Tuesday, August 31, 2021

INTRODUCING BLESSED MARIA CELESTE CROSTAROSA ~ Part 1 of 2

         I bet many of you have never heard of Maria Celeste 

Crostarosa, the foundress of the Order of the Most Holy Redeemer.  Neither had I until I entered the Order, commonly known as the Redemptoristine Nuns, and fell in love with her and her message.  
Let me tell you why she is so special.  Maria Celeste was a mystic and contemporary of St. Alphonsus Liguori.   Both were born in Naples in 1696 though they did not meet until 33 years later. 



Born the tenth of twelve children to the Crostarosa family, Celeste was baptized Giulia.  Little Giulia, so loved spiritual things that by the age of six, sensed the presence of Jesus in her heart.    Yet, when she was nine years old, Giulia became lax in her fervor because she enjoyed the company of the servants learning their nonsense songs and worldly ways.  But the Lord pursued her to change her foolish conduct and after a few months Giulia made a good confession and resolved to do better.  

          On the day of her First Communion, when Giulia was 11, the Lord invited her into His Heart saying, "Enter into this wound; and I will purify you from all your sins."  With that, she entered into a profound recollection, and heard Jesus say, "I wish to be your Guide.   Love Me alone." 

          Giulia responded, “My Lord, You have always loved me; keep me close to You.”   And from then on, she wished to live a humble life.  The Lord was pleased and said within her heart: “You must imitate my life and unite whatever you do to My life.”  

          At 15, Giulia, still a beginner in the spiritual life, made the mistake of changing her confessor to a much younger, inexperienced priest. This led to spiritual darkness.   Gone were the consolations but not the guidance from her Lord, who said, “Look at the sun. Now behold how the warmth of the Divine Son lights up everything and makes the plants of virtues grow in your soul to produce flowers and fruits for eternal life. By My Divine Fire, I burn up all the bad weeds of your soul.  Your eyes are closed by sin.  Open your eyes to My Divine Light.” 

          This spiritual darkness lasted two years. By seventeen she had become a very subdued young woman. Young Giulia had always been the pet of the family because of her intelligence and vivaciousness.  The change in her was so remarkable that her family feared for her health and thought she was dying. 

          Now enters a wise old Dominican who understood her struggles.  He advised Giulia to break with that young confessor.  When she did, the Dominican unlocked the mysterious way Jesus was working in her heart. 

          While recovering her health, Giulia saw from her window a priest coming down the street holding a monstrance.  No, not a priest, but Jesus Himself in all His splendor.  She rushed to follow and ended up in church sobbing and confessing her sins aloud for all to hear.  Those who heard her confession were astounded by her humility and love for the Savior. Once more Giulia felt that Sweet Divine Companion enter her heart and was at peace.

          From that day on, she was determined to be the true daughter of God the Father, and pure spouse of the Son through the Holy Spirit.  Giulia wanted to become a religious.

          Her first attempt to enter religious life was when Giulia was nineteen.  She and her older sister, Ursula, tricked their mother into letting them enter a Carmelite conservatory by plotting beforehand their course of action. What was supposed to be a friendly visit to a holy nun turned out to be a formal entrance.  The two young women were so captivated by the Religious and the monastery that they begged their surprised mother to let them enter religious life right there and then. Signora Crostarosa finally gave the permission but on the condition that if Signore Crostarosa did not approve, a carriage would be sent to fetch them.   The carriage never came. 

          The Carmelites so regarded Giulia’s talents that in just a year Giulia was given a Carmelite habit, and in quick succession, was professed and named Novice Mistress!  Giulia had observed a certain laxity in the monastery and attempted to rectify that by instructing her novices with lights she received from the Lord: “The Lord has breathed into my heart all teachings regarding Pure Love, so desire Jesus alone as the only treasure of your soul.  In Christ’s Light your soul will see its darkness, and will then desire to be clothed with holy virtues.”

          After 6 years, unfortunately, the monastery was dissolved because of the interference of their main benefactor in their Carmelite life.

         In 1722, Giulia had the occasion to meet someone who would impact her life for years to come: Fr Tommaso Falcoia.  He was a member of the Pious Workers who had great organizational skills and a number of nuns as spiritual daughters.  He was very impressed with this young religious and encouraged her to take him as her spiritual father.  Eventually, she did and opened her soul to him. 

