Carmelite Conversations
Deus Caritas est

Deus Caritas est

July 11, 2019
It is often convenient for us to imagine that the Saints all had a continuing series of mystical experiences throughout their lives. It is believed then, that these experiences are what drew them to holiness, complete transformation and ultimately union with Christ. It is simply easier for many of us to imagine that the Saints were just special people, and by consequence, we could not really be expected to be raised to their degree of holiness. However, in the case of the young Saint from Florence, Teresa Margaret of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, this is simply not the case. It is true that she heard an interior voice early in her life that she later believed to have been St. Teresa of Avila, and that voice communicated to her that she would one day join a Carmelite convent. But it is also true that Teresa Margaret had been preparing herself for some years to listen to the spiritual voices who may wish to speak with her. We can all do the same. The final, if we want to use the word mystical, experience Teresa Margaret had, was to experience deep within her spirit the reality of the words: Deus Caritas est, which in Latin means, God is Love. Again, Teresa Margaret had been preparing and dedicating her life in the convent to be prepared for just such an experience of the internal communication from God. Her heart was well tilled to receive the seed of God's flowering love within her soul. This preparation on her part included prayer, silence, simplicity, humility, practicing the presence of God and yes, even accepting suffering, most especially the mortification of her own will. None of these practices are extraordinary, and indeed, they may all be practiced, to some degree, by all of us. And it is to that degree that we will have prepared our hearts to receive whatever it is that God, in His wisdom, wishes to communicate to us, individually.
St. Teresa Margaret and the Practice of the Presence of God

St. Teresa Margaret and the Practice of the Presence of God

July 3, 2019

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.

For the Return of the Prodigal Catholic

For the Return of the Prodigal Catholic

June 28, 2019

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!”

St. Teresa Margaret of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and making our lives a Sacrifice to the Lord (PART 3)

St. Teresa Margaret of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and making our lives a Sacrifice to the Lord (PART 3)

June 26, 2019
At some point in our individual spiritual journey, most of us will decide to make a more formal, firm and specific commitment to the Lord. It may be, like many Saints, that we will choose to write out our commitment, or our oblation. This is exactly what St. Teresa Margaret of the Sacred Heart of Jesus chose to do. She even went so far, with the approval of her spiritual director, to write out her oblation in her own blood. In looking at Teresa Margaret's own words, and more importantly, the details of her life, we can come to discover very practical ways for forming our own commitment to the Lord. Her own commitment included three critical elements that we would expect to find in any genuine act of oblation in the spiritual journey. They included her total commitment to Jesus, a decision to forgo any consideration of the cost associated with her decision, and an acknowledgement that there would be difficult even repugnant (in her own words) things she would have to suffer, but that she would be willing to endure them all for the Lord. In this conversation, Mark and Frances discuss the principle elements of Teresa Margaret's personal sacrifice to Jesus. They also continue the discussion on Teresa Margaret's remarkable commitment to living a life of humility, her difficult struggle with the ongoing process of self-knowledge, and her unflinching efforts to overcome her own will, in favor of God's will for her life. All of this progress in Teresa Margaret's spiritual journey was based on her commitment and the practice of becoming utterly forgetful of self. In addition to her practice of remaining silent to whatever circumstances the Lord saw fit to bring her into in her life. No matter where you might be on the spiritual journey, this particular broadcast will help to provide insight and perhaps a good deal of consolation for those who may also find themselves in a difficult phase in the midst of their own spiritual journey.

 

Preparing to Receive Jesus in the Eucharist

Preparing to Receive Jesus in the Eucharist

June 22, 2019

n honor of the upcoming feast day of Corpus Christi Sunday, Frances pulls together thoughts and teachings on how to improve one’s preparation for the reception of Jesus in the Eucharist. Many approach Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament in a routine way. This is so sad! Let’s get fired up and ignite the fire of divine love by considering what some of our Carmelites and others say in their own love of Jesus in the Eucharist. We need to refine our thoughts, feelings, affections and attitudes as we approach our Lord in Communion. What are some of the ways that even those souls closest to Jesus wound His Heart when receiving Him in the Eucharist? What are the teachings of St. Mary Magdalen de Pazzi on receiving Jesus in communion? How might we become more intimate with Jesus in the reception of His Most Holy Body and Blood? What were some of the experiences of Holy Mother St. Teresa of Avila? Let us find ways to eagerly approach Jesus in the Eucharist. Let us prepare well NOW!

Sources (books):

“Bread of Heaven: A Treasury of Carmelite Prayers and Devotions on the Eucharist” compiled by Penny Hickey, OCDS.

“Eucharistic Colloquies” by Mother [now Blessed] Maria Candida of the Eucharist, OCD (1884-1949).

“Hidden Riches: the Eucharist in the Carmelite Tradition” edited by Eltin Griffin, OCarm..

St. Teresa Margaret’s Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus (PART 2)

St. Teresa Margaret’s Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus (PART 2)

June 19, 2019

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.

St. Teresa Margaret: The forgotten Saint of Carmel’s Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus (PART 1)

St. Teresa Margaret: The forgotten Saint of Carmel’s Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus (PART 1)

June 19, 2019
Saint Teresa Margaret of the Sacred Heart is known as the forgotten Saint of Carmel. This is unfortunate as she has much to offer all of us in our spiritual journey. As sometimes happens when we read the lives of the saints, we can be put off by what we perceive to have been special graces or benefits they were granted by God. And we can become discouraged that we could never hope to attain to their degree of holiness. St. Teresa Margaret of the Sacred Heart will not leave us with this impression. Her spirituality was based on simplicity, a constant state of recollection and a desire to remain hidden in her perpetual loving gaze of the Lord. Her life was not filled with numerous mystical experiences, she did not seek her understanding of spiritual matters in academic pursuits and her life does not present us with a challenge of great and heroic acts as a requirement for sanctity. She simply took what little is required to become holy: simplicity, prayer, abandoning her own will and seeking to please and love the Lord in all her actions, and then she did her best to fulfill these requirements in every single element of her life. Hers is a spirituality for the common person, something we can all replicate in our own lives. And if we learn from her and apply her simple approach, if we dispose ourselves, as she did, to the work the Holy Spirit desires to do in each of us, then we too can become saints.
 
References:

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

Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus

Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus

June 7, 2019

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."

Two references:

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

Tribute to St. Mary Magdalen de Pazzi for her Feast Day

Tribute to St. Mary Magdalen de Pazzi for her Feast Day

May 24, 2019

Carmel is privileged to have the “Refulgent Flower of Florence, St. Mary Magdalen de Pazzi” as a beacon of light of the love of God.  Though she was a mystic and stigmatic with many extraordinary supernatural gifts, it was her love of God and purity of soul that were the primary impetus for her canonization.  What was her motto?  What were her dying words?  What connection did she have with other “Flowers of Florence?”  These questions are answered as well as a sampling of some of her quotes and maxims for spiritual growth.  May she intercede for us all and enflame our love for God and souls.

 This was an impromptu podcast done by Frances Harry alone in honor of St. Mary Magdalen de Pazzi.

“Prayer ought to be humble, fervent, resigned, persevering, and accompanied with great reverence.  One should consider that he stands in the presence of a God, and speaks with a Lord before whom the angels tremble from awe and fear.”

~ St. Mary Magdalen de Pazzi

A Journey to the Deep Interior of the Soul (part 2)

A Journey to the Deep Interior of the Soul (part 2)

April 18, 2019

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.