Monday, January 30, 2012

John of Avila: Third Sermon on the Holy Ghost

I share with you some highlights of St. John of Avila's third sermon on the Holy Ghost.  These excerpts are taken from The Holy Ghost (Scepter, 1959).  What the saint writes of our essential need for the Holy Ghost and recognition of the Trinity is crucial to what I have attempted to share of some insights gained while in a profound state during Mass.

While extolling all the aid the Holy Spirit will provide us, St. John of Avila asks, "What must we do so that we may have Him?"  He answers, thus:  "Let us go to the most holy Virgin.  She is deeply loved by the Holy Ghost and He by her....He that was from eternity made Himself mortal; He that was rich became poor: and all this was accomplished through the power, the operation, the direction and the wisdom of the Holy Ghost....Let us beseech her who is so loved by the Holy Ghost to obtain for us the grace to speak of this important guest."

Then John of Avila asks his listening--and us his reading--audience, "Have you received the Holy Ghost?" Do you possess Him within you?  Blessed be the soul who has received Him!  Blessed be he who by believing has received this guest!  He gives Himself to man in return for man's faith in Him....Do you long for Him to be infused into your hearts?...It is not enough to ask Him to come, to wish to receive Him, unless your actions merit His coming to you. Your deeds must be in harmony with your conversations and your desires, if this great guest is to come and dwell in your soul."

Jesus tried to explain to the apostles why He was physically leaving their presence--He Who had been among them in person, comforting, fortifying, and teaching them His doctrine.  'I go, and I will ask the Father; and He shall give you another Paraclete in my place.'  Who is this Paraclete?  'The Spirit of Truth who will dwell within you, and teach you not wrong ideas and false doctrines, but the truth!'"

Again we are reminded of the words of Jesus: "If any one love Me, he will keep My word.  And my Father will love him, and we will come and make our abode with him."  John of Avila exhorts us to ponder these words and carry out this order to love Him.  "'He who keeps my word, loves me.'  What does this mean?  How am I to keep His word?  How am I to show my love for Him?  You must love Him; and to show that you truly love Him, you must reject and renounce all that prevents you from loving and serving Him worthily."  This takes effort, but Jesus tells us that the Holy Spirit will help us.

When it seems impossible that anyone other than Jesus Christ could ever console the apostles if He were not with them, Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would come to comfort them.  As St. John of Avila paraphrases, we, too, come to be consoled.  "'Then you will no longer grieve because I go.  Another Paraclete will come equal with Me, who will comfort and cherish you even more than I.'  Only God could heal this wound, and this is a powerful argument to believe in the divinity of the Holy Ghost.  Because if the Holy Ghost were less than God, He could not comfort the apostles in the sorrow they felt at Christ's absence.  Jesus Christ is God:  If the Paraclete who was to be sent were less than Christ, He could not be God....It is clear, then, that since Christ said He would send them a Paraclete who would be able to console them, as He could, this Paraclete must be God, as Jesus Christ was God.  No one but the Holy Ghost could fill the void in their hearts, for He, like Jesus Christ, is God."

And the following seems, to me, to express quite clearly the availability and type of union that all may have with God--although the effects of union come in various ways and often not with visible signs.  "How shall I explain...the relationship the Holy Ghost wants to establish with your soul?  It is not incarnation exactly; but a state where the soul is united with God in a union so close and so complete, that it resembles incarnation.  The incarnation was a union in which the divine Word united in His one person the divine and human natures.  But this is not the case in our union with the Holy Ghost, for we are joined to Him in a union of grace.  The former union is called the incarnation of the Word, and the other may be called spiritualization by the Holy Ghost.

"Today the Holy Ghost preaches the same message that Jesus Christ preached, teaches the same doctrine, consoles and delights man as He did.  What more could you ask for?  What more could you look for?  What more do you want?  For you have within you a counselor, a tutor, a director.  One who will guide you, advise you, encourage you, put you on the right road, who will accompany you in everything you do, and everywhere you go.  Finally, if you do not lose sanctifying grace, He will go by your side so that you may neither do, say nor think anything that is not inspired or directed by Him.  He will be your faithful and true friend; if you do not leave Him, He will never leave you."

Well, the Holy Spirit is God, as Jesus Christ is God, as the Father is God.  Thus they are His Real Presence, the Trinity.  John of Avila repeats again that "As Christ during His life on earth performed marvelous cures among the sick who needed Him and asked for His help, so this Teacher and Paraclete performs spiritual cures among those souls in whom He dwells and with whom He is in union through grace....Christ, as man, went among men performing these holy deeds, which He oculd not have done if He were not God, so we say that they were the work of God and Man.  And we call the wonders accomplished by the Holy Ghost in the heart where He dwells, the work of the Holy Ghost and man, though man here plays a lesser part."

Further, St. John of Avila writes exemplifying what Jesus was trying to explain to the woman at the well.  "...Christ, Our Lord, has said, 'If any man thirst, let him come to Me and drink.'  And if a man comes to Him and drinks of the water of the Holy Ghost and receives this Paraclete, this divine breath of the Holy Ghost, he will be filled, he will be comforted, he will be taught, he will be preserved from all error and doubt.

St. Bernard says that He will teach you everything; sometimes when alone with you--at other times through the mouth of another.  He is anxious to instruct, console, help and strengthen you.  If there were many disciples who wished to be taught this doctrine, who wished to study in this school, they would all be able to learn of this gentle Spirit, source of all wisdom....  John of Avila adds, "but in this school only they will profit by the teaching of the Holy Ghost and be accepted as His disciples...them that are weaned from the milk, that are drawn away from the breasts of their mothers: these are taught by the Holy Ghost.  He is in communication with them; He gives Himself to them.  Have the courage, brethren, to wean yourselves for God's sake!...Wean yourselves from your own will, from your own judgment!  Renounce and depart from your nature, your own opinions!

Now St. John of Avila asks a most important question:  What use is there in being baptized and believing in Jesus Christ if I have not the Holy Ghost?...As circumcision was the outward sign of the Jew, so is baptism the outward sign of the Christian, but neither baptism nor anything else can save you if you have not the Holy Ghost....Those who are baptized and have not the Holy Ghost are children of God, but not legitimate children....

"Who desires Him?...In veneration of the Holy Ghost...from this time forward, reverence and honor this Guest, serve Him faithfully; even if sorrows come to you, try to work to make Him happy; even if you have to sleep on the floor, give Him your bed; and even if you have to suffer hardship, do what you can to please Him.  For love and reverence of Him, I ask you to honor Him.  Do not give yourself over to the devil!  Do not exchange this Paraclete for anyone!  You cannot live without either the Holy Ghost or the devil.  What a difference between these two guests!  Let us look attentively at the them you should perform works of mercy and do good to everyone you can at this time. They were locked in, together with the blessed Virgin Mary; call her, win her over, as that other widow importuned and won over Elijah."

"...He will come now to those who call on Him with piety.  It is indeed amazing to see the gentleness and love with which He taught the apostles to preach and pray.  St. Peter says, 'Brethren, you have sinned; know your sins and do penance for them, for the Lord will pardon you and send you a gift.  Get ready your hearts to receive it.'  May God reveal your hearts to you, your inward disposition so that you may recognize your sins...and make you weep for them!  With your whole heart call on Our Lord, Jesus Christ, and if you do this the Holy Ghost will come to you.

"He is pure: how could He come to me who am unclean?  That is the question.  Why has the Holy Ghost so much love for Jesus Christ?  Because Jesus Christ placed Himself willingly on the Cross, in obedience to the Eternal Father and the Holy Ghost; which is why the Holy Ghost will come to you in Christ's name, and will not be repelled by your wretchedness....You see it is quite true that man is not a suitable dwelling for the Holy Ghost, just as the Cross was not the place for our Redeemer, Jesus Christ; but through this union with the Cross, has come about the union of the Holy Ghost with man.  