Falcoia encouraged Celeste to entered a monastery in Scala,


Italy, high above the Amalfi coast where he was the Spiritual Father.  She was 27.
Sr. Maria Celeste thought she had reached heaven.  In later years she says, “My ignorance was profound because I did not see the signs that should have enlightened me.   Oh!  I was far indeed from that sublime state, being not yet purified by the fire of sufferings and tribulations.”   

What sufferings? What tribulations? 

          It all began while Celeste was still a novice in Scala. She writes, “At Communion time, the Lord made her experience a transformation of herself into Him.  The Lord spoke within the very center of her soul the words in the Creed: ‘Con-substantial with the Father.’

          On the next day, April 25, 1725, came another revelation.  Again, after Communion the Lord revealed to Celeste the ‘Intent of the Father’ to make that community a “Viva Memoria,” a ‘living memorial’ of all that it pleased the Only Begotten Son to do for their salvation.  He set a seal on her heart to be on earth a living portrait of the Beloved Son.  Florilegium   But not only on her, but on all those souls who would have life by means of her.  This new institute would have as its rule His very life.

          You can image how her soul quaked at the thought of what she must share with her Novice Mistress and Spiritual Father.  Celeste suspected Falcoia would not be thrilled over replacing his idea for a rule by a new Rule, supposedly dictated to a novice by the Lord Himself.

          The very next day the visions continued and the Lord strengthened Celeste, saying, “It is really I and not the demon.”  And in the Sacred Host she saw the Lord clothed in the habit of the Order, and understood that she must change her life into His.


    
    Moreover, she saw Jesus writing on her heart with His own blood the new Rule for the community.  Jesus ordered her to write down these Rules in His name every day after Communion for an hour.  The Redeemer said, “In this Order, He Himself was the cornerstone, the Gospel was the mortar; and His Father was the Builder.”

It was just as Celeste feared when she shared these visions with the Novice Mistress, who then wrote to Fr. Falcoia describing the situation and inviting him to Scala as soon as possible.  He wrote a swift reply accusing Celeste of being a “mad-woman,” a “dreamer” and a “troublemaker” and ordered that she not receive Communion as a mortification. 

Despite all this, Sr. Celeste, and her two blood sisters who had joined her in religious life, were professed.  But this tension between Sr. Celeste, Fr Falcoia and the community continued for five more years.  Things turned around when a young priest came to the monastery in Scala, at the request of Falcoia, to give a retreat to the nuns.  This priest also happened to be a spiritual son of Falcoia, and was warned of ‘a nun there filled with illusions.’  This young priest is Alphonsus Liguori. 

 Alphonsus came prepared for the worst.  With his characteristic legal thoroughness, Alphonsus interviewed each nun personally and had repeated interviews with Maria Celeste.  The crucial issue was the authenticity of the revelation and the feasibility of a new Rule.  To both questions Alfonso answered in the affirmative. Thanks to his powers of persuasion, all the nuns finally agreed to accept the new Rule.  MWR

This meeting of these two souls was the beginning of a life-long friendship.  Celeste writes to Alphonsus: “O My Father, I make my communions united to your spirit. I thirst for your companionship.  May the Lord bless this friendship of ours forever, for the glory and honor of His name.”


On the feast of Pentecost, May 13, 1730, the Order of the Most Holy Redeemer began.  
And then on the feast of the Transfiguration the nuns donned the red, blue and white habit.   The Holy Redeemer had explained earlier the meaning of the colors:  Red is for ‘the robe of charity’ which the God-Man clothed himself on earth and, in turn, bestows on us by his merciful Love.  The sky-blue mantel is a sign of Christ’s humility by who’s cross earth is united to heaven.  The white shoes signify that the nuns are detached from earthly things. The Portrait of the Redeemer worn over the breast is a sign that Christ is living in their hearts. 

On October 3, 1731 Celeste had another revelation.  This time involving Alphonsus.   Duty bound to her spiritual Father Falcoia, she wrote to him about the vision.  She had seen Christ, St. Francis of Assisi and Alphonsus Liguori conversing together.  The Lord said to her, "This soul is chosen as the head of My Institute to go and preach to every creature that the Kingdom of God.  It is he who will be the first superior of the Congregation of men."    

