Saturday, October 31, 2009

A Great Jesuit Insight-For A Saint

I recently attended a talk on Long Island given by Fr. Donald Haggerty, a priest of the Archdiocese of New York and a Professor of Moral Theology at St. Joseph's Seminary in Yonkers, NY. The talk was about Mother Teresa's private letters which were compiled into a book titled, Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light (Doubleday). The following excerpt is from an article which appeared in the Long Island Catholic,  written by Mary Gorry, a reporter who also attended the talk.  
I quote from the article, Mother Teresa's 'dark night' inspires LI Catholics, from the Long Island Catholic...........
According to Fr. Haggerty, "The 'dark night of the soul' the longing for God from which Mother Teresa apparently suffered for many years was not a loss of faith, but an experience she came to accept as uniting her with both Jesus' Passion and the suffering of the poor she served in India....The writings disclose a long period of interior spiritual suffering, or what mystical theologians such as St. John of the Cross refer to as 'the dark night of the soul,' Fr. Haggerty explained...........During this time, Mother Teresa wrote letters to many priests documenting her suffering. 'There is such a deep loneliness in my heart...How long will our Lord stay away?'
We keep hearing that combined element, noted Fr. Haggerty, 'the desolation and at the same time the great longing for God. That is a very significant sign that this is not a person diminishing in faith.' Some of the commentary in the media after the book came out was poorly done. The New York Times noted how 'isn't it wonderful all the good Mother Teresa did after she lost her faith. She's experiencing a great darkness, but still intensely longing for God.' In 1959, Mother Teresa met Fr. Joseph Neuner, a Jesuit priest who finally offered her some insight into what she was experiencing. Until this point, nobody really helped her.... Mother Teresa wrote to Fr. Neuner, 'I can't express in words the gratitude I owe you for your kindness to me. For the first time in 11 years, I have come to love the 'darkness' for I believe now that it is a very, very small part of Jesus' own darkness and pain on Earth....Fr. Haggerty continued, 'She now understood that Jesus wanted to unite her with the poorest of the poor. He wanted her to know what it was like to be unwanted and thrown away. He did not simply want her to take care of the poor. He wanted her to become herself one of the poorest of the poor.' She wrote to her sisters, 'without our suffering, our work would just be social work, very good and helpful, but it would not be the work of Jesus Christ.'"
The great insight by Jesuit priest, Fr. Neuner must of been a great relief to Mother Teresa. She finally had some understanding of what she was feeling. 
Mother Teresa, the founder of the Missionaries of Charity, a religious order which serves the poor and marginalized throughout the world won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979. At the time of her death on Sept. 5th 1997, she had over 4,000 Sisters operating about 600 missions in over 120 countries. In 1999, less than 2 years after Mother Teresa's death, Pope John Paul II waived the 5-year waiting period and opened the cause for her canonization. She was beatified by Pope John Paul II on Oct. 19th, 2003.
Mother Teresa is a modern day saint, who suffered a 'dark night of the soul,' so she would be united to Jesus' Passion and also so that she would be like 'the poorest of the poor,' in her longing.  She continues to bear "great fruit," even after her death. 
For information about the cause for her canonization-
Happy All Saint's Day to all God's friends, who during these difficult and uncertain times, remain bearers of light.

Everytime you smile at someone, it is an action of love, a gift to that person, a beautiful thing.   Blessed Mother Teresa

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Elizabeth Edwards-A Woman of Faith & Courage

I admire men and women who battle setbacks, disappointments, loss and disease with courage and faith. One such woman, Elizabeth Edwards, recently said in an interview, "Cancer will probably win. Why would I give it any more days than it may already take? That's the choice I make." She chooses to focus on living. She believes that, "God will no longer cure her, but God will give her the strength to endure."  She was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2004. Sadly, the cancer has spread to her bones and is inoperable. She gets chemo treatments each month. 
As everyone knows, she is the wife of former presidential candidate John Edwards. She told WJLA-TV, ABC 7, that she is "busy speaking, writing and pushing for cancer research." She also spends time with her children. She has endured much suffering, disappointment and loss and yet she keeps going forward, trying to make a difference. I believe only people of faith can do that, can survive so many setbacks and still remain faithful to God and prayer. I give her a lot of credit, she is very inspirational. My little setbacks and disappointments in life seem small in comparison, though I have had to deal with the loss of loved ones, so I know first hand how devastating that can be.
There is probably no greater pain a woman can experience than the death of a child and she even endured that. Her eldest son was killed in a car crash in 1996. She said, "Nothing compares to Wade's death. No, not even cancer."
Amidst personal family problems and humiliations, which played out in the media spotlight, which is more difficult, she continues to fight on and display remarkable courage. Faith and belief in God gives people inner strength, courage and resilience. Her latest book is titled, "Resilience: Reflections on the Burdens and Gifts of Facing Life's Adversities." It's a book I've put on my reading list.
Her commitment to her marriage, even with all the problems and disappointments is amazing. 
People of faith, who display remarkable courage, deep faith and resilience in the midst of life's trials and challenges give hope to the rest of us. It also convinces me of the benefits of belief, hope, prayer and especially in the belief in the immortality of the soul and eternal life. As if I needed convincing. 

