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"Today the concept of truth is viewed with suspicion, because truth is identified with violence. Over history there have, unfortunately, been episodes when people sought to defend the truth with violence. But they are two contrasting realities. Truth cannot be imposed with means other than itself! Truth can only come with its own light. Yet, we need truth. ... Without truth we are blind in the world, we have no path to follow. The great gift of Christ was that He enabled us to see the face of God".Pope Benedict xvi, February 24th, 2012

The Church is ecumenical, catholic, God-human, ageless, and it is therefore a blasphemy—an unpardonable blasphemy against Christ and against the Holy Ghost—to turn the Church into a national institution, to narrow her down to petty, transient, time-bound aspirations and ways of doing things. Her purpose is beyond nationality, ecumenical, all-embracing: to unite all men in Christ, all without exception to nation or race or social strata. - St Justin Popovitch

BENEDICTUS MOMENTS

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Saturday, 5 September 2015

THE CARMELITE TRADITION

This icon at the National Shrine of Saint Jude at Faversham

 depicts St. Albert's giving of the Rule to Saint Brocard

. From the one Well of Elijah (top left) two streams flow,

 representing the two major branches of the Carmelite Family
The Carmelite Tradition

Carmelite Spirituality [1]
John Welch, O.Carm.

The Searching Heart

The Carmelite tradition begins in searching hearts. "Where have you hidden, beloved?" writes the Carmelite poet and mystic, John of the Cross. "You fled like the stag after wounding me." (The Spiritual Canticle stanza 1) We fragile humans have an aching heart, a hunger, a desire which we seek to nourish and fulfill. Chasing after our desires in an effort to find happiness and peace, we live fragmented and dissipated lives. We are compulsive about our search, and we compulsively cling to what promises relief.

Our restlessness makes us dissatisfied with our lives. "I wanted to live...but I had no one to give me life..." wrote the Carmelite reformer Teresa of Avila. For many people, the fire at the core of their lives has been poorly tended. We learn to speak with others' voices and see with others' eyes, to the neglect of our own voice and eyes. We often become puppets and functionaries, wasting away, victimized by over-domestication. John of the Cross complained about his ghostly existence, "How do you endure O life, not living where you live...?" (Canticle, 8)

We have a vague idea that somehow God is the answer to our longing. At least we have been told so, and we want to believe. But who is this God? Where is this God?

The Carmelite tradition speaks to those who long to be apart, to separate from a smothering existence. The tradition offers the lure of wilderness, mountain retreat, vast expanses of desert. In solitude, in a place apart, we searchers hope to hear our heart's desires more clearly, to reassess life, to dream, to be nourished by hidden springs, to meet the One whom others speak of with great assurance. Those who are drawn by the Carmelite tradition are often pilgrims to places unknown, trusting the testimony of others who have taken the same ancient path.

The First Carmelites

The first group of people to be called Carmelites made such a journey to a place apart. When history first takes notice of them, they are a group of men living in a valley cut into the ridge of Mount Carmel in Palestine. Arriving just before the turn of the thirteenth century, they had clustered together in caves and huts to live an isolated existence. We do not know their names, nor what precipitated their coming to this remote place. The reasons for such a radical life were probably as numerous as the number of men. Usually such a radical shift in life is not the result of an unpressured decision. In their home countries they may have encountered deep disappointments, personal losses, estrangements of one kind or another. Their decision to come to this mountain may have been the result of years of dealing with slow-healing scars, or gnawing guilt, or the unquenchable desire for a saner life. Perhaps a deep faith drove them to live in a holy place where God might be met more simply. Some of the men may have come from other locales in Palestine which were now unsafe because of Crusader and Moslem warfare. For whatever reason, these westerners from European countries made a pilgrimage to the periphery of society and the church. They became hermits, living where Jesus lived, knights in service of their liege Lord. They pledged to live in allegiance to Jesus Christ.

We may not know their personal reasons for coming into the wadi on Mount Carmel, but we do know the appeal of Mount Carmel itself. This mountain ridge was the scene of a great contest between prophets of a false god, Baal, and the prophet Elijah, champion of Israel's God, Yahweh. This contest provided an underlying theme for Carmelite spirituality: in which God will we place our trust? On this mountain, and in the confines of this wadi, the first Carmelites took their stand on behalf of the God of Elijah and Jesus.