Again, you can imagine, this did not sit well with the Spiritual Father.  His response was dismissive: “It’s all nothing.  Give no credence to it at all.”  Falcoia wrote this because he himself was interested in starting a missionary congregation.

When Alphonsus came to visit the monastery, Celeste quietly shared with him the vision.  Alphonsus was startled, humbled, and yet his heart was inflamed with love and joy, for he, too, had thought of a preaching institute. He spent many months consulting with many spiritual advisors, deliberating, praying about this new venture to preach to the poor and abandoned outside of Naples inviting them to a deeper love for God and a fuller practice of the Christian life.   Finally, on November 9, 1732, Alphonsus Liguori founded the congregation in a house which sat on the corner of the nun’s property in Scala.

The following April, Celeste abandoned Falcoia’s spiritual direction.  She writes to Alphonsus her reasons: Falcoia was unable to properly care for her soul.  Bound by obedience, she had continually revealed to the spiritual father the state of her soul, but he always seemed to misinterpret everything she said in a sinister sense.

          Letters go back and forth between Celeste and Alphonsus. 

           Alphonsus writes Celeste a long letter which only made the poor sister feel terrible because Alphonsus wrote, “My dear Celeste, my beloved sister in Jesus Christ…” then questioned her lack of total submission to the spiritual father and accused her of being obstinate in listening to Tosquez (a devout layman who would sometimes advise her). He challenged her humility with, “Where is the Celeste of former days? It breaks my heart to think of it!”  Alphonsus charged her with attachment to her own judgment, “…what a dangerous hallucination this is!”  Such were the words that pierced her heart.  After much weeping and prayer, she replied with just two lines, “Thank you for your charity towards me.  From this hour on, I renounce all these motives, all my words and judgments for the love of God.”

          Throughout all this her Beloved Spouse, the Redeemer, spoke reassuring words, “You shall live a life of constant dying to yourself in everything you do, crucifying yourself on my cross, living crucified in my holy Flesh, yet always united to the joy of my divine Spirit.”  At that moment an angel pierced her heart with an arrow dipped in the blood of the Lamb.  This mysterious wound so strengthened her that she felt able to gladly bear all contradictions, contempt and insults to come in the service of God.

          Alphonsus wrote again after receiving Celeste’s perceived cold reply. (More likely, Celeste felt the loss of all human consolation and just didn’t have the strength at that time to answer properly.)  Alphonsus restated just as firmly his points, but in a more conciliatory tone.  He ended with, “It is always profitable to humiliate a soul overwhelmed with favors from God.   It is impossible for me not to desire your perfection because I love you in Jesus Christ and if you were offended by it, you would be wronging me.  If I could, with the spiritual father’s permission, I would kiss your feet.”

          With renewed strength it was Maria Celeste’s turn to respond with a long letter delineating point by point the state of her conscience regarding Falcoia’s inability to guide her soul and his continual tinkering with the New Rule.  Celeste defended her friend Tosquez against suspicion within the community. And finally, she renounced all supernatural light and favors, in spite of the fact that the revelations she received were always founded on the light of holy faith.

          She wrote, “God has no need of me. God can do it all.” Celeste ended imploring Alphonsus to make known her imperfections, assuring him she feared nothing and was at peace following the steps of her Savior. She ends with, “Pray for me and bless me.  I, your humble servant, respectfully kiss your feet.”

          Early in May 1733, everything came to a head. The Superioress and Falcoia imprisoned Sr. Maria Celeste in a cubbyhole under the eaves in the monastery attic while she considered three conditions: 1) to accept in writing, Falcoia’s version of the Rule, 2) never to write or consult with Tosquez again and 3) that she keep Falcoia as her Spiritual Director forever.



Isolated from the community, Celeste was forbidden to talk to anyone, even her own two blood sisters. Yet the hardest of all was being deprived of Holy Communion.  After two weeks of prayer in the small attic space Sr. Maria Celeste agreed to the first two conditions but, because of ‘grave matters of conscience,’ she refused the third.  With that, she was expelled from the monastery in Scala. 

