Neither are the souls of the pious dead separated from the Church which even now is the kingdom of Christ. Otherwise there would be no remembrance of them at the altar of God in the communication of the Body of Christ. -- Saint Augustine of Hippo from “The City of God

Monday, September 04, 2017

Saint Teresa of Calcutta



Agnes Bojaxhiu, was born in the city of Skopje, on August 26, 1910. No one could have known then that a truly remarkable woman was born to this century, a woman who would lead the way in the revolution of love in a world grown weary of it. This is a world which has become gluttonous for the impure, the immodest and the immoral, where the Sacred has given way to the 'gods' of prosperity and power in a consumer age.

None could have predicted the enormous impact this one woman had on the world, where Presidents would tremble at her words, where Queens would honour her with titles and awards and a nation which would grant her the title of Peacemaker...in a world torn apart by war. Mother Teresa herself took no note of the titles, benefits or other worldly accruements which came her way, she instead embraced the lowly, the impoverished and the diseased, not only did she embrace them, she lived with them as one of them, for to Mother Teresa they were the face of Christ in the poorest of disguises. Where many would spit upon the face of the diseased, Mother Teresa kissed them, where others threw money at the beggars to appease their conscience, Mother Teresa became a beggar, for there is no shame in being born poor, the shame lay with the hoarders of wealth. To the abandoned, Mother Teresa was their refuge, to the forgotten, Mother Theresa remembered them, to the diseased ravaged Mother Theresa was their step to dignity. To the wealthy Mother Teresa was their bane, to the powerful Mother Teresa was their conscience, to the despots Mother Teresa was to be feared. Though to the poor Mother Teresa was their face of....love. Many would try to emulate her, but there will only ever be one Mother Teresa, but what drove this remarkable woman? Where did her strength come from?

Before she took the name of Mother Teresa, she was first known as Sister Mary Teresa, after her favourite Saint, Terese of Lisieux and lived among the Religious community of the Sisters of Loreto. Here she lived for many happy years as she taught the children of the more wealthy and prominent families in India at St. Mary’s School for girls. This was a happy time for Sister Teresa a time of fulfilling God's Will by teaching the children of the future and Sister Teresa adored the girls and the community in which she lived, she showed no inclination to leave as she embraced her life and lived it with real joy and exuberance. This part of her life must not be underestimated for it is true that Sister Teresa felt complete as she taught the girls whom she had come to love and was loved in return by them. What then drove Sister Teresa to leave the community that she loved with every fibre of her being? How could she leave those in whom she had embraced for what and to where? Dare she give up the security of what she had known and walk out to the unknown?

One can only imagine the inner turmoil that Sister Teresa felt when upon leaving on a spiritual retreat, this remarkable Sister felt 'the call within a call', and then in absolute obedience she acted upon Jesus calling her to be with Him in the service of the poorest of the poor. But this action like many more cost Sister Teresa, and she mourned deeply for the life she was to leave behind, she would miss her beloved students, her fellow Religious Sisters and Priests...the pain of loss was real and deep.

So upon gaining her Superiors permission Sister Teresa left her beloved convent, where her future had been secure into the maelstrom of noise, smells, filth, tears, rage and violence which was the streets of Calcutta. All Sister Teresa had was the 'Divine inspirations' from her beloved Spouse Jesus to "Come be My light," but though Teresa took these words seriously, how could she, one woman alone succeed amidst such squalor? These thoughts tormented the young Sister Theresa as she tried to cope with such a change in her circumstances, where there was no longer a schedule of religious life to follow. How was she to begin such a massive order when all around her everyone was destitute and diseased, the thoughts swirled in her mind...how? How? How?

To these questions came....silence! How Teresa must have longed for the security she had left behind, where everything was clean and orderly. Here she was in an inhospitable landscape to serve the poor, who were diseased, smelly, ungrateful, unhappy, and suspicious of this woman who was dressed in a blue and white Sari, and called herself Mother Teresa. Just as Mother Teresa had her doubts so too did the people she had come to serve, who was this woman in the sari? What was her 'real' motive? Was this woman mad? Did she not realise that there were murderers in the streets who would think nothing of killing a 'Religious' for they had no respect for anyone. Then finally many thought, this religious wont last long she will go back to her comforts as they looked upon her with disdain mixed with...hope? Just like Mother Teresa many thought what can one woman do?

