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Wednesday, June 24, 2009

California, here I come!

Tomorrow I leave for California and only return on July 15; then I leave again on July 27 for a Higher Education meeting followed by our Provincial Assembly in Chicago until August 2. I may be writing a blog on some days, but do not be surprised to find out that I will really be taking a vacation from the blog for the times when I am away. Reverend Mother Stuart said that the best vacation was a change of occupation. I sit at the computer too many hours a day so may just give it up for part of this summer. I will be making my retreat at Villa Maria del Mar in Santa Cruz from July 6-13 and count on your prayer for me during this time. I always think of it as a "honeymoon" with the Lord. It is a short retreat this year with only six nights there, but it is a directed retreat and I look forward to it. Last year I had thirty days there but the Holy Spirit was my director - I hope I still have the Holy Spirit as the real director, but it will be good to also have a Sister of the Holy Names who directed me in a couple of retreats years ago. She is very loving and has a great sense of humor so I am really looking forward to seeing her again. Actually, I did have a visit with her last summer when on a "break day" in my third week of retreat.
Before the retreat I will be visiting a friend from high school and college and then one who I met when I first came to Miami in 1986; she moved to California two years ago and I miss her very much so it will be good to catch up with her. Then I will have a few days in Oakwood to see my friends at our retirement home there before the retreat.
Have a great summer all of you with good reading and time to just be! Look for some interesting Letters from Maryland on Ignatian Spirituality to be published in this blog after July 16 to prepare for the Feast of St. Ignatius.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

More Books for Spiritual Reading

Spiritual reading is to nourish our souls. There are so many good books out there. The truth is that when you find a book that really nourishes you, just stop and stay with it. I like to read the entire book and then go back and start a slower reading, take time to savor certain passages, underline them, and then maybe I keep going back to the same book for a long time; other books get put back on the shelf and then suddenly seem to come alive and I pick them up finding God on each page and wonder why these books did not speak to me before - books fit the needs of our souls and so we put some away only to find that later it is nourishing us more than we could imagine!

One such book is Love Poems from God: Twelve Sacred Voices from the East and West. This is not a new book having been published in 2002, but it is rather new for me and I have found it one I now keep picking up. I must add it now to my list in this blog.

Jose Hobday, recently deceased, has a delightful book called Stories of Awe and Abundance This book contains many of the stories that Jose used in talks or I read elsewhere, but what a joy to find 49 wisdom stories in the same little book. We are suggesting this book as a way to understand something of the native American spirituality, but anyone would enjoy reading Sister Jose Hobday,OSF.

Monday, June 22, 2009

New Spiritual Books for Summer Reading

I am adding more books to my list of spiritual books. I have wanted to do this for some weeks so have several to add and think there will be spiritual nourishment for my readers with a good selection of some delightful books.
First, I added two books about St. Paul as we are coming to the close of the year especially dedicated to Paul. I really enjoyed both. I may have mentioned Cardinal Carlos Martini's The Gospel According to St. Paul: Meditations on His Life and Letters. The first part treats of Paul's Conversion; the Passion of Paul; and Paul's Transfiguration. The Chapter on Paul's Transfiguration kept me going back to it in prayer and I seem to have mentioned the attitudes and the modes of action that Martini attributes to Paul. The second part of the book is Apostle by Vocation and I liked the chapter on Love for the Community especially.
I also read Benidict XVI's book on St. Paul and enjoyed it, too. It is really the talks he gave at the General Audience each week from July 2, 2008 to February 4, 2009. It is very readable and informative.

I also have enjoyed another book that I mentioned before by David L. Fleming, S.J. What Is Ignatian Spirituality? published by Loyola Press, 2008. It is a good introduction to Ignatian Spirituality and I have selected it as a book for the International Online Certificate Program in Spirituality Studies. The September course begins with St. Ignatius and Ignatian Spirituality and this is a simple book that highlights the aspects of Ignatian Spirituality. Dave taught me in the Institute for Religious Formation (the IRF) many years ago and was an excellent teacher; we have remained in touch through the years and I enjoyed reading his latest book very much.

