christ's Sacred Heart is the very center of our spiritual lives. If then, we are to 'incarnate' the word in our very person, we must also understand the importance of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and its role in our spiritual lives. This program provides a very good means of building on the theme of incarnation and leading to devotion to the Sacred Heart, as an Advent preparation for the arrival of Christ.
Scripture: Lk 1:35; Eph 4:15-16; Rom 6:4-5 1; Cor 12:3; Rom 8:26; Eph 1:9-10; Col 1:24
Encyclical: Mystici Corporis Christi: Pope Pius XEE on the Mystical Body of Christ
Cathechism of the Catholic Church: #790-791
Books: “The Complete Works: Elizabeth of the Trinity, Vol. One” Trans. by Sister Aletheia Kane, OCD; ICS Publications.
“God is Love: Saint Teresa Margaret: Her Life” by Margaret Rowe; ICS Publications.
“During this conversation Mark and Frances discuss the unique Devotion that Carmelites have to the Sacred Heart. They begin by reading and discussing comments made by the Holy Father, Francis, regarding the role of the heart in our journey to Christ. Pope Francis speaks about the need to conform our heart to the heart of Christ, and to be transformed by that very act. Mark and Frances then go on to explore St. Therese of Lisieux’s perspective on devotion to the Sacred Heart. For St. Therese, Christ’s heart is always a heart of love. She does not focus, as so many others do, on the suffering of the piercing thorns which wounded our Lord, for St. Therese the central idea of Christ’s heart is an all-purifying love. She understands that suffering is part of the process, but she emphasizes that this is not an end in itself. The only reason for this devotion, in the mind of Therese, is to help us conform our own hearts to the buring heart of love, which is the heart of Jesus.”
We continue the introduction to the life of St. Teresa Margaret of the Sacred Heart by addressing the challenges she faced once she left civilian life and entered the convent in Carmel. What were the lessons she still needed to learn? How may we profit from them as well? Additionally, what can we learn from her ardent devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus? Then, we approach the conversation of her mystical life and the famous mystical experience she had of “God is Love!” What were the effects of this experience? Finally, we touch on the relationship of St. Teresa Margaret of the Sacred Heart to Pope Benedict XVI’s recent encyclical letter: “Deus Caritas Est.”