Friday, June 23, 2006

Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus

Behold this heart which has so loved men...

This is not the best reproduction of the image of the Sacred Heart but it is one that I like very much as it shows Our Lord offering us His heart, His love - presenting it to us freely, as He does in the Eucharist.

Don Marco sent me the hymn from the Office of Matins for the feast:

O Heart of God¹s Eternal Word,
Creation¹s origin and end:
How great the mystery of your love
To make of man, mere dust, your friend.
O Heart of flesh which has sustained
The wound we on ourselves inflict:
How great the mystery of your love
Outpoured on us the blind and sick.
O Heart of Jesus, strong and sure,
Obedient to the bitter end:
How great the mystery of your love
To suffer Golgotha¹s torment.
O Sacred Heart whose burning love
Craves to set all the world ablaze:
You yearn for us to share your life:
What can we offer but our praise?
O Heart of God the Father¹s joy,
O Heart of Christ, the Spirit¹s lyre,
What else have we in heaven but you,
Our morning praise is all desire. Amen.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Some thoughts on wearing the Scapular of Our Lady

Todays first reading at Mass continues the cycle of the life and mission of Elijah culminating in what is referred to as the 'assumption' of the prophet and handing over to the prophet Elisha the prophetic charism. The icon pictured illustrates this well.

In the scripture Elisha prays "May I receive a double portion of your spirit." in response to Elijah's command to ask whatever legacy Elisha may have desired. Elijah replied, "If you see me taken up from you, your wish will be granted, otherwise not." The scripture states that a fiery chariot came between the prophet and his disciple and took Elijah up to heaven in a whirlwind, while the prophetic mantle fell at the feet of Elisha. Elisha tore his garments in mourning over the loss of his spiritual father and took up the mantle, rolling it up and striking the water of the river Jordan, causing it to divide, thus allowing him dry passage across the river bed. How many layers of spiritual significance to this story! Nevertheless, I have only one simple reflection, and that is regarding the Order of Carmel.

Pictured: St. Simon Stock receiving the scapular of Mt. Carmel.

First of all, the Order of Carmel has always seen the prophets Elijah and Elisha as the 'proto-founders' of the order. In the passage from Kings wherein Elijah sees the "little cloud rising from the sea" from his perch atop the summit of Mt. Carmel many have written that this little cloud prefigures the Virgin who would bear the Savior. Archeological evidence tells us hermit followers of Elijah inhabited Mt. Carmel even in Old Testament times, and of course Christian hermits lived there later, in the spirit of Elijah, hence the origins of the Order of Mt. Carmel.

Perhaps it is a stretch on my part but I have always seen the Scapular of Mt. Carmel somehow prefigured as it were, in this episode in the Book of Kings when Elijah passes on the mantel to Elisha. It seems to me when Our Lady gave the scapular to St. Simon there was a similar significance. To be sure it is a sign of her favor and protection, first to Carmel and then to the lay person who wears her 'livery' as the medieval word refers to it. Ponder the idea and consider it's meaning.

Without doubt there is a prophetic charism imbedded in the Order of Carmel, signified by Our Lady herself. The scapular of Mt. Carmel provides numerous benefits and graces for those who wear it, and it is a garment that the Church has highly praised and given many indulgences to. One may either wear the cloth scapular, which one must be enrolled in to enjoy all of the indulgences, or one may simply have it blessed by a priest and still enjoy the protection of the Mother God. A Scapular medal may also be worn in place of the cloth one, but the wearer must have been enrolled in the cloth scapular first in order to gain the same privledges. It all sounds so complicated, but it is not. Some people like to nit pick about how big it should be, or if the medal may substitute, but that makes it more of a fetish or talisman than a revered sacramental of the Church. (The Carmelite order has come out with revised conditions regarding the Scapular devotion.)

There are many other scapulars of various orders in the Church, as well as those that have cropped up from private revelations. If one's devotion moves one to wear these, that is fine, but sometimes I see the occasional person wearing all of them at once, as well as numerous medals and crucifixes - that's a bit off. Sometimes people use sacramentals to make themselves feel holy or appear holy, sometimes they use them superstitiously, all of that should be discouraged. In today's Gospel Our Lord cautions against "performing our religious deeds in order that people may see them."

For the laity however, the scapular is normally worn beneath one's outer garments, the devotion is a matter of the heart, it signifies our consecration to God, and the entrustment of ourselves to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, as well as a guarantee of Our Lady's protection and guidance.