I will be introducing you to still more books in the days to come.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Father's Day

This is not the picture I was looking for but it still is one that can evoke memories of my Dad. My Dad taught me to swim. We loved the water and he bought a lake lot when I was a child and I used to go spend Sunday at the lake with him. It was during the second world war so he was trying to sell the lake lots to earn some extra money. We would go to early Mass and then take off for the lake until evening. Sometimes my mother and siblings came, too, but my sister was still too young to be alone all day and my brothers were just babies so it was hard for my mother to be there all day except when we were using a friend's home. We just had a lot and a dock, but the lake was beautiful and my Dad did not worry about me. I would come back for a picnic lunch with him. I guess what brought all this to mind was that I usually had my Dad to myself on those Sundays and I loved that. I also had my Dad just to myself on long rides to and from school when we lived in the county and I went to the Academy of the Visitation. My Dad was special and I am grateful for both of my parents. My life has been marked by their love.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary

I do not like any of the pictures of the Immaculate Heart of Mary but love this feast. Now it really does not get celebrated as it is the day after the Feast of the Sacred Heart, but it used to be August 22 and was a great day to have a real holiday before the vacation ended. I think Mary's Heart is so united to the Heart of Jesus that she rejoices in our celebrating on Friday and letting her day be rather quiet.

I brought another one of Jessica Powers' poems to share with you. It is not about Our Lady, but it seems she inspired me to pray over it and I want to share it with you.

My Heart Ran Forth
My heart ran forth on little feet of music
to keep the new commandment.
(O feast and frolic of awakening spring!)
It would beguile the world to be a garden
with seeds of one refrain: My little children,
love one another;
so my heart would sing.

But wisdom halted it, out far afield,
asked: did you sow this seed
around your house, or in the neighbor's garden
or any nearby acreage of need?
No? Then it will not grow in outer places.
Love has its proper soil, its native land;
its first roots fasten on the near-at-hand.

Back toward the house from which I deftly fled,
down neighbors' lanes, across my father's barley
my heart brought home its charity. It said:
love is a simple plant like a Creeping Charlie;
once it takes root its talent is to spread.

The above poem is giving me much to reflect upon and I suspect it may be part of my retreat this summer- especially that line ""its first roots fasten on the near-at-hand," I now know who my retreat director will be and I am beginning to pray for her and for the others who will be with me in retreat from July 6-13. Please pray for us, too. It is a short retreat, but having had a month last year that was so heavenly, I will be happy with these days and hope to have another three days later this year. For me, my retreat is the most important time of the year, and has been for many, many years.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Feast of the Sacred Heart

I like Jesus holding the lamb and it says more to me about his Sacred Heart than the pictures I find on Google. Unfortunately I have not been able to scan my picture of the statue of the Sacred Heart at Kenwood into the computer, but I have hopes still to do this in the future.
I just added this picture of Sophie as she was being moved to St. Francis Xavier church in Paris and is outside the chasse. I think it is an incredible picture and one that maybe we should have printed. I know that I found Sophie so real when I prayed by her intact body years ago; she just invited conversation with her.

Happy Feast! We are united with the Religious of the Sacred Heart and our Associates all over the world today. The Miami area Religious will renew our vows at a liturgy and then have dinner together.
I entered for this Feast 59 years ago and remember so vividly arriving and being taken to the Chapel for a short visit with Jesus on the way to the "West Wing" where the novices lived. God is so faithful!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Eve of the Feast of the Sacred Heart

We often were in retreat for the Feast of the Sacred Heart; we have still the devotional renovation of our vows which we renew with all our hearts. We used to have a day of fasting and prayer to prepare for the Feast.

The Gospel of John gives us two texts that are the chief scriptural foundations for devotion to the Sacred Heart. These texts are John 7:37-38 where Jesus speaks of the "rivers of living water", and John 19:34, "One of the soldiers thrust a lance into his side and immediately blood and water flowed out." Both texts were commented upon by the Fathers of the Church. both are often the texts that lead me into prayer. I like the Ephesian version which has the living water flowing from Christ. "If anyone thirst, let him come to me; let him drink who believes in me; Scripture has it: 'From withing him rivers of living water shall flow." The majority of the early commentaries of the Fathers of the Church depict the Heart of Christ as the source of living water.

St. Gregory the Great (540-604), one of the last of the Fathers in the Western patristic period, related the two fundamental Scripture passages from St. John's Gospel. He saw Christ as the Rock and His wounds as the clefts in the rock. He wrote in his commentary on the Canticle of Canticles: "By the clefts of the rock I mean the wounds in His side made by the lance."

Our lovely Chapel at St. Thomas University has the base of the altar a huge piece of limestone from the Florida Keys and there are "clefts in the rock" and lead me into prayer.