Crusaders and Moslems fought around them for control of the Holy Land. Within the wadi, the men put on the armor of faith and opened their hearts and minds to an inner warfare. They opened themselves to the full force of their desires. They reflected on their lives. They ruminated on scripture, rehearsing its lines throughout the day. Silence pervaded the valley, as they kept guard against the demons, and listened for the approach of a merciful God.

This desert existence became a key theme in the Carmelite tradition. Carmelites continually described being led by the Spirit into a desert place. In the desert life is met on stark terms; one either succumbs, or finds hidden sources of new life. When lived in, and carefully tended, the desert became a garden, verdant with life.

Those who come to the Carmelite tradition are often people who have been thrown into the desert, who have had to face life on stark terms, who found nourishment and support where none was expected, who no longer fear being in an isolated, vulnerable place, and who, on the contrary, want to go deeper into the desert to find the One who awaits them. "And then we will go on to the high caverns in the rock...." (Canticle, 37)

Life with Others

A hermit rarely lives entirely alone. As an early church writer observed, "If I live alone, whose feet do I wash? If I live alone, compared with whom am I the least?" Medieval hermits often lived with others in communities of solitude. The early Carmelites clustered together, much as the first Christian communities described in the Acts of the Apostles: "They devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles and to the communal life, to the breaking of the bread and to the prayers." (Acts 2:42) The first Carmelites lived in proximity to one another, and took responsibility for one another. When they asked Albert the Patriarch of Jerusalem to draw up their way of life in a Rule, the relationships among themselves and with their leader, the prior, played an important part. They are reminded to celebrate the Eucharist together each day in an oratory located in the midst of the cells. They are told to gather regularly on a weekly basis to correct and encourage one another. They are to elect and reverence a prior, and he is to see to the needs of each, according to their individual situations. What they owned, they owned together. These independent hermits were encouraged, eventually, to pray together and take their meals together. The fraternity dimension of Carmel strengthened over the first decades of Carmel's existence.

The contemplative prayer of the Carmelites resulted in an ever renewed appreciation for those with whom they lived and for those whom they served. The human tendency to over-estimate, or under-estimate, one's virtues and gifts is continually corrected through a prayer which undermines such judgments. True prayer continually dislocates the one who prays from a judgmental stance which perceives others as lower or higher, and inserts that person back into the circle of humanity as one equal with the rest. The one who prays begins to see others through God's eyes, and learns to appreciate and value what had previously gone unnoticed.

Teresa of Avila reminded us that Carmelite communities are meant to be communities of friends who are friends with Jesus Christ. Distinctions which create divisions or hierarchies, whether secular or religious are to be vigorously shunned. Carmelite life undermines any claim to privilege other than the supreme privilege of being loved by God. Teresa challenged her sisters to strive for a high ideal: "all must be friends, all must be loved, all must be held dear, all must be helped." Philip Thibault, leader of a 17th century reform of Carmel, offered as his motto: "More unity, less perfection!"

Whether one lives in a religious community, or in a marriage, or in another lifestyle, the grand gesture is often not the most difficult. The magnanimous, admirable service of one's neighbors may not be the hardest task. The truly heroic actions often involve accepting and appreciating the small, daily inconveniences necessarily involved in life with others. The most difficult assaults on one's patience, time, energies, forbearance, do not usually come from strangers, but from loved ones, friends, colleagues with whom we share the struggles of daily existence.

The Carmelite nun from Normandy, St. Thérèse of Lisieux, gained many admirers when she identified a little way to God. One may or may not be able to do great things in the world's eyes; most of us live small, undramatic lives. But, we can live those lives with love, a love which expresses the truly great drama of God's nearness and care for us. With loving eyes, our mundane existence opens to its depths revealing a dynamic, healing Presence in those lives. The "allegiance to Jesus Christ", sworn by Carmelites, is lived out among the "pots and pans" of everyday life.

The Prayer of the Carmelites

If Carmel has anything to say to a contemporary world, it is about prayer. All humanity is on a spiritual journey, acknowledged or not. The writings and structures which make up the history of Carmel were the result of attending to the Mystery met deeply within searching lives. Attentiveness to this Presence has been the continual goal of Carmelites.



The first Carmelites carried the lines of Scripture in their minds and hearts and regularly rehearsed them, opening themselves to the One whom they met through their mystical reading. They eventually prayed this scripture together as they took on the obligations of the Divine Office.