Sunday, August 1, 2021

ST ALPHONSUS METHOD OF PRAYER AND T'AI CHI

 


Today, August 1, we celebrate St. Alphonsus Ligouri’s anniversary of death in 1787 at the age of 91. The Founder of the Redemptorists was born in Naples on September 27, 1696, just a month earlier than our Foundress Ven. Mother Maria Celeste Crostarosa.

      Alphonsus was an extremely intelligent man. Early in his life he once made a vow never to waste a moment of time so he wrote over 100 books, painted, played the organ and composed songs. His most famous hymn is the Italian Christmas carol, Tu Scendi Delle Stelle (From Starry Skies Descending).

A renowned preacher and confessor, he won the hearts of the simple people by teaching them to pray to God as to a dear friend. This may seem ironic because Alphonsus himself was a man plagued by scruples but he recognized the truth that God was pure love and that we may approach God without fear.

When I was a Postulant, Sr. Peg gave me a pamphlet of one of Alphonsus’ teachings that described a method of prayer which I found helpful. It had the mnemonic device of the word ACTS which stands for Adoration, Contrition, Thanksgiving, Supplication.

You may well ask what does St. Alphonsus, the great moral theologian of the eighteenth century, who wrote uncountable treatises on prayer and the founder of the Redemptorists has in common with T’ai Chi, a philosophy that has its roots in sixth century BCE (Before the Common Era) Taoism? Truthfully, not much; perhaps the only connection is that when Alphonsus was a young diocesan priest he desired to go on the missions to China.

It is only because of my temperament did I find a connection between Alphonsus’ method of meditation and T’ai Chi: movement in meditation.

I’m sure you have all seen people doing T’ai Chi on TV or maybe in the park. I’ve taken a couple of basic courses in it. The one you see people doing in the park in English is called ‘The Flowing River.’ Another form I learned once while on retreat is simple, gentle, repetitive movements that lend themselves to meditation.

            T’ai Chi has its roots in Taoism. The Chinese mystic Lao Tse, a contemporary of Confucius, and India’s Buddha, in the sixth century BCE in his book, Tao te Ching, wrote, ‘All things come from the Way: it creates without owning, gives without demanding. This is harmony.’ The Way is Chi: the energy which flows in the harmony of nature and in each of us. Lao Tse looked to nature to give examples: ‘As spring overcomes the cold and autumn overcomes the heat, so calm and quiet overcomes the world.’

Lao Tse’s contemplative eye on nature taught him that in order to be calm and quiet one needs to meditate so one may be engaged in the world in a harmonious fashion.

You may be thinking where does the movement come into meditation? Lao Tse said, ‘Be still like a mountain and flow like a great river.’ In the sixth century CE (Common Era) Bodhidharma, a Buddhist master did just that. He visited China and noticed the monks there were in terrible shape from all their sitting about and meditating. So, Bodhidarma began instructing them in exercises that flowed from his contemplation and appreciation of nature and gave the gentle exercises names like Stroke the Swallow’s Tail, White Crane Spreads Wings, Hands Passing like Clouds…

          Years ago I wedded St. Alphonsus’ ACTS with the gentle repetitive movements of T’ai Chi. Perhaps, if St. Alphonsus was alive today he would still heartily encourage this form of meditation and add, "Jesus is The Way, our Chi! (energy/lifeforce)

These prayerful movements can be done standing or sitting. All the motions and the thoughts flow from the heart and continue to do so with each letter of ACTS until you feel the natural end to each intention.

The first letter A stands for Adoration. With hands raised heart high I circle those palms up around in front of me conscious of the presence of God and adoring the Creator of all things. The second letter C stands for Contrition. My hands move out and back, pushing from the heart, all my failings that stand between me and God. The letter T is for Thanksgiving. This time my hands, palms up, come up from the side of my body to my heart in a circular motion recounting all the blessings I have received as gift in my life. The final letter is S for Supplication. Here my palms face down and circle heart high blessing and beseeching God’s mercy and love on my family, community, the world.

          St. Alphonsus used all kinds of prayer in his life. I can imagine he raised his hands and prayed from his heart as he taught the poor and abandoned to do likewise in these words, “Acquire the habit of speaking to God as if you were alone with Him, familiarly and with confidence and love, as to the dearest and most loving of friends. Speak to Him often of your business, your plans, your troubles, your fears— of everything that concerns you. Converse with Him confidently and frankly; for God is not wont to speak to a soul that does not speak to Him.”

