Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Novena Honoring St. Therese, Day Nine

Happy feast of St. Therese of Lisieux, Doctor of the Church.

The following is from John Paul II's 1997 apostolic letter Divini Amoris Scientia, in which he declared Therese a Doctor of the Church.

"The core of her message is actually the mystery itself of God-Love, of the Triune God, infinitely perfect in himself. If genuine Christian spiritual experience should conform to the revealed truths in which God communicates himself and the mystery of his will (cf. Dei Verbum, n. 2), it must be said that Thérèse experienced divine revelation, going so far as to contemplate the fundamental truths of our faith united in the mystery of Trinitarian life. At the summit, as the source and goal, is the merciful love of the three Divine Persons, as she expresses it, especially in her Act of Oblation to Merciful Love. At the root, on the subject's part, is the experience of being the Father's adoptive children in Jesus; this is the most authentic meaning of spiritual childhood, that is, the experience of divine filiation, under the movement of the Holy Spirit. At the root again, and standing before us, is our neighbour, others, for whose salvation we must collaborate with and in Jesus, with the same merciful love as his.

Through spiritual childhood one experiences that everything comes from God, returns to him and abides in him, for the salvation of all, in a mystery of merciful love. Such is the doctrinal message taught and lived by this Saint.

As it was for the Church's Saints in every age, so also for her, in her spiritual experience Christ is the centre and fullness of Revelation. Thérèse knew Jesus, loved him and made him loved with the passion of a bride. She penetrated the mysteries of his infancy, the words of his Gospel, the passion of the suffering Servant engraved on his holy Face, in the splendour of his glorious life, in his Eucharistic presence. She sang of all the expressions of Christ's divine charity, as they are presented in the Gospel (cf. PN 24, Jésus, mon Bien-Aimé, rappelle-toi!).

Thérèse received particular light on the reality of Christ's Mystical Body, on the variety of its charisms, gifts of the Holy Spirit, on the eminent power of love, which in a way is the very heart of the Church, where she found her vocation as a contemplative and missionary (cf. Ms B, 2r·-3v·).

Lastly, among the most original chapters of her spiritual doctrine we must recall Thérèse's wise delving into the mystery and journey of the Virgin Mary, achieving results very close to the doctrine of the Second Vatican Council in chapter eight of the Constitution Lumen gentium and to what I myself taught in the Encyclical Letter Redemptoris Mater of 25 March 1987."

Concluding Prayer:

O Lord, You have said: Unless you become as little children you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven; grant us, we beg You, so to follow, in humility and simplicity of heart, the footsteps of the Virgin blessed Thérèse, that we may attain to an everlasting reward. Amen.

St. Therese, pray for us!

Good news.

Here is an article on the resurgence of Poland's Jewish community and culture--some good news in a bleak news world! Todd and I were blessed to spend our second honeymoon in Krakow and we visited the Jewish quarter while there.

Pascal says that the best proof of the supernatural is the continuing existence of the Jewish people. It is a miracle, and there is no purely rational explanation for it. I would add it is also the best suggestion of the possibility that God is good and loves his people--not with the bland "tolerance" of modern-day ilk, but rather with a father's solicitude and care for his children's survival and fidelity to Him.

Miriam has a disclaimer.

Miriam paints. As she paints, she usually enters into a sort of trance and sings a happy stream-of-consciousness song. Sometimes I have no idea where she gets the lyrics.

This morning:

"I have a disclaimer.
And if you have a baby, she is sick.
I need something to do for you.
You will take care of her all
and she will get better
and Peter Pan
But what will you do?
God on high stepped down into time
and wrote a story
for everyone
You and I were made to...
are painting.
We'll stay here.
Hey, let's get my other paints!"

Monday, September 29, 2008

Novena Honoring St. Therese, Day Eight

The following excerpts are from the two last letters written by Therese to her "brother missionaries," priests she adopted spiritually and with whom she exchanged many thoughts and prayers.

July 26, 1897
When you read these few lines I shall perhaps be no more. I know
not the future; yet I can confidently say that my Spouse is at the
door. It would need a miracle to keep me in exile, and I do not
think that Jesus will work that miracle--He does nothing that is
of no avail.
Brother, I am so happy to die! Yes, happy . . . not because I
shall be free from suffering: on the contrary, suffering combined
with love seems the one thing worthy of desire in this vale of
tears; but happy to die because far more than on earth I shall
help the souls I hold dear.
Jesus has always treated me as a spoilt child. . . . It is true
that His Cross has been with me from the cradle, but for that
Cross He has given me a passionate love . . .
August 14, 1897
 I am about to go before God, and I understand now more than ever
that one thing only is needful--to work for Him alone, and do
nothing for self or creatures. Jesus wishes to own your heart
completely. Before this can be, you will have much to suffer . . .
but oh! what joy when comes the happy hour of going Home! I shall
not die--I do but enter into Life . . . and whatsoever I cannot
tell you here upon earth I will make you understand from the
heights of Heaven. . . .