Since tomorrow is the transfer of the "chasse" of St. Madeleine Sophie from Belgium to the church of St. Francis Xavier in Paris, I want to add another bit from the letter written to us for the Feast of the Sacred Heart. (I do hope that all my readers realize that the body of Sophie is still intact since her death in 1865).
Kathy Conan writes: " is fitting that Sophie be in the church of Francis Xavier, Apostle to the Nations. She herself dreamed of going to the far reaches of the world, a dream that took flesh in Philippine and her companions and continues today in newer areas of our mission. Beyond geography, she insisted that the education of her sister and of the students reach into the depths of our heritage and be open to the breadth of new worlds being explored in science, in the understanding of the human person, in the awareness of various cultures and their ways of living and thinking." I think that Sophie will like her new resting place, surrounded by God's people.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Devotion to the Sacred Heart

In one of her letters to Philippine in July 1810, Mother Barat told Philippine : "Enter his Heart, and from its depths draw the virtues you lack." This is the core of Mother Barat's spirituality: Spouses of the Heart of Jesus must enter his Heart and draw from it all that is needed to live in union and conformity with his Heart which is the grace of our vocation.

I think it is good to give a bit of background about the devotion to the Heart of Jesus. Seen in the broadest way, devotion to the Sacred Heart is as old as the Church. In a sense, it began even before the Incarnation, but more properly it is devotion to the love of God for us manifested in the humanity of Jesus Christ. It is, therefore, devotion to the Word Incarnate with the focus on the physical heart of Christ. As such, it was implicit from the beginning but developed gradually in the life, worship, and teaching of the Church.

The roots of the devotion are found in the Old Testament. God, as a loving God, entered into a relationship with humanity. The New Testament reveals the extent of His love even to giving us His only Son. With the Incarnation, God entered our history in a human form. The "Word was made flesh": in Jesus Christ, God's love was made visible.

The word, "heart" in the biblical sense stands for the whole person. It is used to indicate the deepest core of a person; it is the place of thoughts, feelings, desires and motives. Sophie would have the novices study the Heart of Jesus as an open book in which they study what regards each particular virtue. It is from the "esteem which the Heart of Jesus had for these virtues, and the manner in which He practiced them," that they should hold them and the manner in which they should put them into practice. Afterwards, "when they are called upon to perform acts of these different virtues, they need but cast one look upon the Sacred Heart of Jesus in order to conform and unite themselves to His interior dispositions."

I have just read the Letter for the Feast of the Sacred Heart from our present Superior General, Kathy Conan, that arrived yesterday. I am sure she will not mind if I quote the following:
"Throughout her own journey Sophie would return to the heart of Jesus, longing to sink her roots more deeply in its soil, to absorb water and nourishment from his love. A more common image in Sophie's writings describing this dynamic of longing and nourishment is that of drawing water from the well of the heart of Jesus. From her earliest letters through to her last, she encourages her sisters to go often to this well, to drink continually of the refreshing waters of Jesus' heart."

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Still water and the Heart of Jesus

One of my favorite images to begin prayer is going down into still, deep water and entering into a cleft in the rock and then abiding in the Heart of Jesus where I am surrounded by love. I guess the above picture called forth this sharing. I was thinking how often I find myself wordless in His heart. There is a line that has meant so much to me; it is from a circular letter of Reverend Mother de Lescure to the Society of the Sacred Heart in 1949 and says "the solitude of His heart is a crushing reality." We are called to people the solitude of His heart, to descend to the depths and abide with Him.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Let us Prepare for the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus

Now, we will be celebrating the Feast of the Sacred Heart in just five days! Let us make this a week full of short prayers to the Heart of Christ. I love these that can be sung: O Sacred Heart of Jesus, I trust in You; O Sacred Heart of Jesus, I believe in Your love for me; O Sacred Heart of Jesus, may Your Kingdom come!

I also love, "Jesus, meek and humble of heart, make my heart like unto thine."

Jessica Powers has a great poem on "The Mercy of God'. I am going to copy the last part that says much to me and maybe to you, also:

I rose up from the acres of self that I tended with passion
and defended with flurries of pride;
I walked out of myself and went into the woods of God's mercy,
and here I abide.
There is a greenness and calmness and coolness, a soft leafy
from the judgment of sun overhead,
and the hush of His peace, and the moss of His mercy to tread.
I have naught but my will seeking god; even love burning
in me
is a fragment of infinite loving and never my own.
And I fear God no more; I go forward to wander forever
in a wilderness made of His infinite mercy alone.

