Catholic Exchange: The Spiritual Depth and Friendship of St. Teresa of Avila

The Church celebrates the Feast of St. Teresa of Avila, also known as St. Teresa of Jesus, on October 15th. She was born in Avila, Spain in 1515. Her family consisted of her mother, father, and twelve siblings. She described her parents as devout in her autobiography. Teresa began her spiritual journey early on and read the lives of the martyrs when she was nine years old. She had a great desire to die a martyr’s death and repeatedly told her parents that she wanted to see God. It was in her childhood that she learned that “all things of this world will pass away” and God alone is “for ever, ever, ever” (Vida).

At the age of twenty she entered the Carmelite Monastery of the Incarnation in Avila. Her religious name was Teresa of Jesus. While she was in the monastery she became seriously ill with malaria and spent four days in a coma, looking as though she would die. During her illness she realized her own weakness and resistance to God’s call. It greatly changed her spiritual life. She recovered, but shortly after her father died and all of her siblings emigrated to America.

Teresa was a rather prolific writer considering that she had no academic education. She relied greatly on the teachings and great resources of theologians, men of letters, and spiritual teachers. She was a woman of reform and set about reforming the Carmelite Order. In 1562 her first reform was Carmel in Avila with the support of the Bishop, Don Alvaro de Mendoza, and the approval of the Order’s Superior General, John Baptist Rossi. In 1580 she received approval from Rome for her own separate Province and so began the Discalced Carmelite Order which she established with her good friend, St. John of the Cross.

She wrote many books throughout her lifetime. Her most famous work is her own autobiography, The Life of St. Teresa (Vida), The Way of Perfection, a commentary on the Our Father, her most famous work on prayer, The Interior Castle, various works for her Carmelite Order, and Book of the Foundations. It is easy to see why St. Teresa is one of the four women saints to be given the title Doctor of the Church.

Read the rest over at Catholic Exchange.

8 Articles/Blogs to Help You on the Spiritual Journey Oct 5-11

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I am going to start a new weekly update on my blog of articles or blogs I see that will help you on the journey to holiness. I have noticed that a lot of the places that collect Catholic blogs and articles focus on news and politics. I think there is a need for Catholic writers to also focus on the mission, which is a life of holiness and evangelization. There are many wonderful articles available each week, if you look, that provide spiritual guidance from the saints, the Church, and daily life. Here are a few from October 5-11.

The Ultimate Challenge: A Heroic Life as Spiritual Fathers, David McClow at Catholic Exchange
Be Perfect…Really?, Br. Timothy Danaher, O.P. at Dominicana
The Beads and Repetition of the Rosary, Romano Guardini at Catholic Exchange
A Lamp for My Feet, Br. Ambrose Arralde, O.P. at Dominicana
The Man of Wasteful Love, Dr. Tom Neal at Word on Fire
Enemies of the Cross of Christ, Sam Guzman at The Catholic Gentleman
Saints are Still Being Made, K.V. Turley at Crisis Magazine
God Wants Me to Be Happy-A Reflection on a Deeply Flawed Moral Stance, Msgr. Charles Pope, Archdiocese of Washington DC

Pax Christi

The Synod, Archbishop Chaput, and Despair

I just read Archbishop Chaput’s intervention at the Synod over at Edward Pentin’s blog at the National Catholic Register and I believe it touched on a major issue in the Church right now. It is not just one in relation to marriage and the family, but also a lack of hope in the Church and the power of the Holy Spirit to guide her. Here is the text of the intervention:

Marriage as a Witness to Hope

“Brothers,

The Instrumentum seemed to present us with two conflicting views: pastoral despair or a decision to hope. When Jesus experienced the pastoral despair of his Apostles, he reminded them that for man a thing may seem impossible, but for God all things are possible.

In mastering nature for the purpose of human development, we human beings have wounded our oceans and the air we breathe. We’ve poisoned the human body with contraceptives. And we’ve scrambled the understanding of our own sexuality. In the name of individual fulfillment, we’ve busied ourselves with creating a new Babel of tyranny that feeds our desires but starves the soul.

Paragraphs 7-10 of the Instrumentum did a good job of describing the condition of today’s families. But overall, the text engenders a subtle hopelessness. This leads to a spirit of compromise with certain sinful patterns of life and the reduction of Christian truths about marriage and sexuality to a set of beautiful ideals — which then leads to surrendering the redemptive mission of the Church.

