Saturday, March 10, 2018

POLISHED TO A SHINE

Polished Worry Stone
Rubbed Smooth by Faith and Prayer
Glories in the Cross

Very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had just risen, the women went to the tomb.  They had been saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?”  When they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled away.       Mark 16: 2-4

 I know I am skipping ahead to the end of the paschal story, but this being Laetari  (Rejoice) Sunday, I couldn’t resist.   Do you hear the worry in the women’s voices?  We know the end of the story.  They meet the risen Jesus.  Yet, they are bewildered, but they also rejoice.   We too have our share of worries and bewilderment and times of rejoicing.   

Even the foundress of the Redemptoristine Nuns, Blessed Maria Celeste Crostarosa, had cause to worry and be  bewildered.    Imagine how you would feel if, as a novice in your community, you had a revelation that you were to be the instrument Jesus uses to found a new Order.  The plan of the new Order was to be  based on the life of Jesus: on His humility and His love.  Imagine the turmoil that would cause in community.   That is exactly what happened to Celeste.

Blessed Celeste was an eighteenth century mystic.  All her life she enjoyed a special relationship with her Beloved Lord.  From the age of six, Jesus spoke tenderly to her heart and through the years He was her Guide saying she would travel in His footsteps in the same way He traveled in His earthly life.

Jesus said, “You are for me alone and I am for you alone.”   He explained, “You are my friend, you are my delight!  In your sufferings and afflictions, I keep you in my Kingdom of the Cross and in the Kingdom of my Peace and rest,  just the way I lived on this earth, so that I might give you the Kingdom of Eternal Happiness.”  

And Celeste indeed traveled in Jesus’s footsteps.  After she told her superiors about the revelation, things went from bad to worse, so much so that at one point she was sequestered to a closet under the eaves for two weeks and forbidden the reception of Holy Communion.  People were calling her delusional, a troublemaker.   It wasn’t until she was interviewed by one Rev. Alphonsus Liguori that Celeste was believed and the Order was approved.  

All the while Blessed Celeste lived in faith and prayer following the pattern of Jesus’s life of self-emptying, embracing the cross for love of Him.   Even after the Order was established, she still experienced worry and bewilderment when was ultimately expelled from the community because she was true to her Lord and followed her conscience.  For five years she was a wayfarer until she founded a new monastery based on the Rule revealed to her by Jesus.

Throughout this time, Celeste wrote in the form of dialogues her conversations with Jesus.   In wonder Celeste says to Jesus,  “In your humiliations all the sweetnesses of your treasures and infinite glory are hidden.  There you invite me to keep you company on the cross and in your mercy gazed on me with compassion.” 

Just a note here:  When Blessed Celeste uses the words ‘humiliations,’ I believe she is speaking of God’s total self-emptying in becoming human like one of us as Jesus, therefore accepting all that it means in foregoing all privilege and reverence due him as Man-God.  In the Florilegium, a collection of her writings, Celeste uses the word ‘humiliations’ at least 35 times:  exemplary humiliations, admirable humiliations, glorious throne of humiliations, the supreme divine humiliations of his death on a cross… and on and on.   In pondering these instances of Christ’s humiliations we discover opportunities for ourselves to be better disposed for the perfect transformative union of our soul with the Man-God Himself.

Jesus responds to Celeste, “Be not surprised that I died for you on the cross: I embraced the cross, loved it, desired it and took pleasure in it ~ all for your love.”  And encourages her saying, “Keep your gazed fixed on Me without any fear in all that you do knowing that this work is totally mine.” 

Celeste answers, “I thank you, my faithful Lover, for the great love and mercy you have for me.  You, God, live in the human person; in my life the Son of the Eternal Father is living, having come down into my heart to give new life to my flesh.  Make me an echo of your love.”

What worries do we have in common with Celeste? Misunderstanding and hurts with our family and friends, our places of work, our local communities?  Do we share them with Jesus? 

