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Posted by on Mar 15, 2010

Quote of the Day – Meister Eckhart on Loving

Quote of the Day – Meister Eckhart on Loving


Meister Eckhart

The Hope of Loving

What keeps us alive, what allows us to endure?
I think it is the hope of loving,
or being loved.
I heard a fable once about the sun going on a journey;
to find its source, and how the moon wept
without her lover’s
warm gaze.
We weep when light does not reach our hearts. We wither
like fields if someone close
does not rain their

Meister Eckhart

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Posted by on Oct 15, 2009

Quote of the Day – Meister Eckhart on Loving

“Let Nothing Disturb You” – St. Teresa of Avila

Teresa of Avila's Vision of the Dove - Peter Paul Rubens

Teresa of Avila's Vision of the Dove - Peter Paul Rubens

On this feast of St. Teresa of Avila, when all is so uncertain in our world and so many worries seem to plague us all, I offer her reminder of what really matters. This quote is sometimes called her “Bookmark” because after her death in 1582 it was found written on a piece of paper in her prayer book.

Let nothing disturb you,
Let nothing frighten you,
All things are passing away,
God does not change.
Patience obtains all things
Whoever has God lacks nothing;
God alone is enough.

In the original Spanish:

Nada te turbe,
Nada te espante;
Todo se pasa.
Dios no se muda.
La paciencia todo lo alcanza.
Quien a Dios tiene nada le falta:
sólo Dios basta.

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Posted by on Apr 29, 2009

Quote of the Day – Meister Eckhart on Loving

St. Catherine of Siena – April 29


April 29 is the feast of St. Catherine of Siena, O.P. Catherine Benincasa was born in 1347 in Siena, Italy. She was the 25th and final child born to her parents. Her father was a wool dyer and her mother was mistress of a large and active household. (Catherine was actually a twin, but her sister died shortly after birth.)

As a girl, when asked who my patron saint was, the only St. Catherine I knew at the time was Catherine of Siena. So I decided to take her as my patroness. That was fine with my mother, since I hadn’t been particularly named with a saint in mind! I didn’t know much about her, but she seemed like a strong, intelligent, interesting woman, so I stuck with her.

As I’ve grown older, I’ve learned much more about her and have become much more impressed with her spunk, her intelligence, her courage and her great faith. She was a woman who took matters into her own hands at a time when parents, and particularly fathers of families, made life-determining choices for their children. She cut her hair rather than get married. She accepted her parents’ decree that she should become a servant of the family if she wouldn’t behave as a daughter was expected to behave. She spent many years devoted to prayer alone in a small room at home. She was a mystic who allowed the love of God to flow forth through her to those in the world around her. She ventured out into a turbulent world, becoming an advisor to popes and other leaders of church and state. She cared for plague victims and organized others to do so as well. For most of her life she couldn’t read or write, but that didn’t stop her. She dictated and sent letters to people great and small. She recorded her insights into the spiritual life in works that are read to this day. Her influence has lasted far beyond her short 33 years.

In 1970, she became one of the first two women honored as Doctor of the Church for her writings.

I asked several people who are familiar with the work of St. Catherine of Siena to share a short idea or two with us about her. These are the responses I received, in order received.

From Susan T. Mahan, Ph.D.
I like the fact that Catherine did not seek to be the center of attention even though she had an exceptional spiritual life. When her family was angry at her for refusing to marry and isolated her; then made her work as a servant and wouldn’t let her out of the house, she totally accepted it and prayed her way through the day. She was not resentful but saw the gift in her circumstances. She also followed her inner discernment as to what the Lord wanted for her and trusted Him. She did not bend to what others expected – her family, her social class, even the Pope.

From Michael Fones, O.P.
What I really admire about Catherine was her ability to cross boundaries and categories that normally would have been off limits to women – and often, even men. She traveled extensively, at a time when travel was unusual and dangerous. Because of her holiness, she was brought in to mediate between factions at odds with one another. She was, as Jesus said of those who are born from above, like the wind; you couldn’t tell where she came from or where she was going. I find her fascinating because of her single-minded devotion to the Blessed Trinity, and the intense personal relationship she had with God, which is so beautifully expressed in her masterpiece, the Dialogue.

From Sr. Barbara Long, O.P.
I think the most interesting things for me are all of her efforts in striving to bring peace to the Church and the warring city states of Italy. At the end of her life, she thought that she was a failure, and yet look what a legacy she has left us.

In these our turbulent times, the example of St. Catherine of Siena is one upon which we should all draw.