The work of this synod needs to show much more confidence in the Word of God, the transformative power of grace, and the ability of people to actually live what the Church believes. And it should honor the heroism of abandoned spouses who remain faithful to their vows and the teaching of the Church.

George Bernanos said that the virtue of hope is “despair, overcome.” We have no reason to despair. We have every reason to hope. Pope Francis saw this himself in Philadelphia. Nearly 900,000 people crowded the streets for the papal Mass that closed the World Meeting of Families.

They were there because they love the Pope, but also because they believe in marriage. They believe in the family. And they were hungry to be fed by real food from the Vicar of Jesus Christ.

We need to call people to perseverance in grace and to trust in the greatness God intended for them — not confirm them in their errors. Marriage embodies Christian hope – hope made flesh and sealed permanently in the love of a man and a woman.

This synod needs to preach that truth more clearly with the radical passion of the Cross and Resurrection.”

There is a great amount of despair that is coming out of certain corners of the Church. For instance, the German Church demonstrates a profound sense of despair and loss of faith in its desire to conform to the world rather than the Blessed Trinity. Many in that Bishop’s Conference, not all, have forgotten that our baptismal call is to be conformed to Christ throughout our lives. That means entering into the Paschal Mystery and dying to self, dying to our desires, and inclinations, most especially those which are disordered and sinful. The reason for this is not because God is a cold-hearted authoritarian who desires to rule over us as a tyrant. No, what these men and many throughout the Church who have chosen this world rather than the next, is that God wants us to be fully human. He created us, so He knows what will make us fully alive and fully human. This occurs through an abandonment of sin, which is a difficult and life-long process only made possible through grace.

This despair leaves Jesus in the tomb. It is to scatter because Our Lord has been crucified. Many have forgotten that Jesus has in fact Risen, that He reigns in Heaven, and that the Holy Spirit is who guides the truth and the Church. We cannot give into despair because the culture is against us. The culture has always been against us. Jesus came to give the world a counter-cultural message, a message that goes against the depravity of sin, and the truth that relies on grace. He promised us that we would be persecuted. The question comes down to this: Are we a Resurrection people or not?

A good deal of the ranting and raving at the Synod and on social media comes from those who have lost hope. They see a Church of sinners, a hierarchy of sinners, and a seductive world. Many have cornered themselves into one of two camps: the Church is going to fall apart or we must become like the world. We forget that the answer is neither. It is that we must proclaim the Good News. We must share the joy of Jesus Christ who lives and reigns forever. That with grace all things are possible. We can overcome our sinful inclinations, even sexual ones, by the power of God. It is not by our own power, but Christ’s that will guide us and help us to persevere in the long arduous journey.

Do we truly believe in the power of the Paschal Mystery? Do we believe that God has and will redeem us? Do we believe that Jesus is who he said he is? If the answer is no, then yes, it is right to despair. That means there is no redemption and that human depravity will continue to spiral to deeper and deeper depths. If the answer is yes, then we must stop living in defeat. The world senses our despair and the vultures are circling overhead. Either we believe that Christ will protect the Church from error, or we don’t believe in Him. Either we believe that redemption is possible or we don’t. Conforming the Church to the world is to live without redemption. It is to believe that human beings are incapable of greatness, holiness, and saintliness. If we are redeemed, then we must share that redemption with others. We must be honest about the difficult task. We must be honest that human beings cannot do it on their. This is only possible through Christ.

Many people focus on the sins of the hierarchy. They obsess about a “Gay Mafia” or other agendas within the Magisterium. There have been competing agendas since the beginning of the Church. Today is not unique. Most of us are not in a position to do anything about it except pray. Gossiping and ranting in social media is not a proper response to such concern. Gossip is a sin for a reason. If there are concerns then write to the proper channels, pray, and trust in Christ’s promises. The sins of the hierarchy, the very same sins many of us in the laity struggle with, do not change the Church in her ontological reality. She is the Bride of Christ and protected from error by the Holy Spirit. It doesn’t mean that our sins don’t damage the Mystical Body, but it does not change the Church, nor does it change God.

What if some were unfaithful? Will their infidelity nullify the fidelity of God? Of course not! God must be true, though every human being is a liar, as it is written:“That you may be justified in your words, and conquer when you are judged.”
But if our wickedness provides proof of God’s righteousness, what can we say? Is God unjust, humanly speaking, to inflict his wrath? Of course not! For how else is God to judge the world? But if God’s truth redounds to his glory through my falsehood, why am I still being condemned as a sinner? And why not say—as we are accused and as some claim we say—that we should do evil that good may come of it? Their penalty is what they deserve.