"The Holy Ghost advised and inspired Jesus Christ to put Himself on that mean and repellant place--the Cross; and because He did so, the Holy Ghost will come to that other mean, repellent place--the heart of man.  Call Him in the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord, because He will most certainly come and give Himself to you, and present you with all His gifts.  He will enlighten your understanding.  He will make you burn with love for Him, and will give you grace and glory."

Yes, this was a lengthy sermon; but what truth and goodness we now have even in such a short synopsis of citations?  We must have faith.  It takes faith and a loving weaning, if we have been clinging to but one Person of the Trinity.  Now we can see through Jesus' own words that He desires us to accept more, to not only love and desire Him with all our strength, minds and hearts, but also to love and desire the who He went to and asked the Father to send us:  the Holy Spirit.  We must now learn of Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit, and the Father, the Trinity.  The Holy Spirit, the Paraclete, teaches us today, now.  The Three-in-One resides in our hearts and we in Him.

This is one lesson I am being taught in the state of ecstasy that only happens during Mass--any Mass.  Perhaps others have not done as I had done, to be out of balance in my love and single-focused understanding of Jesus.  But once I learned about remaining in His Love--His Real Presence needed to lead me forth to grasping that He is the Trinity, and His Real Presence desired me to love all of Him:  the Son, the Father, and the Holy Spirit.  All are in the Mass and All are in each Sacrament, and All in each Sacrament are in the Mass. 

The Mass is the stairway to heaven.  His Real Presence, the Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, is fully in the fullness of the Mass.  And this extends to the reality that we take the fullness of His Real Presence in the Mass, with us, as we are sent out with His Real Presence in our thoughts and actions into the world of our daily lives.  With each encounter and thought, we approach all, knowing each Sacrament is alive and is living reality within us: His Real Presence, the Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

God bless His Real Presence in us and in all Sacraments within us that we present in each moment.  Yes, it is living, now truly understood:  The Trinity in the Present Moment.


Sunday, January 29, 2012

Sin, Soon; John of Avila, Continued

A reader and spiritual friend emailed, asking me to consider writing about sin.  She is correct in that it is good to ponder:  What is sin?  Understanding the answer to this question makes easier or at least strengthens the ability in conquering the temptation and acting out of sin.  A confessor shared with her some of what is and is not sin; and a confessor after Mass this evening spoke briefly, also, as I asked him his expertise.  Also at ready is the tried and true Tanquerey: Treatise on the Spiritual Life.  The late great Archbishop writes much, clearly, on the topic of sin.

However, I beg some time.  (Some of my own flaws include being drawn off in other directions. (He who scatters will not gather.)  I don't want this, but it happens; I allow it.   Lack of discipline, I call it.  We will learn later if this is, or could be, a sin.)  But now we proceed with writing of the Holy Spirit, from the third of St. John of Avila's six sermons.

"We will come to him and will make our abode with him (John 14:23).  St. John of Avila bases this sermon upon Jesus' promises to the apostles and to all of us that if we keep His commandments, if we remain in His love, He will be our dwelling place.  Who is He?  Who is We?

The following excerpt from John of Avila's Holy Ghost homilies is key to our understanding of the fullness of His Real Presence:  Who, then, are those who are to come? The Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost--because wherever the Father and the Son are, the Holy Ghost is with Them.  The Three Persons of the Blessed Trinity....And We will not go away--said our Redeemer.  'We will make our abode with him.' 

At this point, John of Avila further discusses why God made man.  "So that he might love God, and loving Him possess Him, and possessing Him, enjoy Him, and enjoying Him, become blessed.  Men were created that they might enter into a state of bliss...."  And man did enjoy bliss until we sinned.  But now Jesus tells the apostles (and us) that we do have a pathway of union with God, possible in the indwelling of the Trinity, through a process of our salvation.

Then the saint describes the religious men and women as well as the married thinking they can better dedicate themselves to God by going into seclusion or by avoiding work other than prayer and fasting.  But no, "God has called you to a certain state of life and in it you must gain salvation.  Be conscientious about doing your duty, and He will give you the grace of salvation."  Yet here he inserts a realistic warning:  "The devil will never let you be contented if you are leading a holy life, but will make you dissatisfied in order that you may lose the peace of mind you should feel in the state to which God has called you.  He will make you hope for what cannot be, for the impossible."

The way to avoid the pitfalls of sin and the tricks of the devil is to remain in His Love.  We must live in Christ in the present moment, yes, but we are discovering that Christ is not alone but is One in Three Persons, always.  Wherever is Jesus Christ is the Father and the Holy Spirit.  Jesus came that we might have life and live it fully.  How do we know if our souls are truly alive?  "By the kind of life your soul leads.  When your soul is alive it loves and knows God and devotes itself entirely to His service.  The death of the soul occurs in three ways: through neglect, through error, through the passions.  In the soul that does not love God, the will, the reason and the memory are dead.  When the soul is dead, it cannot perform a good action."

"'By me, if any man shall enter in, he shall be saved, and he shall go in and go out, and shall find pastures' (John 10:9).  Since Jesus Christ is the door, where will this door lead?  To the Holy Ghost.

Consider the many Scriptures that depict the breath of life blown into the dead.  Recall, for example, in the Old Testament when Elijah placed himself over a dead child and breathed upon him, bringing life.  Think about how many times Jesus imparted the Spirit into the sick as well as the dead, healing and reviving them to fullness of life.  "He who does not receive the breath of Christ, no matter how rich or powerful he may poor, weak and wretched....Vine and branches are nourished with the same sap; Head and body are sustained by the same holiness: the spirit of Christ and the spirit of those who are incorporated in Him, is all one....Jesus and all His servants were chiseled by the troubles and persecutions of this world and therefore, His servants deserved to dwell with Christ."

"He who desires the Holy Ghost, let him love and obey and desire Jesus Christ forever!  Is it of little importance that the Father should love you?  There are no better chains with which to hold the Holy Ghost than by loving Jesus Christ.  'Because you have loved me,' says Jesus Christ, 'the Father himself loveth you,' because you loved Me very much.  He who loves Jesus Christ and desires Jesus Christ will in return receive the Holy Ghost." 

Later in this sermon, St. John of Avila inspires what is required of us, as Christ is our example.  He quotes St. Paul:  "'For if the blood of goats and of oxen and the ashes of a heifer, being sprinkled, sanctify such as are defiled, to the cleansing of the flesh; how much more shall the blood of Christ, who by the Holy Ghost, offered himself unspotted to God, cleanse our conscience from dead works, to serve the living God?' Hebrews 9:13-14....It was the Holy Ghost that moved and incited Christ to shed His blood so readily for us.

"Do not be frightened because the Holy Ghost has brought you today to be placed on a cross...."  John of Avila concludes this sermon by reminding us that through, with and in Christ, the Father and the Holy Spirit will bring us to all goodness of union in such a way as to defy our fears and sufferings of this life.  We must keep our eyes, thoughts, hearts and souls upon heaven while existing in this realm.

I am reminded, personally, of how easy it is to be deceived.  The evil one can work through but one person to discourage us or misunderstand and mistreat.  Then others around that one person can follow suit, being used by the devil to go along with one person doing wrong--not that one still not realizing he or she is deceived.  Thus the ugliness spreads, and this includes the person mistreated, for the devil deceives and works on that one, too, who reacts to the persecution with upset and anger.  This is how evil can spread without any of the people realizing they are being used by the devil.