Novena Honoring St. Therese, Day Seven

From her private journals:

"O Jesus, I know well that you do not look so much at the greatness of my actions, as at the love with which I do them. It is true I am not always faithful, but I shall not lose courage. I desire to make use of every opportunity to please you."

Concluding Prayer:

O Lord, You have said: Unless you become as little children you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven; grant us, we beg You, so to follow, in humility and simplicity of heart, the footsteps of the Virgin blessed Thérèse, that we may attain to an everlasting reward. Amen.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Novena Honoring St. Therese, Day Six

This is from Therese's "Act of Oblation to Merciful Love," from the Story of a Soul. She asked permission of her Mother Superior to make a total offering of herself to the Mercy of Jesus. By this sacrifice of her entire self—body and soul—she hoped to save many souls by obtaining Christ's mercy for them through her suffering.

"O my God! Most Blessed Trinity, I desire to love you and make you loved, to work for the glory of Holy Church by saving souls on earth and liberating those suffering in purgatory. I desire to accomplish your will perfectly and to reach the degree of glory you have prepared for me in your kingdom. I desire, in a word, to be a saint, but I feel my helplessness and I beg you, O my God! To be yourself my sanctity!

"Since you loved me so much as to give me your only son as my savior and my spouse, the infinite treasures of his merits are mine. I offer them to you with gladness, begging you to look on me only in the face of Jesus and in his heart burning with love

"I want to console you for the ingratitude of the wicked, and I beg of you to take away my freedom to displease you. If through weakness I sometimes fall, may your divine grace cleanse my soul immediately, consuming all my imperfections like the fire that transforms everything into itself…

"After Earth's exile, I hope to go and enjoy you in heaven, but I do not want to lay up merits for heaven. I want to work for your love alone with the one purpose of pleasing you, consoling your sacred heart, and saving souls who will love you in eternity.

"In the evening of this life, I shall appear before you with empty hands, for I do not ask, Lord, to count my works. All our justice is stained in your eyes. I wish, then, to be clothed in your own justice and to receive from your love the eternal possession of yourself. I want no other throne, no other crown but you, my beloved!"

Concluding Prayer Prayed Each Day:

O Lord, You have said: Unless you become as little children you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven; grant us, we beg You, so to follow, in humility and simplicity of heart, the footsteps of the Virgin blessed Thérèse, that we may attain to an everlasting reward. Amen.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Open the windows

Growing up in the rural north, I never experienced the "silent summer" brought on by air-conditioning. My mother had the windows open at every hour of every day--unless a great and gusty gale came through the mountains. The sounds of summer became un-heard background music.

But down here in the Deep South, in metro-Atlanta, we keep those windows shut tightly for four months. The hum of the blessed AC drowns out summer sounds.

And last week we opened the windows. Now I am sitting at the dining room table in the dark--I hear anxious squirrels chattering, endless varieties of crickets and cicadas chirping, and a flock of geese flying north to my parents' house. The air comes in cool and clear. It reminds me of the wisdom of the prophets and of the Church--a time without intensifies the joy of time with.

After a summer of having a newborn, illness, heat, and the grief that comes with the cruelty of heresy--I am overjoyed to open wide the windows. Let in the cool air and praise.

Novena Honoring St. Therese, Day Five

This is Therese's prayer to Jesus from the last chapters of Story of a Soul.

"Draw me, I shall run after you... O Jesus, it is not even necessary to say: 'When drawing me, draw the souls whom I love!' This simple statement: 'Draw me!' suffices; I understand, Lord, that when a soul allows herself to be captivated by the scent of Your ointments, she cannot run alone, all the souls whom she loves follow in her train; this is done without constraint, without effort, it is a natural consequence of her attraction for You. Just as a torrent, throwing itself with impetuosity into the ocean, drags after it everything it encounters in its passage, in the same way, O Jesus, the soul who plunges into the shoreless ocean of Your love, draws with her all the treasures she possesses. Lord, You know it, I have no other treasures than the souls it has pleased You to unite to mine; it is You who entrusted these treasures to me…

Draw me, Lord, we shall run… O Jesus, I ask You to draw me into the flames of Your love, to unite me so closely to You that You live and act in me. I feel that the more the fire of love burns within my heart, the more I shall say, 'Draw me,' the more the souls who will approach me will run swiftly to You."