When this community moved to Europe and took its place among the mendicant Orders who were serving the poor and others in the emerging cities, the prayerful beginnings on Mount Carmel were never forgotten. Carmelites understood themselves to be a contemplative Order. Whenever they attempted to define themselves, or re-define themselves when reform was needed, they claimed contemplation as their primary activity and greatest priority.



Contemplation commits a person to complete confidence and trust in the love of God which is continually breaking into our lives. The contemplative stance is an openness to that love and the demands it makes on us to change our lives. To be a contemplative is to be a watch in the night for the approach of Mystery. And it is a readiness to be transformed in an engagement with that Mystery.

Carmelites offer no single method or approach to prayer. They learned that prayer was the Spirit's work in us. God speaks us into life, and continually addresses us in our lives, for greater life. Our effort, then, is one of listening. All our words are an attempt to speak the one Word which is God's.

Carmelite saints and writers are compelled to express their experience of prayer. Teresa of Avila described it as conversation with a friend, with one who loves us. Thérèse of Lisieux spoke of simply gazing at God. Lawrence of the Resurrection spoke of an habitual turning of his eyes to God. John of the Cross encouraged a silent attentiveness to where our heart is struggling and experiencing exhaustion. This "dark night" is an experience of transforming love which first deeply unsettles.

The challenge for Carmelites and other Christians is to become regularly aware of this loving Presence, in good times and in bad. Teresa of Avila pictured her Friend alongside her, or inside her in one of the scenes from the Gospel, especially where He was alone and might welcome her approach. She also spoke of using a book, or flowers, or water to draw her into the presence of God, who is offering friendship, freedom, and greater life.

Eliljah and Mary

Carmelites continually drew inspiration from the two great biblical figures of the prophet Elijah and Mary, the Mother of God. In the Bible, Elijah is the solitary figure who is not only true to God and defeats the prophets of the false god, Baal, but he is also the defender of the poor and disenfranchised. He stands with the dispossessed and against the oppressor. In the Order's mythical memory of Elijah, he is also the one who gathers other faithful servants of Yahweh into a community. He settles the community on Mount Carmel where they live a peaceful and just existence. In the Order's myth of its origins this prototypical Carmelite community eventually responds to the preaching of John the Baptist and the first disciples of Christ. The "carmelites" become Christian and, in time, form the Order of Carmelites.

The Order remembers that Elijah foresaw the coming of Mary, the spotless virgin whose faithfulness would lead to the birth of the long-awaited Messiah. Carmelites remember Elijah and Mary as the first man and the first woman to take a vow of virginity. This "purity of heart" meant they were free from the enslavement of idols, and fertile ground for the seed of the Spirit.

The first chapel in the wadi on Mount Carmel was dedicated to Mary. The Carmelites became known as the Brothers of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. Mary is the contemplative who ponders in her heart. She is the disciple who follows her Son, the Wisdom of God. Her surrender to the working of God's Spirit in her life is captured in her Magnificat, a song of praise and thanksgiving for the mercy of God which raises the lowly of the earth. The scapular, a brown cloth worn over the shoulders, is a traditional Carmelite expression of devotion to Mary and, in imitation of her, our surrender to God's salvific plan.


Serving God's People

Carmelites seek the face of the living God not only in prayer and fraternity, but also in service. The Carmelites' primary pledge is "allegiance to Jesus Christ". This allegiance, then, takes the form of continuing the mission of Christ to tell of the nearness of God's love and to celebrate the inestimable worth of every human being. Camel has taken seriously the Gospel imperative: go to the ends of the earth and there proclaim the last are first. This mission has been expressed in innumerable pastoral situations though the centuries of Carmel's existence. Even on Mount Carmel men would occasionally leave the wadi to preach in adjacent areas. In Europe they were called to take their place with the mendicant communities who were ministering in various levels of society, teaching in universities, and crossing national boundaries in missionary efforts. No ministry has been judged incompatible with Carmel's charism. But any ministry is suspect if not anchored in a contemplative openness to that which God is bringing about.