How quickly the devil works on us--just as surely and soon as we desire to live in Christ in the present moments.  Then when we are drawn into His Real Presence--the Father, Son and Holy Spirit--the devil strikes harder yet more secretively.  How better than to engage those who we'd least suspect of being hurtful, to turn upon the soul who is newly adopted into the abode of the Trinity?  And what great mercy of His Real Presence, the Trinity, to bring all sufferings and confusions to good in strengthening the soul even when all had seemed lost in chaos!

You can consider events in your own lives.  Of mine, I reflect briefly on the seemingly long-lasting coma of my ugliness and hurt--the snapping remarks, the chaos with relationships, my growing fear of others, the roller coaster days and nights.  I also consider with amazement the harsh and cruel ordeals of what some people said and did to me that defied which I reacted, at times, with the grace of His Real Presence but more often with the human failings of one inexperienced in rough, devil-clever, spiritual warfare.  I was so deceived; yet His Real Presence continued the gracious ecstasies which, beyond my understanding at the time, brought more hurt, unkindness, awkwardness and isolation. 

The reality is that no matter how low we fall nor how many times we succumb to the deception, no matter how hurt (yes, it comes to physical injury) or how often we complain, wail, or snipe back, His Real Presence lifts us up.  Jesus Christ shows us how to be crucified; even when we do not suffer well at all, the Holy Spirit reminds us to carry the cross for at some point we realize our love we had in the good times has bound us to Him.  He, They, the Three in One, His Real Presence--the Holy Trinity--have come to make Their abode in us.  We are through, with and in Him:  Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  For this time, at least, the coma of ugliness has been lifted and His breath revivifies not only our lives but our minds, hearts and spirits in even greater faith, hope and charity!

It is worth all.  I can say this now, thanks to so many who prayed for me--even those who departed due to my human failings and blindness.  How unexpectedly treacherous is the journey...but for His Mercy!  All glory and thanksgiving to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit!   

God bless His Real Presence in us!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

St. John of Avila: Second Sermon

First let us share excerpts from a letter by Fulgentius of Ruspe, bishop.  His words augment what is good to grasp regarding the progression of Jesus Christ in His love for us, leading us to the Father and the Holy Spirit.  Perhaps mainly lessons for my soul, the insights I am understanding may be meaningful to others.  Also, continuing from the previous post, I want to underline the reality that in not fragmenting Jesus by diminishing His Oneness with the Father and the Holy Spirit, Jesus Christ as distinct Second Person of the Trinity lived with us in this world.  He is the way, the truth, and the life.  It is just that His way, truth and life do not relegate us to the temporal alone.

In this letter by Bishop Fulgentius of Ruspe, his points supports the insights.  "Notice at the conclusion of our prayer we never say, 'through the Holy Spirit,' but rather, 'through Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord.'  Through the mystery of the Incarnation, Jesus Christ became man, the mediator of God and man.  He is a priest for ever according to the order of Melchizedek.  By shedding his own blood he entered once and for all into the Holy Places.  He did not enter a place made by human hands, a mere type of the true one; but, he entered heaven itself, where he is at God's right hand interceding for us.  Quite correctly, the Church continues to reflect this mystery in her prayer."

St. John of Avila, in his Second Sermon on the Holy Ghost, also comments: "Jesus Christ entered into heaven itself, says St. Paul, that he might appear in the presence of God to offer His passion and obtain the Holy Ghost for us.  We will be helped through the intercession of Jesus Christ because we will receive the Holy Ghost."

Fulgentius, on the topic that Christ lives forever to make intercession for us, ends his letter:  "We do not, however, only say 'your Son' when we conclude our prayer.  We also say, 'who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit.'  In this way we commemorate the natural unity of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  It is clear, then, that the Christ who exercises a priestly role on our behalf is the same Christ who enjoys a natural unity and equality with the Father and the Holy Spirit."

We now pick up again with St. John of Avila's Second Sermon, in which he explains again to the apostles (and us) that it is to our advantage for Jesus to leave.  "'It is expedient to you that I go.  For if I go not, the Paraclete will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you....I shall send you one whose name is Paraclete, one who will teach you not only about the things of today, but even about the things of the future; who will tell you who I am, for you do not yet know Me well; one who is the Spirit, who will make you understand in your inmost soul that it is not necessary to have ears to hear Him, or eyes to see Him; one who will never leave you but who will be with you when you eat, when you sleep, when you are in the church, and when you are at home; one who indeed will be your companion, for He will never be separated from you.  Be glad that I am going, because this Teacher is coming to you.  All that I have told you, He will expound.  He will be your Master, your Tutor, your Comforter.  He will console you.  Be glad that I am going."

This is an interesting next point.  St. John of Avila perhaps challenges the thoughts of many, but if we ponder his words, we realize perhaps that we have fragmented Jesus from the fullness of His Person in the Trinity, as God.  Perhaps we have held ourselves back from what Jesus wants to teach us and where He desires to lead us, just as the apostles were clinging to his humanity.  Indeed, what do we image when we think of Jesus?  What do we consider to be His Real Presence?  Is it the Trinity?

St. John of Avila: "The humanity of Jesus Christ, the Man, was not perfect as the Holy Ghost is perfect.  For the humanity of Christ was created and the Holy Ghost was God.  The divinity of Christ did not go away, because His divinity had not come down from heaven; neither did His divinity rise to heaven; only His body and soul left the world, and as Man, He was less than the Holy Ghost.  You are wrong then to ask Him not to go.  The Holy Ghost must come.  'When the Paraclete cometh, he shall give testimony of me.'  And when you know who I am, then you will understand that it is right that I should leave."  Next, St. John of Avila reminds us that if we do not fully participate or accept this fact and feast of Pentecost, we have no share in anything Christ has done or ever will do--His birth, fasts prayers, scourging, death, resurrection, nor ascension.

Then St. John of Avila asks, "Do you think this is to esteem this feast [Pentecost] too highly?  Jesus did all that He did in order that men might take part in this feast.  So sings the Church at this time--To participate in His divinity: what does that mean?  It means to celebrate this feast fittingly, to receive the Holy Ghost, who is God Himself....Cannot I get along well enough without the Holy Ghost?  No, in deed. Woe to Him who has not the Holy Ghost within him." 

Now he quotes St. Paul.  "Let none be dismayed--says St. Paul--do not live in the flesh; you do not live by your own wisdom; your conduct is not ruled by your will, your own desires.  He who was such a great preacher said to you in truth:  'But you are not in the flesh, but in the spirit'...because the Spirit of God abides within you.  And so that you may understand that your beatitude depends upon having the Holy Ghost as your guest know that if 'any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.'  It is necessary to say this again and again....He who has not the spirit of God, is not of God.  He is not the child of God and he will not be saved."

And later in the sermon, again:  "'He who has not the Spirit of Christ is none of His.  Think over them, dwell on them.  How do you feel about them? He who lives by his own spirit, does not belong to Christ.  You are not to live according to your own intellect, your own will, or your own judgment; you are to live in the Spirit of Christ....Free yourselves from earthly cares so that you may receive in your hearts the Spirit of Christ.  I should say 'of Jesus Christ' because the Spirit of God proceeds from Him as God and dwells in Him as Man."

Perhaps these words do not make sense or seem hard to apply to our daily lives and time in which we live.  All I can share is that they make much sense to me and help me comprehend all the more why the troubles and conniptions of the temporal keep us ensnared even if they seem what others are doing--even, perhaps especially, in the temporal aspects of the Church--what St. Bernard terms "the visible Church."  First we need to be people of Christ's Heart and Spirit; the temporal can unfold as it will, after, in ways that would astound us.  Union with God means union with Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit and the Father.  Our spirits (of which St. Teresa of Avila considers to be the deepest, richest, innermost part of us and encompasses our souls and all else within) must be open to and accepting of His Real Presence, the Trinity.  To live in the Spirit of Christ is to live in the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, and They in us.

