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Monday 15 April 2013

More martyrs now, says the Pope

"We pray to Our Lady to protect us, and in times of spiritual turmoil the safest place is under Our Lady's mantle. She is the mother who takes care of the Church. And, in this age of martyrs, she is the protagonist, the protagonist of protection. She is the Mother. [. . .] Let us say it with faith: 'The Church, Mother, is under your protection. Take care of the Church'!"

Will the Pope get shoes to match?

Catholic News Service

Pope and President of Spain and wife, and new football jersey (soccer to you Yanks).

The Pope, the CDF and the Nuns Off the Bus

Gold and Silver Way Down This Morning

The Tablet Is Not Catholic-What?

Part 120: Doctors of the Church and Perfection: John of the Cross

As I come to the (almost) end of this long series, started in January of 2012, I emphasize, perhaps, the most loved of all those saints and Doctors who write on perfection, St. John of the Cross. More than all the rest, he is widely read by Catholics interested in prayer and the mystic life. After looking at some of his works, I shall return to Garrigou-Lagrange for more of his great insights into perfection.

St. John of the Cross fits the call of Christ Who said, And from the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent bear it away Matthew 11:12 DR.  John was not afraid of penance and used the abuse perpetrated against him by his own community for spiritual growth in the way of perfection.

We understand his ways and stages of growth in the spiritual life. Some of these concepts have been reviewed on this blog last year. However, I want to look more closely at a few bits.

From the Ascent of Mount Carmel, the description of the Dark Night of the Soul, which all must pass, provides a clear middle stage after the stages of conversion, consolations and purifications. My comments are in blue.


Treats in general of how the soul likewise must be in darkness, in so far as this rests with itself, to the end that it may be effectively guided by faith to the highest contemplation.
It is now, I think, becoming clear how faith is dark night to the soul, and how the soul likewise must be dark, or in darkness as to its own light so that it may allow itself to be guided by faith to this high goal of union. But, in order that the soul may be able to do this, it will now be well to continue describing, in somewhat greater detail, this darkness which it must have, in order that it may enter into this abyss of faith. And thus in this chapter I shall speak of it in a general way; and hereafter, with the Divine favour, I shall continue to describe more minutely the way in which the soul is to conduct itself that it may neither stray therein nor impede this guide.

2. I say, then, that the soul, in order to be effectively guided to this state by faith, must not only be in darkness with respect to that part that concerns the creatures and temporal things, which is the sensual and the lower part (whereof we have already treated), but that likewise it must be blinded and darkened according to the part which has respect to God and to spiritual things, which is the rational and higher part, whereof we are now treating. For, in order that one may attain supernatural transformation, it is clear that he must be plunged into darkness and carried far away from all contained in his nature that is sensual and rational. For the word supernatural means that which soars above the natural self; the natural self, therefore, remains beneath it. For, although this transformation and union is something that cannot be comprehended by human ability and sense, the soul must completely and voluntarily void itself of all that can enter into it, whether from above or from below — I mean according to the affection and will — so far as this rests with itself. 
This is a stage of somewhat passivity, wherein the soul and the will cooperate with God in a darkness which hides the soul and protects it while the passive purgation occurs. The purgation happens in the first dark night. In the second one, God comes to the pure in heart. Purity of heart is the goal of purgation.
For who shall prevent God from doing that which He will in the soul that is resigned, annihilated and detached? But the soul must be voided of all such things as can enter its capacity, so that, however many supernatural experiences it may have, it will ever remain as it were detached from them and in darkness.
One can say "no" to this process. Either one wants to remain in control of one's life and destiny, or one is afraid, or one loves someone or something more than God. The "yes" opens the door for spiritual growth and the test of real faith is the "fiat" given in darkness.
It must be like to a blind man, leaning upon dark faith, taking it for guide and light, and leaning upon none of the things that he understands, experiences, feels and imagines. For all these are darkness, which will cause him to stray; and faith is above all that he understands and experiences and feels and imagines. And, if he be not blinded as to this, and remain not in total darkness, he attains not to that which is greater — namely, that which is taught by faith.
3. A blind man, if he be not quite blind, refuses to be led by a guide; and, since he sees a little, he thinks it better to go in whatever happens to be the direction which he can distinguish, because he sees none better; and thus he can lead astray a guide who sees more than he, for after all it is for him to say where he shall go rather than for the guide. In the same way a soul may lean upon any knowledge of its own, or any feeling or experience of God, yet, however great this may be, it is very little and far different from what God is; and, in going along this road, a soul is easily led astray, or brought to a standstill, because it will not remain in faith like one that is blind, and faith is its true guide.
This is where so many Catholics and Protestants fall off the path to perfection. These good people do not remain in faith, but insist on going their own way and doing their own thing. It is very, very hard to follow Christ in darkness in the world, but perseverance is necessary, and a virtue which is given. This darkness however finally brings the Love of God into one's soul, mind, body, and changes one forever. 
4. It is this that was meant by Saint Paul when he said: Accedentem ad Deum oportet credere quod est.225 Which signifies: He that would journey towards union with God must needs believe in His Being. As though he had said: He that would attain to being joined in a union with God must not walk by understanding, neither lean upon experience or feeling or imagination, but he must believe in His being, which is not perceptible to the understanding, neither to the desire nor to the imagination nor to any other sense, neither can it be known in this life at all. Yea, in this life, the highest thing that can be felt and experienced concerning God is infinitely remote from God and from the pure possession of Him. Isaias and Saint Paul say:Nec oculus vidit, nec auris audivit, nec in cor hominis ascendit, qua praeparavit Deus iis, qui diligunt illum.226 Which signifies: That which God hath prepared for them that love Him neither eye hath seen, nor ear heard, neither hath it entered into the heart or thought of man. So, however much the soul aspires to be perfectly united through grace in this life with that to which it will be united through glory in the next (which, as Saint Paul here says, eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath it entered into the heart of man in the flesh), it is clear that, in order perfectly to attain to union in this life through grace and through love, a soul must be in darkness with respect to all that can enter through the eye, and to all that can be received through the ear, and can be imagined with the fancy, and understood with the heart, which here signifies the soul. And thus a soul is greatly impeded from reaching this high estate of union with God when it clings to any understanding or feeling or imagination or appearance or will or manner of its own, or to any other act or to anything of its own, and cannot detach and strip itself of all these. For, as we say, the goal which it seeks lies beyond all this, yea, beyond even the highest thing that can be known or experienced; and thus a soul must pass beyond everything to unknowing.

