Search This Blog

Monday, October 02, 2006

Carmelite Spirituality and the New Age

Carmelite Spirituality and the New Age

October is a special month for Carmelites because we celebrate two very special feast days, that of our sister St. Therese of the Child Jesus of Lisieux on October 1st, and that of St. Teresa of Jesus of Avila our Mother on October 15th. Both of these Teresas-for their names is actually the same in Latin-are Doctors of the Church who have much to teach us about God's ways with those whom he loves. Therese's "Little Way of Confidence and Love" is well-known in our country. Fewer Americans know about Teresa of Jesus and her "Way of Perfection." Yet those who have read her works find in her an attractive personality and a ready wit at the service of the friends of Christ. She is, in fact, one of the most engaging women in history.

St. Teresa was not always so praised or understood. She carried out her work in a time that was similar to ours. The Church had held an Ecumenical Council whose decrees had sweeping results-the famous Council of Trent. The socio-political and economic worlds were in upheaval. The religious world was in upheaval because of Protestantism. And a thirst for deeper spirituality had led many to seek mystical experiences. The result was that, alongside of true Christian contemplation, there were erroneous manifestations. The worst of these in Spain were the heresies of the Alumbrados and, a short time later, the Quietists. Because of them, any interest in contemplative prayer was viewed with suspicion, and St. Teresa herself was even treated to sermons preached against her by priests who felt that it was enough for women to say the Our Father, the Hail Mary, and the Glory Be. Anything more was dangerous.

Our own age has seen a similar hunger for an experience of God that has not always led to sound spirituality. In fact, it sometimes seems that the very word "spirituality" is suspect, for it is associated with the words "New Age." Authentic Christian spirituality and New Age spirituality are very different. In turning to St. Teresa, we quickly discover some basic truths that help us to discern the authentic tradition of Catholic contemplative prayers. Let us look at some of the differences.

Catholic contemplative prayer depends on the loving self-revelation of God in the person of the Incarnate Word, a revelation that is objectively handed on to us in scriptures and the life of the Church. New Age spirituality views the world in fundamentally pantheistic terms. Everyone is seen as a part of a single divine cosmic reality which is talked about in mythological terms. Everyone makes his or her "own truth" or sense about it.

Catholic contemplative prayer presupposes that the Father gives us everything in Christ and that we return that love by giving back through Christ what we have received. The Sacred Humanity of Jesus is central. New Age spirituality has no room for this unique mediation of Christ, for everyone is seen as being radically divine.

Catholic contemplative prayer causes us to stand with Mary at the foot of Jesus' Cross, for without the Cross there is no Resurrection. New Age spirituality avoids the paradox of the Cross; and it often focuses on feeling good.

Catholic contemplative prayer depends on the presence of the Holy Spirit who empowers us and sustains us to do what is beyond our human power to do: to know God by faith and to love God and neighbor as Christ loves us. New Age spirituality presupposes that its goals are within the reach of anyone who has the right approach or technique.

Catholic contemplative prayer draws us to a greater participation in the sacramental life of the Church. New Age spirituality may lead to the practice of ritual magic.

Catholic contemplative prayer helps us to forget ourselves and make the thoughts of Christ's own Heart our own so that it bears fruit in practical love for our neighbor with whom we form the community we call Church. It demands virtue. New Age spirituality leads to a greater "awareness" that may sometimes degenerate into a narcissistic preoccupation with self.

Today there are people who fear the practice of contemplative prayer, as there were in St. Teresa's time. Some even slander those who pray that way as being New Age. Yet if they keep in mind these simple differences, they will see that the tradition of contemplative prayer that the Church teaches us is based on very sound doctrine.

But there is another point that is perhaps the most important of all. Catholic spirituality does not exist for the sake of itself. We do not aspire to peak experiences of God. We aspire to love Christ, to make Love loved, to be the best friends and faithful disciples of the Lord that we can be, and to carry on his work of redemption. Catholic spirituality ultimately leads us to cherish the words of Mary said at Cana: "Do whatever He tells you." That is the spirit of Catholic spirituality. It is the spirit of Carmel.

-by Fr. David Centner, OCD

Saturday, September 23, 2006

What is prayer, Therese?

For me, prayer is an aspiration of the heart,
it is a simple glance directed to heaven,
it is a cry of gratitude and love in the midst of trial as well as joy;
finally, it is something great, supernatural, which expands my soul and unites me to Jesus.

"The Story of a Soul"
St. Therese of Lisieux
Feast Day October 1st

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Why I Love You, O Mary!

To grow deeper in our relationship with Mary, our Mother, and to deepen our love for her, during the month of May (which is the month of Our Lady), let's meditate on the beautiful poem by St Therese, found in the book: The Poetry of St Therese of Lisieux, translated by Donald Kinney, OCD.