St. John of Avila, in the Third Sermon, asks us who it is that Jesus refers to when He says "We" will come and make our abode with you.  But beyond all these words, we must simply and fervently beg His Real Presence of which, yes, Jesus is One and All with the Father and the Holy Spirit, to become very real in our lives, in our bodies, minds, hearts, souls and spirits.  We must live beyond temporal--not excluding temporal, but beyond.  When we have passed through various grade levels in school, we do not ever dismiss or exclude these levels, but we move beyond in progression.  That is it.

This morning my little ministry continued of positively reinforcing Catholics who exemplify fine Christian behaviors and witness.  There were four or five contacts made, perhaps seven, including one heart-felt apology.  Yes, I apologize to any I have upset or been frustrated with, or unkind to.  This includes those I do not know personally who may read these posts.  With the ecstasies during Mass and reading more of St. Teresa and other mystics who explain such matters, I understand that these phenomenon can go on for years until the soul is more purified and acceptable to His Real Presence for spiritual matrimony.  Perhaps my soul will never be acceptable until long after death and the fires of purgatory.  However, I do know that I expected Catholics to be very advanced in virtues, not envious, not proud, not controlling or icy, but very charitable and kind.  We should not have expectations of others, but of ourselves; of this I'm sure now.  All the more, I know His Real Presence has taught me that it is easy to get distracted by the too temporal aspects--negative ones, perhaps especially in the Church.  It is best to seek balance within His Real Presence, and then we may find that there is not so much that needs to be accomplished otherwise, as faith, hope and love effectuate all.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

John of Avila

I now, with blessed relief, turn to John of Avila, born January 6, 1500 and died May 10, 1569.  Spanish mystic, priest, preacher, saint and now to be Doctor of the Church (announced by Pope Benedict XVI on August 20, 2011).  He inspired and corresponded with St. Teresa of Avila, and soon I'll find out if he also corresponded with St. John of the Cross.  I've ordered a book of his spiritual letters as well as a study of his life, including his famous Audi Filia which is supposed to be a brilliant guide in the spiritual life.  Reading but four sermons, I'm convinced!

John of Avila was born into a wealthy, pious family of Jewish converts. His parents died while he was in seminary; he sold his inherited property and gave to the poor.  He is patron of secular priests in Spain.  He is holy help and friend to many, now these five centuries hence, we thankfully have his writings.

From the dust jacket of The Holy Ghost"The sermons contained in this volume treat of the necessity of knowing, conversing with, and abandoning oneself to the Holy Ghost, since His is the task of completing the work of Jesus Christ:  they show that Christian perfection must be based on the operation of the Holy Ghost in the soul."  When I selected this small volume from the hermitage shelves, it was due to mostly to read the thoughts of St. John of Avila--recently brought to mind by the Pope in an address to youth in Madrid, Spain.  Yet, as His Real Presence wills, the content immediately reinforces the insights I have received during Mass and of which I have previously tried to describe.  From St. John of Avila's thoughts, I am going to offer excerpts that stand out to me.

St. John of Avila offers description of the apostles' great attachment to the human person of Jesus, such as they were despondent when He said during the time after His Ascension that He was leaving them.  "'I go...and I will ask the Father; and he shall give you another Paraclete,' that is comforter."  The apostles looked to the sky wherein Jesus ascended.  Raising their thoughts and voices to heaven, they said: 'Lord, we long for Thee and we do not know Thee; we wish Thee to come and we do not know who Thou art.  Of Thy mercy, deign to come and console our hearts; come Lord for we are indeed sorrowful without Thee.'"

And John of Avila recommends we imitate the apostles in their longing and desire for the Holy Ghost, since the incarnate Jesus was no longer with them.  We must ask, "Comforter of my soul!  Come, console me!"   

"The first requirement for the coming of the Holy Ghost in our souls is that we should be aware of His power, and that we should believe that He can accomplish marvels.  However sad a soul may be, He is sufficient to console it; however worthless, He can make it valuable; however lukewarm, He an fire it; however weak, He can strengthen it; however lacking in piety, He can inflame it with ardent devotion.  What is the way to bring the Holly Ghost to us?  It is to be aware of His might."

"The second requirement for the Holy Ghost to be willing to come into our hearts (so that we may not be rejected or found wanting) is to have the will to receive Him as our guest, sincerely and anxiously to desire His coming....Be devoted and faithful in the service of Jesus Christ and in your hopes for the coming of the Holy Ghost, and have no dealings with evil and meanness, because the consolation of the Spirit is very gentle.  Very little will hinder its coming and it does not take pleasure in the things of this world."

This next citation is what amazes me in its linkage with not fragmenting Jesus, and rather to be willing to grow into union with the Trinity by uplifting our devotion and love, as well, to the Father and the Holy Spirit.  "Note what was said to the apostles, when they were looking up at the sky in suspense, when the Lord ascended into heaven.  They were closely united to Him.  They were longing and hoping for the visit of the Holy Ghost; they were anxious to see the Holy Ghost as their Master had declared they would; they were oblivious of themselves as they looked at Jesus Christ when He ascended into heaven.  Blessed be He, who was so solicitous for our good; who did not content Himself merely with looking after us and taking care of us; but when He had ascended into heaven was so anxious about His own, that He sent down two angels dressed in white garments who said to them: 'Ye men of Galilee, why stand you looking up to heaven?  This Jesus who is taken up from you into heaven shall so come--with the same majesty--as you have seen him going into heaven.'

"And they were told to go to the Cenacle, because there the Holy Ghost would come upon them.  You need not spend the whole day looking into the sky; you need not spend it praying or meditating.  Go, my brethren, to the Cenacle.  Do not spend your time thinking on the bodily presence of Christ!  I have often said to you that the reason the Holy Ghost did not come to the apostles while Jesus Christ was in this world was because they were transported in the Master's presence, and that alone contented them, and although the presence of Our Lord was so good and holy, it hindered the apostles from being perfect, and on this account Jesus Christ wished to go away.  'My disciples, you are deeply attached to Me, you love Me greatly.  I know that when you are with Me you are content; but I love you even more and to prove My love, I shall go away, so that the Holy Ghost may come and make you more perfect, and bring your thoughts closer to God,'  Does this not show you that the presence of Jesus Christ in some degree hindered the coming of the Holy Ghost?

"The Holy Ghost is jealous.  Do not think He is not exacting. 'I am the Lord,' said God to Moses.  So that you may understand, brethren, that if you are fond of your confessor, however holy he may be, or of the preacher who gives you good advice and consoles you, the Holy Ghost will not come until you have renounced an excessive love of human beings.  The Holy Ghost wishes to be alone with you....'But Father, he is a saint, and guides me along the road to God, and encourages me when I am in difficulties.'  Jesus Christ was holier* and even He hindered the coming of the Holy Ghost.  The servant of God, the confessor and the preacher should not stand in the way of the Holy Ghost, who should be a staircase up which you can climb to God.  Love--even innocent love--will stand in the way....What you love...let it be for God and in God...."

* On this point I wish to clarify that St. John of Avila is not suggesting that Jesus Christ is not God; later in another sermon he makes it quite clear in his explanation of the Trinity.  But what he is saying is that a dependency, such as the apostles had, upon the earthly presence of Jesus hindered the disciples spiritual evolving because they were attached to the man, not God in God.  Note that the disciples repeatedly were confused and misunderstood some of what Jesus was trying to teach them of the spiritual life and souls, when He was among them in person.  It is not too unlike what St. Paul preaches that we must grow from being milk-fed to eating meat.  We must not think of things below but learn to ponder that which is of heaven.  We must be ready to climb the stairway to heaven, and that requires a willingness and desire to not cling to one phase of our spiritual understanding and learning but to allow Jesus Christ to lead us into life in the Holy Ghost and the Father, as well.  Later, also, John of Avila will explain that there is no union with the Trinity--Father, Son and Holy Ghost--without entering into the school of the Spirit.