Concluding Prayer Prayed Each Day:

O Lord, You have said: Unless you become as little children you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven; grant us, we beg You, so to follow, in humility and simplicity of heart, the footsteps of the Virgin blessed Thérèse, that we may attain to an everlasting reward. Amen.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Novena Honoring St. Therese, Day Four

"O, God, hidden in the prison of the tabernacle! I come with joy to you each evening to thank you for the graces you have given me. I ask pardon for the faults I committed today, which has just slipped away … O, Jesus! How ahppy I would be if I had been faithful, but often in the evening I am sad because I feel I could have corresponded better with your graces … And yet, my God, far from becoming discouraged at the sight of my miseries, I come to you with confidence, recalling that 'those who are well do not need a doctor, but the sick do.' I beg you, then, to cure me and to pardon me. I will keep in mind, Lord, 'that the soul to whom you have forgiven more should also love you more than the others.'"

Concluding Prayer:

O Lord, You have said: Unless you become as little children you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven; grant us, we beg You, so to follow, in humility and simplicity of heart, the footsteps of the Virgin blessed Thérèse, that we may attain to an everlasting reward. Amen.

Novena Honoring St. Therese, Day Three

Day Three

From a letter written May 9, 1897.

"O Lord, to me you have granted your infinite mercy; and through it I contemplate and adore your other divine perfections! All of these perfections appear to be resplendent with love, even your justice—and perhaps this even more than the others—seems to me clothed in love. What a sweet joy to think that you, O God, are just, that is, that you take into account our weakness, that you are perfectly aware of our fragile nature. What should I fear, then? Must not you, the infinitely just God who deigned to pardon the faults of the prodigal son with so much kindness, be just also to me who am with you always?"

Concluding Prayer Prayed Each Day:

O Lord, You have said: Unless you become as little children you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven; grant us, we beg You, so to follow, in humility and simplicity of heart, the footsteps of the Virgin blessed Thérèse, that we may attain to an everlasting reward. Amen.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Novena Honoring St. Therese, Day Two

Day Two

From Therese's letters and notes:

"You know, O my God, I have never desired anything but to love you, and I am ambitious for no other glory. Your love has gone before me, and it has grown with me, and now it is an abyss whose depths I cannot fathom. Love attracts love, and, my Jesus, my love leaps towards yours; it would like to fill the abyss which attracts it, but alas! It is not even like a drop of dew lost in the ocean! … O my Jesus, it is perhaps an illusion but it seems to me that you cannot fill a soul with more love than the love with which you have filled mine; it is for this reason that I dare to ask you "to love those whom you have given me with the love with which you loved me" (John 17.23)."

Concluding Prayer Prayed Each Day:

O Lord, You have said: Unless you become as little children you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven; grant us, we beg You, so to follow, in humility and simplicity of heart, the footsteps of the Virgin blessed Thérèse, that we may attain to an everlasting reward. Amen.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Novena Honoring St. Therese, Day One

Day One

The following is from the opening chapter of Therese's autobiography. She attempts to explain to her sister, Pauline, who is her Mother Superior in the convent, the ways of God with souls. She makes her famous analogy of the soul to a flower: there are many flowers that beautify the garden—some little and some grand—and each one depends utterly on the mercy and grace of God for its life and particular beauty.

"I am now at a time of life when I can look back on the past, for my soul has been refined in the crucible of interior and exterior trials. Now, like a flower after the storm, I can raise my head and see that the words of the Psalm are realized in me: "The Lord is my Shepherd and I shall want nothing. He hath set me in a place of pasture. He hath brought me up on the water of refreshment. He hath converted my soul. He hath led me on the paths of justice for His own Name's sake. For though I should walk in the midst of the shadow of death, I will fear no evils for Thou are with me."

Yes, to me Our Lord has always been "compassionate and merciful, long-suffering and plenteous in mercy."

And so it gives me great joy, dear Mother, to come to you and sing His unspeakable mercies… If a little flower could speak, it seems to me that it would tell us quite simply all that God has done for it, without hiding any of its gifts. It would not, under the pretext of humility, say that it was not pretty, or that it had not a sweet scent, that the sun had withered its petals, or the storm bruised its stem, if it knew that such were not the case.

