The Feast of All Carmelite Saints

(Office of Readings from the Carmelite Proper)

We belong to a race of saints

So I say now that all of us who wear this holy habit of Carmel are called to prayer and contemplation. This explains our origin; we are the descendants of those who felt this call, of those holy fathers on Mount Carmel who in such great solitude and contempt for the world sought this treasure, this precious pearl of contemplation that we are speaking about.

Let us remember our holy forebears of the past, those hermits whose lives we aim to imitate. We must remember our real founders, those holy fathers whose descendants we are. It was by way of poverty and humility, we know, that they came to the enjoyment of God.

On the subject of the beginnings of Orders, I sometimes hear it said that the Lord gave greater graces to those saints who went before us because they were the foundations. Quite so, but we too must always bear in mind what it means to be foundations for those who will come later. For if those of us who are alive now have not fallen away from what they did in the past, and those who come after us do the same, the building will always stand firm. What use is it to me for the saints of the past to have been what they were, if I come along after them and behave so badly that I leave the building inruins because of my bad habits? For obviously those who come later don’t remember those who have died years before as clearly as they do the people they see around them. A fine state of affairs it is if I insist that I am not one of the first, and do not realize what a difference there is between my life and virtues, and the lives of those God has endowed with such graces!

Any of you who sees your Order falling away in any respect, must try to be the kind of stone the building can be rebuilt with—the Lord will help to rebuild it.

For love of our Lord I beg them to remember how quickly everything comes to an end, and what a favor our Lord has done us in bringing us to this Order, and what a punishment anyone who starts any kind of relaxation will deserve. They must always look at the race we are descended from—that race of holy prophets. What numbers of saints we have in heaven who have worn this habit of ours! We must have the holy audacity to aspire, with God’s help, to be like them. The struggle will not last long, but the outcome will be eternal.

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The Good Samaritan (a reflection)

A man fell victim to robbers as he went down from Jerusalem to Jericho. They stripped and beat him and went off leaving him half-dead. But a Samaritan traveler who came upon him was moved with compassion at the sight. He approached the victim, poured oil and wine over his wounds and bandaged them. Then he lifted him up on his own animal, took him to an inn and cared for him.      (Luke 10: 30, 33-34)

GoodSamaritan

 

“…moved with compassion at the sight. He approached the victim…”

These words the Spirit magnifies,  tuning the ear to them separately.

 

“Whose wounds?” “Who? — moves so tenderly?

pouring oil and wine over wounds and bandages them.”

A sudden understanding in-sweeps,

I — the beaten, the robbed, the one left half-dead.

Mercy in the Oil, Mercy in the Wine, [in the Bread!]

I — the lifted, the cared for,

                                           by one who sees, and is moved.

One whose eyes gleam with flames of living Mercy,

— not just Samaritan — not just Hearer.

 

Gods Holy Spirit moves — breathes life into heart and mind.
It is He who moves forward in goodness, not I.

 

Antiphon 1: Evening Prayer 1 for St Teresa of Jesus.

“The unfolding of your words gives light; it gives understanding to little ones”

Celebrating the Solemnity of St Teresa of Jesus

From the Office of Readings [Carmelite Proper].

Reading 2. Except from the autobiography of St Teresa

We should always be mindful of Christ’s love.

Whoever lives in the presence of so good a friend and excellent a leader, who went ahead of us to be the first to suffer, can endure all things. The Lord helps us, strengthens us, and never fails; he is a true friend. And I see clearly, and I saw afterward, that God desires that if we are going to please him and receive his great favors, we must do so through the most sacred humanity of Christ, in whom he takes his delight. Many, many times have I perceived this through experience. The Lord has told it to me. I have definitely seen that we must enter by this gate if we desire His Sovereign Majesty to show us great secrets.