St. John of Avila continues in this sermon to describe and explain the passion and death of Jesus Christ, and the sacrifice He made on earth as a means to lead us to union with Him--with God, the Trinity, His Real Presence--beyond this earth but yet while we exist on this earth.  It is all progression, and yes, we learn of Jesus and by Jesus, and this is but one more phase of what He teaches, what He lived and died and ascended into so that we would progress also through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.  "Since then, through the merits of Jesus Christ, the Holy Ghost gives Himself to us, do not cease to ask for Him and to desire Him ardently!  Dedicate yourself to Him who willc ome to your soul and you will receive great consolation and no one will succeed in taking Him from you.  Prepare your dwelling-place!..."

It isn't that we diminish Jesus Christ in teachings.  It is that we allow Christ to lead us beyond the temporal aspects of dependency.  This is how Jesus can become fragmented, isolated out in our spiritual lives, such as I have tried to give examples even from my own single-minded focus and devotion for quite awhile, having come from a Protestant background that perhaps more so emphasizes Jesus alone.  But to know Jesus is to know God, as Jesus is God and came to earth to save us...and to lead us further than we had been able to grasp with our confusions in the temporal.  Part of the mission was to not only suffer and die but necessarily to introduce us to the Holy Spirit, lead us to that stairway to heaven, possible now, through passing beyond the temporal to the spiritual in a very real way.

And, it is not a matter of fragmenting the Holy Spirit, either, to a single-minded focus, relegating the spiritual to a temporal mold, or of phenomenon.  Later, also, St. John of Avila explains how necessary is this movement of being led by Jesus in progression, and that nothing much more can be fulfilled in the spiritual life without expanding our bodies, minds, hearts and spirits to the indwelling of the Trinity, and he repeats it will not happen without the Holy Ghost being truly alive in us and us in Him.

It is truly exciting; and more than exciting, as it is all truth to be actually lived!  I address His Real Presence and desire to see the Trinity always, not fragmenting any one or other of the Persons.  I pray to be totally open to the fullness of God the Father, Jesus Christ the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  Perhaps others already comprehend, but I usually if not always think of Jesus the man--not even imaging Jesus the infant or Jesus the ascended.  Much of my praying had been to Jesus alone.  I had total devotion to the Eucharist; and I still have devotion but not to the diminishing or fragmenting of any of the Persons of the Trinity.  I came to learn in my angel's telling me he was taking me to the stairway to heaven, that this means my mind's understanding had to be opened up like tearing away any blockages to the stairway, such as even cardboard taped across the stairwell.

Perhaps this is also why the temporal aspects that can be quite distracting and ugly, and are all the more upsetting.  The obstacles such as simply wanting to be able to sit during Mass on a chair that my temporal body can endure, or of being caused physical harm by someone who did not want to research or gain insights from a professional who knows of states that can occur in the progression of the soul--must be removed.  That is also why reading this first sermon of our next Doctor of the Church struck me to the core in letting go a spiritual director, even though there is great fondness and appreciation for him.  But we must love God in God, and be willing to abandon imbalanced devotion.  We must not deny any of the Three Persons of the Most Holy Trinity total temporal and spiritual access to our souls.  Begin with the Mass and the fullness therein; then live a total awareness of His Real Presence in all moments.

Citations from:  John of Avila. The Holy Ghost. 1959. Dublin: Scepter, pp. 9-28.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Scandal of the Chair Cross

Having returned from the orthopedic surgeon, the left shoulder is hopefully a muscle problem and not the rotator cuff.  It should improve by the end of the week; if not, I am to return.  It is embarrassing to have to say how the shoulder was injured, right after their knowing how the other shoulder was injured and the resultant surgery.  Yes, as a friend reminded, I explained it in a delicate manner with some humor. 

I'd promised I'd try to write about the Holy Ghost sermons of St. John of Avila upon return.  However, friends called to find out the doctor results and to help figure out now about the chair, how to get it from inside the chapel's wheelchair area through some double doors and behind the holy water receptacle, after Mass, and to retrieve it and set it up, prior.  Obviously, the elderly are not going to be asked, although it is they who would want to help as age tends to succor needs through compassion.

Outdoor Interiors 10040 Eucalyptus Folding Side Chair 

This morning a young woman sat nearby and remained after Mass.  I ventured to ask if she would be wiling to put the chair away.  Ah, youth!  We love the directness and common sense in some!  She immediately asked why it had to be put anywhere?  What was wrong with it just staying where it was?  She was incredulous.  I explained that "they" wanted it put out through the double doors in the back and tucked behind the holy water receptacle.  This time she shrugged and again asked, "Why?"  She thought it unnecessary.  So I went to the double doors to see where is this holy water receptacle, and would have had to go through the doors to find it; but I did not go through the doors.  They are immensely heavy, and I could not open them given my two pained shoulders. 

Returning to the astute young woman, I commented, "You know, we are all Christians here, aren't we?"  She nodded and smiled.  I continued, "I think you are correct that there is nothing wrong with the chair here, and if someone stronger and abler is bothered and wants to carry it back and put it behind the holy water receptacle, he or she is welcome to do so."  The young woman nodded and smiled again, returned to her prayers, but not before I told her how very intelligent and adorable she is...for she is!  What sensible thinking!

How I've been beleaguered with simply trying to have a seat I can sit on in Mass for the past over two years is, again, scandalous yet laughable.  Each day I'd wrestle the chair in and out of the car, lug it in, lug it out--other than when I could not due to the right shoulder rotator cuff problem.  But today it took a young woman with her no-nonsense Christianity to affirm that there is nothing wrong with a wood folding chair in the wheelchair area; there is plenty of space for other disabled.  I suppose I looked ancient to her, as well, and what was I doing worrying about relocating a chair... anywhere?  

We must not forget that at least sometimes, Christian reason must prevail over nonsense that becomes a scandal to others possessed with wholly, holy common sense understanding.   As a long-time friend has suggested:  It would be nice if there was a little bit of charity in this situation.  I suppose the dearth of administrative charity has been the scandal of the chair cross, all along.  Yet it is a glorious cross, despite the ludicrous aspects.  This chair cross was one of spiritual illumination, highlighted this morning by a 20-something's simple and stark wisdom.   The best part: she agreed, "We are Christians."

Now the image comes of the priest on Holy Thursday kneeling before parishioners while washing and drying their naked feet.  Surely a wood folding chair left in the chapel for an older, handicapped parishioner is not an inexcusable scandal, we hope and pray. 

St. John of Avila, enlighten us!  I will share your thoughts on the Holy Ghost in the very next post!

Monday, January 16, 2012


During the night, the pain allowed for more prayers and an update on a beautiful little girl who is just diagnosed with a rare and aggressive form of pediatric cancer.  Tumors have settled in her brain and coat her spinal column.  All the more our picayune naggings and hauntings of the evil one can irritate  us when we consider, otherwise, the seriousness of illnesses these holy innocents face in children's hospitals all over the world.

How many times do we offer our old and annoyingly painful lives in exchange for just one of these sweet children to be able to live and enjoy a full life?  Yet, we remain here for some reason; today I considered it might be due to my not being pure enough to be exchanged for such a sweet and beautiful child...not that God is in the business of making mortal exchanges.  But, there have been instances of those who made offerings for certain intentions, and mysteriously they developed illnesses while their well-intended offering was seemingly miraculously being fulfilled.

A spiritual daughter of Padre Pio is one such case in point.  She offered herself as a victim and prayer that he would finally go to San Giovanni Rotundo and begin his mission in earnest.  A terminal illness developed, Padre Pio came to see her, and that broke the hidden chains restraining his going and remaining at the monastery to which God called him.  Raffaelina Cerase died soon after, her offering fulfilled.  There's more to it, but this gives the idea.  It is a win-win situation, always.

