Thursday, 31 January 2013

St. Bridgid of Ireland (+ 523)

Brigid's Cross

Friday, 01 February 2013
St. Bridgid of Ireland (+ 523)

Abbess, and Patroness of Ireland
(c. 453-523)
        Next to the glorious St. Patrick, St. Bridgid, whom we may consider his spiritual daughter in Christ, has ever been held in singular veneration in Ireland. She was born about the year 453, at Fochard in Ulster. During her infancy, her pious father saw in a vision men clothed in white garments pouring a sacred unguent on her head, thus prefiguring her future sanctity. While yet very young, Bridgid consecrated her life to God, bestowed everything at her disposal on the poor, and was the edification of all who knew her. She was very beautiful, and fearing that efforts might be made to induce her to break the vow by which she had bound herself to God, and to bestow her hand on one of her many suitors, she prayed that she might become ugly and deformed. Her prayer was heard, for her eye became swollen, and her whole countenance so changed that she was allowed to follow her vocation in peace, and marriage with her was no more thought of. When about twenty years old, our Saint made known to St. Mel, the nephew and disciple of St. Patrick, her intention to live only to Jesus Christ, and he consented to receive her sacred vows. On the appointed day the solemn ceremony of her profession was performed after the manner introduced by St. Patrick, the bishop offering up many prayers, and investing Bridgid with a snow-white habit, and a cloak of the same colour. While she bowed her head on this occasion to receive the veil, a miracle of a singularly striking and impressive nature occurred: that part of the wooden platform adjoining the altar on which she knelt recovered its original vitality, and put on all its former verdure, retaining it for a long time after. At the same moment Bridgid's eye was healed, and she became as beautiful and as lovely as ever.

Evening Prayer 2.1.10, St. Brigid (or Bride) of Ireland, c. 523

St. Bride's, London, designed by Christopher Wren

Kindling Our Lamp - Symeon the New Theologian

Sanctuary Lamp glow and flickering
Cleft in the Log (Cleft in the Rock, Moses,Elijah)
Last day of January
Thursday of the Third Week in Ordinary Time
Alleluia, alleluia! You will shine in the world like bright stars because you are offering it the word of life. AIleluia!
A lamp is to be put on a lamp-stand, The amount you measure out is the amount you will be given .
A reading from
the holy Gospel according to Mark       4:21-25
JESUS SAID TO his disciples, "Would you bring in a lamp to put it under a tub or under the bed? Surely you will put it on the lamp-stand? For there is nothing hidden but it must be disclosed, nothing kept secret except to be brought to light.
If anyone has ears to hear, let him listen to this." ...

Kindling Our Lamp
God is fire and he is so called by all the inspired Scripture (cf. He 12:29).
The soul of each of us is a lamp.
Now a lamp is wholly in darkness, even though it be filled with oil or tow or other combustible matter, until it receives fire and is kindled.
So too the soul, though it may seem to be adorned with all virtues, yet does not receive the fire-in other words, has not received the divine nature and light-and is still unkindled and dark and its works are uncertain.
All things must be tested and manifested by the light (cf. Ep 5:13).
The man whose sours lamp is still in darkness, that is, untouched by the divine fire, stands the more in need of a guide with a shining torch, who will discern his actions.
As he has compassion for the faults he reveals in confession he will straightway straighten out whatever is crooked in his actions.
Just as he who walks in the night cannot avoid stumbling, so he who has not yet seen the divine light cannot avoid falling into sin.
As Christ says, "If any­one walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees this light.
But if anyone walks in the night, he stumbles, because he has not the light in him" (In 11:9- 10).
When he said "in him", he meant the divine and immaterial light, for no one can possess the physical light in himself.

The Discourses (Classics of Western Spirituality) [Paperback]

C. J. De Catanzaro (Author), Symeon (Author)

 (5 customer reviews) Amazon com Book Description

January 8, 1980 Classics of Western Spirituality
Father George Maloney in his introduction to this volume focuses directly on the special importance of St. Symeon and on how similar the religious situation of his era is to our own. "Concretely, the battle of two opposing views of theology centered around St. Symeon and his mystical apophatic approach of the experiencing of God immanently present to the individual, as opposed to the "head trip" scholastic theology as represented by Archbishop Stephen of Nicomedia, the official theologian at the court of Constantinople. Stephen represented the abstract, philosophical type of theologizing while Symeon strove to restore theology to its pristine mystical tendency as a wisdom infused by the Holy Spirit into the Christian after he had been thoroughly purified through a rigorous asceticism and a state of constant repentance."