I can find nothing with which to compare the great beauty of a soul......we can hardly form any conception of the soul's great dignity and beauty. 
St. Teresa of Avila

Thursday, October 22, 2009

The Invitation to Anglicans, With A Twist

David Gibson, an online columnist for Politics Daily in a column titled, "The Pope's Anglican Plan: Welcome Mat or Hostile Takeover?" wrote the following, "...Pope Benedict XVI and the Roman Curia did well by choosing Rowan Williams, the archbishop of Canterbury and leader of the 77 million strong Anglican Communion, as the man to tweak with a provocative initiative to lure away a good chunk of Williams' flock. The plan, unveiled Tuesday at the Vatican, would allow Anglicans to join the Catholic Church without renouncing their Anglican traditions and beliefs. It would offer a tempting sanctuary to traditionalist Anglicans.....The plan represents an extraordinary concession by Rome. Even married clergy could bring their wives along and remain priests (though married bishops could not be Catholic bishops, just ordinary clerics). "
In today's NY Times in an article titled, "Pope's Invitation to Anglicans Raises Prospect of Married Catholic Priests," by Rachel Donadio, a Catholic commentator in London was quoted as saying, "If you get used to the idea of your priests being married, then that changes the perception of the Catholic priesthood necessarily....We face the prospect in the future of going to a Catholic Church in London and it being normal to find a married Catholic priest celebrating at the altar, with his wife sitting in the third pew and his children running up and down the aisle."
Thomas Reese, a Catholic commentator was quoted as saying, "Now we're opening up a whole structure within the Latin rite, within the Western rite, which will allow married priests to function." He goes on to say that this raises a series of interesting questions.
No one knows for sure where this will all go, but I have to give credit to Pope Benedict for a bold move. For those Anglicans who accept the Pope's invitation--Welcome!  
I was in the Tower of London in the summer of 2008. I visited the cells in the Tower where Catholic priests were imprisoned during the English Reformation. Many Catholic priests were tortured and killed during the English Reformation. While in London, I visited and prayed in the convent basement where many of their relics are kept. The Tyburn Convent which is home to Benedictine Sisters is a convent/monastery in London where the Sisters live, pray and are caretakers for the relics. It was fascinating to learn about, but very sad. 
And so now, this bridge of unity between the Anglicans and the Catholics, who were at one time in history enemies. Many suffered for that division, much pain and yet now hundreds of years later Pope Benedict brings some healing and an invitation. I view this as a sign of hope. 
To learn more about Tyburn, go to:

Monday, October 19, 2009

Inner And Outer Beauty

According to Scripture, we are made in the image and likeness of God and we have inherent self-worth and value because we are children of God and loved by God. Our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit and should be honored as such. In St. Paul's letter to the Corinthians he states, "Do you not realize that Jesus Christ is in you?" (2 Cor. 13:5) Those of us who realize this truth and live our lives based on it are blessed and have a lot to be grateful for.
If you truly believe that you have self-worth and value as a child of God, no amount of negativity that comes your way in life,  can affect your self-esteem or self-worth. It's important for children, teens and adults to truly believe in their worth and dignity as children of God. Internet bullying, gossip and exaggerations are thriving today through modern forms of communication and it can be harmful. 
I started to think about this topic of inner and outer beauty because of an experience I had recently. Inner beauty and goodness are important to a lot of people in the modern world, (not everyone, of course), but outer beauty and youth count too. Baby boomers don't want to grow old, most of them anyway and some of them are spending lots of money on preserving their youth. I attended a meeting of a women's group I belong to and the informational part of the meeting was about non-surgical ways to look younger. I have to admit I was fascinated with the presentation. The presentation by a plastic surgeon included a demonstration of using a "filler" on a volunteer. The patient agreed to have a "filler" injected into her face at the meeting, to show those of us present how it works. It was rather amazing as wrinkles and laugh lines started to disappear immediately on her face, before our curious eyes.  
I bring this up because it's an interesting phenomena in the modern world, the desire to stay young looking. According to the plastic surgeon, these products are "flying off his shelf." Pretty amazing, I think, especially in these economic times.  
So think about it. What does it take to have inner beauty and goodness? What are the choices that you have to make? What does it cost to preserve youthfulness? And if you have inner beauty and goodness, doesn't that show on your face? Doesn't kindness and goodness come through in how you look?.......I think it does. 