We live in a time of self-emptying, like Jesus, our Beloved.  We share humiliations, weaknesses, illnesses, as well as the everyday challenges and mundane occurrences of our lives with Jesus.  These are the hidden treasures that transform us when we unite ourselves to Jesus on the cross.   And you are not alone.  The very people who are such a bother are the same people who, if we accept their critiques, instruction, chisel off our rough edges, ware down our bumps and polish us up.  In the moment, this is not pleasant or easy.  But, if we step back and listen in the silence of our hearts, we may learn something about ourselves and others.  In the book of Proverbs it is written, “Listen to instruction and grow wise.”   These ‘instructions’ are not destructions.  These instructions rub us smooth like the worry stone you hold in your hand polished to a shine by prayer and time.  All of us are all participating in this rubbing, this transformation as we travel together with Jesus.  Together we are being polished to glory.

How can we persevere when things get rough?  Like Celeste we can reflect on the life of Jesus in  prayer, faith and trust knowing we are not alone at any moment of our lives during times of worry.   In sweet acceptance we offer ourselves, like Jesus, like Celeste, to God knowing we are worthy of divine love, and discover the graces and gifts, the wisdom and strength received from those hidden treasures, as we rub up against our own weaknesses and sufferings with others and move on enlightened to share in the supreme glory of the cross of Jesus, our Beloved.    

The stone has already been rolled away! 
Rejoice!

How does it feel to be rubbed the wrong way? 
Do you take this to prayer?
Does it ever smooth out your hard edges?
What does your polished to glory look like?

The Sisters and Associates traced their worry stone on a piece of paper and colored in the 'glory.'

Friday, February 16, 2018

KINGDOM OF THE CROSS LITANY

By MKQ '18 Inspired by Blessed Celeste Crostarosa
Eternal Father of Love,
make us an echo of your love.
Redeemer of the world,
make us an echo of your love.
Holy Spirit,
Divine Consoler,
make us an echo of your love.  
Worthy of Divine Love
We embrace the cross:
make us an echo of your love.  
By Your infinite
redemption

We embrace the cross:
make us an echo of your love.  
In our suffering
We embrace the cross:
make us an echo of your love.   

In our weakness
We embrace the cross:
make us an echo of your love.   
In times of illness
We embrace the cross:
make us an echo of your love. 
In our humility
We embrace the cross:
make us an echo of your love.  
Transformed by union
We embrace the cross:
make us an echo of your love.  
In peace and rest
We embrace the cross:
make us an echo of your love.   
In the glory of the cross
make us an echo of your love. 

Friday, January 26, 2018

EVERYDAY GOD                      Words and Music Bernadette Farrell

Earth’s creator,                           God of laughter…
          Everyday God                      God of sorrow…
Loving Maker                                    Home and shelter…
          O Jesus,                                        Strong and patient…
You who shaped us
 O Spirit,                           Way of freedom…
Recreate us.                                              Star of morning…
Come be with us.                     Timeless healer…
                                                             Flame eternal…
In your presence…
 We are gathered…                      Word of gladness…
  You have called us…                  Word of mercy…
   To restore us…                            Word of friendship…
                                                           Word of challenge…
Life of all lives…
 Love of all loves…                    Gentle Father…
  Hope of all hopes…                    Faithful brother…
   Light of all lights…                        Tender sister…
                                                           Loving mother…
In our resting…
 In our rising…                          Our beginning…
  In our hoping…                         Our unfolding…
   In our waiting…                                   Our enduring…
                                                        Journey’s ending…
In our dreaming…
 In our daring…                          Alleluia…
  In our searching…                      Now and always…
   In our sharing…                                    Alleluia…

                                                         Through all ages…

Rev. 21: 5-7 
The One who sits on the throne said,
“Behold, I am making all things new! What I am saying is trustworthy and true.”   
That One continued, “It is finished.  I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End.   To those who are thirsty I will give drink freely from the springs of the water of life.  This is the rightful inheritance of those who overcome. I will be their God and they will be mine.”           

Happy New Year!  But in reality, what is finished? what is beginning?  Our life goes on in a circular fashion in Kairos time. As a Mobius strip is an eternal one sided circle of Christ-time, we are privileged to recognize the hand of God in the extraordinary and in the everydayness of our lives.

Our contemplation sees into the heart of the everyday and sees the hand of God creating, supporting, forgiving, guiding, healing and loving us at every turn.   Jesus became incarnate to participate in our everyday lives so as to give us an example of how much God loves us and how we in turn should love one another.  It is in the everyday moments of our lives that we become the hand of God creating, supporting, guiding, forgiving, healing, loving.  It is all the little things we do that when put together expresses the wholeness of our life and we become the Incarnate Body of Christ in today’s world; a radiant witness to God’s love.   