In particular, it is the contemplative dimension of Carmel which impels the community to pay special attention to the "little ones" of the world, those left out of the world's attention and care. Contemplation leads one into an awareness of one's own poverty of spirit and the need to wait on God. From this self-knowledge it is possible to be in solidarity with and have concern for all who have to wait in hope for God's mercy and compassion. Contemplative prayer should be the deepest source of concern for the poor, the oppressed, and the marginalized of our world.

The Mythical Land of Carmel

From the very beginning Carmelites had to live within tensions. They may have preferred to stay in their quiet, isolated valley, but it was impossible. They wound up in the middle of the mendicant movement in Europe, but describing their life as though they were still living in the valley. Nicholas the Frenchman, an early general of the Order, admonished them to abandon the noisy, dirty city streets where they were ministering, and retreat to the quiet beauty of pastoral settings for contemplative prayer. This admonition, too, was impossible to follow.

Carmelites began to understand themselves as inhabitants of two homelands. One homeland was where they lived in community and ministered among God's people. The other homeland became a metaphorical place where God pursued humanity in love. Carmelites lived on the border, and carried dual citizenship.

The initial threads of Carmel's story were woven from the memory of Mount Carmel itself and the biblical imagery which surrounded the mountain. In that late 14th century foundational myth of Carmel, The Institution of the First Monks, Carmel's story was no longer a story confined by historical conditions and a specific time. It was a mythic story, truer than a mere recitation of facts. It traced its outlines back to the source of all stories, a plot in God's mind. It was a story told, as it were, through God's eyes.

And so the story of Carmel stretched back into pre-christian history where the community witnessed the emergence of the one true God of Israel. Carmel's story also projects forward to a future time on the mountain when God's peace will reign, men and women will live justly, and all will gather at an eschatological banquet. Later Carmelites confirmed the essential truth of the vision: "My beloved



is the mountain," wrote John of the Cross, "the supper that refreshes, and deepens love." (Canticle, 14)

To "enter Carmel" is not simply a matter of entering a building, joining a community, and taking on a ministry, whether of prayer or apostolic mission. It is that, certainly, but "entering Carmel" is also entering a drama playing out deep within every human life. That drama of the human spirit encountered by God's Spirit is essentially inexpressible. Carmelites are explorers of an inner place of intimacy with God, a fine point of the human spirit where it is addressed by Mystery. Carmel honours that pristine, privileged relationship between creature and Creator. Carmelite mystics have used bridal imagery to capture the intimacy of this encounter. Some Carmelites told of visions and voices which they experienced as momentary forms of grace. Sometimes, even their bodies reverberated to the impact of God's love.

The Carmelite imagination describes a landscape whose topography has become a primordial wording of the soul's adventure.

Carmel is a land of paradox, exposing the Carmelite to living within tension. It is a land of desert and garden, of heat and cold, of dark and light, of hunger and abundance. It is a place of God's absence which surprisingly reveals a compassionate presence. It is a place of suffering, a suffering which is healed by the same flame that hurt. It is a starless, trackless space in which the pilgrim is somehow led unerringly home.

The pilgrim plunges more deeply into an empty vastness, and arrives at the heart of the world. The world, seemingly left far behind, becomes fully present and truly known for the first time. The "cell" of the Carmelite becomes more and more spacious.

This tradition gives words and images to the hope that is constitutive of being human. "The soul's centre is God," wrote John of the Cross. Carmelite saints and mystics experienced transformation in engagement with that Centre. They thought they were seeking God, but learned that the Centre had been approaching them all along. Humanity's story is not the story of our search for God, but of God's pursuit of us in love. Carmel's saints concluded that everything is a grace. The love they encountered deep within their searching lives invited them more deeply into their own life, gave them freedom from their idols, drew them into a divinizing union, and propelled them outward in service of heir brothers and sisters.

The Constitutions

The 1995 Constitutions of the Carmelite Order are a rather remarkable testimony to 800 years of wrestling with identity, values, and world view. Battered by the winds of history, and at times in danger of extinction, this community has not only survived but now finds itself energized to live into the next phase of its story. Time has only deepened Carmel's ability to identify its core values and find an expression satisfying not only to Carmelites but perhaps to all who look to this tradition for help on life's journey.


St. Therese's Life in the Carmel of Lisieux and the Influence of Her "Little Way."