This is perhaps the single most important paragraph in this chapter and even the entire book. We impede our own growth in the spiritual life by hanging on to the things which stop us from meeting God as He is and not as we think He is.
Only a purity heart and mind can open one up to the experience of God. One's mind, heart, imagination etc, are like attics crowded with junk. Everything must go and one must start all over again.
5. Wherefore, upon this road, to enter upon the road is to leave the road; or, to express it better, it is to pass on to the goal and to leave one’s own way,227 and to enter upon that which has no way, which is God. For the soul that attains to this state has no longer any ways or methods, still less is it attached to ways and methods, or is capable of being attached to them. I mean ways of understanding, or of perception, or of feeling. 
Can one be honest and clear enough to leave one's own way? One cannot do this merely on one's own with will power and talent. Graces are essential. But, the willingness is all. If one sincerely makes a movement towards God on this road, the graces will follow. There is the darkness of purgation but there is the darkness of love which is this second phase of the Dark Night of the Soul.
Nevertheless it has within itself all ways, after the way of one that possesses nothing, yet possesses all things.228 For, if it have courage to pass beyond its natural limitations, both interiorly and exteriorly, it enters within the limits of the supernatural, which has no way, yet in substance has all ways. Hence for the soul to arrive at these limits is for it to leave these limits, in each case going forth out of itself a great way, from this lowly state to that which is high above all others.

Courage is key. If one is fearful or holding back, one cannot enter the road to perfection. It is a way "less travelled" for one simple reason; it is a hard, hard road. Notice that we have the cardinal virtues of justice, temperance, prudence and courage (perseverance) to take us through to the goal. We must will this journey. We are in darkness, but not confused. One sometimes feels totally unworthy. But it is in this second darkness that God reveals Himself to the empty soul.

Dark Night Of the Soul

On a dark night,
Kindled in love with yearnings--oh, happy chance!--
I went forth without being observed,
My house being now at rest.
In darkness and secure,
By the secret ladder, disguised--oh, happy chance!--
In darkness and in concealment,
My house being now at rest.
In the happy night,
In secret, when none saw me,
Nor I beheld aught,
Without light or guide, save that which burned in my
This light guided me
More surely than the light of noonday
To the place where he (well I knew who!) was awaiting me--
A place where none appeared.
Oh, night that guided me,
Oh, night more lovely than the dawn,
Oh, night that joined Beloved with lover,
Lover transformed in the Beloved!
Upon my flowery breast,
Kept wholly for himself alone,
There he stayed sleeping, and I caressed him,
And the fanning of the cedars made a breeze.
The breeze blew from the turret
As I parted his locks;
With his gentle hand he wounded my neck
And caused all my senses to be suspended.
I remained, lost in oblivion;
My face I reclined on the Beloved.
All ceased and I abandoned myself,
Leaving my cares forgotten among the lilies.