Today a most kind occurrence happened prior to Mass.  In confession, a young priest offered to ask (on my behalf) the head priest if the chair could remain in the chapel, thus sparing me pain, suffering and more injury in having to lift it from the car and carry it in and out each day.  We agreed that the devil is doing all to keep me from Mass.  What is also obvious but not to the one who persecutes the most, is that the devil is using that person to inflict much of the suffering!  The devil loves to work from within the Church, often with those in the Church who we would think are inured to such tricks.  The devil stops at nothing--nothing but His Real Presence or who He sends to stop the antics.

I decided that while the young priest is most chivalrous in Christian kindness, I should muster courage to ask the head priest once again and not have this kind priest be placed in the middle.  In fact, I sometimes have concern that those who may help me could take some brunt by the devil.  So after Mass I made the request myself.  It is all so very silly--if it were not for the bodily pain, cost, and incapacitation the lifting and carrying of the chair cross has caused.  The head priest listened and agreed finally that the chair can remain in the chapel but must be removed between Masses and stored outside some double doors, near a holy water font.  Of course, I cannot move the chair now with both shoulders a mess; however I promised to try to find someone to do this for me.

It is ironic that this person prays daily for one of my family members to return to the Faith, when the person's very actions toward me has caused the family member all the more to despise and consider evil, the Church, and has not spoken to me because I remain Catholic.  See the tangles the devil likes to create and retain, all the while with stupid ironies known to some...and total blindness in others he uses to live out the very ironies?

As St. John of Avila reminds in His sermons on the Holy Spirit, we must wean ourselves from the temporal aspects and all the more call upon the Father and the Son to send the Holy Ghost, and pray the three of Them, the Trinity, abide in us and us in Him.  St. John of Avila repeats that there will be no union without the indwelling of the Holy Spirit as One in the Trinity.  Again we glimpse why the saints always came to the love and understanding of where the Son leads us; and  St. John of Avila presents it so clearly, utilizing Scripture passages.

Perhaps later, after my appointment with the orthopedic surgeon to make sure the left shoulder is not a torn rotator cuff, I will share more on John of Avila's writings on this topic.  It explains best what I have been trying to describe in His Real Presence as the Trinity, and to not fragment Jesus--or any of the Three Persons--to the diminishing of the Others.  In the Mass, All are present and All must be revered and uplifted with no fragmenting of One or Two or even sullied distraction from the Three in One Being.

God bless His Real Presence in us!

And let us please pray for the little children so suffering in all the hospitals of the world!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Remaining, Abiding: The Progression Is Painful

Tucked into the spiritual life is the cost of progression.  It seems one never quite expects certain things to happen or not happen.  The great saints and mystics all mention this fact of individualized "instruction" with only general precepts laid out, fine though they be.  The spiritual journey is rugged. The consolations are given, but as St. Teresa of Avila reminds, the mountains and valleys become increasingly high and low with more extremes and intensity of occurrences.

I mentioned details that seem nastily impossible to occur among Christians, the Body of Christ, the Church.  But they indeed occur as much today as when St. John of the Cross was abducted, held in a small cell, tortured and nearly starved by his own religious brothers.  Today the left shoulder is in the sling; tomorrow I will know if I must contact the orthopedic surgeon.  Last night the very thoughts of which the confessor yesterday warned, erupted angrily.  Shooing them aside was no easy task especially trying to sleep with a painful back that is best if body is on one side or the other.  Now, with both shoulders in pain, weariness won out in upset, or so it seemed, until morning Mass.

The priest had encouraged very much, saying that the devil, of course, is riled with me--and for me not to give up but to continue the praying, spiritual reading, being at Mass even under such upsetting circumstances.  He also reminded that God knows every detail of what others are doing, although He is allowing the abuse for strengthening my faith and endurance.  Plus, it is experience in learning to deal with the devil.  While he said there will be a reward and to keep that in mind, when the onslaughts creep into the emotions and memory, it seems...who cares about any reward?

So today I went to two Masses and will soon be at the third.  Not always would I do this, but the need is great.  Some dear souls are praying for the left shoulder to be healed, but thus far His Real Presence is willing otherwise in that matter.  At Mass the soul is utilized to bathe one priest in particular, with love, healing, peace and forgiveness; I am relentless in desire that the obstacles be removed and beauty and goodness and truth reign freely.

After reading yet another St. John of Avila sermon on the Holy Spirit, the soul is uplifted along with the graces of Mass, prayer, and praising.  There are so many negatives to be healed, but reading the saints and mystics and Scripture intones hope even if the soul is not registering so much the content.  However, the content of the Holy Spirit is resonating, and the desire renews for His Real Presence to take abode increasingly in my soul with prayers for this for everyone.

I'm arming myself with another book to read, and that is one that bespeaks the reality: knowledge is power.  This book is simply titled Satan.  It is time for me to renew knowledge of just what I am up against, rather than being tripped more than what might be necessary.

This is another horrific period in which to navigate the trials, suffering, injustices and provocations.  Ultimately, the grace of God saves us from ourselves and others...for those who believe, love, seek and pray.

But as to love being suffering and suffering being love, others see it as truth, as well.  That is why I return to Mass when some friends and family members are so upset that I would remain in such conditions, they no longer speak to me.  These things happen in the spiritual journey, also.  It is quite painful and makes it all seem the more lonely.  Perhaps that is yet another reason for frequenting the sacraments and participating in His Real Presence often in Mass.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Peace During Mass

There is always peace during Mass, no matter the devil's attempts to stop a soul from being there, or the lack of Christian charity that lurks among Catholics.  Today's Gospel is a reminder that Jesus came to call us sinners, the sick...not the healthy holy.

Alas, my little note must express a truth, that I am unworthy to take even five minutes of the others' time.  Plus, when we suffer enough and love enough, we begin to grasp that love is suffering and suffering is love.  

And, as the left shoulder now is wrenched from using it to lift the chair out of the car, today I had to drag it, like the cross that it is, which brought extended, angry glares from the good Christians within the chapel.  Not one offered to help me with my chair-cross.  I left it there, although the custodian most likely will be instructed to remove it.  Then it will be back on the floor for me, curled up behind the pew in the wheelchair section, small pillow for my head.

What more can a soul do who desires to attend Mass under such circumstances?  One has to deal with the physical handicaps with humility and take what comes as eye and gossip scourges.  Pray!  Pray!  How horrible is our judgment when we inflict added suffering upon others.  So much did I beg His Real Presence to please heal a young man--perhaps ill with cancer or blind and weak--led in by his parents.  Thanks be to God he can sit on the padded pews, but please heal him of his sufferings preventing an active, vibrant full life--if it be Thy Holy Will.

Am returning soon to the chapel for confession and more reading of St. John of Avila's third sermon on The Holy Ghost.  He is at the part of John's Gospel in which Jesus is explaining remain in My love, and the "We" will come and dwell in you and you in us.  St. John of Avila asks:  And who is this "We"?  It is the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost--the Trinity!

These sermons in a small book of St. John of Avila's writings on the Holy Ghost are...divine!

And, His Real Presence:  Why is it that I always feel as if some hostile eyes are reading what I write, lurking about, desiring to pounce on any word or thought they misunderstand or pluck a word or thought they deemed be riffled?  It is just always there, that sense of ill-intent, perhaps ignorantly so, but yet out there, hovering, hotly breathing over the snowy expanse of my soul's expression.  Yes, Most Holy Trinity, it is an honor if so, the scouring eyes as much as the cross-chair and both shoulders' pain.