Why I Love You, O Mary!
Oh! I would like to sing, Mary, why I love you,
Why your sweet name thrills my heart,
And why the thought of your supreme greatness
Could not bring fear to my soul.
If I gazed on you in your sublime glory,
Surpassing the splendor of all the blessed,
I could not believe that I am your child.
O Mary, before you I would lower my eyes!...

If a child is to cherish his mother,
She has to cry with him and share his sorrows.
O my dearest Mother, on this foreign shore
How many tears you shed to draw me to you!...
In pondering your life in the holy Gospels,
I dare look at you and come near you.
It's not difficult for me to believe I'm your child,
For I see you human and suffering like me...

When an angel from Heaven bids you be the Mother
Of the God who is to reign for all eternity,
I see you prefer, O Mary, what a mystery!
The ineffable treasure of virginity.
O Immaculate Virgin, I understand how your soul
Is dearer to the Lord than His heavenly dwelling.
I understand how your soul, Humble and Sweet Valley,
Can contain Jesus, the Ocean of Love !...

Oh ! I love you, Mary, saying you are the servant
Of the God whom you charm by your humility.
This hidden virtue makes you all-powerful.
It attracts the Holy Trinity into your heart.
Then the Spirit of Love covering you with His shadow,
The Son equal to the Father became incarnate in you,
There will be a great many of His sinner brothers,
Since He will be called : Jesus, your first-born !...

O beloved Mother, despite my littleness,
Like you I possess The All-Powerful within me.
But I don't tremble in seeing my weakness:
The treasures of a mother belong to her child,
And I am your child, O my dearest Mother.
Aren't your virtues and your love mine too?
So when the white Host comes into my heart,
Jesus, your Sweet Lamb, thinks He is resting in you!…

You make me feel that it's not impossible
To follow in your footsteps, O Queen of the elect.
You made visible the narrow road to Heaven
While always practicing the humblest virtues.
Near you, Mary, I like to stay little.
I see the vanity of greatness here below.
At the home of Saint Elizabeth, receiving your visit,
I learn how to practice ardent charity.

There, Sweet Queen of angels, I listen, delighted,
To the sacred canticle springing forth from your heart.
You teach me to sing divine praises,
To glory in Jesus my Savior.
Your words of love are mystical roses
Destined to perfume the centuries to come.
In you the Almighty has done great things.
I want to ponder them to bless Him for them.

When good Saint Joseph did not know of the miracle
That you wanted to hide in your humility,
You let Him cry close by the Tabernacle
Veiling the Savior's divine beauty!…
Oh Mary ! How I love your eloquent silence!
For me it is a sweet, melodious concert
That speaks to me of the greatness and power
Of a soul which looks only to Heaven for help…

Later in Bethlehem, O Joseph and Mary!
I see you rejected by all the villagers.
No one wants to take in poor foreigners.
There's room for the great ones…
There's room for the great ones, and it's in a stable
That the Queen of Heaven must give birth to a God.
O my dearest Mother, how lovable I find you,
How great I find you in such a poor place !…

When I see the Eternal God wrapped in swaddling clothes,
When I hear the poor cry of the Divine Word,
O my dearest Mother, I no longer envy the angels,
For their Powerful Lord is my dearest Brother !…
How I love you, Mary, you who made
This Divine Flower blossom on our shores !…
How I love you listening to the shepherds and wise men
And keeping it all in your heart with care !…

I love you mingling with the other women
Walking toward the holy temple.
I love you presenting the Savior of our souls
To the blessed Old Man who pressed Him to His heart.
At first I smile as I listen to His canticle,
But soon His tone makes me shed tears.
Plunging a prophetic glance into the future,
Simeon presents you with a sword of sorrows.

O Queen of martyrs, till the evening of your life
That sorrowful sword will pierce your heart.
Already you must leave your native land
To flee a king's jealous fury.
Jesus sleeps in peace under the folds of your veil.
Joseph comes begging you to leave at once,
And at once your obedience is revealed.
You leave without delay or reasoning.

O Mary, it seems to me that in the land of Egypt
Your heart remains joyful in poverty,
For is not Jesus the fairest Homeland,
What does exile matter to you ? You hold Heaven…
But in Jerusalem a bitter sadness
Comes to flood your heart like a vast ocean.
For three days, Jesus hides from your tenderness.
That is indeed exile in all its harshness!…

At last you find Him and you are overcome with joy,
You say to the fair Child captivating the doctors:
"O my Son, why have you done this ?
Your father and I have been searching for you in tears."
And the Child God replies (O what a deep mystery!)
To His dearest Mother holding out her arms to Him:
"Why were you searching for Me? I must be about
My Father's business. Didn't you know?"