Taken from:

CARMELITE SPIRITUALITY
by PAUL MARIE DE LA CROIX
of the Order of Discalced Carmelites
my source: EWTNThose who concentrate on the life and doctrine of this child of Carmel who died at the age of twenty-four are seized with wonder and admiration. They discover, in fact, that her contribution to spirituality is as original as it is profoundly traditional. They also discover that under the Gospel-like simplicity of her message of "the little way of childhood" is hidden a spiritual structure both strong and perfectly balanced from the theological point of view.

No doubt this structure embodies the most authentic elements of the Order to which Theresa belongs; but Theresa has divided and arranged them according to her own genius. Better still, a very sure instinct, given by the Holy Spirit, enabled her to discern and sometimes to rediscover, not without merit, Carmel's purest spirit. Those who concentrate on the life and doctrine of this child of Carmel who died at the age of twenty-four are seized with wonder and admiration. They discover, in fact, that her contribution to spirituality is as original as it is profoundly traditional. They also discover that under the Gospel-like simplicity of her message of "the little way of childhood" is hidden a spiritual structure both strong and perfectly balanced from the theological point of view.
No doubt this structure embodies the most authentic elements of the Order to which Theresa belongs; but Theresa has divided and arranged them according to her own genius. Better still, a very sure instinct, given by the Holy Spirit, enabled her to discern and sometimes to rediscover, not without merit, Carmel's purest spirit.

Saint Theresa of the Child Jesus truly made this interior and radiant spirit incarnate. Her life of love of the absolute and of absolute love is of rare depth and fullness. It was a combination of certain inter-related spiritual principles and constitutes a true doctrine: this is "the little way of childhood" that we must now try to describe.

This doctrine is derived from a re-discovery of the central teaching of the Gospel which may be expressed in this sentence: We are, in Christ, God's children and we ought to love our Father in heaven with a filial love full of confidence and abandonment.

Christ taught us that God is our Father. Saint Theresa adheres to this teaching with all her strength and gives to it its whole meaning.

She had a deep understanding of the truth that such a teaching has two complementary aspects: a keen realization of God's fatherhood toward us; and the need of developing in us a filial attitude of absolute confidence toward God our Father.

If the confidence of Saint Theresa in the goodness of her Father in heaven is absolute, this is because God is a father and this father is God. She comes to this basic affirmation: "We can never have enough confidence in God who is so good, so powerful, so merciful".

From this we can understand how on her lips the words "Papa the good God" are not childish. On the contrary they testify to the simplicity of her intimate relations with Him and to a confidence so absolute that she can dare to say: "I know what it means to count on His mercy".[67]

One might be tempted to believe that such confidence was based on the assurance that had been given her that she "had never committed any mortal sins". But she hastens to correct this idea: "Make it clear, Mother, that if I had committed all possible crimes, I would still have the same confidence. I would feel that this multitude of offenses would be like a drop of water cast into a blazing fire"[68] "How could there be any limits to my confidence?"[69]
Saint Theresa could not have reached this point, it is certain, had she not had a deep experience of God's love. Even though she always claimed that she had not known extraordinary graces, and she never stressed the graces she did receive, it cannot be doubted that she had attained to a very high mystical life during a most painful night of faith.

But what might be illusory is that this mystical life was lived under the voluntarily obscure and detached sign of the little way of spiritual childhood. Was not Saint Theresa eager not to do anything that "little souls" could not imitate? What does this mean?

Saint Theresa had very great desires, yet she would never admit that she was a great soul or that she had the strength necessary to do great things, like the saints who had been proposed to her as models. So she had to find a way in keeping with this littleness of which she was so deeply conscious.

More than this: she sought a way that depended on this very weakness. Had not the Apostle said: "When I am weak then I am strong" (2 Cor. 12: 10). So that in searching the Gospels she found the words of the Master: "Let the little children be, and do not hinder them from coming to me, for of such is the kingdom of heaven" (Matt. 19: 14).

Such a statement corresponded too well to her knowledge, both of her weakness and also of God's fatherly heart, for it not to have been a true light. It served, too, as a link between her spirit of childhood and her confidence in the divine fatherhood.

"I leave to great souls and lofty minds the beautiful books I cannot understand, much less put into practice and I rejoice that I am little because children alone and those who resemble them will be admitted to the heavenly banquet. I am glad that there are many mansions in the Kingdom of God, because if there were only those whose description and whose road seem to me incomprehensible, I could never enter there."[70]

This, therefore, was her way. God Himself had pointed it out and declared its efficacy. On it Theresa was to advance unfalteringly and to draw all the necessary conclusions with courage.