Thus your Reverence and Lordship should desire no other path, even if you are at the summit of contemplation; on this road you walk safely. This Lord of ours is the one through whom all blessings come to us. He will teach us these things. In beholding his life we find that he is the best example. What more do we desire than to have such a good friend at our side, who will not abandon us in our labors and tribulations, as friends in the world do? Blessed is he who truly loves him and always keeps him at his side! Let us consider the glorious Saint Paul: it doesn’t seem that any other name fell from his lips than that of Jesus, as coming from one who kept the Lord close to his heart. Once I had come to understand this truth, I carefully considered the lives of some of the saints, the great contemplatives, and found that they hadn’t taken any other path: Saint Francis demonstrates this through the stigmata; Saint Anthony of Padua, with the Infant; Saint Bernard found his delight in the Humanity; Saint Catherine of Siena—and many others about whom your Reverence knows more than I.

We must walk along this path in freedom, placing ourselves in the hands of God. If His Majesty should desire to raise us to the position of one who is an intimate and shares his secrets, we ought to accept gladly. As often as we think of Christ we should recall the love with which he bestowed on us so many favors, and what great love God showed in giving us a pledge like this of his love; for love begets love. Even if we are at the very beginning and are very wretched, let us strive to keep this divine love always before our eyes and to waken ourselves to love. If at some time the Lord should favor us by impressing this love on our hearts, all will become easy for us, and we shall carry out our tasks quickly and without much effort.

Unforgiveness [let’s talk about it]

Another title for this blog could be “Let’s talk about it – a way to foster forgiveness” but I didn’t think about it before publishing.

Recently, I came across a poem titled “A Poison Tree” written by William Blake, and I was both intrigued and amused by it.  It’s theme seemed worthwhile considering and I’m writing this little blog as a kind of thinking out loud – very casual, rendering of my thoughts.  I’m using the poem is a tool – not a perfect one – for my thought process about interpersonal dynamics that could lead to a spirit of unforgiveness.  Here’s the poem as written:

A POISON TREE
by William Blake

I was angry with my friend;
I told my wrath, my wrath did end.
I was angry with my foe;
I told it not, my wrath did grow.

And I watered it in fears,
Night & morning with my tears:
And I sunned it with smiles,
And with soft deceitful wiles.

And it grew both day and night.
Till it bore an apple bright.
And my foe beheld it shine,
And he knew that it was mine.

And into my garden stole,
When the night had veiled the pole;
In the morning glad I see;
My foe outstretched beneath the tree.

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For me, this poem speaks clearly in how it captures the result of unforgiveness; the very real and sometimes not well attended to (on the conscious level) behaviours of our fallen human nature. Behaviours that feed what is essentially destructive to relationships between people that can lead to a sort of “death.”

Most of us will of course deny we wish to cause the death of anyone, as the poem portrays, even the death of an enemy. Yet for me, the first stanza declares where the problem starts, takes root and that there is a solution. But the choice made was according to the labels of Friend or Foe. No doubt, my view will be naïve, simple and lacking in a robust investigation of the how’s and why’s of getting into these fixes. But please do follow along if you don’t mind going down rabbit warrens…

We belong to all sorts of communities: family, school, church, work, to name a few. And so we live in relationship with other people in our various communities. And depending on how closely we interact find that disagreements and misunderstandings are simply a reality of life.  I would even venture to say that we try to avoid those things that separate or cause disharmony; yet it does happen. And depending on our emotional makeup will from time to time find ourselves either faced with, or harbouring strong/passionate feelings in need of reconciliation.

So, using the poem as my backdrop for how badly things can end when there is a lack of reconciliation,  I will ask some questions without getting too down in the weeds heavy.

Blake’s poem begins with how wrath is diffused by the telling of it. The distinction here of course being that it is between friends.  My first question is this:  In our relationships, why would we choose to have a foe?  Then when something displeases us, hide our “wrath”?

Are we perhaps afraid of sharing ourselves for what we are? Maybe what we are angry at is somehow little; even petty? That could be (of course). Or might we simply fear the unpleasantness of facing whatever the issue could be? (The combination of these two things is a sad commentary, because what I’m displeased about is petty and I don’t want to voice my “wrath,” that’s how the rest of the poem comes into play.)