The driving force that drove Mother Teresa was her love of God and the sufferings of Christ which she recognised in the poorest of the poor, but Mother Teresa was a teacher, she was not a nursing Religious. So in all practicalities Mother Teresa took a course on nursing, after which she returned to the streets of Calcutta, more resolute in heart, more steady in her mission and more in love than ever with her Lord and Saviour. But was her love returned? For in the heart of this devout nun lay such a barren landscape of no consolation that it tore at her heart ripping it to shreds as she endured the 'dark night of the soul'. Though Mother Teresa spent many hours in prayer, it felt as if her prayers were going into the air unheard and unloved, her every effort unappreciated by the one she so loved with all her heart and soul…why? Why such silence?

What Mother Teresa was experiencing was an aridity of soul that only a few Saints have passed through, let us not gloss over the enormity of the desolation that Mother Teresa felt within her soul as she worked and gave assistance to the poor and desolate. For the love that Mother Teresa gave to those who needed it, she herself felt her love was not returned, through the long nights of despair where her soul was deluged with doubts...not one word from her Divine Spouse....total and gut wrenching...silence.

Mother Teresa worked from sun rise to long into the night as she helped those around her, there were no clinical conditions as found in western countries. Here Mother Teresa picked up the elderly who had been abandoned in garbage dumps, and would sit and pick out the maggots that had infested the skin, the skin of those unwashed and unloved. She held dying babies in her arms who never had the chance to learn to smile, they too were abandoned to their fate, unloved and unwanted. Everywhere Mother Teresa looked was the ugliness of life at its most desperate and at the end of a long and arduous day where she had kissed and prayed for the dying, comforted the sick who would not last the night and held the children who did not recognise what it is to be cuddled. Mother Teresa turned to prayer to find no solace as her mind took in the sights and the affliction of all around her. How could this woman continue?

What kept Mother Teresa going was her love for God, for she loved God not for what He could give her, but how she could serve Him. Mother Teresa lived out the true meaning of love in all its rawness, for love is not about gaining but in giving. True love is to empty oneself for the love of others and not count the cost, it is to give when the well is dry, it is to share while your own soul feels it's own bareness. It is to give the very essence of yourself without holding back, it is to love with a passion that defies all logic, it is to love unto madness.

Mother Teresa was mad, yes! Mad with love for God, for who He is, despite her lack of 'feelings' Mother Teresa knew God, she saw her wounded Love in the face of the impoverished, in the eyes of the dying, in the unheard screams of the unborn, she saw her Beloved in everyone.

While her own spirit was undergoing its annihilation, she continued to love the unloved, irrespective of her own agonies, her own pain and her own loneliness. She would become the voice of the voiceless, the empowerment of the powerless, the conscience of the immoral and the indictment of the pro choice movement! Where others turned away, Mother Teresa embraced the ugliness that is life for many, where others compromised the truth, Mother Teresa stood firm, where some conditioned their love, Mother Teresa gave her love without need of a receipt. This woman of God would not turn away from the weak and the weary, the sorrowful and the diseased, the people who make us all uncomfortable, Mother Teresa was not a bystander of life, but instead leapt into life with all its ugliness, rawness and humiliations. For at the core of Mother Teresa's life was the words uttered by Christ Crucified.....'I THIRST'.

It is in Mother Teresa we see what we are all capable of and fail to do, one can no longer say, they cannot help the whole world....Mother Teresa showed us how. We can no longer hide our lack of caring, Mother Teresa showed us how to care. We can no longer stay silent on issues integral to our Faith where the unborn are murdered daily, where prisoners are executed in civilized countries...where children die of hunger and thirst as we water our gardens and throw away our left overs. Mother Teresa spoke up, she stood firm, she condemned the slaughter of the innocents, spoke out against the death sentence and she fed and gave water to the hungry and the thirsty.

Presidents listened to her, Princesses tried to emulate her, Queen's honoured her and the poor loved her. In Mother Teresa we see the Power of Love which had no limits...as eternity echoes with the words...."I Thirst"...

Mother Teresa died in 1997.

Blessed Mother Teresa was beatified in 2003 by Pope John Paul II.

Some Quotes

"Being unwanted, unloved, uncared for, forgotten by everybody, I think that is a much greater hunger, a much greater poverty than the person who has nothing to eat."

"Do not think that love, in order to be genuine, has to be extraordinary. What we need is to love without getting tired."

"Do not wait for leaders; do it alone, person to person."

"Everybody today seems to be in such a terrible rush, anxious for greater developments and greater riches and so on, so that children have very little time for their parents. Parents have very little time for each other, and in the home begins the disruption of peace of the world."

"Everytime you smile at someone, it is an action of love, a gift to that person, a beautiful thing."

"I have found the paradox, that if you love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt, only more love."