This great spiritual master of Eastern Christianity was an abbot, spiritual director of renown, theologian and important church reformer. These Discourses which form the central work of his life were preached by St. Symeon to his monks during their morning Matins ritual. They treat such basic spiritual themes as repentance, detachment, renunciation, the works of charity, impassiblity, remembrance of death, sorrow for sins, the practice of God's commandments, mystical union with the indwelling Trinity, faith and contemplation.   

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

February is dedicated to the Holy Family

February, 2013 - Overview for the Month


VATICAN CITY, 31 JAN 2012 (VIS) - Pope Benedict's general prayer intention for February is: "That all peoples may have access to water and other resources needed for daily life".
  His mission intention is: "That the Lord may sustain the efforts of health workers assisting the sick and elderly in the world's poorest regions".
BXVI-PRAYER INTENTIONS/                    VIS 20120131 (70)

The month of February is dedicated to the Holy Family. The first two and a half weeks of February fall within the liturgical season of Ordinary Time which is represented by the liturgical color green. Green, the symbol of hope, is the color of the sprouting seed and arouses in the faithful the hope of reaping the eternal harvest of heaven, especially the hope of a glorious resurrection. The remaining days of February are the beginning of Lent. The liturgical color changes to purple — a symbol of penance, mortification and the sorrow of a contrite heart.
The Holy Father's Intentions for the Month of February 2013
General: That migrant families, especially the mothers, may be supported and accompanied in their difficulties.
Missionary: That the peoples at war and in conflict may lead the way in building a peaceful future. (See also
Feasts for February
The feasts on the General Roman Calendar celebrated during the month of February are:
2. Presentation of the LordFeast
3. Fourth Sunday in Ordinary TimeSunday
5. AgathaMemorial
6. Paul Miki and CompanionsMemorial
8. Jerome Emiliani; Josephine BakhitaOpt. Mem.
10. Fifth Sunday in Ordinary TimeSunday
11. Our Lady of LourdesOpt. Mem.
14. Cyril and MethodiusMemorial
17. First Sunday of LentSunday
21. Peter DamianOpt. Mem.
22. Chair of St. PeterFeast
23. Polycarp of SmyrnaMemorial
24. Second Sunday of LentSunday
Focus of the Liturgy
The Gospel readings for the Sundays in February are taken from St. Luke and are from Year C Cycle 1 of the readings.
February 3rd - Fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time
In this Gospel Jeus is rejected by his own townfolk.
February 10th - Fifth Sunday of Ordinary Time
This Gospel is about the miraculous catch of fishes after Peter and the Apostles had fished all night.
February 17th - First Sunday of Lent
Jesus is tempted by the devil in the desert.
February 24th - Second Sunday of Lent
The Gospel relates the story of the Transfiguration of Christ.
Highlights of the Month
The month of February is traditionally dedicated to the Holy Family. Between the events which marked Christmas and the beginning of Christ's public life the Church has seen fit to recall the example of the Holy Family for the emulation of the Christian family.
The Feast of the Presentation (February 2) or Candlemas forms a fitting transition from Christmas to Easter. The small Christ-Child is still in His Mother's arms, but already she is offering Him in sacrifice. February 12, Shrove Tuesday, will find us preparing for Ash Wednesday.
The saints that we will focus on this month and try to imitate are St. Agatha (February 5), St. Paul Miki & Companions (February 6), St. Jerome Emiliani and St. Josephine Bakhita (February 8), Our Lady of Lourdes (February 11), Sts. Cyril and Methodius(February 14), Peter Damian (February 21), Chair of St. Peter (February 22) and St. Polycarp(February 23).
The feast of St. Blaise (February 3), St. Scholastica (February 10) and the Seven Founders of the Orders of Servites (February 17), will not be celebrated this year because they are superseded by Sunday.
From Feast to Fast
Though the shortest month of the year, February is rich in Liturgical activity, for it typically begins in one Liturgical Season (Ordinary Time), ends in another (Lent), and contains a feast (Presentation of our Lord) that bridges two other seasons (Christmas and Easter)! In addition, the faithful may receive in February three of the four major public sacramentals that the Church confers during the liturgical year: blessed candles, the blessing of throats and blessed ashes.
The Solemnity of the Presentation of the Lord on February 2nd harkens back to the Christmas mystery of Light except that now, Christ, the helpless babe, is “the Light of Revelation to the Gentiles who will save his people from their sins.” Candles, symbolizing Christ our Light, will be carried in procession this day, as will be the Paschal candle during the Easter Vigil Liturgy.
"The Light of Revelation" shines more brightly with each successive Sunday of Ordinary Time, until its magnificence – exposing our sinfulness and need for conversion – propels us into the penitential Season of Lent. We accept the cross of blessed ashes on Ash Wednesday (February 22) and plunge ourselves into the major exercises of Lent – fasting, prayer, almsgiving – laying our thoughts and prayers on the heart of our Mother Mary. She, who offered her Son in the temple and on the Cross, will teach us how to deny ourselves, take up our cross daily, and follow after her Son.