This is taken from the Selected Poetry of Jessica Powers edited by Regina Siegfried and Robert Morneau. Sheed and Ward, 1989. Let us all abide in the woods of God's mercy!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Feast of Corpus Christi

Our present Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, tells us: "Jesus makes himself truly present in the Eucharistic Mystery, which is renewed on every altar. His is a dynamic presence that takes hold of us to make us his, to liken us to him. He attracts us with the force of his love, bringing us out of ourselves to be united with him, making us one with him."

I like the idea of the dynamic presence of Jesus taking hold of us to make us his and I know he attracts us with the force of his love. His love is eternal, without limits, unconditional, and Jesus waits for us to receive Him in the Eucharist to give us even more capacity to receive His love.

From the second Preface for this Feast: Father, all-powerful and ever-living God, we do well always and everywhere to give you thanks through Jesus Christ our Lord. At the last supper, as he sat at table with his apostles, he offered himself to you as the spotless lamb, the acceptable gift that gives you perfect praise.
Christ has given us this memorial of his passion to bring us its saving power until the end of time.
In this great sacrament you feed your people and strengthen them in holiness, so that the family of mankind may come to walk in the light of one faith, in one communion of love. We come then to this wonderful sacrament to be fed at your table and grow into the likeness of the risen Christ...

This Preface contains the theology behind the Feast. Christ is the acceptable gift and the Eucharistic memorial of his passion does bring us his saving power; Jesus does feed and strengthen us. So let us come then to this wonderful sacrament to be fed at your table and grow into the likeness of the risen Christ!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Our Lady of Grace

A good friend sent me this poem of Jessica Powers some time ago; I have used it for prayer myself and thought this Saturday would be a good time for me to share it with all those out there who read my blog. (Please know that I welcome feedback always on the content of my blog.)

The Pool of God

There was nothing in the Virgin's soul that belonged to the Virgin-
no word, no thought, no image, no intent.
She was a pure, transparent pool reflecting God, only God.
She held His burnished day; she held His night of planet-glow or shade inscrutable.
God was her sky and she who mirrored Him became His firmament.

When I so much as turn my thoughts toward her my spirit is enisled in her repose.
And when I gaze into her selfless depths an anguish in me grows to hold such blueness and to hold such fire.
I pray to hollow out my earth and be filled with these waters of transparency.
I think that one could die of this desire, seeing oneself dry earth or stubborn sod.
Oh, to become a pure pool like the Virgin,
water that lost the semblances of water and was a sky like God.

I love the line "She was a transparent pool reflecting God, only God."
May God fill us with the "waters of transparency"!

I had to look up "enisled" - I guess the grace to "hollow out my earth and be filled with these waters of transparency" is what is staying with me so may we all become "a pure pool like the Virgin, water that lost the semblances of water and was a sky like God".

Friday, June 12, 2009

Sequence for the Feast of Corpus Christi

Here is the rest of the sequence for this Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ:

Here beneath these signs are hidden
Priceless things to sense forbidden;
Sign, not things are all we see:

Blood is poured and flesh is broken,
Yet in either wondrous token
Christ entire we know to be.

Who so of this food partakes,
Does not rend the Lord nor breaks;
Christ is whole to all that taste:

Thousands are, as one, receivers,
One, as thousands of believers,
Eats of him who cannot waste.

Bad and good the feast are sharing,
Of what divers dooms preparing,
Endless death, or endless life.

Life to these, to those damnation,
See how like participation
Is with unlike issues rife.

When the sacrament is broken,
Doubt not, but believe 'tis spoken,
That each sever'd outward token
doth the very whole contain.

Naught the precious gift divides,
breaking but the sign betides
Jesus still the same abides,
still unbroken does remain.

Lo! the angel's food is given
To the pilgrim who has striven;
See the children's bread from heaven,
which on dogs may not be spent.

Truth the ancient types fulfilling,
Isaac bound, a victim willing,
Paschal lamb, its lifeblood spilling,
Manna to the fathers sent.

Very bread, good shepherd, tend us,
Jesu, of your love befriend us,
You refresh us, you defend us,
Your eternal goodness send us
In the land of life to see.

You who all things can and know,
Who on earth such food bestow,
Grant us with your saints, though lowest,
Where the heav'nly feast you show,
Fellow heirs and guests to be.
Amen. Alleluia.

I am sure that there is one line or verse that the Spirit will invite you to reflect upon or just be grateful for this wonderful gift of God with us.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Preparing for Sunday - Corpus Christi

Sunday is the Feast of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ. It has a beautiful sequence called "Lauda Sion", a hymn written by St. Thomas Aquinas.