To be continued....more tomorrow from the same book.

White Roses on the Shore: a Long Poem by Supertradmum

White Roses on the Shore: Sea, ships and the bend of the coast

Part One: Ancona-"A star rises in midwinter"

Here, at this Ancona
I am beginning to forget you,
like we forget the histories of towns,
or the names of beautiful harbours.

But, memory, say the ancient holy ones,
can either aid us or be great rocks
in the heart and the mind-who recalls
the Valley of the Brambles, or

the Broken Bridge, or the Land
of the Grand Master. The henge is wrapped
in bureaucracy and Glastonbury’s martyrs
forgotten in silly action and false colours.

“But love, when perfect, is so powerful,
that we forget our own pleasure
in order to please God, whom we love”
wrote the Great Teresa—but what should

we keep in memory and what forget, as
I am forgotten in these walls?  The sea and
the ships bring my heart back in waves to you,
in greys, whites, reflecting my Clairvaux moods.

How can I grieve, like Odysseus on Circe’s isle,
waking out of drugged slumber from the depths
of the Middle Sea? “They say the sea is cold, but
the sea contains the hottest blood of all.”  This sea

holds mine and if I could send Love like ripples
to your shore, like tides to all whom I love, these
would be small white roses, riding on the dark sea,
small tokens lapping up on the far shores….

moving through time and memory, tossed over
the largest heart of all with a memory as old
as the song it sings, but it cannot sing the songs
of purged memory, the nocturnes of this day.

No white prayers come up from the deep, only
the praise of being warm in the cold, cold sea,
under the sail boats, under the rain and mist, the songs
vary outside my door—do those creatures on board

praise Him with persistent longing as the whales
below? What do they remember and what forget?
We have the missa and Word Incarnate, to remind
us of who we are and what we should remember.

Part Two: Telemachus- "They took a terrible vengeance"

Persistent love cannot be false, purified in the
gem polisher, made into some perfect stone
not born of passion, but compassion and pity;
not lust, but a reaching of the heart for completeness.

The young prince’s beard made mater’s decision
strong in pain and promise, being queen true to
her word, watching, weaving, weeping in the night
weary of those burning in envy and hatred.

Greed pitted itself against her age of fast happiness,
she wanted peace;  but, cannot the past be washed away,
the blood purified cleansed by the Blood of Him
Who showed Himself to a tribe unknown to

Telemachus? “Love is as strong as death” could
have been mater’s song as well as the desert groom,
coming up from the sheepfold, coming into the tent
looking for her who was dark and comely. Remembering.

Youth’s ascendency tossed him into the sea of Mnemosyne,
into Menelaus’ grand company, but no wisdom there.
Sailors brought the son back to miracles and a goddess
he did not know.  He became a man, true, unlike others.

Wrapped in the courage of Pallas Athena, he did not see
like another youth of the sheepfold, He, Who broke the Seal of Death,
Ever-Young in the dawn of a foreign day. Did the bearded youth
look south, as I do today, towards the hot lands for courage,

missing the purple sea, far from this cold land of grey mist
this land rimmed by sunsets of orange and duck-egg blue?
Telemachus’ sun set quickly, like yours, fame for a thousand
years without a twilight, but there is no other way

than to be taught by one’s father the ways of war and wooing.
The Hyperborei knew this and blessed their bards, placing them
in the front lines of battle for fame and fortune. Such is the play
of poetry and war, youth and death, marriage and separation.

Part Three: Penelope- "How can I cherish my man?"

Orion’s Belt melts the clouds in this night’s brightness,
but Penelope’s constellation seemed smaller than mine,
this one who strides across the Bay and meets the hot
cliffs of the other lands of deeper waters and older tribes.

Memory and reflection were her gifts of love, she
affectionate emblem of faithfulness, like me, always
monogamous, notoriously faithful beyond waiting days.
A woman’s face grows old while the heart is purified.

She undid her weary work until minds of lust and greed
jackals, predators, circling her and showing themselves
not to be real men of the Middle Sea, but boys . While
she mourned the lion, the whelps played war.

Searching the shore in the grey mist of morning, she
with spring-love in her heart gave in for a moment, but
what we have is greater, stronger, divine Love holding
all in His Heart, Humanity reaching down to earth

like Orion capturing the sea. Penelope’s god was her
husband, but now God becomes the Husband, and even such
a man as her’s striving with Neptune to get home, could
not compare with the Crucified One.