No one will deny that weakness is the characteristic of little children. But this weakness is the surest of guarantees to those who care for them and love them. Teresa remembered a text of Isaias that she copied in a little notebook she used:

"You shall be carried at the breasts, And upon the knees they shall caress you. As one whom the mother caresseth, So will I comfort you" (Is. 66: 12).

Moreover, having learned from experience about this "motherly" goodness of God, and knowing that the smaller the child, the more it can count on merciful help and attentive care, Theresa intended to remain little, that is to say, she would no more be concerned about her powerlessness, on the contrary she would rejoice in it. "How happy I am to realize that I am little and weak, how happy I am to see myself so imperfect". She does not count on her works, or on her merits, she "keeps nothing in reserve" and she is not to be discouraged even about her faults.

"It is needful to remain little before God and to remain little is to recognize one's nothingness, expect all things from the good God just as a little child expects all things from its father; it is not to be troubled by anything, not to try to make a fortune. Even among poor people, a child is given all it needs, as long as it is very little, but as soon as it has grown up, the father does not want to support it any longer and says: "Work, now you are able to take care of yourself". Because I never want to hear these words I do not want to grow up, feeling that I can never earn my living, that is, eternal life in heaven. So I have stayed little, and have no other occupation than of gathering flowers of love and sacrifice and of offering them to the good God to please Him.

Saint Theresa had very great desires, yet she would never admit that she was a great soul or that she had the strength necessary to do great things, like the saints who had been proposed to her as models. So she had to find a way in keeping with this littleness of which she was so deeply conscious.
"For a long time I had been asking myself why souls did not all receive the same amount of grace. Jesus deigned to instruct me about this mystery. Before my eyes He placed the book of nature and I understood that all the flowers created by Him are beautiful... that, if all the little flowers wanted to be roses, nature would lose her springtime garb. The same is true of the world of souls, the Lord's living garden." To be little also means not to attribute to one's self the virtues that one practices, believing that one can do something, but to acknowledge that the good God has placed these treasures in the hands of His little child so that the child can make use of them as needed, but always as the treasures of the good God.
Finally, it means not be to discouraged by one's faults because children often fall but they are too little to hurt themselves badly."[71]

This is a pleasant intuition and one that affords many fruitful applications for the spiritual life.

Most especially it drew Theresa along the path of a confidence that was not only a virtue but the life in us of the true theological virtue of hope. Advancing with great boldness to the end of this hope and wishing to place no limits to God's mercy for those who love Him with filial love, she wrote to a sister:

"You are not sufficiently trusting, you fear God too much. I assure you that this grieves Him. Do not be afraid of going to purgatory because of its pain, but rather long not to go there because this pleases God who imposes this expiation so regretfully. From the moment that you try to please Him in all things, if you have the unshakable confidence that He will purify you at every instant in His love and will leave in you no trace of sin, be very sure that you will not go to purgatory."[72]

And again:

"O, how you hurt me, how greatly you injure the good God when you believe you are going to purgatory. For one who loves there can be no purgatory.[73]

It seems to me that there will be no judgment for victims of love, or rather, the good God will hasten to reward, with eternal delights, His own love which He will see burning in their hearts."

Saint Theresa's confidence in God's infinite mercy leads her to this other certitude, as theologically sound as the preceding, that if God divides His graces unequally, He does so because of the same love.

"For a long time I had been asking myself why souls did not all receive the same amount of grace. Jesus deigned to instruct me about this mystery. Before my eyes He placed the book of nature and I understood that all the flowers created by Him are beautiful... that, if all the little flowers wanted to be roses, nature would lose her springtime garb. The same is true of the world of souls, the Lord's living garden.[74]

God's love is revealed just as much in the most simple soul who does not resist His graces as in the most sublime."[75]

Lastly this confidence in God leads Saint Theresa, by paths of poverty of spirit and self-forgetfulness, to a wonderful simplification of spiritual life. In fact, how could she have failed to notice that the kingdom of heaven is offered not only to little children but also to the poor in spirit, and almost in the same words: "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven" (Matt. 5: 3). "Unless you turn and become like little children, you will not enter into the kingdom of heaven" (Matt. 1 8: 3). "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for of such is the kingdom of God" (Mark 10: 14).

