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Saturday, 24 November 2012

Meditation Example

A young person who is interested in Catholic meditation asked me for an example. The Gospel of the day in America yesterday was the chasing of the money changers out of the Temple in Jerusalem. Now, St. John places this immediately after the Wedding Feast at Cana, placing it at the first passover in his gospel and at the beginning of Christ's public life, while the synoptic writers place it after the Entry into Jerusalem, Palm Sunday, the beginning of Holy Week.

In a meditation, one imagines or places one's self in the scene, but the Holy Spirit may indicate some knowledge regarding the meditation which is personal. For me, in meditation, the Temple was revealed as my soul and my body, and the money changers are the unsavoury desires of my heart for worldly things. One can give up all for the sake of Christ, but still have the internal desires.  God has to purify my heart, and mind, and soul so that I no longer desire anything but Him and His Will. That would be an example of a meditation based on Scripture.

The Next Step in Bernard's Cloister Stair-Meditation

For the lay person, as well as for the monk, nun, or priest, daily reading of the Scriptures is an essential part of the life of the soul.

Meditation is exactly that-reading the Scriptures and allowing the imagination to enter into the mysteries of the Life of Christ. St. Ignatius, in his exercises, which were given to him by the Holy Spirit, and form the basis of seminary training for the Jesuits, gives the laity means to meditate.

If one is not meditating on Christ and His Life, one is in trouble. That is the first warning. One cannot meditate on one's self or on nothing.

To take a passage and enter into the scene is easier for us in this century as we had seen many Biblical movies, including The Passion of the Christ. However, such interpretations of the mysteries in the Life of Christ can also be misleading or a distraction.

St. Ignatius encourages us to imagine ourselves in the story, such as the Woman at the Well. We should feel the heat, the dust, see the village well, the woman and her jug, and the tired Christ. This is the beginning of meditation.

Many, many Catholics do this with the rosary, meditating on the mysteries as they say the prayers. I know good Catholics who get stuck on one mystery for months. This is meditation. Meditation involves remembering, recollecting, giving time to God, in the Holy Spirit, to work through meditation. We can, with grace, make a habit of meditation.

This second step must be in the context of the Church's Teaching Magisterium and not based on private revelations. That is a second warning. The riches, the treasures of the Church revealed through the Bible and in Tradition are enough to keep us meditating for a very long time-all of our lives.

Some of the things I have offered on this blog, such as the reference to Our Lady a few days ago come from meditation. Many saints have shared their meditations with us in their writings. Some of these personal revelations are not part of the Deposit of Faith, but may be aids. However, it is better to enter into meditation directly from Scripture.

Those of you who say either the American or British version of the Breviary have readings built into your day. I use various verses, sometimes from the Mass readings of the day, as my Monastic Diurnal does not include readings.

Find a good spiritual director.

On religious orders, marriage, and types of priests, continued

It breaks my heart when I go into a used book store and find books from defunct convents and orders of priests. If I had money and a place to put these books, I would buy them all. How sad that the gems of the past sit gathering dust while we are starving for good spiritual direction.

Thanks, Wiki
One such book is De State Religionis by Suarez. A version of his treatise

 was done by a Rev. William Humphrey of the Jesuits. Many nuns used Jesuit spirituality in the past and this is largely lost.

I want to continue by information on the different types of priests for this posting. Suarez, via Humphrey notes that St. Thomas Aquinas writes about the means and the ends of religious orders. The perfection of charity is ALWAYS the end and should be ours, as lay people as well.

Diversity of orders comes from the particular call of the founder. For example, St. Benedict and St. Stephen Harding used the same means to come to the same end. So too, the original military orders, of Alcantra and Calatrava, the Knights Templar and the Knights of Malta used similar rules for the same ends.

When I was in the monastery for two months, I was conforming to the Rule of Benedict as interpreted by the Cistercians in the Tyburn mold. The goal should be perfection through meditation and contemplation, in community. That community constitutes a corporate unity. Divine Providence and the directions of the Holy Ghost, states Humphrey, create this variety of ways of the orders, to the perfection of charity.

Marriage would be the normal way for the laity to arrive at such a height of perfection of charity. I was moved by the paragraph of Humphrey where he quotes My Father's House are many mansions.