Odysseus of collective memory regained his bride through
suffering, a man purified in water and wind, Poseidon’s
plaything, until humility was learned and earned.
Some of us, like the Poet, are “rememberers”,

the bards with bow and arrow in the line of honour,
passing on the muir Desunt caetera, repetition, memory,
love in names and titles never to be forgotten unless
carved in foreign lands. We forget to our own peril.

The missing have forgotten who they are and were and
what they were supposed to be. Like Adam, thrust out
of the green home, reflecting in nine-hundred years of
remorse, waiting for death, and then the harrowing.

Profane love, like coal, becomes a diamond heart over time
and heat and pressure. The God of History changed all,
for Penelope, for me, renewing hope in the heart
making one young in vision and mastery.

Without memory, there would be no people,
no poem, no bard in the front line of fire;
no children to carry on the reflections of the
mater and pater; nothing but death.

Part 4: Ithaca- "The soul of man"

I would sit quietly in the southern sunlight
and bring you tea, sitting not too close in
the heat of the day, in silence, where the
geraniums bloom under the low sierras

which hid the pain crying out for healing
and completeness. So much has been lost
in this generation lost to the confusion of
each Child of Our Time, like the sailors

stopping up their stubborn ears in order to reach
the wineskin of wind, of curiosity, destroying
years of peace and Odysseus’ domesticity, pushing
out again into the Ionian Sea; none returned but one.

Love and will were separated. We threw away chances,
for completeness, renewable, yes, but not the same, like
the queen’s lost years of childbearing.  But, there is
a greater mercy than Athena’ magic.  The shore is in view.

Ithaca’s rocky coast rises out of the sea a long way
from my cove, but love rides the white waves, regardless
of the temperature of the sea and shore. Odysseus’ soul
was healed before he found Penelope again.  So, climb

up and see the small raft and like the man of the Middle Sea
come home to who you are.  The New God is not Poseidon,
ruler of horses, but the One Who walked on the waves,
proving a new King of the blue sea not far from you.

The ships sail away. My heart stays with the Babe in the Womb
silent in waiting for the fullness of time, and here we have
our being, if we look in the same place for this healing God.
Find the raft hidden beneath the cliff and come home.

Part 5: The Unknown God-"I would know my shadow and my light"

The sons of Telemachus may have seen the sons
of the red-haired man,  in the market place of Athens,
speaking the words of Epimenides for we are indeed,
people of memory; “Men of Athens, I perceive that

in every way you are very religious,” or a varied translation.
Damaris and Dionysius  heard with the blood of Odysseus
calling them home to a different Love, choosing a Known
God faithful to time and memory, the One Who entered history

again and again and again, changing the darkness into dawn.
in a Resurrection some derided. The long song of Homer
created a space for a new mimesis, heart, home, memory, will,
understanding, for new descendants of the wandering man.

The Blood washed away the obstacles, the encumbrances,
the imperfections of the tribe, purging our own hearts so
that we could decide to do something somewhere, somehow.
The Vulnerable God gave us His courage.

Spousal love so praised by Homer and Solomon becomes
the norm for you, for me, for those who care to listen
to the song. Love is now my occupation-let it be yours.
Let the heart follow us home….

Per lumen gloriae fit creatura rationalis  Deiformis
Cum enim aligius intellectus creatus vidit
Deum per essentiam—ipsa essentia Dei fit intelligibilis

The waters by the dry sands will not let my voyage
be delayed—for we are humans, semper idem,
semper paratus waiting for God. And, “seven times
a day, I praise Thee for Thy righteous ordinances.”

Benedict took up the heart and home of the Known God.
“Let me live, that I may praise Thee.” And the God of
time and memory redeemed the grass, redeemed the springs,
redeemed the Middle Sea and this near sea, redeemed place.

Small waves like white roses on the sea gather on the sand.
I would send them out again, in wind and sun to the south,
to lap up on another shore, like small prayers in the dark.
Yield, bend,  gather the signs of memory at your feet in the waters.

copyright, 2013

And, now, something completely different and a prayer request

I write poetry, short stories, dramas, anything. I have put a few poems on this blog, but not a long one, which is my speciality.

May  you like this one, which I wrote in 2012. Let me know what you think. For an artist or writer to send a work out into the world is like sending a grown child out into the world. One is not quite sure what will happen, but one has done one's best. I shall blog it in the post after this one. So, if you see something "different", you know what it is.

Also, prayer request...a lovely couple which has been praying for a baby for years, is expecting. Please pray for Patrick and Medvina. God bless all three.

Compromise? Negotiate?