Thursday, October 15, 2009

One of My Favorites

I just can't let today go by without mentioning that it's the feast day of the great St. Teresa of Avila. One of my favorite saints, she was a most remarkable woman. 
"Teresa was a woman 'for God,' a woman of prayer, discipline and compassion. Her heart belonged to God. Her own conversion was no overnight affair; it was an arduous lifelong struggle, involving ongoing purification and suffering. She was misunderstood, misjudged, opposed in her efforts at reform. Yet she struggled on, courageous and faithful....and in the midst of all this she clung to God in life and prayer. Her writings on prayer and contemplation are drawn from her experience: powerful, practical and graceful-a woman of prayer-a woman for God." (from
What else could such an extraordinary, gifted woman of God do, but cling to God. My favorite prayer of late is just simply, "Jesus be near to me." That sums it all up for me.

Her famous words of comfort and prayer-

Let nothing trouble you
Let nothing frighten you
All is fleeting, God alone is unchanging
Patience obtains everything
Who possesses God
Wants nothing, for God alone is enough
St. Teresa of Avila-Saint and Doctor of the Church

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

365 Days Of.......

I loved the movie Julie and Julia, the comedy-drama film written and directed by Nora Ephron. It's based on two true stories.  In case you haven't seen it, it's the story of the adventures of the famous chef, Julia Child, while she lived in France with her husband. It shows her culinary experiences there. It also shows the modern life of a writer/blogger, Julie Powell from Queens who decides to cook all 524 recipes from Julia Child's cookbook in one year and blog about it. She does it in a small kitchen apartment in Queens and gets it done (with a few temper tantrums). Julie Powell becomes famous from the blog and gets a book deal. 
Julia Child, in her own day, also became a very famous chef, cookbook author and a TV personality. 
In any event, I started thinking about the movie, when I saw a recent article in the NY Times titled, A Quest to Read a Book a Day for 365 Days-Just for fun. The article tells about Nina Sankovitch's idea to read a book everyday for a year and review them on her blog,  Ms. Sankovitch reads fast (no doubt) but does not speed read. "Aside from the pleasure of it, Ms. Sankovitch had other goals-inspiring a love of books in others and finding her way through a period of sorrow and soul-searching brought on by the death of her sister in 2005...I've always thought great literature is all one needs to read to understand human psychology, emotions, even history...."
So I started to think about it, is there anything I do everyday-365 days a year? Besides the necessary chores which I'm compelled to do each day, there aren't too many things that I do every single day.  Call it a habit, a virtue or a necessary part of my life- the thing I do each day-365 days a year, is pray. Couldn't live without it. I also drink tea every day and read the newspapers. But prayer is for me a great comfort and I'm very grateful for Magnificat, the daily missal, which is a great prayer aid. So what do I have to show for so much prayer, over so many years? I have a lot to show for it.  Many blessings, many graces and a deep trust in God and God's word. Of course, there are times, like everyone else experiences, when I can't understand certain aspects of my spiritual journey. However,  I do know that God walks with me and my prayers are heard and bear fruit in time, in God's time. Daily prayer gives me that inner strength and courage and helps me to view life and situations with "eyes of faith." 
I have no desire to cook a new recipe every day of the year, or read an entire book each day for a year, but I do have a desire and need to pray every day and connect with God. And having found this great treasure of prayer, I would recommend it to everyone-365 days a year. 

Friday, October 9, 2009

Resilient & Religious

In a recent, very interesting article in AARP titled, The Secrets of Resilient People by Beth Howard, resilient people are compared to trees in the wind, "They bend in the wind, they bounce back" (according to Steven Southwick, M.D.). Resilience is defined as the "ability to rebound quickly from a crisis or trauma." Resiliency has been studied a lot because of current disasters and the economic downturn. "Scientists agree that resilience varies from person to person and has a genetic component-recent studies show that certain genes may protect you against the emotional back draft of trauma. 'Some people are naturally more resilient,' "says Robert Brooks, Ph.D. and clinical professor at Harvard.  Interestingly, resilience can be learned. Resilient people share certain common qualities and when a crisis hits, you can depend on these qualities or behaviors.
Before I read further into the article, I knew from experience and my studies that one quality or belief that can be cultivated and nurtured to help people become more resilient would be faith and belief in God. I knew it and so I wasn't surprised when it was mentioned in the article. 
As stated, "Generally people who are active in a religious faith tend to get through difficult times better," says Al Siebert, Ph.D. and author of The Resiliency Advantage. "A Duke University study concluded that people with serious medical conditions who had strong religious convictions and participated in religious activities were less likely to be waylaid by depression. When these patients did become depressed, the depression lifted sooner than it did for less religious people."
More proof that faith, belief in God, prayer and belonging to a faith community is good for your overall health and necessary "medicine" for your mind, body and soul. 
Another good point, "Resilient people convert misfortune into good luck and gain strength from adversity.......They see negative events as an opportunity to better themselves or become better people.
My deep faith and prayer life has enabled me to overcome many obstacles and experiences of loss in my life. I can't imagine how anyone without faith and belief is able to deal with life's challenges and difficulties. I'm very grateful that I was raised with faith and that I nurtured it throughout my life.