Then with a very slight twist – maybe, we are afraid of being honest? Of calling-out an action over which we only have some slight reason to be concerned. Sort of a “why do I have to be the one to bring this up?” when it could (possibly should) be addressed by someone else. And yet, this thing we’ve seen needs attention and if unchecked, will in time grow into something hateful, harmful.

This reminds me of a much encouraged course that was offered at my workplace.  The course was called “Having difficult conversations.”  It’s been several years since I took it, but I remember getting nervous that I might have to actually use the skills the course taught.  It wasn’t an appealing thought at the time.

Which – funny enough – leads me to think about the virtue of courage. Do we lack courage? And is this what is actually necessary to bridge the gap between anger and peace? Between destruction and health/life?  Does it take courage to reach reconciliation?

Conversely, why is it easy to “tell wrath” to a friend? For it is quickly done and all the negative fallout simply never occurs.  Is it because we feel a certain safety in stating our cause…with a friend?  That we are on equal footing with a friend and so suffer none of the qualms of exposing ourselves; of making ourselves vulnerable?  Ah ha!  There’s that condition we all try to shy away from; vulnerability.  As if it is at all possible for a human being to be invulnerable….

Anyway, these aren’t particularly deep, soul shaking questions but I liked that the poem had such a stark and graphic continuum resulting from un-checked hatred; or unforgiveness.

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On a side note:  The poem uses two familiar images: Apple and Tree.  I believe these images snagged my imagination; and caused me pore over the poem.  I know next to nothing about William Blake and while the poem itself is placed inside a collection called “Songs of Experience” the images felt right for me to take the poem seriously.  I’m not a scholar but I liked that the images spoke to me, and seemed to point to [for me] the Christian realities of sin, unforgiveness, mercy and reconciliation.

Desert Prophet

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I returned to the desert canyon and
listened to the breeze chime its
silver psalms that speak of life in
the Spirit. A life that teeters
on the edge of my fingertips.

Here, the sky casts wide its blue
mantle over the hills, letting them
be both fringe and border. Words are
not spoken. I ask for nothing. Yet,
in the ebb and flow of a wordless
tide, received instruction

“Surrender.  All that a prophet needs is here,
packed into the parched earth, carried on the
backs of scratching insects, drifting from
aromatic leaves and twisty trees.”

No smoke billows from rocks to mark a
threshold, over which to enter the sacred
abode. Yet the plaintive song of doves mingle
with the sound of a mighty restless torrent.

***
A flock of little birds arrive.  Their feathers
burn blue against the sagebrush. One of them
fixes me with his glassy gaze as if to speak…
Has he a question? A message?

Well, they’re gone now.  Leaving as
swiftly as they came. Yet the echoing
thunder of tiny wings beat upon
the door of my soul.

Orphans Memory

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What tipped the scale and made branches whip my neck?

The Farmers Almanac clearly states, this is
not the time of squalls. Them ones that blow in quick
from the West.  Carrying wooden baskets stuffed
with tears – and scattering them from tattered hands
against my neck and ears.

A robin holds court on her wind-torn throne.

She’s not knowing the scent of yesterdays aftershave;
nor Merry Melodies of the seventh morn. She simply
strains her breast; flexes her rust-stained throat;
scraping and stabbing at a lead-grey sky…
in absence to your voice.

Note: “Even after 4 decades, the orphan still grieves for the sound of her father’s voice.”

Pondering the Heart

“More tortuous than anything is the human heart,
beyond remedy; who can understand it?” Jeremiah 17:9

Our heart’s a curious vane, fixed
seemingly inside the chest. Yet
in other boundaries it does not dwell
In say a foot, or in a hand
– ‘cept for writing of its love.

Stop then, consider
it’s source-less perimeter.
Where was it born?
When does it rest?
Where will it end?

For after days of endless rain,
When heavy clouds stamp out
all hope – does it not leap
for joy at a patch of blue?
Then soars above it too with
the glowing of the sun?

And in those times of trouble, deep,
– turn itself – outside in
to wrap you there, within
its shell of feelings. Forever
dim.

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Note: the quoted verse from Jeremiah has long enticed my mind; and
makes me wonder if melancholia is caused by troubles within the heart
instead of the mind.