As Theresa made spiritual childhood her own, so she made her own poverty of spirit. She aspires to be nothing more than "a poor little child" who looks to her Father for everything and who obtains everything from Him because of this same poverty. She cultivates this poverty and wants to keep nothing for herself, not even her merits and her good works.
"There is only one way to force the good God not to judge at all, and that is to present one's self to Him with empty hands.

When I think of this word: 'I will soon come and I carry My reward with Me to give to each one according to his works ', I say to myself, He will be very embarrassed for me because I have no works. Well, He will have to give me according to His own works."

She is forgetful of herself and counts on nothing, she is truly poor: "It is necessary to consent to remain poor and weak; this is hard ". "I have always longed to be unknown, I am resigned to being forgotten". "It is necessary to count on nothing".

Theresa arrived at perfect detachment but in her own humble, hidden "little way".

"I know well that it is not my great desires that please God in my little soul, what He likes to see is the way I love my littleness and my poverty; it is my blind hope in His mercy, this is my only treasure.... The weaker one is, without desires or virtues the more ready one is for the operations of this consuming and transforming love.... God rejoices more in what He can do in a soul humbly resigned to its poverty than in the creation of millions of suns and the vast stretch of the heavens."

She buries herself with delight deep in this radical poverty. "I tell you that it is enough to recognize one's nothingness and to abandon one's self like a child in the arms of God.[76]

Theresa is marvelously free from herself and marvelously free for God. Her soul is wide open to the invasions of divine love. We, in fact, prevent God from coming to us and "flooding our souls with waves of His tenderness", because we do not open to Him the place He wants to occupy. Only when poverty is united with confidence, is He able to realize in us the desires of His love. It is difficult for us to understand much less to describe how great was Saint Theresa's desire to love. Nevertheless she who wished "to love and to make Love loved", perhaps wished even more "to be loved" by this infinite Love. The deep reason for this will be evident when we remember that she wrote:

"Merit is not to be found in doing much or in giving much, but rather in receiving and in loving much. It is said that it is far sweeter to give than to receive, and this is true. But when Jesus wants for Himself the sweetness of giving, it would not be gracious to refuse. Let Him take and give whatever He wants."

To take and to give, in these two cases, Theresa will remain poor, in order that she can receive the love that God thirsts to pour out on her.

"I beg You to allow the waves of infinite tenderness hidden in You to overflow into my soul so that I may become a martyr of Your love."

Because she will not keep this love for herself but will pour it out on others, she adds:

"As for me, if I live until I am eighty I shall always be just as poor, I do not know how to economize. All that I have, I spend immediately to buy souls."[77]

"I know well that it is not my great desires that please God in my little soul, what He likes to see is the way I love my littleness and my poverty; it is my blind hope in His mercy, this is my only treasure.... The weaker one is, without desires or virtues the more ready one is for the operations of this consuming and transforming love.... God rejoices more in what He can do in a soul humbly resigned to its poverty than in the creation of millions of suns and the vast stretch of the heavens."
Theresa has given us the secret of this outpouring of love and its apostolic fruitfulness: her love is crucified. In offering herself to merciful Love, she gave herself up without any reserve to trial and suffering which from this moment mark her life as with a seal. From the day that "love penetrated and possessed her" suffering seized her as if she were its prey. The victim offered in holocaust had been accepted. Saint Theresa was really flooded with divine love and that is why her life bore such fruit. This charity transfigured two qualities that in her were always to remain united: love of God and love of neighbor. And when we consider her fraternal charity which was so practical, so delicate, so heroic and which flowed from a charity for God that was so faithful that "from the age of three she had never refused" Him anything and was willing to suffer all things in silence for His love and for the love of souls, then no one can any longer oppose contemplation and action, prayer and the apostolate, the service of God and the service of the Church.
She who had carried so far confidence and abandonment never ceased to multiply her own most concrete and generous efforts.

It is because of this confidence and fidelity that God could communicate the plenitude of His own life that transformed her soul and opened it to the dimensions of infinite Love.

From the beginning of her religious life, Theresa, like a true daughter of Elias, is devoured with apostolic ardor. Was it not love for souls, especially for the souls of priests, that she came to Carmel? To save souls she would have liked to have fulfilled all vocations. She would have liked to have been preacher, apostle, missionary, martyr.