The entire verse, from John 14.2 is this: In my Father's house there are many mansions. If not, I would have told you: because I go to prepare a place for you.

In 1977, I had a mini-dream regarding this passage. I was struggling being in a lay community which I was in from 1973 to 1979. I had been involved in multiple activities and was burnt out. I was living in common in a large group, broken up into households. The community at that time was over 2,000 people. This was in Minneapolis. The dream revealed a busy urban scene with the building of a skyscraper, very common in the Twin Cities at the time. The steel girders were in place and I saw a crane trying to take a rare, beautiful Louis Quatorze chair up to the top of this unfinished building. Then, I heard this Bible verse clearly. The point was that one does not put an expensive antique chair in an unfinished building. This was not my community, and it took me another 18 months to decide to leave. I am very persistent and committed. Also, my entire life had been given to this for many, many years.  I transferred to another community, and ended up doing my graduate degree at Notre Dame. From there I moved to England as I had fallen in love with the country on a visit in 1980. This, as part of Europe, was my spiritual home. 

The point is this. God has a place for us and only He can lead us. Just as the religious are called to a specific order, so too, we laity are called to a certain spirituality. The means are different, but the goal the same. I have suggested in this blog many times that charity, that is perfected love, cannot be found usually on one's own, living alone. Which is why I have encouraged commitment especially for the young.

My son has said that one of the problems with the generation of youth is that these youth have too many options. I think that is about to change.

I shall go back to the post on contemplation later. As lay people we must enter into some discipline of such in order to be perfected. This is difficult, but the only way to see God. As our state in life is not the objectively perfect state of the monastic orders, or the desert fathers, who as solitaries were still under obedience to their bishops, according to Suarez/Humphrey, we must enter into a perfection without being in the place where this happens most readily.

As Christ said to his disciples, With men this is impossible: but with God all things are possible. Matthew 19.26.

Caritas and recommended books

Rubens The Triumph of Divine Love
Christ did say ask and you shall receive. We are to approach Divine Providence with our needs. Sometimes, we just get into the slot-machine mentality of prayer where we ask, ask, ask for things and events, rather than merely enjoying the Presence of God. However, I want to mention today that real prayer is simply loving God. Mother Teresa was asked one time what happens to her and what does she pray when she goes to Adoration. I have written this before. She answered that she looks at God and He looks at her. This indicates a love relationship.

Now, I would never marry for money or status. I am an idealist. When one is in love, one does not mind just sitting in the same room as the beloved. Just to be near the loved one is enough. To communicate in silence is the mark of real love.

We meet God in silence in Adoration. We meet God in silence when we receive Him in the Eucharist. But, He is not a God of silence. He is The Word. He Himself longs to communicate with each one of us, personally. This practice of the presence of God, and I highly recommend Jean Pierre de Caussade's book on this topic, Abandonment to Divine Providence or The Sacrament of the Present Moment, a book I read over thirty years ago but have just appropriated in my life as a total reality. This is a grace, but one must know what graces are possible and ask for those graces.

I you can find this book, get it. It is applicable to our lives as laity. Again, this is not Quietism, which I have explained on this blog earlier. You can use the search button for those posts.

Father de Caussade wrote that every moment is like a sacrament if we realize that we are in the Presence of God. The only way to accomplish this is through grace, and the complete abandonment to the Divine Will. This is possible for us lay persons as well as religious. All are called to be in the Presence of God, all.

I cannot guarantee this translation, as I have the book, but the entire work in on-line. I suggest reading this slowly over the next few months. The real meat of the book is towards the end.

There are two other books I do not have, the first which I have read entirely and the second which I have read in part, which I can recommend now. The Perfection of Man by Charity by Father Reginald Buckler. I cannot stress how important this book is enough. I wish I had it. Father Buckler explains the entire path of perfection through Caritas, in a scholarly and pastor manner. If you find it, read it and cherish it.

The second one is longer and in two or three volumes depending on the publisher. I have not finished this book, nor do I have it. That is The Practice of Christian and Religious Perfection by Father Alphonsus Rodriguez. This book and the one by Buckler were, in the good, old days, standard reading for religious formation. Sadly, this is no longer true. The same ignorance of the laity which has been caused by dumbing down in schools and parishes has effected some of the orders. The young coming in need basic catechesis.