The little flower that now tells her tale rejoiced in having to publish the wholly undeserved favors bestowed upon her by Our Lord. She knows that she had nothing in herself worthy of attracting Him: His Mercy alone showered blessings on her. He allowed her to grow in holy soil enriched with the odor of purity, and preceded by eight lilies of shining whiteness. In His Love He willed to preserve her from the poisoned breath of the world--hardly had her petals unfolded when this good Master transplanted her to the mountain of Carmel, Our Lady's chosen garden."

~ Chapter I, Story of a Soul

Concluding Prayer:

O Lord, You have said: Unless you become as little children you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven; grant us, we beg You, so to follow, in humility and simplicity of heart, the footsteps of the Virgin blessed Thérèse, that we may attain to an everlasting reward. Amen.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Two children.

And, if you were not yet convinced of the mighty struggle between the culture of death and the culture of life... Here is Paul Kengor on two children with Down Syndrome.

I'll blog more later on the pro-life "issue." It's a shame to call it an "issue," because that seems to reduce all those lives to a "consideration." As if we--the living--had any authority to "consider" their worthiness of our protection. (I can imagine a German voter from 1933, "We need to consider the 'Jewish issue.') I want to try and articulate the depth of the crisis over their lives, so come back later this week!

UPDATE: And here's yet another synopsis of the denial in which opponents to the Born Alive Infant Protection Act are simply in a philosophically untenable (i.e., divorced from concrete reality) position.

Poetry to my ears.

Many of you have already seen the post over at Rocks in My Dryer on potty training. Many of you haven't. But it is truly one of the most moving and beautiful works of art I have read recently. And this has nothing to do, of course, with the fact that Miriam is still only partially there. After eighteen months. Of. Potty. Training. She has convinced us that we won't even try to train Isabella until the child is at least 3. Or begs us on her knees to be given use of the potty. Ave, crux!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008


I've been putting together a novena (a set of prayers extending over nine days) for the upcoming feast of St. Therese, which means lots of reading from the Story of a Soul and her diaries and letters. Battle-weariness, lifted!

What struck me most deeply this time is her purity of heart. I don't mean her extraordinary chastity or her virginity... Purity of heart here is her single-minded and intense attention to What Really Matters. She devotes every breath and every word she writes to the mystery that the one who made all things is love. She doesn't try to prove it or argue its reasonableness. She simply rejoices. In fact, she gushes.

And, without being morbid, she is wholly focused on heaven. I don't think I'd ever registered before that nearly every three sentences mention heaven, death, eternal life, "the embrace of Jesus," on and on. And so I lift mine eyes up unto the hills from whence comes my deliverance! Thinking about death and heaven are not high on the priority list in our culture. Maybe that's why depression is so rampant?

So, when the "current political climate" has gotten me down or seems to have ruined friendships I long held dear, when I'm tired of trying to explain how reasonable the faith can be to endless rows of bored teenagers... it is time to narrow my scope and focus on the one this necessary. All the extra efforts are for love of the truth--who happens to be a person, living and true God. He's going to take care of all the details.

Purity of heart. And a little gush now and then of girlish love-language.

Friday, September 12, 2008

On genetic determinism.

If you're still feeling battle-weary, a good British chuckle might help... Here's John Cleese on why you ... do anything at all!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

On castles

Here is a little blurb from Amanda Shaw on Teresa's Interior Castle. It sums up nicely my motivations for writing the synopses of the various "levels" last spring. Ave, Carmelite-hearts!

Monday, September 8, 2008

"Educated" is not "responsible."

Here's a lively and interesting take on sex-education from Darwin Catholic (via Wine Dark Sea). His point speaks some Pascalian mantra to me: it is not the intellect alone that governs, but the good will. Only if the heart--the core of the man--convinces reason can education in any moral arena "work." Information alone--whether it's abstinence or contraceptives--does not change the will. The will must be persuaded through habit, sometimes force (at a young age), goodness, and beauty.

The Birth of Mary

~Bougereau, La Maternite

Rejoice, O Virgin unsurpassed,
in whom our ransom was begun,
for all your loving children pray
to Christ, our Savior and your Son.

Sunday, September 7, 2008


I am so weary of fighting to be charitable in the truth. More often than not, my zeal for truth translates into frustration... but then I no longer am living in the truth, because the truth is charity. Veritas caritas est.

And then, this.

And before Mass this morning, St. Therese's little words: I thank you, God, for this grace--that I am too weary this morning to do good, to be patient. Because it is in you alone that I will persevere today and, when evening comes, I will look back through the hours and praise your name. You alone brought me safely into holiness.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Miriam's first syllogism.