"If you can't feed a hundred people, then feed just one."

Friday, August 25, 2017

Saint Mary of Jesus Crucified

Saint Mary of Jesus Crucified


Palestine was a troubled State as different Muslim factions would argue over their religious differences. The land during the 1800's was mainly made up of Muslims and Christians with a very small percentage of Jewish people. It became a part of the Ottoman Empire in 1516 under the occupation of the Ottoman Turks.

Into this troubled land would be born a lily for Palestine, Mariam Baouardy. The birth of Mariam in 1846 came after many tears and much prayer by her parents Giries and Mariam Baouardy. Who had traveled to Bethlehem to pray for the birth of a healthy child after several of their children had died in infancy. The parents were overjoyed when their prayers were answered and Mariam was born to them, they then named her after the Virgin Mary in whom they had a great devotion. A few years later Mariam would be joined by a little brother named Boulos but this joy was to be short-lived as both of little Mariam's parents died.

Upon the tragic death of her parents the siblings found themselves separated as Mariam was adopted by an Uncle and went to live in Ibillin. Mariam grew strong under the care of her benevolent Uncle and though not spoiled she lacked for little. Her great joy as a child was to look after her pet birds which she kept in a cage. One day the little Mariam decided her little birdies needed a bath and through ignorance Mariam accidentally drowned them. The child was inconsolable at the terrible mishap, this little accident was to have a major impact on her life as little Mariam heard a voice within her say,
"This is how everything passes. If you will give me your heart, I shall always remain with you." These words were to take root in the young heart of Mariam.

When Mariam was 8 years old her Uncle moved his family to Egypt and once again Mariam was saddened to leave her home which she had come to love. Mariam was quickly learning to understand the transient feeling that happiness was, as shadows seem to chase after her.

The event that would change Mariam's life forever was when she learnt she had been promised in marriage to a man she had never known. It was the custom in those days that the parents would arrange their child’s nuptials in this case it was Mariam's uncle who had made the marital arrangement. This arrangement filled Mariam's heart with dread as she knew that God did not wish for her to be married but for her to remain a virgin, her uncle did not see things this way and flew into a rage. Mariam spent the night before her wedding in prayer when once again she heard within her this voice,
"Everything passes! If you wish to give me your heart, I will remain with you."Mariam was not surprised to hear this voice as she had heard it before once again this voice spoke to her, "Mariam, I am with you; follow the inspiration I shall give you. I will help you."

Upon the morning Mariam informed her Uncle that she would not marry, after trying to reason with her the uncle then beat Mariam and screamed his rage at her insubordination of his order. This did not change Mariams mind as she withstood the beatings and insults hurled at her by her uncle. Mariams heart was saddened that she had upset her uncle but her resolve stood firm for her love for God was greater than anything else. In order to further punish Mariam her uncle then forced her to work as a servant in his house, still Mariam remain unmoved with her decision.

Things became increasingly difficult for Mariam as she sunk into a deep loneliness under the threat of her uncles beatings and mistreatment. Through this ordeal Mariam tried to contact her brother Boulos by giving a letter to one of the Muslim hired help. This young Muslim upon learning of the mistreatment of Mariam at first was angered and then he tried to convert Mariam away from her Christian beliefs and to embrace Islam as her new faith. Once Mariam realized this young man's intentions she said fiercely,
"Muslim, no, never! I am a daughter of the Catholic Apostolic Church, and I hope by the grace of God to persevere until death in my religion, which is the only true one."

Things were not easy between the Muslim and Christian Faiths and the words of Mariam incensed the young Muslim who then tried to murder Mariam by slashing her throat with his sword. He then left her body in an alley as he thought her dead.

Mariam upon recovering and determined not to go back to her uncles home began work as a domestic servant in an Arab Christian family. For a few years this made Mariam happy and content, but always there was a stirring in Mariam’s heart as she remembered what was shared within her heart from that inner voice.

Upon speaking to her Priest Mariam was directed to join the Sisters of St. Joseph. Mariam was happy there for a while until she began experiencing mystical events which upset and frightened the other Sisters. It soon became clear that Mariam was not welcomed in their convent. One of the Sisters took her to a Carmelite convent and upon telling their stories both the Sister, Veronica and Mariam were welcomed into the Convent.

Mariam upon taking her Vows in the year 1871 took the name Sister Mary of Jesus Crucified. A most timely name as Sister Mariam was gifted with the Stigmata during another Mystical event.