Love Is Suffering: More on Painful Realities as Spiritual Good

Am not yet discussing how suffering is love and love is suffering, other than to repeat:  love to suffer, and suffer to love.  Rather, this is more about discerning spirits and how to view painful realities as spiritual good.  Inherent in this view is the innate necessity of comprehending to some degree that to love is to suffer and to suffer is to love.  One must fly to other levels and dimensions to grasp this painfully good reality.

A friend called last evening, just after returning from confession.  I may encounter His Real Presence in this sacrament yet today.  The soul was jangled following yesterday's attempt in the baptism renewal.  Padre Pio aptly considered confession to be eminently important for the soul, calling it the re-baptism, linking the altar to the confessional.

There may be unrest following counsel from counsel or confessor.  If so, I turn to St. Ignatius' Discernment of Spirits.   Find it in the Fourth Week, Part II: Rules for the Discernment of Spirits, Week One and Week Two.

The friend above mentioned is reading a trilogy on the topic, written by a Jesuit priest who presents the information in three volumes in an attempt to explain for the lay person, how to discern between the good spirits and the bad.  I find that reading the few pages suffices with content; however, I am sure that the books on the topic give contemporary examples that may be more accessible in style.

In part, some experiences leave spiritual desolation.  This desolation is allowed by God when He wants to teach us and guide us, strengthen us.  Or, the desolation can be implanted by the evil one in order to disrupt and corrupt our virtues, aiming ultimately for the theological virtues of faith, hope and love.  Also, when there is a desolation that the soul recognizes and advances through with virtue and merit, there is a consolation coming.  But when we have a consolation (and this can be brought by God or smoothly inserted by the devil), the good purpose is to give relief but also to build the soul for further testing and trials.  In some ways, I suppose, this interplay is our spiritual ladder to climb.

The reasonable advice is given, and I share a nutshell version.  In desolation stick to the faith and stability.  In consolation, remain faithful, grateful and serenely humble.

As a personal example, I must discern if the riling of the spirit yesterday came as a result of considering continuing with one who so desires a call to make an appointment.  However, in the course of the conversation, the reality of incorrect direction and inability to grasp or research certain aspects of mystical theology, came forth once again.  The tremendous love is there, and the desire to have spiritual conversation as well, but it is one-sided in the latter aspect.  Sometimes we cannot break from tradition; and sometimes His Real Presence chooses to lead souls via unconventional routes.

Is this small example teaching an aspect of discernment of spirits?  How did the soul react following the encounter?  Was it torn between desire and love of what might or could be, and the painful realities of what was and is and most likely will continue to be?  Does this make it a bad spirit that is trying to keep the soul from continuing with the person; or is it God trying to warn the soul that it is unwise to continue?  The soul can stir and fret, as regardless, the devil loves to have a soul in unrest.

A simple resolution is for the soul to come to closure, to lay out the painful realities either in writing or in review personally and/or with a trusted friend who knows the path already trod in the situation.  Yes, in this case there have been outrages as well as physical harm, although the counsel may not have intended those outcomes.  Could it be that His Real Presence wants the soul to continue to have salt rubbed in the wounds and be at ready for more unintended but real agony?  Sometimes asking the questions brings resolution in the actual discernment.  Sometimes questions only increase tension.

Then the soul returns to prayerful consideration, and a plan evolves.  In this case, viewing the on-going harm done that interferes with daily activity, not to mention the upset, it seems best to consider other wise counsel.  Plus, know that emotions and feelings--especially good, warm fuzzies-- can ensnare us in the ring of emotions, and that ring is external to the center of the soul in which reside the intellect and will.  What one wishes often is not the reality of what was, is and will be.

For now, in this case, it is advised to kindly decline more meetings that tend to cause disruption of spirit as well as injury--even though the soul so loves the dear guide.  He has declined meeting for spiritual discussion, cannot break with tradition, and so best to let it gently reside in his own peace.  Love is suffering, and it is much suffering to let go of someone loved for the unknown, yes, of the Beloved.  It seems pathetic to admit that there is a fear of sorts, of the unknowns involved in letting go of lovely but painful temporal ties and placing the soul consciously in the mystery of His Real Presence.  However, if the letting go is a wrong move, His Real Presence will correct it over time.

That is what we must remember in love and in suffering, when we learn to suffer and suffer to love:  Take courage, take prayer, take discernment of spirits, then take steps always toward the Beloved even if it seems one is letting go of what one hoped would be perhaps the best temporal spiritual good.  His Real Presence knows; and He will collect and correct the soul if He intended not that step.

Write the loving note of gratitude but of letting go, at least for now.  Or do whatever step is necessary in whatever situation in which discernment has been effected.  It can easily be a gentle, small step; try not to lunge or leap but let go lovingly, softly, sweetly as possible.  But be firm with oneself if the pain is strong from much love.  The more love, the more pain.  Yes, in this sense, suffering is love and love is suffering...yet even that painful reality was not grasped by the other.

Let it go and wait for the Beloved in this matter.  The soul will know soon enough if it was right discernment.  There will be peace replacing the unrest, if so.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Painful Realities are Spiritual Good

The snow begins lightly, then thickens.  It is so in the spiritual journey of trials.  The Lord allows them lightly at first; then they fall more heavily upon the body, mind, heart and spirit.  St. Teresa of Avila shares some of these painful realities.  She writes of them in third person in her Life as well as includes examples in The Way of Perfection and Interior Castles. 

However, sometimes one learns most of this saints' painful realities by reading books by scholars who have researched all her writings as well as that of others who knew her, in order to discover some of the actual details.  I, for one, find details helpful as encouragements in my personal spiritual journey.

At times I have been criticized for writing personally--tidbits transpiring in my life as a Catholic, a hermit, a victim soul and as a human being who is an imperfect but aspiring follower of Christ.  Much has occurred in the past three years, some of which I have touched upon in these blogs.  But I have not shared some of the recent ordeals which had me at the very door of spiritual death...or so it seemed to myself, family and friends.  And the spiritual governs and affects the body, mind and heart.

For one thing, there has been injustice and persecution from Catholics in particular.  This includes some who do not know me other than through anonymity, but most do not know me other than seeing me at Mass, daily.  Way back, the late Irish Da said that I am like one the farmer has marked, and the other chickens sense it is different and try to peck it to death.  So the farmer has to remove it and place it in a separate coup for protection.  I admit that I have not handled the persecution always with grace.  Sometimes I have wept and other times I have snapped back verbally.  I mention these situations as mostly being the ones regarding local parishioners who are detractors.  Some have been very outlandish in their attacks, garnering the ear of any new priest who passes through in order to influence him negatively toward what has become a rather visible situation.

Teresa of Avila is the first Catholic person I recognized, after the fact, in a corporeal vision other than the Virgin Mary.  This event occurred long before I converted to Catholicism.  But her writings and life, even now, prove very helpful on a personal level as well as for anyone reading this post.  She is our friend and guide, thankfully having written what is so helpful, including her personal experiences.  Recently we renewed friendship, she and I, when I happened to open a book I've had for awhile which consists of various Discalced Carmelite priests and scholars' contributions on various topics of her life.  The first I read, "Mystical Ecstasy According to St. Teresa", was immediately helpful.

"In fact, almost twenty years before St. John of the Cross made the redaction of his first work, The Spiritual Canticle, St. Teresa had already finished her Life, in which she describes with all precision and profundity the nature of mystical ecstasy.  Moreover, the reason which urged her to write the ife was the rich ecstatic experience which she had been unable to understand or interpret at the beginning of her profound spiritual crises.  Neither the reading of learned books nor her frequent discussions with theologians could satisfy her.  Only when the Lord gave her to understand the significance of her ecstatic experiences, and gave her the power to express them, did her spiritual crises cease....Her own personal experience, then, and the special help of God made it possible for St. Teresa to grasp and express what in the beginning she did not at all understand. "*

Her sharing saved me from yet more despair.  The entire book of essays remind me, also, that there will be ugliness and trials from those we would least expect: from other Catholics, from family members, from priests and religious.  The very aspects of mystical phenomenon which can emanate love, healing and peace to those all around can become the very goads with which others can torment and reject the person who never anticipated such things nor less that they would publicly occur.