Image by Bro. Robert Lentz, OFM

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Posted by on Oct 15, 2008

Quote of the Day – Meister Eckhart on Loving

Saint of the Day – St. Teresa of Avila – October 15

St. Teresa of Avila - by Peter Paul Rubens

St. Teresa of Avila - by Peter Paul Rubens

St. Teresa of Avila, also known as St. Teresa of Jesus, was a Carmelite nun, reformer of her order, mystic, and writer.  She is one of only three women who have been named “Doctor of the Church.” She had a lively intellect and loved people and parties. She wasn’t afraid to argue with the Lord or to oppose those of her time who believed her reforms unnecessary and even dangerous. She experienced many years of illness, including three of paralysis. She found prayer difficult for many years and even refused to try. It wasn’t until she was middle-aged that she began her great work of prayer, reform and teaching.

Many books and articles have been written about St. Teresa of Avila. I refer you to them and to her own writings for details about her life and contributions.

I also invited Mother Marija of Holy Annunciation Monastery in Sugarloaf, Pennsylvania to share a thought with us about St. Teresa. Her response:

The invitation: “What is one thing you would like people to know about St. Teresa of Avila?”  To be true to Teresa one must be faithful to Teresa’s own thought, at least as well as another can understand and convey it. Our Holy Mother St. Teresa, is a Doctor of the Church, so she needs no other “recommendation” in her teaching capacity. Her own mystical life is self-described in her writings: Life, The Way of Perfection (written for her daughters the Carmelite nuns), and the Interior Castle,  which book describes – even maps out – the journey of a soul through seven stages of the inner life to union with God. Again, Teresa had the Carmelite nuns in mind when writing this book, as the epilog expressly tells us. So what would I like people to know about Teresa? Simply that she is a true guide for a life of prayer – a “life”, meaning that prayer for Teresa is the WAY to God. Our Lord is, of course, the WAY and Teresa’s way of prayer is friendship with Jesus. The Way of Perfection, a life of Prayer and finding Jesus as the Way for each of us seems for Teresa  to be identical. After all, she is Teresa of Jesus.

Thank you, Mother, for your contribution. May God bless you and all who seek to serve Him through a life of prayer and friendship with Jesus.

The books of St. Teresa of Avila are still in print today. You can find them listed in our discovery engine at Just enter her name and you’ll get links to her works.

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Posted by on Jul 31, 2008

Quote of the Day – Meister Eckhart on Loving

St. Ignatius Loyola – In the Presence

St. Ignatius of Loyola by Peter Paul Rubens

Take Lord, and receive all my liberty,
my memory, understanding, my entire will and
all that I possess.
You have given all to me.
To You, O Lord, I return it.
All is yours; dispose of it wholly
according to your will.
Give me only your love and your grace,
for this is enough for me.

Every year, July 31 is a special day for me. St. Ignatius continues to play a very pivotal role in my life. What most captivated me as a young man, and still amazes me today, is his vision. His personal, intense love of God and a sense of the Divine Presence that is acutely close, warm, and reassuring all came to me in my journey through the Spiritual Exercises as a Jesuit novice.

I will never forget one of my first meetings with John D. McAnulty, my Master of Novices. He simply began by saying, “Let us place ourselves in the presence of God.” I had not been a stranger to priests or to spiritual direction, but this experience was completely different. The room and the atmosphere changed in an instant. There was a looming presence, an awesome profound silence, and a great peace.

I guess, that is why I tend to chuckle when people refer to the great learning of the Jesuits. It is not what they are about. I also laugh because that is what I thought until that first invitation to enter into the Presence. It was far from intellectual. It was very intense, very real, very soothing. St. Ignatius would say that our prayer can be marked by times of consolation and desolation. What has struck me over the years is that sometimes there are joyful fireworks when entering into the Mystery and sometimes there is a great zen of nothingness – but the Presence remains.

Happy Feast Day Fr. Ignatius.

For more background on the life St. Ignatius and his spirituality see my previous entry.

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Posted by on May 30, 2008

Quote of the Day – Meister Eckhart on Loving

Feast of the Day – The Sacred Heart of Jesus

Sacred Heart of Jesus - Fronhofen Pfarrkirche

The Feast of the Sacred Heart is celebrated 19 days after Pentecost each year. It is always on a Friday.

Devotion to the Sacred Heart began to develop in the Middle Ages, but it was considered a private devotion, not a specific feast day. Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque  (1647-1690), a French nun and mystic, promoted devotion to the Sacred Heart in its current form and over time it was adopted as a formal feast. This devotion also includes Mass and Communion on the first Friday of each month.