I think I once explained in this blog that a sequence, from the Latin sequor, "to follow" originally referred to a hymn that followed the gospel acclamation, prolonging the gospel procession. These poems were always sung as hymns, never recited. Only two feasts have obligatory sequences now: Easter and Pentecost. Today's feast and that of Our Lady of Sorrows still have an optional sequence. Two other well-known sequences, "Dies Irae" and "Te Deum" are no longer assigned to specific feasts.

Here is the sequence for Sunday, the "Lauda Sion""
Laud, O Zion, your salvation,
Laud, with hymns of exultation,
Christ, your king and shepherd true:

Bring him all the praise you know;
He is more than you bestow,
Never can you reach his due.

Special theme for glad thanksgiving
In the quick'ning and the living
Bread today before you set:

From his hands of old partaken,
As we know by faith unshaken,
Where the Twelve at supper met.

Full and clear ring out your chanting,
Joy nor sweetest grace be wanting,
From your heart let praises burst:

For today the feast is holden,
When the institution olden
Of that supper was rehearsed.

Here's the new law's new oblation
By the new king's revelation,
Ends the form of ancient rite:

Now the new the old effaces,
Truth away the shadow chases,
Light dispels the gloom of night.

What he did at supper seated,
Christ ordained to be repeated,
His memorial ne'er to cease:

And his rule for guidance taking,
Bread and wine we hallow, making
Thus our sacrifice of peace.

This the truth each Christian learns,
Bread into his flesh he turns,
To his precious blood the wine:

Sight has fail'd, nor thought conceives,
But a dauntless faith believes,
Resting on a pow'r divine.

As this sequence is longer than I thought, I will continue tomorrow with the last 12 verses. Usually, I think, only the shorter form is used and it is only the last four verses, but I think the hymn is worth praying over as a great way to prepare this Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ.

Below is a website that will tell you all about St. Philippine Duchesne:

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Letters of Sophie to Philippine Duchesne

Mother Barat wrote to Philippine in March 1805 from Lyon and told her novice: "Grow constantly in the love of Jesus Christ. May this love burn up all that is not Himself. He asks for a heart that is undivided and has no reserves." In this letter Mother Barat also quotes from the Canticle of Canticles telling Philippine that the Lord was saying to her: "'Arise, my love, and come away...'" But where should this bride go? To Tabor? 'In the clefts of the rock, in the covert of the cliff.'" She closes this letter saying: "I should love to have more detailed news of you, and you know what interests me most--your progress in the spiritual life. Tell me more about this than about the business of the house, though I am interested in that too. With much love, I am closely united to you in our Lord, Sophie Barat"

Another letter written just four days later is signed: "In the Heart of Jesus." The main content of the letter concerns the permission given to Philippine to spend the entire night of Holy Thursday before the Altar of Repose. Mother Barat tells Philippine that she is sure she will renew her promises to our Lord, "especially your readiness to accept the cross! A big share of its burden is reserved for you, but have courage. Don't ask for it, but be open and receptive when he offers it. There will be the cross of your own character and temperament; and there will be other crosses equally painful to bear." Here we see the strength of Sophie's direction from the beginning.

In a letter to Philippine written from Amiens, January 20, 1806, just two days after Mother Barat had been elected superior general for life, Philippine is promised two pages, but the letter begins with a scolding for having wanted the consolation of Mother Barat's presence. In giving the "scolding" Sophie quotes St. Paul and says: "God forbid that I must still give you milk. That time is over for both you and me!" Instead, she promises to give Philippine "a bundle of myrrh" from her beloved Canticle of Canticles. She uses verses of the Canticle of Canticles to direct her daughter to do some "uprooting".
In the next paragraph of the same letter Mother Barat encourages Philippine and she also tells her: "You must love with a strong, ardent love, if you want to draw His Love into your heart."
My first year in Chile having been sent straight from my final profession in Rome and without knowing any Spanish was not easy. I could not speak or understand the language. One night, in a dream, St. Madeleine Sophie came to me and gave me spiritual direction and I still remember her presence vividly. I cannot remember what she told me, but it gave me deep peace and a feeling that all would be well. That experience is still with me today. I also had a marvelous dialogue with Sophie whose body is still intact after more than a century and a half. I was in Jette alone with her and pulled up a tiny chair near her and just began to talk to her and I felt her answering me. It was a real dialogue and did me immense good so it is another experience of her maternal presence in my life.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Sophie's Direction of Philippine Duchesne

Reading all of St. Madeleine Sophie's letters to an individual religious reveals her guidance through the years. She aimed at deepening the grace of vocation in each by leading them to greater union with the Heart of Jesus. She often wrote: "If you only knew how I long for you to become holy." It was this desire, coupled with her own spiritual wisdom, that made Sophie such a great spiritual director. Her gift of directing by letter began with her correspondence with Philippine Duchesne who was ten years older than Sophie, but who was one of the first novices formed by her.