Celeste wrote of this as union/participation.  Jesus said to Celeste, “You shall possess my joy by your participation in my love.”  This participation is accomplished when we follow the Wayfarer with open hearts to experience the new beginnings of everyday set before us.   

In the end, what matters is that we remain faithful to our call.  We seek the special guidance of the Spirit during this New Year. Let us keep that thirst we had from beginning which brought us here to live in communion with each other and Christ who is the light of our faith, the strength of our charity and the source of our hope.                                                   

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

LIGHT OF THE WORLD

THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD

I’ve been thinking of stars a lot lately.  The sky gets dark earlier and earlier and I long for light.   Last week we had the super moon:  it was as close as it could get in its orbit around the earth and so shown brighter than ever reflecting not only the light of the sun but the light of the world.

Advent is a time to reflect on THE Light of the World; Christ’s double coming in the end times and Jesus’ coming as an infant.    Human nature, being what it is, often focuses on basking in the warm glow of the manger scene, a sterilized version of what really happened.  If we imagine the real nativity it would reflect on what is happening in our world today with all its injustices, homelessness, natural disasters and conflict between nations. 

Imagine what the birth of Jesus was like for Mary and Joseph. Talk about confusing circumstances: doubts regarding the couple’s future, conquering rulers ordering them to leave their home, journeying to faraway places, nowhere to lodge.  And after the joyful birth, a mad king sends his army to kill all the children in the region and they have to flee.   Life was not easy.  No wonder the Chosen People longed for the Messiah. 

We, too, have a deep need for Christ and we feel it most keenly when it is dark and the circumstances of our own lives leave us struggling.  No wonder we long for the Light of the World to enter in to our presence here and now. 

One of the benefits of living in a monastery is that we sing a wide range of Advent hymns throughout the day and season.  Most have phrases reflect our yearning for light:  ‘Creator of the stars of night,’ ‘Beyond the moon and stars, as deep as night, so great our hunger Lord, to see your light,’ ‘Love most bright’, ‘Come, O Radiant Dawn… Come, Sun of Justice,’  ‘Love, the star is on the way,’   ‘The King shall come when morning dawns and light triumphant breaks,’  ‘Christ…her star and sun and strong redeemer,’  ‘Christ, may your light surround us.’   I could go on and on.  All these songs help us express our longing.    Like the four themes of Hope, Peace, Joy and Love assigned to the four candles on our Advent Wreath, they help light our way and give us strength and courage to follow the Light of the World.

Have you ever lain on the ground looking up at the stars?   I remember one time I was out by myself and gazing at the cosmos and having an eerie feeling while looking at the vastness of space.  I was overcome with a sense of wonder and awe thinking about its immensity, the eternal nature of the universe.  It felt like God was reaching out to me.  It was a bit terrifying.  Just me and God.  In hindsight, I realize it was a moment that Celeste would describe as being aware of your nothingness in comparison to the Infinite All.  It was quite a humbling experience.  About this Jesus told Celeste, “You should praise and thank me for this gift: I have given you an excellent being, with both the experience and the remembrance of your nothingness.”

We have been created in the image of God, so even though we are nothing, Jesus tells us we are worthy, ‘an excellent being.’  We can be points of light shining out God’s Infinite Love and Mercy to our sisters and brothers.   To our eyes, stars are just tiny points of light, but in reality they are unfathomably large balls of fire eternally aflame which continually burn and gives light through all eternity.  We are called to “always be on fire with a pure flame of most chaste love until finally, after all the worldliness has been burnt out of your being, CHRIST ALONE IS LIVING IN YOUR LIFE.” 

I did a word search for ‘star’ in the writings of Blessed Celeste and found three references.  Funnily, because her last name is Crostarosa it highlighted ‘star’ a lot more times wherever CroSTARosa appeared.   

Celeste writes, “God placed the stars in the firmament. These are like all the merits of Jesus Christ, our Savior and these merits adorn our soul like jewels which shine like stars in the firmament of our souls.”     