A friend of mine was raised Catholic in an Irish family in Rhode Island. One day we were talking and laughing about some of the funny things that had happened when we were girls. She told of the time a non-Catholic friend of hers was visiting her family for the first time. The friend, a young man, commented that he was always shocked when he went into Catholic homes and was immediately confronted with a statue or picture of Jesus, with his heart showing – pierced and bleeding. He said something about how glad he was not to find that image in her parents’ home. He had begun to think that all Catholics were somehow off balance with this insistence on having the image around them. Then they went around the corner into the living room, and there was the picture on the wall, where it couldn’t be missed by anyone!

My friend and I were working together at the time. As we went around the corner into my home office, what was on the wall, but a picture of the Sacred Heart – more modern than the traditional one in her home, but unmistakably still, the Sacred Heart. We just laughed and knew again how much we had in common!

So what is it about the Sacred Heart? First, it’s important to remember that it’s not really about worshipping a physical human heart. The Feast of the Sacred Heart reminds us of the overwhelming love of God for us, as seen in the love of Jesus for us. As the Son of God, second person of the Blessed Trinity, Jesus became one of us, lived as one of us, died as one of us. God’s overflowing love poured through Jesus to us. It still does. Symbolically, Jesus’ pierced heart is a reminder that love is not always easy. It can be costly. Love flows out of the heart of God as the water flowed out of the heart of Jesus when pierced by the centurion’s sword. Nothing can stop that love’s flow but our refusal to accept it.

The Sacred Heart also reminds us that Jesus always forgives. God always forgives. Nothing we can do will keep God from loving us and forgiving us. We can turn away, but God is always there calling us back. Hoping we will once again accept love and mercy. Because God’s mercy is unfailing, all we need do is ask and accept it.

In celebrating the Feast of the Sacred Heart, we are called to love as Jesus loves, forgive as Jesus forgives and be compassionate and merciful as Jesus is compassionate and merciful. A tall order for our human hearts, but one to which, with the help of Our Lord, we are called.

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Posted by on May 21, 2008

Quote of the Day – Meister Eckhart on Loving

Trinity Suggestions

I asked our Theologika trustees for recommendations of materials on the Trinity for our readers. Patrick Conway, M.Div., Pastoral Associate at Resurrection Parish in Aptos, CA sent these ideas.

“On the Trinity: Abhishiktananda (Henri Le Saux) was a contemplative theologian who wrote of his mystical intuition of the Trinity, so anything by him. One of his landmark writings was Saccidananda: A Christian Approach to Advaitic Experience (Delhi: ISPCK Press, 1974). There is also an article, “Abhishiktananda’s Mystical Intuition of the Trinity”, by Wayne Teasdale in Cistercian Studies 18:1 (1983). In fact, I believe that entire issue was dedicated to Abhishiktananda.

“Then there is Rahner’s “Remarks on the Dogmatic Treatise ‘De Trinitate'” in Theological Investigations, Vol. 4, pp. 77-102. In this article he notes that, given the post-modern mentality, the only Christians would have to be mystics, particularly when it comes to faith in the Trinity. Perhaps he had Abhishiktananda in mind.

Also, Catherine LaCugna’s God For Us: The Trinity and the Christian Life. San Francisco: Harper, 1992.”

Some of these materials are easily available. Others are more likely found in libraries. If you come across them online, please let me know so I can tag them for other readers to access.

My thanks to Patrick for his quick and thoughtful response.

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Posted by on May 20, 2008

Quote of the Day – Meister Eckhart on Loving

Celebrating the Trinity

Trinity by Andrei Rublev (ca 1410-1420)

The first Sunday after Pentecost is celebrated as Trinity Sunday. God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, yet one God. The Trinity is a reality over which Christians have puzzled for centuries. Jesus spoke of His Father. He stated that He and the Father were One. He promised to send their Holy Spirit. But what did it all mean?

We speak of the dogma of the Trinity as being a mystery. The use of the word mystery can be problematic. It can imply that if we just focus our attention and uncover the right clues, we can solve the mystery and get to its core. After all, that’s the way it works in detective novels and television shows! But that’s not the kind of mystery we’ve got in the Trinity. The reality of God is so much more than we can ever imagine, let alone comprehend, that the best we can do is look for threads that give us a small sense of the dimensions and reality of the whole.

Fr. Richard Rohr, OFM and the late Fr. John O’Donohue have both gifted us with meditative reflections on the Trinity in recent years. They speak of the Trinity in terms of rhythms and flow and surpise. Richard Rohr speaks of a “family resemblance” between the Trinity and all of creation, from the depths of the atom to the furthest extent of the universe, there is a similarity of pattern. All are in movement, all are in relationship to each other, the power is in the “in between.” Life is in the movement, the flow.