Let us then, whether still or in motion, pray confidently to our dearest friend, Jesus, The Way.

Friday, July 2, 2021

MIRROR OF LOVE

 It all began when Ven. Maria Celeste Crostarosa received a revelation while she was still a novice to, “Stamp on your spirit the features of his life and the resemblance of him that comes from imitation.   Be on earth living and inspired images of my beloved Son.  Carry him about as the life of your heart and as the goal of your existence and as the Master of your spirit.” Intent of the Father  “This instruction was for her soul like a polished mirror into which, she remained gazing continually at the dazzling light of the sun (Son) and found herself at once drawn into the divine splendor of her Well-Beloved.” Autobiography    Celeste, and the Order which she was to found, was called from the beginning to be for the world a Mirror of God’s Love.

Likewise, we are called to fix our gaze on the Son and, as if gazing in a mirror, see not only the splendor of His Being but in our own being a living reflection of God’s eternal love.   “It is in this that the Redeemer is able today to accomplish His work of salvation in us and through us.”  Const. 5    For, “The more we strive to live the love of Christ, the more the thoughts and feelings of Christ will fill our spirit and our heart, the more we will become His faithful images.”  Const.6

Like a double exposure of a photograph, one superimposed on the other, we endeavor to be Christ the Redeemer to one another:  “To be a living copy and faithful portrait of Jesus so that he might find himself in you, and you recognize yourself in him, your God through faith.”  Florilegium 6.

Ven. Celeste had a creative spirit.  Just reading her works gives us insight into the richness of her inner life by the way she uses imagery in her writings.  She was also pliable in the hand of God by opening her heart and allowing God to shape and mold her, transform her into the image of the Son.

Everyone is called to remain moist and be shaped by God.  And by that transformation, we follow the Redeemer and make his saving action alive in our own time and place. This became clear to Bl Celeste when she marveled, “I no longer saw myself, but I saw You in my very self and myself transformed into You, my Most Pure Love.”

Jesus invited Celeste, and us, with these words, "If anyone wishes to come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross each day and follow me." (Luke 9:23)  Celeste’s response was, “Oh with what love I embraced the cross, loved it, desired it and took pleasure in it -- all for your love.”  She continues, “Likewise those who love bind themselves to the cross…savor the true and solid sweetness of God and the true peace found therein.”  Florilegium 118.

Celeste describes Jesus the Redeemer as the mirror of the Father.   She invites us to look into this mirror of the Son, saying, “Those who are pure of heart know the Father because they look upon the Redeemer fixedly with a gaze of love.” and adds: “They are children of the light because with the vision of right intention, they gaze into the mirror of the divine perfections of their God.”   The Mystic Who Remembered’ by Joseph Opptiz, CSsR      Let us be Mirrors of Love, of the Redeemer, of our God.

Question:

How am I a ‘Mirror of Love’ witnessing to the world God’s love?


Tuesday, June 15, 2021

WHAT DO THEY DO ALL DAY?

 As you would suspect, our life revolves around prayer. And, that as Redemptoristines, we hold in a special place in our heart our Redemptorist Priests and Brothers and their various apostolic missions.  So, there is no mystery there.     

The mystery begins with the Title of Chapter I of our Constitution and Statutes which sets the theme for our life: We are called by the Father to be, in the Church and in the world of today, a living memorial of Christ the Redeemer. Const. 5 expands this thought of being a Living Memorial as …a constant Reminder of all that the Son accomplished for our salvation during His life on earth.  It is in this way that the Redeemer is able today to accomplish His work of salvation in us and through us.

Constitution 44 describes how: At the heart of our life is the Liturgy of the Hours and Eucharist making the day and night holy in a perfect sacrifice of love and praise. The Sisters life of prayer, praise and intercession reaches out to embrace all the needs and intentions of the entire world into the heart of Father.

The apostolate of the Redemptorists is sustained by the contemplative life of the nuns, and the Redemptorist ministry gives incentive to the life of prayer to the Nuns who are themselves fully missionary. Const 13

But what do the Sisters do all day?  Each sister brings her own unique self to our mission of prayer for the Church and the world.  In charity, each offers her gifts to use in the service for her sisters and in union with Christ the Redeemer.