Throughout Mariam's entire life, she would be touched by the Mystical when as only a child she heard that inner voice. Later she was treated upon have her throat slashed by a lady dressed in blue who helped her recover, she felt herself transported to Heaven where she glimpsed the throne of the Holy Trinity and grew close to the Virgin Mary whom she loved. Upon joining the Carmelites of Pau further Mystical gifts would be given to Sister Mariam as she was gifted with not only the Stigmata but also with the readings of hearts, the ability to levitate while in prayer, transverberations of the heart, prophecies and other Mystical phenomena.

These experiences did not puff up Sister Mariam's pride but instead made her deeply aware of her own nothingness as she said many times to her fellow Sisters,
"Everything passes here on earth. What are we? Nothing but dust, nothingness, and God is so great, so beautiful, so lovable and He is not loved."

Sister Mariam also had an intense devotion to the Holy Spirit and sent a prayer to Pope Pius IX as she tried to re-ignite a passionate devotion and love for the Holy Spirit. Her prayer was simple in its eloquence,
"Holy Spirit, inspire me. Love of God consume me. Along the true road, lead me. Mary, my good mother, look down upon me. With Jesus, bless me. From all evil, all illusion, all danger, preserve me." Many people from all over the world continue to pray this simple prayer daily.

Sister Mariam would also spend some of her short life in India when a Carmelite Convent was founded in Mangalore. She would later return to Pau in order to help begin a new foundation of the Order of Carmel in Palestine. Wherever Sister Mariam traveled news of the her Mystical life preceded her and many curious people came to look at this young Mystic. Sister Mariam would often fall into trances and described it this way to a fellow Sister,
"I feel as though my heart is open; as though there is a wound in it; and when I have certain ideas and impressions of God which move me, it feels like someone touched the wound in my heart, and I fall in weakness, I lose myself". Not everything that touched Sister Mariam though was from the Divine. Many times she was often tempted by the evil one to doubt God's Goodness and do disobey her Superiors, but Sister Mariam was always able to differentiate the voices that spoke within her.

Within the Convent walls Sister Mariam suffered an a terrible accident from which she did not recover she died in 1878 while heard whispering over and over,
"My Jesus, mercy."




Saturday, April 30, 2016

ON THE VENERATION OF ST. JOSEPH (From Goffine's Devout Instructions)




St. Alphonsus Liguori writes that the example of Christ who so highly venerated St. Joseph while on earth, and who during his whole life was obedient to him, should suffice to inspire all hearts with devotion to this great saint; and he, whom the King of kings placed so high, indeed deserves especial veneration from man. To encourage this veneration, St. Theresa wrote: “I do not remember that I ever prayed to St. Joseph for anything which he did not procure for me; the great graces God has given me through him, and the many dangers of body and soul from which he has preserved me, are indeed truly wonderful. It seems as if God has given to other saints the grace to assist in some special manner those who seek their intercession; but of this glorious saint my experience is that he assists in every need. The Lord appears to show by this, that as He was subject to him on earth, so in heaven he does every thing which St. Joseph requests of Him. Others, whom I have advised to have recourse to him, have experienced the same thing. I would gladly so advise every one.” “I have a great devotion to this saint,” continues St. Alphonsus, “because I have so often experienced that he can obtain so much from God. For many years I have been accustomed to ask a special grace on his festival, and my prayer is always answered. As we must all die, we should all have a special devotion to St. Joseph, for all Catholics consider him as the patron of the dying, who assists in the hour of death those who have venerated him, and this for three reasons: because Jesus loves Him, not only as a friend, but as His father, on which account he is a more powerful intercessor than any other saint; because St. Joseph has a special power against evil spirits who attack us in the hour of death; for since he freed our Saviour from the snares of Herod, God has given him the power to guard the dying from the attacks of the devil; lastly the assistance which Jesus and Mary rendered him in the hour of death, gives him the right to procure a sweet and holy death for his servants. If they, therefore, invoke him in the hour of death, he will not only aid them himself, but procure aid for them from Jesus and Mary.” Should not these words of so great a saint encourage us daily to honor St. Joseph? Should not this hope of being assisted in the hour of death by Jesus, Mary and Joseph, move us to devotion to the foster-father of Christ?

PRAYER TO ST. JOSEPH. O St. Joseph, Mary’s pure bridegroom, who because of thy purity and love of justice wast chosen for the foster-father of Jesus Christ, do not leave me, I beseech thee, in my neces¬sities and cares; ask for me the grace to live a just and pure life like thine, and grant, that I may obtain the happiness of dying, like thee, in the arms of Jesus and Mary. Amen.

-- Goffine's Devout Instructions