Romans 3:3-8

It is time to stop focusing so much on this world and the sins of our neighbor. It is time for us to live as people in hope and in the glory of the Paschal Mystery. It is through our lives and our striving to live in holiness that people will come to know the truth. It is impossible for us to engage the world if all we do is either project doom and gloom out over social media and in our daily lives, or if we say the Church is “out-dated” and must conform to this age. Neither are truth. Both are a form of despair. Instead, we must do as St. Paul did and proclaim: Christ has risen! Pax Christi.

Liturgical Living Made Simple: Feast of St. Therese of Lisieux

I am focusing on bringing the liturgical calendar into our daily lives and family. It has been a goal of mine for some time, but I didn’t pursue it in earnest for a variety of reasons. This week really began my focus on celebrating feasts that are important to our family, so this week we have in different ways celebrated the Feast of the Holy Archangels, St. Therese, and tomorrow the Holy Guardian Angels. I am not a particularly crafty person, so I like to keep things simple, but beautiful. I do enjoy cooking, so I have found some great recipes to help me. I also don’t want to do a dessert for every feast day. For a week like this, that would have been three different desserts. Instead I chose to reserve a special dessert for my daughter’s feast day on Tuesday and the other two feasts do an easy craft and a dinner that focuses on the saint.

For today’s Feast of St. Therese of Lisieux, I made the French dish, Venison Bourguignon. More specifically I made this recipe. It was out of this world good. I have been slowly sipping a glass of the dry red wine I used in the recipe. The meat was tender and the sauce tasted like wine, herbs, and meat. I have been to Paris and I had forgotten just how good French food really is to eat. It was a fantastic way to celebrate and savor. St. Therese is one of my patronesses and you can read about her in my article over at Catholic Exchange for today. She teaches me to how to offer my daily life to God as a sacrifice of love.

In choosing to live the rhythms of the Church I am better able to focus my family in our vocation and journey towards Heaven. Instead of being so focused on this world, stepping into the liturgical calendar reminds us that we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses who are cheering us on with their prayers. They want us to get to know them, befriend them, and rely on them for prayers much like we rely on our friends on this side of Eternity. If you haven’t tried celebrating feast days outside of Christmas and Easter, I recommend adding a few celebrations to your family’s calendar. Choose your family’s patrons and patronesses or saints who have really helped you on the journey. There are so many saints on the calendar that it is hard to celebrate all of them. I look at the calendar each month and choose which ones to celebrate. Next week we will have a Middle Eastern dinner in honor of Our Lady of the Rosary.

Like I said, I am not one of those awesome Pinterest moms who can carve Our Lady out of butter. I keep it pretty simple and my 4 year old daughter is not ready for complex crafts anyway. Today we made paper roses,which you can find here. They are super easy to make and really pretty. Even someone as inept as I am can make them. My only tip is not to wrap them too tight or they will not look like a rose. I learned that the hard way.

Here are a few pictures from our St. Therese Feast. I decorate our table with flowers and pictures of St. Therese and our statue of Christ. Tomorrow I will change the images out for some I have found of Guardian Angels and make a Spaghetti Squash Pad Tai. The squash will be “angel hair” in place of rice noodles. We grow spaghetti squash in our garden have tons of them right now. God bless.

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Catholic Exchange: St. Therese of Lisieux Teaches Us to Live Simply in Great Love

St. Therese of Lisieux was born on January 2, 1873 in Alencon, France. Her parents Louis and Zelie Guerin Martin are to be canonized by Pope Francis later this month. They had nine children, but only five survived to adulthood. The survivors were all girls and eventually every single one would enter into religious life. Therese did struggle early on with her health, but she became stronger as time went on. Therese and her sisters were greatly blessed in the pious home their parents kept. They lived simply, but in great devotion to Our Lord and Our Lady. Zelie died of breast cancer when Therese was four years old and it began the saddest years of her life. She became overly sensitive and cried easily. This would be her battle for ten years, when at fourteen, she found the grace and strength to overcome this oversensitivity and truly began to live her journey of spiritual freedom.

Louis Martin sacrificed and served his daughters in order to provide what they needed after their mother’s death, including spiritual and emotional support. Therese often went on picnics, fishing, walking, to visit the Blessed Sacrament, and on vacations with her father. He called her his “little queen” and while he doted on her, he did so without spoiling her. In turn, she greatly admired and loved her father. This relationship between Therese and Louis played a foundational role for her future in religious life.