In my own life, the cruelty has mostly come from priests.  Yes, it was painful that some parishioners would lie about me, tell others awful things totally fabricated, as well as to make ugly faces and even do the crazy signal about their ears and point at me when I'd walk into Mass.  Then there were those who would physically harm me when I was unable to move or speak or see, as the ecstasies last the entire period of Mass and often slightly beyond when the angels and saints continue to praise God in prayer and music beyond our temporal awareness.  (There is a reason why we should remain still and adoring for a few minutes after Mass!)

Perhaps most painful is the physical-emotional unkindness and injustice.  A tiny example: Due to disability of constant, high-level pain (for years after car accident and surgeries), I cannot sit on certain padded seats.  While hurtful it is to be disallowed all parish involvements due to the head priest not liking the ecstasy occurring and his discomfort with spiritual matters, I was also disallowed from chapel renovation committee.  It burns: I made a large financial contribution.  O happy fool?  All pews are now padded; I truly cannot sit on them without--within hours--utter, painful incapacity. 

This has been my cross for years; it is no surprise.  But the priest would not allow me to bring in a wood folding chair for quite some time.  He finally relented to my tearful pleas, but I have to carry the chair in and carry it out; he would not allow the chair to remain or be stored in either of two storage areas more easily accessible.  While he did not like the ecstasy occurring during Mass, he would not allow me to be in the confessional or the choir loft during Mass.  My doctor gave me a handicap permission so that I do not have to carry the chair across the parking lot but can park close, but still it is an ordeal for someone my age with a terrible back, to be lifting the chair in and out of the car and into the chapel and back out after Mass, back into the car.  On rare occasion a parishioner will offer to help, but it is a matter of timing if one is arriving at the exact same moment.  Well, this is a minor incident, after all.  There are by far worse.

Then, when my spiritual director interrogated me monthly for over a year on what happens in this state during Mass, and then consulted with some archbishop or other, and they decided surely I could make it stop if I tried harder, I was ordered to stand in the back of the chapel during Mass.  I tried to point out I had tried all manner of getting it to stop and consulted a doctor on the West Coast who is gifted in the paranormal, but no, the spiritual director was insistent that somehow standing would stop it.  I obeyed.  Immediately at the start of Mass, per usual, the ecstasy overtook my body, mind, heart and soul, and the body fell to the ground from a standing position.  The shoulder was injured, requiring the very painful rotator cuff surgery.  I have not been able to get health insurance for years, and on top of that injury, there were others at the hands of parishioners. 

The Diocese refuses to help pay the costs.  They did use a limited liability med pay-out that barely covered the initial doctor visits and imaging tests.  An employee, the CFO of the diocese whose salary is paid by us peons in the pews, said even that small amount was a "gift" from them.  The head priest refused to do anything to try to educate or stop people from hurting me during Mass.  My attorney, a devout Catholic, finally said to post two signs, and if people hurt me with the signs posted, to file police reports and have them arrested.  The signs have helped, but they also have been the point of yet more ridicule and persecution for my having to post them for my own protection.  The attorney said to sit in the handicap pew, and that has caused parishioners and priests to accuse me of wanting to be noticed.  There is never any end to what others think, whether or not negatively or, in some cases worse, thinking too highly and thus being awkward around me.

Anyway, this is just a smidgeon of some of what has occurred of the actual physical and mental trials that very much affected the emotions.  I started a little site online which offers some items I can make, trying to help generate some income to pay for the medical costs for the surgery.  Even doing that has brought persecution from some who think I am making light of my hermit vocation.

When St. Teresa of Avila writes that the trials can be far more painful than the consolations, she has this quite aptly and correctly stated.  Yet, the consolations do bring the person through the darkness and into a kind of strength that one did not think possible.  While now some family members do not speak to me because I remain a Catholic after the injustices and persecutions that reduced me to a heap of tears and despair, His Real Presence has lifted me beyond the sadness of their misunderstanding and the resultant isolation.  I understand why and how, and I trust that His Real Presence knows fully what He is doing.  He chooses what will stretch us the most.

I have no rancor at this point, and shortly after I returned to Mass (yes, my own spiritual director not once, but twice, directed me to not go to any Mass which caused the most dreadful state of soul imaginable to the point of death) because a former abbot stepped in to say that the direction was wrong and to return to Mass, His Real Presence gave a glorious infusion of unconditional love into my soul during a daily Mass ecstasy.  This unconditional love has helped me in ways that I would not believe had I not known how otherwise ugly my previous unwanted, sniping word thoughts could be!

Plus, now I see that there are those who love me very much, even if they are not on earth to remind me.  And, there are those on earth who are so kind and supportive, even if they are not able to tangibly show it due to the lay of the land in a parish.  But there are some who show kindness in a smile, a hug, a word of loving welcome.  And even though I cannot have the spiritual director to guide me, as he cannot go against the head priest or step in to defend or right the injustices, for I cannot be obedient to what has proven to be rather disastrous direction, he and I are on most good and loving terms as spiritual friends. 

Here again, what is written more candidly by St. Teresa and by others who have culled her writings and those of others who knew her, has been most helpful to me in these trials.  She went through painful trials at the advice and direction of priests and religious and finally concluded that they did not know, themselves, and at a certain point His Majesty (as she calls Him) or His Real Presence (as I call Him) teaches the soul, just as St. John wrote in his First Letter, that when anointed, He becomes the teacher.  St. Paul writes similarly, and yet in some ways, this takes all the more faith and in some aspects the soul may feel more humanly alone.  It is necessary, all of it.

In closing on this rather long, personal post, someone who privately wrote said sometimes what I write sounds as if I am angry.  Angry?  Well, yes, of course!  There is so much more that could be written of the horrible persecutions, misunderstandings, and downright cruelties by the ones who one would hope could be compassionate and even act as we understand Christians are to act, that it would take volumes and only result in going over the ugly and painful once again.  But perhaps the anger can also be termed as deep hurt, for it was all very hurtful; and until one can grasp that this is exactly as His Real Presence needs the soul to feel in order to comprehend what He has felt, does it then make any positive sense.  To explain that to family and friends who are not Catholic, goes beyond what they can grasp. 

Some lapsed Catholics also use the visible injustices as more reason to remain away.  My son, for example, is not speaking to me, either.  It is not a matter of my having divulged the wrongs. While I did have my handful of faithful friends who prayed and grieved with me, the injustices popped out from those who did the injustices, such as the diocese employee who was overtly rude when the hospital business office called to ensure surgery payment, only to be told that the diocese had changed their mind and would not pay.  I will yet be judged and scourged by some who read my blogs for having been this open.  I do not want anyone to go through what I've been through, but I suppose they won't.  It will be different for each body, mind, heart and soul, for we each will be trained and honed by His Real Presence according to what--well, what works!  His Real Presence knows best, always.

One could still question why His Real Presence allowed so much of the injustice to be known to others--other than He knew it would be exquisitely painful for me to endure the shame of what I love so much, the Church, to look so ridiculously cruel to one of Her own.  But it is only us humans.  Just think how Jesus felt when the High Priests and Pharisees so mistreated Him publicly--His very own temple priests, family and friends!  Anyway, on this very snowy morning, having shared how helpful are the writings of those who endured much upset and retained their faith, I suppose I am one who is enduring, as well, by the grace of His Real Presence.  He is all love--is His Real Presence--above all else.

God bless His Real Presence in all of us!