We live in the shadow of Mount Beacon in New York. On June 25, we celebrate our 8th anniversary of living with the Carmelites.  We were welcomed with open arms to the Monastery of the Incarnation after our move from the property of Mount St. Alphonsus in Esopus. With the Carmelites we share liturgy, meals, household chores and recreation. We are enriched and nourished as we join in the celebration of each other’s feasts and special occasions, and share quiet times of retreat.   The park-like setting of the monastery is perfect for contemplating the peaceful, wondrous beauty of God’s nature surrounding us.

Besides the regular household chores that everyone else in the world does, like taking out the garbage, recycling, laundry… A couple of Sisters are involved with the making of CSsR habits. Others plan liturgies for Mass and prayer throughout the day or, because of the pandemic, Morning Prayer with Communion. Sisters accompany folks on their life journey by spiritual direction and the apostolate of the pen (computer) writing letters, emails and Spreading the Good News of Salvation via our website.  There you can see pictures of the Sisters, read reflections on our Homepage and Blog (Followers of the Wayfarer), learn about our foundress Blessed Maria Celeste Crostarosa, our history and Sisters’ Stories.  You can ponder art and haiku and even do a brain teaser by solving the CryptoPrayer. You are welcome to leave a prayer request or learn how to donate to the community by your purchases on AmazonSmile. Take a look: rednunsny.org.  

Nightly, we have a ‘holy hour:’ the news and Jeopardy! Like many of you, we follow the news and discuss and pray over what we can do personally and as contemplatives to heal the divisions of our country, world and church.  

An important part of our life is to be able to relax with one another.  It is an essential part of all life, it fosters growth, and peace of mind and heart which the contemplative life needs in

order to flourish.  Many sisters have gardens and enjoy puttering among the blooms. Most enjoy walks around the property or bird/deer watching from their rooms. Scrabble, crossword and jigsaw puzzles are favorite activities, as is watching the occasional DVD.

All our life is lived with the mindfulness that we are part of something bigger than what is seen from the outside. Though hidden from sight, it is in our interaction with one another and with those we come in contact with that we witness to this new heaven and new earth by our faith, hope and charity in every aspect of our human and religious life.   In the monastery we strive to become the Redeemer’s faithful images of Him who is our Beginning and our End, our Way and our Life. Const. 6

We recently mailed out our invitation to join us in prayer, from a distance, for our Novena in honor of Our Mother of Perpetual Help. We unite ourselves in prayer with the Blessed Virgin for all the special intentions we receive through return mail. Our Const. 16 encourages us to, …Like Mary and with Mary, strive to live in constant communion with Christ, who is the light of our faith, the strength of our charity and the source of our hope.

So, you see, the mystery mission of our contemplative life is entirely centered on being a living memory of the love of the Father manifest in Christ the Redeemer to the world in union with our brother Redemptorists.   It is as simple, and profound, as that. 

Saturday, May 1, 2021

VINE AND BRANCHES

The Fifth Sunday of Easter        

“I am the vine, you are the branches.”  How precise!  Jesus’ words to his disciples, at least in this case, are so simple to understand!  What more needs to be said?   I’ll give it a try.

As followers of Jesus, we come from a long line of branches; off-shoots of the vine that is Jesus from where we trance our Christian ancestry back through our family, friends and church community. We may not know all their names but they are part of our family tree. 

Jesus is the trunk, the vine, with deep roots going back all the way to Abraham.   Each year during Advent, we hear the genealogy of Jesus.  Those ancestors on Jesus’ root-branches come with many unpronounceable names.  Some are saints, some are scoundrels. There are a few foreigners and, heavens, a handful of women, including Mary, the wife of Joseph, the mother of Jesus.  The point is, each and every one of us is connected, not only to Jesus and his ancestors, but to each other through faith in the living God. And as followers of the Risen Lord, it is our call to bear much fruit for all generations to come by remaining true to our baptismal promises, which we renewed at Easter.  

You may ask yourself, “How can my life bear fruit in today’s world?  I am just a tiny grape on an insignificant branch on the vine, Jesus.”  

Have you ever seen grapes growing?  In the wild they are a tangled mess and bear sour grapes. In vineyards, however, after the vinedressers mercilessly prune the branches, you think nothing will ever grow on them again. But come early May, the tiniest clusters of blossoms appear, and by early Fall sweet grapes are harvested.