Unanimously for Traditional Marriage-RNC

This is Cool-A New Bat

Part 119: Doctors of the Church and Perfection: Alphonsus Ligouri

Found here are some more words of wisdom from St. Alphonsus Ligouri. It is amazing how much he wrote. Here he is on perfection. I have referred to Rodriquez before in the perfection series. I think these passages are clear enough without comment. St. Alphonsus, perhaps, provides us with some of clearest writing in the entire series. Please feel free to ask questions on anything in his writing. By the way, if you are prone to illness, I highly suggest asking St. Alphonsus to be one of your patrons. He received the Sacrament of the Sick eight times in his life.

...we should unite ourselves to the will of God as regards our
degree of grace and glory.  True, we should esteem the things that
make for the glory of God, but we should show the greatest esteem for
those that concern the will of God. We should desire to love God more
than the seraphs, but not to a degree higher than God has destined
for us. St. John of Avila says: "I believe every saint has had the
desire to be higher in grace than he actually was. However, despite
this, their serenity of soul always remained unruffled. Their desire
for a greater degree of grace sprang not from a consideration of
their own good, but of God's. They were content with the degree of
grace God had meted out for them, though actually God had given them
less. They considered it a greater sign of true love of God to be
content with what God had given them, than to desire to have received
This means, as Rodriguez explains it, we should be diligent in
striving to become perfect, so that tepidity and laziness may not
serve as excuses for some to say: "God must help me; I can do only so
much for myself." Nevertheless, when we do fall into some fault, we
should not lose our peace of soul and union with the will of God,
which permits our fall; nor should we lose our courage. Let us rise
at once from this fall, penitently humbling ourselves and by seeking
greater help from God, let us continue to march resolutely on the
highway of the spiritual life. Likewise, we may well desire to be
among the seraphs in heaven, not for our own glory, but for God's,
and to love him more; still we should be resigned to his will and be
content with that degree of glory which in his mercy he has set for
It would be a serious defect to desire the gifts of supernatural
prayer -- specifically, ecstasies, visions and revelations. The
masters of the spiritual life say that souls thus favored by God,
should ask him to take them away so that they may love him out of
pure faith -- a way of greater security. Many have come to perfection
without these supernatural gifts; the only virtues worth-while are
those that draw the soul to holiness of life, namely, the virtue of
uniformity with God's holy will. If God does not wish to raise us to
the heights of perfection and glory, let us unite ourselves in all
things to his holy will, asking him in his mercy, to grant us our
soul's salvation. If we act in this manner, the reward will not be
slight which we shall receive from the hands of God who loves above
all others, souls resigned to his holy will.

The amount of writing by this great saint amazes me. If you have a chance, read his books.

Next, I shall move on to John of the Cross.

Part 118: Doctors of the Church and Perfection: Alphonsus Ligouri

Recently, I have been very ill .

I realized too painfully the state of my soul through this illness.

I saw my impatience and annoyance at being ill. I was crabby and not peaceful because I wanted to do things instead of being ill. I had to change my travel plans seriously.

Here is what St. Alphonsus states, which helps us on our road to perfection.

Sickness is the acid test of spirituality, because it discloses
whether our virtue is real or sham.

If the soul is not agitated, does not break out in lamentations, is
not feverishly restless in seeking a cure, but instead is submissive
to the doctors and to superiors, is serene and tranquil, completely
resigned to God's will, it is a sign that that soul is well- grounded
in virtue.
What of the whiner who complains of lack of attention? That his
sufferings are beyond endurance? That the doctor does not know his
business? What of the faint-hearted soul who laments that the hand of
God is too heavy upon him?

This story by St. Bonaventure in his "Life of St. Francis" is in
point: On a certain occasion when the saint was suffering
extraordinary physical pain, one of his religious meaning to
sympathize with him, said in his simplicity: "My Father, pray God
that he treat you a little more gently, for his hand seems heavy upon
you just now." Hearing this, St. Francis strongly resented the
unhappy remark of his well-meaning brother, saying: "My good brother,
did I not know that what you have just said was spoken in all
simplicity, without realizing the implication of your words, I should
never see you again because of your rashness in passing judgment on
the dispositions of divine providence." Whereupon, weak and wasted as
he was by his illness, he got out of bed, knelt down, kissed the
floor and prayed thus: "Lord, I thank thee for the sufferings thou
art sending me. Send me more, if it be thy good pleasure. My pleasure
is that you afflict me and spare me not, for the fulfillment of thy
holy will is the greatest consolation of my life."

If you really want God to show you your imperfections and sin, just pay attention to how you respond to illness. 

The way to perfection can be long and hard, but one must decide to follow this path.

Only the perfect see God. 

To be continued....

Goodbye, Sir Colin Davis, 1927-2013