Wednesday, September 12, 2018

HOMILY ON THE FEAST OF BLESSED CELESTE CROSTAROSA by Fr. Tom Orian 9/11


‘We heard in the Paul’s letter to the Ephesians these words, “we are God’s work of art, created in Christ to do the good things God created for us to do and today the Church celebrates one of God’s masterpieces, Blessed Maria Celeste Crostarosa.   To many however, when you mention her name the response is not one of great joy but more one like Who?  To the small band of her followers in this room she is model, guide and companion even centuries later.

Paul further says we exist to display the immeasurable riches of God’s grace and kindness in Christ and the gift of faith given to us in Christ . This is what saints do and it was what Blessed Celeste did in her life. Like Martha in the Gospel came to do, she was also able to come to believe that Christ was the Messiah and Son of God who had come into the world to save us.  Her world was a special world just as Martha and Mary’s world was, she knew and believed that in Christ Jesus, “whatever you ask of God, God will give you.”

Giulia Crostarosa was born in Naples in 1696, the 10th of 12 children. She was considered by some as the “darling of the family” both intelligent and high spirited.  There was much to be discovered about her as she grew in her understanding of who she was.  She invites us this day on here Feast day to continue to grow in our understanding of who we are as a people of God.
When you want to understand something about a founder such as Celeste you look to her writings, Her writing was so focused on the one who was the redeemer of humankind and thus we have a community who recall and who contemplate as only they can, the one redeemer’s actions for us today and every day, Celeste heard Jesus’ command when he said to her and he says to us. “Do not love any creature, love only me. Imitate my life and unite whatever you do with the works of my life.”   Blessed Celeste went about with eyes focus and heart dwelling in the life of Christ her teacher and redeemer.

She, as many young women did in her day and age, entered religious life and when while still in formation as a novice, she had a revelation that she would be the instrument by which a new rule and order of nuns would be established. She wrote “With desire I have desired to give my Spirit to the world and to communicate it to my creatures endowed with reason, in order to live with them and in them until the end of the world. Out of immense love, I have given them my Only Begotten Son.” 

With the support and collaboration of St. Alphonsus Liguori, who later became her friend the Order of the Most Holy Redeemer was founded on the Feast of Pentecost in 1731. That is the beginning of the story but it certainly doesn’t end there. Like many founders of new communities she was misjudged, she was called a troublemaker, delusional, and to even some she was considered a witch. But persistent in her call she remained strong.

She was eventually expelled from the original monastery for being one her companions could not understand and so she turned to her Beloved  Jesus, who was to show her the way. Blessed Celeste’s heart was always focused on founding a new monastery and new way of life and so she continued her quest in Foggia, where she became a prolific writer and mystic.

The spiritual journey of Maria Celeste was filled with many mystical experiences and is characterised by obedience to conscience, by constant searching for the meaning of the gospel, and by living simply. Here where I invite to do your home work and read more of her life or just turn to her living followers today and let them tell you the whole of the story. Maria Celeste died at Foggia on the 14th September 1755. At the moment of her death, Saint Gerard Majella, her spiritual friend, declared he saw her soul flying to heaven as a white dove.” That’s quite a story of the one who followed the life of her redeemer.  I found that as I reflected more, it was fascinating for the situation here as she began with Carmelite roots but also had a tie to Francis as well.  In 1731, on October 3, the Vigil of the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi, Maria Celeste has a vision of Our Lord with St. Francis and Alphonsus Liguori. She discovers that Jesus wishes to have Alphonsus be the first superior of a men's Institute, with the additional charge to "…Go and preach to every creature that the kingdom of heaven is at hand."

Today we celebrate Celeste let us reflect upon the words of their own constitution: the Order of the Most Holy Redeemer accomplishes its mission in the Church in close fellowship with the entire Redemptorist family. The Order is, in fact, closely linked by its origins, name and
spirituality, with the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer. The twofold Institute is called to achieve a common goal in a complementary fashion. The apostolate of the Redemptorists is sustained by the contemplative life of the Nuns and their ministry gives incentive to the life of prayer and contemplation of the Nuns who are themselves fully missionary (cf. Canon 674), The mission of both is to be faithful witnesses of the love of the Father and to continue in this way with the grace of the Holy Spirit, the Mystery of Christ Jesus, born of the Virgin Mary for the salvation of mankind."

On this feast day may you remember always the vision of Celeste and live the words of St Paul in Ephesians, God has raised you up, In union with Christ to display the riches of God’s grace and kindness in Christ. May you echo Celeste vision in your life when he joins Paul in saying, “Life for me is Christ.


Tuesday, September 11, 2018

THE GIFT AND JOY OF BEING AN ASSOCIATE


For the past 27 years I have had the gift and the joy of being an Associate of the Redemptoristine Sisters.  And even before I became an associate, I was coming to this monastery on Carmelite feast days in the late 1980’s.  And so both Orders of sisters have been my friends and spiritual support for many years.

The witness of all of the sisters in living a deeply committed contemplative life has been a major source of strength for me in my life as a contemplative in the world.

The fidelity of the Redemptoristine sisters in praying for my many intentions and needs of myself and my family gives me deep consolation.

The steadfastness of the sister’s presence to us together with the friendship with my sister associates is a source of strength and deep joy for me in the challenge to try to live the Gospel and be a Living Memorial of Christ the Redeemer in my daily life.

I feel deep gratitude to God, to each of the sisters and to my sister associates for this blessed association which has become such an integral part of my Christian life.


Peggy Mearns   9/9/18


Friday, August 31, 2018

THE GOSPEL OF POOH


How was your summer?  That is the refrain running through our minds with the beginning of school just around the corner. Whatcha (what did you) do?  Whatcha see? What makes you smile just remembering?  What broke your heart? In all of this, how did God’s hand touch you, change you?

I have a confession to make:  I just read for the first time Winnie the Pooh after being intrigued by the commercials for the new movie, Christopher Robin.

What a delightful series of stories of a simpler time. Christopher Robin and Pooh are full of wonder of the world around them.  They are thoughtful, kind and big-hearted.  Present to the present moment. Ah, to be like Pooh and relish the now.  And if things get bothersome, hum a little tune, think up a poem, or just ponder.

The characters in the Pooh stories are the exact opposite of what Jesus warns about in today’s Gospel: “From within people come evil thoughts, unchastity, theft, greed, malice, deceit, indecency, envy, slander, pride, folly.  All these evils come from within and they defile.” Mk 7:21-23


Would that we all would take our cue from Pooh and friends and be a blessing to one another by enjoying the adventures of living in the now, being selfless, humble, generous, modest, and having the  spontaneity to say, “I love you,” just because. Let us carve out times in our days to relish each other and each moment, for those are the times when God’s hand touches us the most.

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.