Her correspondence with Philippine began on November 2, 1804. Sophie is answering a letter written by Philippine two months previously; she is accepting Philippine's offer of herself, her companions, and the old Visitation convent in Grenoble for the Society. Always humble, Sophie sends greeting to the companions of Philippine and asks: "Please ask them to pray for me; we shall pray for you too, for we must be united in our Lord as we shall soon be together."

Because Philippine treasured the letters sent to her through the years by Mother Barat, we can follow the growth in intimacy, the maturing response of both of these great religious to the calls of our Lord, and the gradual preparation and then support of this first missionary religious of the Society of the Sacred Heart to North America. I can only give some excerpts in this blog, but I hope they will not only reveal Sophie's gift for directing others by letter (never an easy thing to do), but give insight into these two great saints of the Society.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Letters of Spiritual Direction

St. Madeleine Sophie recognized and openly admitted her gift for directing others in the spiritual life. When she had not heard from someone for a long time, she would take the initiative and write to find out how that person was progressing. She encouraged her "daughters" to give an account of their spiritual life. She insisted on absolute openness; in return, she was completely honest and open with her religious. She gave feedback she had received from others as well as her own opinions, and she did not spare the truth. She was also quick to forgive and forget failings that had been humbly acknowledged.

Sophie love deeply, tenderly, faithfully, and she was not afraid to show her affection. She kept the ideal "God alone" before herself and others, and she could be ruthless when she felt someone had too much affective dependence. Despising pettiness in every form, she looked for generosity and the complete gift of self.
She wrote to her daughters to form them to be "spouses worthy of the Heart of Jesus". Most of her direction is concerned with the means to union and conformity with the Heart of Jesus. Thus, she stressed prayer, the interior life, detachment, purity of heart, humility, obedience and zeal; she also insisted on dependence on the Holy Spirit.

In her letters, spiritual and temporal advice would often be mixed in the same paragraph. Mother Barat did not isolate the spiritual life. She realized the influence the physical state had on the spiritual life and so she was concerned about both body and soul. Total consecration to the Heart of Jesus demanded forgetfulness of self, but moderation in all things was characteristic of her direction.

I will continue to reflect on Sophie's spiritual guidance through her letters. I hope my readers are beginning to see something of the personality of this great woman who was wise, holy, and fully human.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Feast of the Holy Trinity

God himself is an eternal exchange of love, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. That is good news! And he has destined us to share in that exchange.

The opening prayer for today's Liturgy is:
"Father, you sent your Word to bring us truth and your Spirit to make us holy. Through them we come to know the mystery of your life. Help us to worship you, one God in three Persons, by proclaiming and living our faith in you. Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God for ever and ever. Amen."

The alternate prayer is also so full and beautiful that I will copy it here, too, for our reflection (I usually do not take in the beauty of the prayers at the beginning of the Liturgy unless I have reflected on them ahead of time.)

God, we praise you;
Father all powerful, Christ Lord and Savior, Spirit of Love,
You reveal yourself in the depths of our being,
drawing us to share in your life and your love.
One God, three Persons,
be near to the people formed in your image,
close to the world your love brings to life.
We ask this, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,
one God, true and living, for ever and ever. Amen.

That is a prayer that is full of good theology! I love the line "You reveal yourself in the depths of our being, drawing us to share in your life and your love." That is our purpose, our reason for being - to share in God's life and love!!

This is a beautiful feast. Here is a quote I like from Archbishop Guerry who died in 1969: "To communicate in the life of the Blessed Trinity is to be introduced--by Christ, in Christ, and with Christ--into the Divine Family, so that we may enjoy he intimacy of the Three Divine Persons, may communicate in their life of light and of love, and in the full happiness of the infinite love with which they love one another in the bosom of the unity of their divine nature. It is to be happy with the happiness of God, and to be happy in the knowledge that nothing can be added to this happiness."

May we all be happy with the happiness of God"!