COMMENT: Essence of Prayer

The ‘Mellifluous’ St. Bernard, as in the previous Reading, can be rather prolix.
What follows, a very much writing from Sr. Ruth Burrows is accessible in attractive words,  - not having the book!


How the Seed Bears Fruit
I am totally convinced that our God, the God we see in Jesus, is all-love, all-compassion and, what is more, is all-gift; is always offering God's own Self as our perfect fulfilment. I believe, through Jesus, that we were made for this, and that it is divine Love's passion to bring it to perfect fulfilment in us. So when I set myself to pray I am basing myself on this faith and refuse to let it go. I just take it for granted that, because God is the God of Jesus, all-love, who fulfils every promise, this work of love is going on, purifying and gradually transform­ing me. What I actually experience on my conscious level is quite unimportant. In fact I experience nothing except my poor, distracted self.
From ‘Essence of Prayer’ 2006 by Sister Ruth Burrows is a Carmelite nun at Quidenham in Norfolk, England.

The Essence of Prayer: 
Foreword by Sister Wendy Beckett
Continuum International Publishing Group, 1 Jul 2006 - Religion - 224 pages
Prayer is a word we take for granted but what do we mean by prayer? Almost always when we talk about prayer we refer to something we DO. But Burrows argues that our Christian knowledge assures us that prayer is essentially what God DOES.
And what God is doing for us is giving us the Divine Self in love. This is the vision of a contemplative nun who contradicts the heresy of so much modern spiritual writing. The growing fascination in the contemplative and monastic life is evidence of the profound appeal of this approach.
For this there is a real hunger. Ultimately, we live for God and not for ourselves.

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

The Aqueduct - St Bernard

Scotland's longest and tallest aqueduct,
crosses the 
River Avon (Falkirk) 
Ordinary Time: January 30th
Wednesday of the Third Week of Ordinary Time

Holy Gospel Saint Mark 4:1-20.
And he taught them at length in parables, and in the course of his instruction he said to them, 
Hear this! A sower went out to sow...

Commentary of the day : 
Saint Bernard (1091-1153), Cistercian monk and doctor of the Church 
Sermon for the Nativity of Mary « The Aqueduct », §13, 18

"The sower sows the word"
Brethren, we must take care that the Word who came forth from the Father's mouth and came down to us through the mediation of the Virgin Mary does not return back empty (Is 55,11) but that we return grace for grace to him through this same Virgin. Let us then call to mind unceasingly remembrance of the Father for as long as we are left to sigh after his presence. Let us make the torrents of his grace rise back to their source that they may return to us even more abundantly...

You keep the Lord in mind, therefore do not refrain from speaking, do not keep silent about him. Those who are already living in his presence do not need this warning...; but those who are still living in faith must be exhorted not to answer God with silence. For “the Lord speaks; he proclaims peace to his people”, to his holy ones, to those who return to themselves (Ps 85[84],9). He hears those who hear him; he will speak to those who speak to him. Otherwise he, too, will keep silent if you do not speak, if you do not proclaim his glory. “O you who are to remind the Lord, take no rest and give no rest to him until he re-establishes Jerusalem and makes of it the pride of the earth” (Is 62,6-7). For sweet and lovely is the praise of Jerusalem...