On the way home from school yesterday--where she goes to preschool and Bella and I teach high school--Miriam was ruminating over geography in the back seat and produced a syllogism.

"Louis (my parents' big black lab) lives with Ama and Grandpa Doc. Ama and Grandpa Doc live in NH. So... hmmm.... Louis lives in NH!"

Notice--oh, rapture!--the distributed middle, the order of her premises, the validity of the conclusion!

Fr. Shanley would be proud. He taught me my first syllogism. Except I was eighteen.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

God is not a tapioca pudding.

If he were a pudding--vast, spiritual pudding in the sky--then

deep ecology
the contraceptive mentality
bestial aggression
and power politics

would all be natural and therefore justifiable in at least some cases.

But he is not. He took a human face.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Ballad of Chesterton

If you have not read The Ballad of the White Horse recently, you really must. I was feeling grim after deleting a nasty "you hypocrite" comment from the blog (that'll teach me to comment on politics!), but remembered to pick up this epic poem from our dearest GKC.

The reason it is such a timely piece lies in Chesterton's gloriously timeless theme: that the small conflicts of states and sovereigns are piece and puzzle of the great struggle between good and evil, the beautiful and corrupt, the pagan and the true faith.

Book III, when Alfred comes to the camp of the pagan Danes in disguise, is my favorite. He listens to the Danish King Guthrum's song of the heart without hope:

For he sang of a wheel returning,
And the mire trod back to mire,
And how red hells and golden heavens
Are castles in the fire.

It is good to sit where good tales go,
To sit as our fathers sat;
But the hour shall comes after his youth,
When a man shall know not tales but truth,
And his heart shall fail thereat.

When he shall read what is written
So plain in clouds and clods,
When he shall hunger without hope
Even for evil gods.

The pagan heart--the heart without Christ--is fiery, noble, beautiful, and, as Chesterton sings it, "half-witted." Its world turns endlessly along without a goal beyond immediate conquest, immediate gratification. (So, why does Guthrum's sadness remind me of TLC's "What Not To Wear"?)

And then Alfred strikes up the harp:

When God put man in a garden
He girt him with a sword,
And sent him forth a free knight
That might betray his lord;

He brake Him and betrayed Him,
And fast and far he fell,
Till you and I may stretch our necks
And burn our beards in hell...

When the Danes laugh at this Englishman and ask why he still sings when they have destroyed his land, Alfred sings on:

Here is my answer then.

That on you is fallen a shadow,
And not upon the Name;
That though we scatter and though we fly,
And you hang over us like the sky,
You are more tired of victory,
Than we are tired of shame...

Our monks go robed in rain and snow,
But the heart of flame therein,
But you go clothed in feasts and flames,
When all is ice within...

For our God hath blessed creation,
Calling it good. I know
What spirit with whom you blindly band
Hath blessed destruction with his hand;
Yet by God's death the stars shall stand
And the small apples grow.

It is good to raise my eyes up out of the current political mire. Chesterton articulates so well the hearts of men without God and brings me back to the One Thing Necessary: that God hath blessed creation with his own death. And life.

Yes, I am excited about Sarah Palin.

If you couldn't guess.

I've been disappointed (er, disgusted), however, by some comments I've found here and there in the Catholic blogosphere. Namely, that a mother of five has no business running for the vice presidency. And that, because her 17-year-old daughter is pregnant out of wedlock, Palin is a bad mother.

Elizabeth Foss, mother of nine, says it best to answer the first charge.

"I can't imagine being Vice President. I can't even imagine being the managing editor of a magazine, working from home, any more. And you know, I can't imagine running a lacemaking business from my home either. But Zelie Martin did. And she will be canonized a month from now. I can't imagine being a busy doctor while caring for several young children. But St. Gianna Molla did. I can't imagine starting a ministry with my husband, involving my children in it, and moving countless times as necessary to see it grow. But Sally Clarkson did."

And as to the second charge... Well, St. Monica had a son, I'm told, who was none too perfect. Children may look a bit like us, but their adult choices are their own. Not a mother out there can claim that, in eighteen years, her own daughter will be as chaste, patient, and pure of heart as she wishes them to be. We can all only ora et labora et ora et ora.

So, let's come to our collective Catholic senses. The choice for president hasn't changed; it just became more exciting.

UPDATE: I just came across this rather classy statement from Obama, asking for "hands off Bristol." Well done, sir.