Yet it was only after she had offered herself to the divine outpouring and surrendered herself to merciful Love that she discovered the vocation God destined for her.

"I understand that love includes all vocations. I realize that all my desires are fulfilled. I have found my vocation. In the heart of the Church, my mother, I will be love."

It was only then, too, that her vocation reached its full apostolic dimension and revealed its limitless fruitfulness. In fact, henceforth, Theresa was to think and to speak only in universal terms: "I shall spend my heaven in doing good upon earth". "Yes, until the number of the elect shall be complete, I shall take no rest".

Just as blood flows from the heart and moves with life-giving power into every part of the whole body, so this apostolic spirit springs from the love that possesses her and extends to the whole Church.

"From her little cell, as from a broadcasting station, wonderful waves escape night and day. The souls whom they reach are unaware of their origin. They merely murmur: 'Someone has prayed for me.'"[78]

Theresa has given us the secret of this outpouring of love and its apostolic fruitfulness: her love is crucified. In offering herself to merciful Love, she gave herself up without any reserve to trial and suffering which from this moment mark her life as with a seal. From the day that "love penetrated and possessed her" suffering seized her as if she were its prey. The victim offered in holocaust had been accepted. Love was to consume her body, by a most painful illness, and her soul, by a terrible trial: "A wall rose up to heaven and hid God from me". "O Mother, I did not believe that it was possible to suffer so much... I can only explain it by my very great desire to save souls".

But knowing that God had never before shown her so much love and that such trials also made it possible to prove her love for Him, Theresa accepted them with heroic generosity and even with joy. "I would not want to suffer less. "She offered her sufferings for souls until the last ounce of her strength: "I walk... for a missionary".
Before departure she gave us not only the assurance of a wonderfully efficacious help: "Because I never did my will on earth, the good God will do all that I want in heaven", but she told us how she was able to realize her contemplative and missionary vocation in all its fullness: "I do not regret having surrendered myself to Love".

When we look at the life of Saint Theresa of the Child Jesus we are struck by its simplicity and wonderful transparency. We are amazed to discover through her, not only the purest Gospel teaching but Christ Himself. We also notice that the unity of her spiritual life is unique and profound. In fact all her words, acts, sufferings, life and death are of a piece, yield the same tone and are proof of an equal plenitude. Like her Master, Theresa is true, and also like Him, her person and her message are one.

It must also be noticed that the Christian instinct was not deceived. In search of a spirituality that is adapted to life and is livable men turned to Saint Theresa. Not the least original thing about this cloistered religious who died at the age of twenty-four was that she has given to our times the most "incarnate" and at the same time the most supernatural doctrine that there is. Transcendence and immanence. Her life prolongs the message of the Gospel in our midst. This, no doubt, is the reason that devotion to her, surprisingly enough, was not limited by the boundaries of France but became worldwide, truly universal, because her spirit is truly Catholic.

Saint Theresa brought a maximum of depth and supernatural efficacy to spiritual life. She is as apostolic as she is contemplative, and that with a minimum of means. "Purely and simply", she succeeded in being both.

It is not only our utilitarian age (and this is true even in spiritual matters) that is conscious of her success, it is Christian life in general which has been enriched by a new way leading to sanctity, a way as quick and sure as it is evangelical.

If Saint Theresa received from Carmelite spirituality a great part of the wealth she used--and they are forgetful who fail to connect her with her "family" or who minimize what she owes it--she knew how to increase her heritage. She offers us a style of spiritual life that is so detached, so simply reduced to the essential, so supple in its absolute surrender to love, so generous in the gift to the Church and to her brothers. She made her life a reality that is so near to us and so lived in God, that to breathe the fragrance of this flower of Carmel is to breathe the fragrance of eternal life.

When we look at the life of Saint Theresa of the Child Jesus we are struck by its simplicity and wonderful transparency. We are amazed to discover through her, not only the purest Gospel teaching but Christ Himself. We also notice that the unity of her spiritual life is unique and profound. In fact all her words, acts, sufferings, life and death are of a piece, yield the same tone and are proof of an equal plenitude. Like her Master, Theresa is true, and also like Him, her person and her message are one.







To watch a beautiful video that shows something of Carmelite life and the context for the above video of "Nada me turbe", click here

Here is another, the "Salve Regina" by the same virtual choir.
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