Fr. Rohr notes that the Greek Fathers of the Church described the Trinity as a relationship of perichoresisa mutual interpenetration and indwelling. He explains that perichoresis can be translated as dance. God is the dance and we come to know God only from within the dance of the Trinity. As long as we remain open and allow ourselves to be pulled into the flow of mutuality, to the perfect giving and perfect receiving that is the life of God, we will experience the communion, intimacy and relationship characteristic of God’s life. Anything that stops the flow of loving – anger, resentment, judgement – cannot be part of who God is. To the extent that we harbor those blocks to love, we block the flow of God’s life/love in ourselves.

John O’Donohue, in a workshop for the Religious Education Congress of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles in 2005, also spoke of the Trinity in terms of rhythm and flow, touching on many of the same themes described above. A poet and storyteller, he looks at the mystery of the Trinity through poetic images – the flow of a river, a dream of the divine, dance, music, between-ness. He speaks of God as the “secret music of the heart and the universe… the primal music and dance of all that is.”

We most often experience the world in terms of dualities such as inside/outside, masculine/feminine, divine/human, light/dark and so forth. Yet O’Donohue points out that in reality we actually find ourselves at the threshold between those dualities most of the time. It’s a threshold that must be permeable if we and our relationships are to be healthy, so that the qualities of each side of the duality can pass between, refreshing, supporting and enlivening the other. As he points out, there’s the one side, the other side and the place in between. For O’Dononue, the place in between is where we find the Holy Spirit, holding “all the between-ness together.”

The insights of these two men are well worth hearing and pondering. There’s far more to what each has said than can be described in a short blog post. But the depth of the wisdom they bring resonates with the insights of the mystics from all the ages. As John O’Donohue notes, “Once you get a taste of God, nothing else tastes the same.” And again, “That’s what it’s about – coming fully alive to the dream of the Divine within you.”

May the dream of the Divine resonate within you and lead you ever more deeply into the life of the Trinity.




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Posted by on Mar 8, 2008

Quote of the Day – Meister Eckhart on Loving

Saint of the Day: St. John of God – March 8


St. John of God (1495 -1555) was born Joao Cidade in Montemor-o-Novo (Evora) in Portugal on March 8, 1495. He spent much of his life working in Spain for the Mayoral family in Oropeza as a shepherd. Later he became a soldier of fortune, enlisting twice in the army. After his second enlistment, which had taken him to Austria to fight the Turks, he traveled through Spain and North Africa. Juan Ciudad, as he was known in Spanish, settled in Granada and became a seller of books on chivalry and religion.

In 1537, St. John of God heard a sermon by St. John of Avila and underwent an intense conversion experience. His reaction was extreme. He destroyed his book shop and acted deranged for several days. He was finally committed to the Royal Hospital of Granada, since he seemed to have gone mad. A few months later, he left, calm of spirit, and put himself under the direction St. John of Avila. After a brief pilgrimage to the shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in southern Spain, he returned to Granada and took up his work in service of the poor.

He became known as Juan de Dios, John of God, because of his great love and service to the destitute and the ill. St. John of God was given a habit by the local bishop, who also confirmed the name everyone had given him. He was very good not only at soliciting money and support for his hospital but he also created a relationship between the donors and the recipients. Volunteers provided services and the recipients were encouraged to pray for their benefactors. He was at ease with all levels of society and was especially known for listening to people’s problems and offering encouragement if nothing else. St. John of God reached out to the most despised members of society, the prostitutes, and helped many to find other ways to support themselves and lead lives of dignity.

On his birthday, March 8, 1555, a day that would become his feast day, St. John of God went to his reward. The co-workers he had attracted, formed a religious order, the Hospitaller Brothers of St. John of God, to carry on his work all over the world. The core of St. John of God’s spirituality is hospitality – that virtue of acceptance and care that sees Christ in the guest at the door and among those most in need.

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Posted by on Jan 28, 2008

Quote of the Day – Meister Eckhart on Loving

Saint of the Day: St. Thomas Aquinas – January 28


St. Thomas Aquinas, the Angelic Doctor (c. 1225 – 1274), has been and continues to be one of the most influential forces shaping Catholic theology and philosophy. He was born at Roccasecca castle, the home of his father, Count Landulf, in the Kingdom of Naples. His mother was Theodora, Countess of Theate, and was related to the Hohenstafuen dyanasty of Holy Roman emperors. St. Thomas’s uncle, Sinbald, was the abbot of the first Benedictine monastery, Monte Cassino, and the family planned for him to succeed his uncle as abbot.