The affiliation to the Order of Carmel (indeed simply being a baptized and confirmed Roman Catholic) gives our lives a prophetic character, that of witnessing to our faith, albeit sometimes silently and hidden, much as the Scapular we discreetly yet devoutly wear next to our heart.
Icon: The Assumption of the prophet Elijah.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

June 21, St. Aloysius (Louis) Gonzaga

St. Aloyisius Gonzaga

The young Jesuit cleric was born to a princely familyof Castiglione in Lombardy, Italy in 1568. He renounced his inheritance and legally turned it over to his brother, after which he then entered the Society of Jesus. Known for his angelic purity and perfect observance of the rule, he died after contracting the plague while ministering to those afflicted.

He is an attractive saint for youth as well as young novices in religious life. St. Aloysius pray for us who have not followed your innocence that we might at least follow the example of your penance and charity towards the poor. Amen.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

The secret to prayer; Lectio Divina (For the feast of St. Romuald, June 19)

Pictured; The Vision of St. Romuald.

St. Romuald saw in a vision, like the prophet Jacob, his monks ascending a ladder to heaven. It brings to mind the classic practice of prayer, known as Lectio Divina; the monastic way of prayer our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI hopes will have something of a renaissance in our time. It is perfectly compatible with the Teresian method of 'mental prayer' - when St. Teresa of Avila writes that she went to prayer with a book, I feel certain she understood this manner of prayer.

The Ladder of Monks, Guigo the Carthusian
On Lectio Divina:

ONE DAY while I was occupied with manual labor
Cum die quadam corporali manuum labore occupatus
I began to reflect on man’s spiritual work,
de spiritali hominis exercitio cogitare coepissem,
and suddenly four steps for the soul came into my reflection:
quatuor spiritales gradus animo cogitanti se subito obtulerunt
[and] contemplation
scilicet meditatio,

THIS is a ladder for monks
by means of which they are raised up from earth to heaven
qua de terra in coelum sublevantur,

It has [only a] few separate rungs, yet its length is immense and incredible:
gradibus quidem distincta paucis, immensae tamen et incredibilis magnitudinis,

for its lower part stands on the earth,
cujus extrema pars terrae innixa est,

while its higher [part] pierces the clouds and touches the secrets of heaven.
superior vero nubes penetrat et coelorum secreta rimatur

JUST as its rungs have various names and numbers,
Hi gradus sicut nominibus et numero sunt diversi

so also so they differ in order and merit;
ita ordine et merito sunt distincti;

and if one diligently searches out their properties and functions
quorum proprietates et officia,

- what each [rung] does in relation to us, how they differ from one another and how they are ranked-
quid singuli circa nos efficiant, quomodo inter se differant et praeemineant, si quis diligenter inspiciat,

he will regard whatever labor and study he expends as brief and simple compared with the great usefulness and sweetness [he gains].
quidquid laboris et studii impenderit in eis breve reputabit et facile prae utilitatis et dulcedinis magnitudine.

Reading is careful study of [Sacred] Scripture,
Est autem lectio sedula scriptuaru

with the soul’s [whole] attention:
cum animi intentione inspectio.

Meditation is the studious action of the mind
Meditatio est studiosa mentis actio,

to investigate hidden truth, led by one’s own reason.
occultae veritatis notitiam ductu propriae rationis investigans.

Prayer is the heart’s devoted attending to God,
Oratio est devota cordis in Deum intentio

so that evil may be removed
pro malis removendis

and good may be obtained.
vel bonis adipiscendis.

Contemplation is the mind suspended -somehow elevated above itself - in God
Contemplatio est mentis in Deum suspensae quaedam supra se elevatio

so that it tastes the joys of everlasting sweetness.
eternae dulcedinis gaudia degustans

HAVING assgned descriptions to each of the four rungs,
Assignatus ergo quatuor graduum descriptionibus,

we must see what their functions are in relation to us.
restat ut eorum circa nos officia videamus.

FOR the sweetness of a blessed life:
Beatae vitae dulcedinem

Reading seeks;
lectio inquirit,

meditation finds;
meditatio invenit,

prayer asks;
oratio postulat,

contemplation tastes.
contemplatio degustat

Reading, so to speak, puts food solid in the mouth,
Lectio quasi solidum cibum ori apponit,

meditation chews and breaks it,
meditatio masticat et frangit

prayer attains its savor,
oratio saporem acquirit,

contemplation is itself the sweetness that rejoices and refreshes.
contemplatio est ipsa dulcedo quae jocundat et reficit.

Reading concerns the surface,
Lectio in cortice,

meditation concerns the depth
meditatio in adipe,

prayer concerns request for what is desired,
oratio in desiderii postulatione,

contemplation concerns delight in discovered sweetness.
contemplatio in adeptae dulcedinis delectatione. ( taken from "The Ladder of Monks")

June 19: Feast of St. Romuald

Pictured, St. Romuald, in the white habit of the Camaldolese, by Fra Angelico.