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Letters of St. Madeleine Sophie

Mother Barat's letters reveal her own character, problems, joys and sorrows, and her concerns at the time of writing. She writes as a spiritual mother directing her daughters rather than as a superior general correcting them; the letters reveal her maternal love as well as her wisdom. Suzanne Cooke, RSCJ, in a talk given to the Network of Sacred Heart schools in October, 2007, says this about Sophie's letters:
"...despite the widespread impact of her life's work, and the growth of the Society under her direction, she is a woman whose vision, struggle, and spiritual insights are not widely known beyond the international family of the Sacred Heart because she left no treatises behind. What she did leave us are literally thousands of letters. Sophie's correspondence is a treasure trove--her letters are filled with wisdom and intelligence, teachings on the holy life, personal reflections, astute character assessments, advice for those in leadership, and glimpses of the sufferings and struggles that she experienced. There are traces of humor and wit, of annoyance and pique...Sophie emerges as a thoroughly delightful woman and also thoroughly human,....She is very down to earth, very approachable, very like us. What sets her apart is her passion for God, the depth of her prayer, and her zeal for the mission which drove her expansion of the Society's educational works to four continents before her death."

I have found that reading the letters of Sophie is a way to get to know her. She is spontaneous and mixes the spiritual with the practical business of running schools, making foundations, struggling with her own ill health --all led her to the Heart of Jesus.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Sophie walks with us still through her letters

Humility became one of the essential virtues in the spirituality of Mother Barat. She said in a circular letter written in November of 1864: "Let us never tire in our striving with firmness of will for the perfection of humility. In vain shall we call ourselves Religious of the Sacred Heart if this His favorite virtue does not, so to speak, exhale from us in all our actions." Then she added, "We must study our divine Model and do our best to reproduce His humility of Heart."

In one of her last circular letters written on March 10, 1865, Mother Barat again speaks of humility and says that it is to be prized, "for it unites us with the Heart of Jesus, and He will only recognize as His true Spouses the lowly and the humble."

Now let us turn to St. Madeleine Sophie's personal letters of direction. There are some great spiritual guides in Christian history who have left us letters of direction and Sophie is one of them. To give direction in writing is difficult. Sophie wrote thousands of letters in which she gave personal spiritual direction. A study of her letters shows us both the qualities of the director and the characteristics of her direction which aimed at bringing others to closer union and conformity with the Heart of Jesus.
Let us follow the path traced by a few of these letters as the Society of the Sacred Heart possesses over 14,000 letters of Sophie. Eleven volumes, containing about 2,704 letters, have been published. Five of these contain letters of personal direction to individual religious; another five volumes contain letters to superiors and one volume has letters address to the Mistress Generals, Assistants, and Treasurers. These letters were published for the Society of the Sacred Heart between 1922 and 1965.
Several thousand letters have been transcribed from the originals since 1983. These letters were available for me in the General Archives in Rome and I read them straight through, for the correspondence is arranged in chronological order by persons. This is a wonderful way to grasp the characteristics of Sophie's direction as she formed each according to her temperament, needs, and graces.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Preparing for Sunday, Feast of the Holy Trinity

Jesus told his disciples just before he left them: "All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age."

We have been baptized in the name of each of the Persons in the Holy Trinity; we have the Holy Trinity dwelling in us. We are called to a personal relationship with each of the Divine Persons; we need to pay attention and consciously develop our relationship with each Divine Person. We call upon all three each time we make the sign of the cross, but are we really aware of what a tremendous mystery we are part of- three Divine Persons, one eternal God who loves us! The Father loves us; the Son loves us; the Spirit loves us. And how do I return this love?

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Heart of Jesus and a chain of souls

I feel the presence of the Holy Spirit in my life and hope you are feeling the Spirit's action in yours, too. I am using for my "walking" prayer this week, "Come, Holy Spirit and kindle your love in me!

Yesterday we looked at the first circular letter that Madeleine Sophie wrote to the Society of the Sacred Heart. After the approbation of the Constitutions in 1826 by Pope Leo XII, Sophie wrote again to tell the Society of this proof of love of the Sacred Heart that should fill their hearts with gratitude. Later Sophie speaks of the Heart of Jesus as "the principle of all our unity, to which all should be clearly united who compose the chain, whose last link should be joined to that Adorable Center." This concept of forming a chain of souls linked together and united to the Heart of Christ will be developed in the Society later as it is one based on union with the Heart of Jesus.

I wonder how many of us still make the "Morning Offering"? It is a great prayer so I am copying it here to sanctify every moment of our days:
"O Jesus, through the most pure heart of Mary, I offer you all the prayers, works, joys, and sufferings of this day for all the intentions of your most Sacred Heart in union with the holy sacrifice of the Eucharist, and I offer them especially for the Holy Father's Intentions this month(this changes each month but can be found on Sacred Space, one of the prayer sites I have listed on the right side of my blog or you can just end with the last two lines:
I pray with Mary and the whole Church
For the Pope's intentions this month."