To accomplish great things, we must not only act but also dream, not only plan but also believe.      Anatole France

Monday, October 5, 2009

Hopelessness Is Bad For Your Health

Hopelessness is bad for your health. And it's not too good for your soul either. According to a new study, a "depressed, emotional state-feelings of hopelessness and apathy could have a direct effect on your physical health." A study of stroke survivors found a slower rate of recovery among those experiencing apathy, caring little about themselves and the world around them. Also, a study of healthy middle-aged women found an association between hopelessness and unexpected thickening of the carotid artery, the main blood vessel to the brain. A thickening of this artery can cause a stroke. These findings were reported in the Aug. 27th issue of Stroke. 
Depression, feelings of hopelessness and stress do have physical affects. Many studies support that view. 
There are also numerous studies, which I have read over the years which support the belief that prayer, belief in God, religious rituals and belonging to a faith community gives people hope, it takes away hopelessness, alienation and apathy. That's why people who refuse to believe or take advantage of the many benefits of belief and prayer cause me confusion. Christians as well as believers of other faiths have hope in a God who loves us and cares for us. Our God is a God of hope, a God who can bring good out of bad and bring hope and healing to the most difficult situations. Sometimes we have to be patient, for God's ways and actions cannot be comprehended,  at times we can get a glimpse of God working in our world.  
In these uncertain times we're living through, I don't think there are more important attitudes to have than hope, optimism and trust in God. I'm not sure how people can live without them. They are obviously good for your physical health, good for your soul and good for your relationship with God and others. 
Many people are filled with anxieties and fears, there is a lot to worry about, especially if you have a tendency to worry. But with God all things are possible, with God and through prayer and perseverance, "All will be well," in the words of Julian of Norwich. I believe that, I've seen it work over and over again. God is a God of hope, not despair and anyone who distances themselves from God's love or hope is foolish, in my opinion. 

Thursday, October 1, 2009

The Little Flower

Today is the feast day of St. Therese of Lisieux, the Little Flower, as she called herself. I have a great devotion to St. Therese and it was a blessing this morning to be able to share with a group of women a relic I have of St. Therese. Given to me by my good friend, Anne, it is a relic of a small piece of St. Therese's brown Carmelite habit. I actually have two relics of St. Therese. One I received as a gift and the other one I sent to Rome for. 
Interesting information about the spiritual classic, "The Autobiography of St. Therese of Lisieux-The Story of A Soul," appears in the introduction to John Beever's translation of the book,  In the first 12 years, forty-seven thousand copies were sold. Between 1910 and 1915 a hundred and sixty-four thousand copies were brought. Today millions of copies have spread throughout the world and it has been translated into 38 languages (probably more by now). It is the great best-seller of this century. Yet at first sight there is nothing extraordinary about it, nothing to warrant this phenomenal success. The Story of a Soul is not a great literary work. As literature it cannot be compared with St. Augustine's Confessions, with St. Teresa's autobiography (St. Teresa of Avila) or with St. Francis de Sales's Introduction to a Devout Life......Once read it cannot be forgotten. And the range of its appeal is tremendous: simple, ill-educated people and great scholars read it. It is a book which moves peasants and popes. Men and women of every race and of every kind of intelligence and education succumb to its spell...Yet it is a great book, an unforgettable book and a book whose influence deepens and widens every year.  We go wrong, I think, because we judge it by normal and natural standards. But it is not a normal or a natural book. It is abnormal because it is a supernatural book. In the words of Pius XI, St. Therese 'attained to the knowledge of supernatural things in such abundant measure that she was able to point out the sure way of salvation to others.'
She called her doctrine 'the little way of spiritual childhood,' and it is based on complete and unshakeable confidence in God's love for us.
Happy Feast Day to all Carmelites and all others too!

I desire, in a word, to be a saint, but I feel my helplessness and I beg you, O my God to be yourself my sanctity.
St. Therese of Lisieux- Died at the young age of 24-She is the youngest Doctor of the Church