But whatever the offering you bring before God, remember to entrust it to Mary that grace may rise up to its source through the same channel that brought it down to us... Have great care to present God with the little you have to offer him through Mary's hands, those most pure hands, worthy of receiving the best welcome. 
Q: Can you comment on St. Bernard’s comparison of Mary to a channel?
At this point Bernard explains Mary’s mission to be the channel, which provides the fountain of life giving waters. She is the aqueduct connecting the Father, 'the heavenly source’, to the Son, who is the fountain. The aqueduct in itself cannot do anything but because of its connectedness, the aqueduct is always filled and ready to give. The aqueduct moreover is never as strong as the fountain or the original source, yet it is able to provide enough moisture for the needy. This indeed is the function of a well to be empty of self and constantly available to be used and consumed in the service of others. 
Now what is this fountain of life if it be not Christ the Lord? … For the ‘Fountain is conveyed abroad’ in a stream even to us; its waters flow ‘in the streets’ although ‘the stranger partake not of them’. This stream from the heavenly source descends to us through an Aqueduct; it does not indeed exhibit all the fullness of the Fountain but it serves to moisten our dry and withered hearts with some few drops of the waters of grace, giving more to one, less to another. The Aqueduct itself is always full, so that all may receive of its fullness, yet not the fullness itself.  You have already divined, dearest brethren, unless I mistake, to whom I allude under the image of an Aqueduct which, receiving the fullness of the Fountain from the Father’s heart, has transmitted to us, if not as it is in itself, at least in so far as we could contain it. Yea, for you know to whom it was said: “Hail, full of grace.”

Monastic Lectionary

... my silent 'cleft in the rock'
before the stillness of the dawn,

Ordinary Time: January 29th
Tuesday of the Third Week of Ordinary Time

First Reading
Romans 9:1-18
                                                                   Responsory           Rom 9:7; Gal 3:29; 4:28
Not all are children of Abraham because they are his descendants.
+ If you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to the promise.
V. We, like Isaac, are children of the promise. t If you are Christ's ...

Second Reading
From a meditation by Saint Therese of Lisieux

When he had gone up the hill, Jesus called those he wanted; and they came to him. Jesus does not call those who are worthy to be called, but those he wants, or as Saint Paul says, God takes pity on whomever he wishes, and has mercy on whomever he pleases. So what counts is not what we will or try to do, but the mercy of God.

For a long time I wondered why the good God had preferences, why every soul did not receive grace in equal measure. I was amazed to see him lavishing extraordinary favours on saints who had offended him, like Saint Paul and Saint Augustine, and whom he practically forced to accept his graces. Or else, when I read the lives of saints whom our Lord was pleased to cherish from the cradle to the grave, allowing no obstacle to stand in their way that would have prevented them from rising toward him, and visiting them with such graces that it was impossible for them to tarnish the immaculate brightness of their baptismal robe, I wondered why, for instance, poor people were dying in great numbers before they had even heard God's name. Jesus kindly explained this mystery to me. He placed the book of nature before my eyes, and I understood that all the flowers he has created are beautiful, that the splendour of the rose and the whiteness of the lily do not rob the little violet of its scent or the daisy of its delightful simplicity. I understood that if all the little flowers wanted to be roses, nature would lose its spring adornment, and the fields would no longer be spangled with flowerets.

It is the same in the world of souls which is the garden of Jesus.
He wanted to create the great saints who may be compared with lilies and roses; but he also created smaller ones, and these must be content to be daisies or violets destined to gladden the eyes of the good God when he looks down at his feet. Perfection consists in doing his will, in being what he wants us to be.

I understood too that the love of our Lord is revealed in the simplest soul who offers no resistance to his grace as well as in the most sublime soul. In fact, since the essence of love is humility, if all souls were like those of the learned saints who have illuminated the Church by the light of their teaching, it would seem as if God would not have very far to descend in coming to their hearts. But he has created the baby who knows nothing and whose only utterance is a feeble cry; he has created people who have only the law of nature to guide them; and it is their hearts that he deigns to come down to, those are his flowers of the field whose simplicity delights him. In coming down in that way the good God proves his infinite greatness. Just as the sun shines at the same time on cedar trees and on each little flower as if it was the only one on earth, so our Lord takes special care of each soul as if it was his only care.