Carl Sagan once said, “We are made of star stuff.”  I think Celeste would agree.  She writes, “Everything that exists, the stars and the moon in the heavens, the earth, the plants, the creatures, even the current events, exists for the delight and good pleasure of God.”  God spoke from the bright cloud, “This is my Son in whom I Am well pleased (delight in).” Jesus, the First-Born of all creation, shares his matter, his very being with us.  God created the stars, the Son and us.  In our nothingness we are one with the Creator, the Son, the stars, one another.   In us God, too, delights.    Note the word ‘light’ is in delight.

What is our response to this mind-blowing reality?  Celeste answers, “Let your response be in your prayer and your work; let Delight in God be your food, your room, your life, your spirit, your desires, your hope, your security.   The evening shall be a time of silent thanksgiving to the eternal Father for having given Jesus to the world. And they shall thank God for all the graces and the treasures which the Church enjoys through the Son’s merits.”


So, this Advent, during the darkest time of the year, let us be like the stars of heaven that sang together with shouts of joy at the dawn of creation and join with all the children of God singing a song of thanks and praise for Jesus, the Light of the World.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

THANKSGIVING, LITTLE CHRISTMAS AND CHRIST THE KING

We celebrate Little Christmas each month in honor of the Incarnation.  This month it comes between the feasts of Thanksgiving and Christ the King.

Bl. Celeste says, "O God, my Lover, I give you infinite thanks because You deigned to speak to my heart with these most sweet words so full of goodness, that is: 
'To you I will give the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven,' meaning that You have given me the Keys of Your Divine Love since You gave me Your Divine Son so that Jesus might live His life in my heart and that I might live in Your Divine Heart… What kind of thanks can I give You, only Lover of my heart?!"

Then Celeste says, "In the second coming, it shall
become evident how God became Man when His glory and majesty and all His divine actions shall be revealed like the Burning Rays of the Sun since they were performed in a most excellent way by Christ-the-Wayfarer in that infinite love, humility and patience with which He brought about your salvation by His most holy death."

As followers of Wayfarer, the Incarnate Jesus does not promise us a life of leisure but rather a life of love.  Our lives have its ups and downs: our circumstances, our church, our world, all of creation seem to be in constant upheaval.   This causes our hearts to be troubled at times.  As Redemptoristines we called to live our lives with deep faith and hope, humility and patience.  We are called to bask in the burning Rays of the Sun ‘in a climate of intimacy with the Lord and of silent intercession for the salvation of the world,’ and to allow the Divine Heart of Love to live and manifest Itself in our hearts all the days of our lives.

 In thanksgiving we renew our vows to the Lover of our hearts.


Thursday, October 26, 2017

BREATH OF GOD

In Memory of Sr. Mary Anne Reed, OSsR,
who died October 18, 2017.

Then the Lord God formed the man out of the dust of the ground and blew into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.  Gen 2

For the spirit of God made me, the breath of the Almighty keeps me alive. Job 22

When the centurion who stood facing him saw how he breathed his last he said, “Truly this man was the Son of God!” Mk 15

“Peace be with you.  As the Father has sent me so I send you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the holy Spirit.  John 20

What do Jesus and Sr. Mary Anne have in common?  She breathed the same air Jesus did.    They both took in air at the moment of birth and released air at the final moment.  In between they breathed, and breathed, and breathed.  In and out they breathed the Spirit that gives us all life.  Jesus’, Mary Anne’s, ours, are the gift of God’s life-breath.    As Mary Anne would say, ‘All is gift.”  Truly, Sr. Mary Anne was a daughter of God.

In the Seventh Soliloquy, Blessed Celeste tells of the stage of prayer where, “God breathes a breath of love into the soul and the soul breathes it back to God.”  She continues, “In this union there is a wonderful peace and joy.  It is so simple you can scarcely see in it any mystery.”  Celeste concludes, “Yet, how incredible is it that a poor earthbound creature can rise into the life of the uncreated Being!” 

That is our calling:  to breathe as Jesus did; to breathe in and out the life-giving breath as we perform our daily tasks in the midst of a world longing for  peace and to experience the uniting, merciful love of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.


Let us breathe in the life-giving Spirit as we renew our vows as we celebrate the Incarnation of Jesus this October 25th.