However, treat yourself to these books, but here is a warning. We should never read and assume what we read is our experience. Only read these with a competent spiritual director. I was introduced to de Caussade by a spiritual director I had in the early 1980s. I am eternally grateful to this priest. But, do not suppose you can read without really allowing God to change you from a slot-machine pray-er to a lover of God.

That movement is in the will and the heart, as well as the intellect. By the way, the Jesuits used Rodriquez in formation in the old days. I wonder if they do now.

The other books I have recommended recently are Lord of the World and None Other Gods, by Robert Hugh Benson. I have read the first three times in one year. The other is excellent. I do not have copies of these, either, yet.

God bless you all. And, here is Robert Anderson's explanation of the famous painting by Rubens on Caritas.

This picture is allegorical in that it contains a grandiose procession which celebrates a victory - the defeat of evil in the world by religious or divine love. This divine love is personified by Charity, who is the foremost of the three 'theological virtues' and who in this painting resembles the Virgin Mary. Charity is linked to the classical Mother of the Gods, Cybele, by the two lions who pull her chariot. In this implied reference Charity, as Mother of the Gods is seen as Mary, the Mother of God. A reference is made to Christ's sacrifice for the world by depicting the pelican piercing her breast in order to feed her young. Snakes represent evil and are overcome by the religious ardor of the flaming heart and the arrows of sacred love.

Caritas or Charity stands on a small chariot drawn by two lions. She holds one of her children in a tender embrace while two others stand by her side. In front of her stands a pelican, piercing her breast to feed its young. In the air around her fly twelve (12) putti, one of whom holds a flaming torch. On the ground are three more putti. One rides a lion with an arrow in his hand; one stoops to burn two intertwined snakes; the third raises a flaming heart in one hand and a bow in the other. These motifs of love ( sacred and profane) are repeated in various decorative elements. In the center of the chariot's wheel is a carved seraph from which radiate alternating arrows and shafts of flame as spokes.
A garland of fruit and flowers is strung above the tapestry which is hung between two doric columns. In the center between two crossed torches hangs a cartouche inscribed "Amor Divinus" . Below the bottom ledge, in the center, is placed a flaming heart pierced by two crossed arrows encased in an ornamental shell adorned with flowers. On each side is a cornucopia from which emerge flames and smoke and on which sits a dove, another emblem of love.
While members of Ruben's workshop painted much of the final cartoon we can discern Ruben's own hand in the painting of the face of the putto riding the lion.

The cycle of eleven paintings of The Triumph of the Eucharist was commissioned by the Archduchess Isabella who was the daughter of Philip II of Spain and the Governor of the Spanish Netherlands. It was planned as a gift for the convent of the Descalzas Reales in Madrid in 1625 where it still hangs today. This Franciscan Order of Poor Clares was one with which Isabella was closely associated.
The series is a mixture of allegory and religious propaganda intended to promote the worship of the Eucharist (ie the bread and wine consecrated as the body and blood of Christ and distributed at communion) which had been strengthened recently by the Council of Trent and which constituted an important element in Counter Reformation Catholicism.
This was a time of great concern on the part of the Catholic church as it attempted to correct not only the abuses of the clergy but also to reaffirm its tenets / dogma in the face of attacks by the Protestant Reformation.

The Golden Rose

I was doing some research on Gibraltar and came across a fact which escaped me in 2009. Pope Benedict XVI gave the coveted Golden Rose to the Shrine of Our Lady of Europe in that country. To date, the Pope has given twelve Golden Roses to shrines, including one to the National Shrine in Washington D.C. in America.

Most recent popes have given the Golden Rose to shrines, but in the past, such a prized, blessed gift was also given to people. Some popes only gave a few, such as Blessed John Paul II, who only gave four. The list of shrines may be found on Wiki.

An incomplete list of people who have been given the Golden Rose may be found in the Catholic Encyclopaedia on-line. Here it is and I left the links on purpose so one can follow some of these popes. I have also highlighted the ones I consider important.