Responsory                                           Wis 6:7; Ps 113:13
The Lord made both small and great, and + he takes thought for all alike.
V. The Lord will bless those who fear him, both high and low. +He takes ...

Monday, 28 January 2013

Comment: Mystics In Search of Sanctity

photo by Thomas Merton
Following the Sunday Homily, there is this mystical rousing thought, 'True spiritual poverty is full of grace and so holy Scripture is understood by a truly poor spiritOf this Christ says: The poor have the gospel preached to them, for only they comprehend it correctly.'
The Alternative Reading for our Night Office.

 From the Book of the Poor in Spirit by A Friend of God 
(Chapter 7, pages 85-86)

In the gospel Christ declared that Old Testament prophecy was fulfilled in him. and his hearers were scandalized. That only the spiritually poor can have a true understanding of holy Scripture is the teaching of this anonymous fourteenth century spiritual classic of the Rhineland school of mystics.

The holy Scriptures are from the Holy Spirit and he who desires to comprehend them correctly must be enlightened with the grace of the Holy Spirit. It might be objected that many understand the holy Scriptures who have not much grace nor live a holy life. That is true, but they understand them only according to the senses and not properly according to their true groundwork He who desires to understand them on their true ground must form his life to divine grace. Thus it is that holy Scripture is understood in the light of grace and not in the light of nature.

True spiritual poverty is full of grace and so holy Scripture is understood by a truly poor spirit. Of this Christ says: The poor have the gospel preached to them, for only they comprehend it correctly. This may also be observed in the apostles who preached the gospel and converted the people; they did not do this by cleverness of natural knowledge. Rather they did it in the power of spiritual poverty, for by it they surmounted all things and in it they comprehended all things. Surely grace is a flowing-out from God into the soul, but only into the soul that is empty and poor of all things that are not of God. And since holy Scripture is to be understood by grace alone, and since only a man who is poor in spirit is receptive to the grace of G od, then only a spiritually poor man correctly comprehends holy Scripture.

This is not to say that a spiritually poor man comprehends holy Scripture in all the ways in which it can be understood, but he does comprehend it in its essence and he comprehends the naked truth about which holy Scripture has been written. Since he understands the essence of truth it is not necessary for him to consider truth according to accidents nor that he should understand all figures of speech which are in holy Scripture. As Christ says to his disciples: To you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven: but to them it is not given ... Therefore do I speak to them in parables. He who comprehends the naked truth does not need a parable. Hence, because a poor spirit is empty of all things that are not like the truth, he then comprehends the naked truth and he has enough with that alone.

THE BOOK OF THE POOR IN SPIRIT, by a Friend of God (14th Century). A Guide to Rhineland Mysticism, edited, translated and with an introduction by C. F. Kelly. Ph.D. (Prag.) (Longmans, 21s.; pocket edition ).
At Thomas Merton's Hermitage  

 photo by Thomas Merton
This is too good not to share.
Brian has sent a link to an article in Image Magazine, "At Thomas Merton's Hermitage".  Franciscan priest, Fr. Murray Bodo, spends 6 days in the spring of 1995 at Merton's hermitage at Gethsemani.  The recounting of his contemplative explorations in Merton's space is profoundly insightful for those who seek a more silent and solitary balance to contemporary living and who like Merton lore. 

For example, I found it intriguing to see what Merton had on his bookshelf as he left for Asia:
On the table rest a few books I’ve pulled off the shelf from the original collection Merton had here when he left for the Far East in 1968: The Portable Thoreau, The Mirror of Simple Souls by an unknown French mystic of the thirteenth century, Early Fathers from the Philokalia, Western Mysticism, The Mediaeval Mystics of England, The Flight from God by Max Picard, The Ancrene Riwle, The Book of the Poor in Spirit by a Friend of God (fourteenth century), A Guide to Rhineland Mysticism, A Treasury of Russian Spirituality, The Teaching of SS. Augustine, Gregory, and Bernard.
Or, the way the way that time alone awakens one to the simple clarity of just being alive:
It's just an excellent article and I'm honored to add it to this eclectic collection of contemplative writing.  This is a really good find.  Thanks, Brian!