The patron saint of vinedressers is the martyr St. Vincent of Zaragoza.  In France, during his feast late in January, the vinedressers prune the grape vines in the dead of winter as they sing a song that plays on his name, Vincent, (Va -saw) and sing about (Va-song) Vin-sang, meaning ‘wine-blood.’  When pruning, sap, the wine-blood, begins to stimulate positive pressure to activate the dormant roots.  In learning this tidbit about wine-blood, I thought of how Jesus in his passion shed his wine-blood for us on the cross.  

At the Lord’s Supper, Jesus took the cup, gave thanks and gave it to his disciples saying, “This is the blood of the covenant poured out for you.  Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 1 Cor 11: 25     

When we receive the Eucharist we are nourished by the Body and Blood of Christ to live out our Baptismal covenant.  Because of the pandemic, we have refrained from receiving the Precious Blood.  We may feel we have been pruned by life, and God, this past year.  Yet God, the Merciful Vinedresser, is ever near tending to our every need. God is as close to you as the pulse of your heart, the blood flowing through your veins.  Nothing can separate us from belonging entirely to Christ. 

Again, “How can I, a single grape on the vine, make a difference by my Baptismal covenant?”

We can, and do, because we are made in the image of God and being a member of God the Father’s family tree, abiding in the diVine Son, Jesus.  Let me give you some examples of how one person made a difference.

I recently watched on PBS a series called, ‘My Grandparents’ War.’  The first episode spotlighted the actress Helen Bonham-Carter, Bellatrix of Harry Potter fame.  Her mother’s father, Eduardo Propper was the Spanish ambassador to France when the Germans invaded the country.   Against his country’s wishes, Eduardo wrote thousands of visas giving the Jews safe passage through Spain to Portugal.   One of those Jews he saved was Ludwik Rajchman, who became the founder of UNICEF.  Propper saved thousands of lives.  Then Rajcham went on to save millions of children from starvation and lack of education through his work. 

During Lent our community watched a DVD, ‘A Hidden Life,’ about Franz Jagerstatter, a conscientious objector in Nazi Germany.  This Austrian farmer was a fun-loving husband and father of four. Franz was executed for his refusal to support in any way the evils the Nazism. Only his wife stood by him. Their neighbors shunned them. His pastor and bishop tried to persuade him against the folly of his actions.   But Franz’s faith and trust in the ultimate goodness of God gave him the grace to say no to hatred and war, and to stand as a witness to peace. In 2007, he became Blessed Franz Jagerstatter.  His wife and children were present to see him acclaimed a martyr for the faith.    

Recently, the young climate change activist Greta Thunberg,
who as a lone 15-year-old student began a world-wide movement, said, “I have learned you are never too small to make a difference.” 

          In one way or another, because we bear a family resemblance to God, and by the deep roots of our faith, we abide in the diVINE Son, Jesus, and share the wine-blood of our Lord in our daily lives by living in remembrance of him hope-filled lives for the future.  

  

 We may never know what our Christ-like influence has been on those around us.  Perhaps it was the smile you gave someone on the street that brightened their day.  Perhaps it was the listening ear you gave someone who needed to unburden themselves.  You may not have had any advice or answers but the act of presence meant everything to that person.  Perhaps it was the positive pressure of a secret act of kindness, or paying ‘it’ forward, that activated a person’s heart to blossom anew on the vine of Jesus by stimulating their hearts in faith in the merciful love of God that they too may go out bear much fruit.   

Let us keep our family tree alive and growing.  We may still need the occasional pruning, but the Merciful Vinedresser is constantly at work shaping us into the image of his diVINE Son.  Let us live our life in remembrance of Jesus and show our thanks to God by remaining in Christ and bearing much fruit.            

Let us pray:        God of love, plant us in the soil of your grace.  Nurture us with the strength of Christ, the vine of everlasting life.  Enlighten us with the wisdom of your Spirit, which flows through us today and always.   Abide in us that we may abide in you and bear much fruit.   Amen.  Alleluia!