Therese had desired to be a nun starting at the age of three. It became a certainty at the age of fourteen and she was convinced that it was time to enter the convent. It was difficult for Louis to give up all of his daughters to the convent, but he knew Therese’s vocation and while sad, he supported her decision. Her age was not an issue for the nuns, but she had to convince her uncle and the bishop that she was mature enough to enter into religious life. She had no answer by the time Louis took Celine, her sister, and her on a pilgrimage to Rome. While there on November 20, 1887 they had a papal audience. They were forbidden from speaking to the Holy Father, but Therese could not resist. She knelt before the holy father with tears streaming down her face and said: “Holy Father, I have a favor to ask you….In honor of your jubilee, permit me to enter Carmel at the age of fifteen.” The people in attendance were stunned and irritated by her outburst, but the Holy Father responded: “Well, my child, do what the superiors tell you!” St. Therese was not deterred. “Oh! Holy Father. If you say yes, everybody will agree!” He said, “Go, go, you will enter if God wills it.” She would have persisted, but a priest and guards had her removed. Such was the determination of Therese to enter the convent. She left Rome dejected, sure that she had failed in her mission. She did not know that her zeal had impressed many. While she experienced opposition, her dream became a reality, and at the age of fifteen she entered the Lisieux Carmel.

Read the rest over at Catholic Exchange.

Catholic Exchange: St. Padre Pio’s Unification with Christ

I am going to be honest. The saint whose feast day the Church celebrates today both fascinates and intimidates me. St. Pio of Pietrelcina, also known as Padre Pio, was born the son of two peasant farmers on May 25, 1887. His given name was Francesco after St. Francis of Assisi and at the age of five years old he made the decision to dedicate his life to God. His family was devout. They prayed the Rosary nightly, attended daily Mass, and abstained from meat three days a week in dedication to Our Lady of Mount Carmel. Even though his parents could not read, they made a point of memorizing Scriptures and shared them with Pio and his siblings. His mother reported that he could see and speak with Jesus, Our Lady, and his Guardian Angel from a young age. This was so common in his life that he assumed that everyone could do the same. He was reported to have experienced heavenly visions and experience ecstasies in his youth, as well as throughout the rest of his life.

At a young age Pio expressed a desire to be a friar. He had great interest in the Capuchin Order, but discovered that he needed more education before they would accept him. His father arranged for him to have private tutoring so the he could meet the academic requirements of the Order. In 1903, at the age of 15, he entered the novitiate of the Capuchin friars at Morcone and on January 22 he took the Franciscan habit and the name Friar Pio, in honor of Pope St. Pius I, whose relic was in the Santa Anna Chapel at Pietrelcina. It was then that he took the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience and committed to living the evangelical counsels.

After seven years of study and a period of severe illness, Pio was ordained to the Priesthood in 1910. A few years later World War I broke out and he was drafted into military service. He assigned to the 10th Medical Corps in Naples. His service did not last long, however, due to his poor health. It took a few years for the Italian military to figure out that Pio was too sick to serve and he was finally declared unfit for service in 1918.

Read the rest over at Catholic Exchange…

St. Catherine of Siena and The Thirst for Holiness

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Today we celebrate the feast of St. Catherine of Siena who is one of the four female Doctors of the Church. One of the great literary works found in the Catholic tradition is The Dialogue of St. Catherine of Siena. The Dialogue is private revelation dictated by her to her secretaries while she was in a state of ecstasy and it was completed in 1370. It is a work rich in fruit and spiritual depth and includes four treatises on the topics of: Divine Providence, discretion, prayer, and obedience. There is too much wonderful material to cover in so short a piece, so I will focus on material found in the Treatise on Divine Providence, namely the call to personal holiness through prayer and suffering.

St. Catherine was born in 1347 and was the twenty-fifth child of Giacomo and Lapa Benincasa. She began receiving visions from Our Lord at the age of 6, when she saw Jesus seated in glory along with members of the Church Triumphant: Peter, Paul, and John. It was then that Catherine resolved to give her whole life to Christ. Her parents desired that she marry, but she remained resolute in her abandonment and surrender to God. Eventually her parents recognized the workings of God in her life and they relinquished her to God through prayer. Catherine decided to follow the great Dominican Founder, St. Dominic, and became a tertiary (now known as Lay) Dominican. She fully embraced a life of poverty, chastity, and obedience. She remained with her family as she served the poor and sick in her community. It was in her service to the sick and suffering servants that she recognized the love of the Crucified Christ.

Read the rest over at Catholic Exchange.