I drew the gift of Piety on the Feast of Pentecost and one of my resolutions is to return to making the formal offering of the day to Jesus! I hope my readers will, too. The fruit of the Holy Spirit that I drew for this year is Charity - I like both and hope the Holy Spirit will increase both my piety and love this year!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Devotion to the Sacred Heart

Google has pages of images of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the only one I really like is not there. It is a picture of the statue of the Sacred Heart that is at Kenwood in Albany, New York. I have scanned it into a PowerPoint presentation on Devotion to the Sacred Heart that is now in my International On-line Certificate Program in Spirituality Studies. Maybe I will learn how to use the scanner on the printer at home and put the picture on for the Feast of the Sacred Heart which is June 19th this year.

In the meantime, I am going to return to the writings of St. Madeleine Sophie. Besides the Journal which, as we have seen, Sophie kept for two years, we have her Circular Letters, her personal letters adressed to individuals, and her Conferences. These writing reveal Mother Barat's concern to form true spouses of the Heart of Jesus who would glorify his Heart by living united and conformed with it. I will just be giving a sample of each. There are ninety-eight circular letters which have been published in two volumes. The first volume contains thirty-two letters addressed to the entire Society of the Sacred Heart. The second volume contains the other sixty-six letters which were written to certain provinces or to those in charge. These circular letters were written to give information, to teach, and sometimes to admonish. Some deal with the spiritual teaching of the foundress and the means for the advancement of the Society. I will quote a section of the very first official Circular Letter written in Paris in 1815 just after the Constitutions had been adopted by the General Council. Sophie writes:
"Our Society is based essentially and founded on devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and it must be so devoted and consecrated to the glory and worship of that Sacred Heart that all the works it takes up. all the means it employs must refer to it as their chief end. Yes, my sisters, such is the glorious and sweet end of our little Society; we will sanctify ourselves by taking the Divine Heart of Jesus as our model, and by seeking as far as possible to unite ourselves to Its sentiments and interior dispositions, and to spread the knowledge and love of this Divine Heart by laboring for the sanctification of souls."

Monday, June 1, 2009

Pentecost Monday

This picture is of Scotland and reminds me of my friends there and the wonderful trip I had to see them last September. We even had great weather! Since then, I have enjoyed reading Scottish authors, staying in touch by e-mail, and hoping to have more from Scotland join the International Online Program.

None of the above has much to do with Pentecost Monday except that I do remember that some countries in Europe still had a holiday and wonder if this is still true.
I want to share some of my thoughts on the gifts and fruits of the Holy Spirit, but in the meantime (I need more personal reflection before I put out something to be read by all), I shall share two quotes that I love and which the virtual community of prayer will recognize as being part of Dawn's prayer service for Pentecost:

"Knowing that grace is assured us, and allowing ourselves to be challenged by the Gospel, we will have the courage to make an authentic response, for the depths of a soul open to and entirely at the disposal of the Spirit. That Spirit, crying 'Abba' within each of us, gives a perfect expression to our oneness, and will create within each of us a response that is profoundly one, though it takes many different forms." R.Mother Josefa Bulto, June 29, 1969

I loved Reverend Mother Bulto and got to know her well the year I spent in Rome before my final Profession. Later, as Mother General, she came to Chile and I remember her delight in seeing the chart I had made of my first ten years in Chile.
I shared with her the graces of those years and her enthusiasm made me continue to keep a record for the next ten years so that all twenty years were recorded on it.
I also remember her telling the community that she had often thought that she acted out of good will even when her actions might have bothered others; she said that helped her to be charitable and loving when others did something that might bother her as she was sure they also were acting out of good will. It has helped me to believe that others had good intentions even when I did not like their words or actions. Anyway, I may not have expressed this clearly but it is something I am very grateful for and for her maternal interest in all that I did in Chile.

The other quote is from Concha Comacho who was the next Mother General of the Society of the Sacred Heart. She said: "At this time of Pentecost when we live and pray with Mary, let us turn to the Holy Spirit--the divine and human love we wish to show forth; let us ask that the strength of the free gift of 'union and conformity with the Heart of Jesus' may be renewed in us.'"

Concha was a charismatic leader and I shall never forget the welcome she gave me when I visited her in Spain in 1999. I had been teaching Teresa of Avila and John of the Cross in Spain that summer and went up to see her and found such love and kindness. My companion, a lay collaborator, felt the same. It makes me think of how easy it is to give God to others, if we are filled with his love!