Saturday, April 3, 2021

 

In the Victorian language of flowers their meaning is faithfulness and longing for the beloved.  I imagine violets to be associated with MARY MAGDALENE.  She had been a faithful follower and supporter of the Lord ever since Jesus cast out from her seven demons.   Here is why I think of violets when I think of Mary Magdalene:

On the first day of the week, Mary of Magdala came to the tomb early in the morning, while it was still dark, and saw the stone removed from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and told them, “They have taken the Lord from the tomb, and I don’t know where they put him.”  So Peter and the other disciple went out and came to the tomb.  They saw the burial cloths there, and the cloth that had covered his head.  They saw and believed, yet they did not yet understand the scripture that he had to rise from the dead.  Then the disciples returned home.  see John 20:1-10

But Mary of Magdala slid down the side of the opening of the tomb and wept.  She found herself sitting among violets.  How faithful those little flowers were growing in the gravel in the garden of tombs.  Her eyes, bruised from sorrow and sleeplessness, matched their mournful color.  She reached out to caress a small cluster and picked but a handful to inhale their delicate scent which only a few can discern.  The fragrance calmed her beating heart.  Slowly, she put one small violet in her mouth.  The sweet flavor heartened her spirit.  With renewed strength, Mary raised her dark eyes, and with such longing in her heart, began searching the garden for the One she loved.  Nearby was a gardener.    She lifted her violet filled hand to him as she gently called out, “Please, if you have carried him away, where have you laid him?”    MKQ’19

Monday, March 1, 2021

THE PROMISES OF CHRIST

When we pray "Make us worthy of the promises of Christ," what are we asking for?  What are the promises of Christ?  Peace, rest in this life and eternal life in the life to come. 

 Oh yes, and crosses too.  They come in all sizes: small and large, simple and complex.

Do we rejoice in all these promises?

Listen to the words Jesus says to his followers:  “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.  The peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid. Jn 14:27

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke (cross) upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  Mt 11:28-29

Jesus told Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life.  Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live.” Jn 11:25  

Do we believe these promises of Jesus?   What do they entail from us?  An open heart, willingness to change, growth in our relationship with God and others, an acceptance of crosses and self-emptying that leads to new life and resurrection.

How can we achieve these promises of Christ? 

One of the practices of Lent is making more time for God in our lives.  That is where we can begin to find the peace and rest we need in our hectic lives. Jesus once said to Ven. M. Celeste, “You are for me alone and I am for you alone; I am your Solitude and Repose; I am your sweet Company, your profound Centre of Peace where I will accomplish that which I promised.”  Florilegium 50

Then Jesus Christ made to Celeste a present of his divine Heart and gave her at the same time…unbreakable promises of uniting her to Himself eternally in faith, hope and love.  It seemed to her, from that moment, she was raised to a new life.  Florilegium 69

At another time Jesus said to Celeste, “All the crosses and troubles of life which the Father might be pleased to send you are not only to obtain your eternal crown, but also that you might be living images of my Humanity.”   Florilegium 118 


I am sure you are like me and don’t enjoy ‘crosses and troubles.’   But they are a part of being human.  If we are called to be ‘living images of Christ’s humanity’ then we are called to accept the crosses in our lives. And we don’t have to look for crosses, they come. These, too, are gifts from God. They give us new awareness.  They change us.  We can grow from them and then experience new resurrected life in Christ.   

One way to see if we are changing and growing in our relationship to God and others is to review our day.  1 Corinthians 13:3-4 has a simple formula to gauge how we are doing.  It says:   Love is patient; love is kind, love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful. It does not rejoice at wrong but rejoices in the right.  Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.  Love never ends.

While reflecting on our day we can paraphrase this by asking ourselves:  Am I patient?  Am I kind?  Am I jealous, boastful, arrogant or rude, and so on…? 

Reflecting on our day is not meant to get us down on ourselves – we are human, after all; things happen.   It is meant to be an eye opener so we can see where change and growth are needed. 

If you continue to read 1 Corinthians 13: 12-13 the last line says, “Now I know only in part; then (in heaven) I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. For now, faith, hope and love abide, and the greatest of these is love.”  That is another promise of Christ. Love abides.  So, do not be afraid.   Love never ends.   This is what Jesus promised Celeste that she/we will be united to Him eternally in faith, hope and love.  Now that is cause to rejoice in the promises of Christ!     

What has Jesus promised you?