The Gospel tells me that, growing in wisdom,
Jesus remains subject to Joseph and Mary,
And my heart reveals to me with what tenderness
He always obeys His dear parents.
Now I understand the mystery of the temple,
The hidden words of my Lovable King.
Mother, your sweet Child wants you to be the example
Of the soul searching for Him in the night of faith.

Since the King of Heaven wanted His Mother
To be plunged into the night, in anguish of heart,
Mary, is it thus a blessing to suffer on earth ?
Yes, to suffer while loving is the purest happiness!…
All that He has given me, Jesus can take back.
Tell Him not to bother with me…
He can indeed hide from me; I'm willing to wait for Him
Till the day without sunset when my faith will fade away…

Mother full of grace, I know that in Nazareth
You live in poverty, wanting nothing more.
No rapture, miracle, or ecstasy
Embellish your life, O Queen of the Elect!…
The number of little ones on earth is truly great.
They can raise their eyes to you without trembling.
It's by the ordinary way, incomparable Mother,
That you like to walk to guide them to Heaven.

While waiting for Heaven, O my dear Mother,
I want to live with you, to follow you each day.
Mother, contemplating you, I joyfully immerse myself,
Discovering in your heart abysses of love.
Your motherly gaze banishes all my fears.
It teaches me to cry, it teaches me to rejoice.
Instead of scorning pure and simple joys,
You want to share in them, you deign to bless them.

At Cana, seeing the married couple's anxiety
Which they cannot hide, for they have run out of wine,
In your concern you tell the Savior,
Hoping for the help of His divine power.
Jesus seems at first to reject your prayer:
"Woman, what does this matter," he answers, "to you and to me ?"
But in the depths of His heart, He calls you His Mother,
And he works His first miracle for you…

One day when sinners are listening to the doctrine
Of Him who would like to welcome them in Heaven,
Mary, I find you with them on the hill.
Someone says to Jesus that you wish to see Him.
Then, before the whole multitude, your Divine Son
Shows us the immensity of His love for us.
He says: "Who is My brother and My sister and My Mother,
If not the one who does My will?"

O Immaculate Virgin, most tender of Mothers,
In listening to Jesus, you are not saddened.
But you rejoice that He makes us understand
How our souls become His family here below.
Yes, you rejoice that He gives us His life,
The infinite treasures of His divinity !…
How can we not love you, O my dear Mother,
On seeing so much love and so much humility ?

You love us, Mary, as Jesus loves us,
And for us you accept being separated from Him.
To love is to give everything. It's to give oneself.
You wanted to prove this by remaining our support.
The Savior knew your immense tenderness.
He knew the secrets of your maternal heart.
Refuge of sinners, He leaves us to you
When He leaves the Cross to wait for us in Heaven.

Mary, at the top of Calvary standing beside the Cross
To me you seem like a priest at the altar,
Offering your beloved Jesus, the sweet Emmanuel,
To appease the Father's justice…
A prophet said, O afflicted Mother,
"There is no sorrow like your sorrow !"
O Queen of Martyrs, while remaining in exile
You lavish on us all the blood of your heart!

Saint John's home becomes your only refuge.
Zebedee's son is to replace Jesus…
That is the last detail the Gospel gives.
It tells me nothing more of the Queen of Heaven.
But, O my dear Mother, doesn't its profound silence
Reveal that The Eternal Word Himself
Wants to sing the secrets of your life
To charm your children, all the Elect of Heaven?

Soon I'll hear that sweet harmony.
Soon I'll go to beautiful Heaven to see you.
You who came to smile at me in the morning of my life,
Come smile at me again … Mother… It's evening now!…
I no longer fear the splendor of your supreme glory.
With you I've suffered and now I want
To sing on your lap, Mary, why I love you,
And to go on saying that I am your child !…

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Memorare of St. Joseph

For the month on March I thought it would be a good idea to honor St Joseph, whose feast we celebrate on the 19th. Here is a beautiful prayer to him.

Remember, O most pure spouse of the Blessed Virgin, my glorious father St. Joseph, that never has anyone asked your help of intercession without obtaining relief. Therefore, confiding in your goodness, I come before you and humbly beg you, dear foster-father of my Redeemer, to receive my petitions and graciously answer them.

St. Joseph, Protector of the Church, pray for us.

St. Joseph, Model of workers, pray for us.

St. Joseph, Guide of happy families, pray for us.

St. Joseph, Patron of a holy death, pray for us.

St. Joseph, Principal Protector of the Discalced Carmelite Order, pray for us.

Thursday, January 19, 2006


Hello there,
Here we have an opportunity to share God's love as Carmelites through an exchange of words.

"Let us continually offer God a sacrifice of praise, that is, the fruit of lips that confess his name. Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have; God is pleased by sacrifices of that kind." (Hebrews 13:15-16)