St. Romuald (952-1027) entered the Benedictines in atonement for his father's sin of murder - he killed a relative. Seeking to live a more solitary life as a hermit, he left the cenobitic life of the Benedictine abbey to search for an appropriate refuge. He eventually founded monastic communities throughout northern and southern Italy. He reformed the monastic life of his time, which had become rather decadent. St. Romuald's most famous hermitage is in Camaldoli, near Arezzo in Italy. In the United States we have two Camaldolese foundations, both different congregations with different expressions of the eremetic life. One is in Big Sur, California, the other in Bloomingdale, Ohio.

Shortly after my conversion and return to the Church (thirty some years ago now) I wanted to leave everything and enter the strictest monastery possible. I really believe it was much more than first fervor driving me, but I quit my job and took to the road, never realizing that this was the begining of my pilgrimage of prayer in life. I found myself at Steubenville and moved on to Holy Family Hermitage, the more strictly enclosed and eremetical of the two Congregations of Camaldolese in the U.S. - at least they were then.

St. Conrad of Parzham

The Prior sent a lay brother to the gate to send me away. (The Prior evidently was having some psychological problems as well as being frustrated that 'charismatic' students were just showing up unanounced at the hermitage, hoping to pray with the hermits.) The lay brother was older and looked a little bit like St. Conrad of Parzham. He was so kind to me and did his best to explain why the Prior refused to see me. He took me on a secret tour of the enclosure and prayed with me in the chapel, but in the end he had to send me on my way. He gave me the bread he was to eat that day to take with me. I often wonder if he continued to pray for me. Because of his age, I expect that he is now dead, I hope he still remembers me in heaven.

Feast of Corpus Christi

Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI at the elevation during the Consecration of the Mass.

The remaining sign of the Eucharistic Miracle of Lanciano. The Eucharistic species remains intact, Therefore it can be considered something of an ongoing miracle.

Eucharistic Miracle
Lanciano, Italy 8th Century A.D.

(Taken from "The Real Presence" website.)

Ancient Anxanum, the city of the Frentanese, has contained for over twelve centuries the first and greatest Eucharistic Miracle of the Catholic Church. This wondrous Event took place in the 8th century A.D. in the little Church of St. Legontian, as a divine response to a Basilian monk's doubt about Jesus' Real Presence in the Eucharist.

During Holy Mass, after the two-fold consecration, the host was changed into live Flesh and the wine was changed into live Blood, which coagulated into five globules, irregular and differing in shape and size.

The Host-Flesh, as can be very distinctly observed today, has the same dimensions as the large host used today in the Latin church; it is light brown and appears rose-colored when lighted from the back. The Blood is coagulated and has an earthy color resembling the yellow of ochre.

Various ecclesiastical investigation ("Recognitions") were conducted since 1574.
In 1970-'71 and taken up again partly in 1981 there took place a scientific investigation by the most illustrious scientist Prof. Odoardo Linoli, eminent Professor in Anatomy and Pathological Histology and in Chemistry and Clinical Microscopy. He was assisted by Prof. Ruggero Bertelli of the University of Siena.

The analyses were conducted with absolute and unquestionable scientific precision and they were documented with a series of microscopic photographs.These analyses sustained the following conclusions:

The Flesh is real Flesh. The Blood is real Blood.
The Flesh and the Blood belong to the human species.
The Flesh consists of the muscular tissue of the heart.
In the Flesh we see present in section: the myocardium, the endocardium, the vagus nerve and also the left ventricle of the heart for the large thickness of the myocardium.
The Flesh is a "HEART" complete in its essential structure.
The Flesh and the Blood have the same blood-type: AB (Blood-type identical to that which Prof. Baima Bollone uncovered in the Holy Shroud of Turin).
In the Blood there were found proteins in the same normal proportions (percentage-wise) as are found in the sero-proteic make-up of the fresh normal blood.
In the Blood there were also found these minerals: chlorides, phosphorus, magnesium, potassium, sodium and calcium.
The preservation of the Flesh and of the Blood, which were left in their natural state for twelve centuries and exposed to the action of atmospheric and biological agents, remains an extraordinary phenomenon.

Another miracle contributing to the feast of Corpus Christi.

Bolsena-Orvieta, Italy
A priest had difficulties believing in the Real Presence, and blood began seeping out of the Host upon consecration. Because of this miracle, Pope Urban IV commissioned the feast of Corpus Christi, which is still celebrated today. ("The Real Presence")