At the age of 5, St. Thomas was sent to Monte Cassino to begin his studies. At 16 he was sent to the University of Naples, where he came under the influence of the Order of Preachers – the Dominicans -who were innovators in a new style of religious life very different from that of traditional orders such as the Benedictines. St. Thomas upset his family by announcing his intention of joining the Dominicans. This action not only destroyed the family’s ambition to retain the power and prestige of Monte Cassino, but it was almost akin to running off with a band of hippies. Unable to convince him to renounce this foolishness, his family kidnapped him and held him for a year in the family castle of San Giovanni. Finally, Pope Innocent IV intervened and St. Thomas joined the Dominicans at 17.

St. Thomas and the Dominicans of his time introduced an entirely new way of approaching the faith. For 12 centuries, the Church teachers of the faith appealed to the authority of the scriptures and previous teachers such as St. Augustine or other Fathers of the Church. The scholastic movement, embodied by St. Thomas and his teacher St. Albert the Great, began with an open inquiry based on logic and reason. The traditional Faith was accepted as true, but thoughtful and logical reason were presented as to why it might not be true. Ultimately, various statements of belief were upheld, not only on the authority of the Church or tradition, but by reason and logic as well.

The format of the scholastic argument is the back bone of St. Thomas’s two major works, The Summa Theologica and the Summa Contra Gentiles. It is hard for us as post-modern people to imagine what a daring and threatening approach this was for the time. In fact the 1200s were a time of immense change in Europe. Trade and communications with the East had been reopened and with them came a flood of new and ancient knowledge. Trade and commerce increased the power and prestige of market towns at the expense of the countryside. Monastic schools gave way to early universities. The great Cathedrals began to dominate the landscape. The traditional clergy were overshadowed by the two great orders of mendicant friars (the begging brothers) – the Dominicans and the Franciscans.

St. Thomas, and his contemporary members of the scholastic movement, absorbed and transformed Islamic and Greek philosophy, science, technology, and mathematics. In particular, the Thomistic school of scholasticism is known for reviving the philosophy of Aristotle and its logic.

Over the centuries, scholastic philosophy would evolve and change in a variety of ways and St. Thomas – contrary to his own method – became the authority. Instead of being a fresh and bold inquiry, scholasticism degenerated into a catalog of arguments and answers to be memorized and repeated. In the Enlightenment of the 17th and 18th centuries, scholasticism and Thomism were disregarded by secular philosophies reliant only on reason. Thomism was also marginalized in training programs for priests.

In the late 1800s, there was a movement to restore Thomism as a defense against the secular philosophies of the Enlightenment and to renew some intellectual vigor in Catholic circles. It was an attempt to come to grips with the modern world and met heavy resistance. In the early 1900s, Thomism began to assume some prominence and neo-Thomism emerged with a renewed interest in the relationship between faith and reason. It is a long and complicated story, but it reflects the enduring importance of the work of St. Thomas and the changing moods of society and philosophy.

The core question persists. What can we know of God through reason? The second question follows. How reasonable is our faith?

If we want to honor a man who was a mystic, a saint, and an intellectual, it seems that we have to take on the openness of his inquiry and the wonder he beheld in faith.

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Posted by on Jan 25, 2008

Quote of the Day – Meister Eckhart on Loving

Feast of the Day: Conversion of St. Paul – January 25


January 25 is the feast of the Conversion of St. Paul (Acts 22). Most of us are familiar with the story. Saul – his original name – was a Pharisee who was persecuting the very first Christians. (At that early stage believers called themselves Followers of the Way. The name Christian would come about later in Antioch)

St. Paul was on his way to Damascus with documents authorizing him to arrest and bring back Christians to Jerusalem for trial by the religious authorities. Scripture makes no reference to a horse, which is usually part of the depiction of the scene in which St. Paul is blinded by a bright light and falls to the ground. He hears a voice utter the now famous words “Saul, why are you persecuting me.” In the exchange, St. Paul asks who it is that is speaking to him – the response, “I am Jesus, the Nazarene..”

According to scripture, we know that Paul was from Tarsus and that he was also a Roman citizen. His letters to the early congregations (churches) are the oldest documents in the New Testament. They reveal a man who is thoroughly Jewish in his mode of thinking and speech. Yet he is Christianity’s link to the larger Hellenistic world.

For those who like to emphasize the important role of St. Peter in the development of the Church, it can come as a shock that he and St. Paul disagreed so strongly about the incorporation of non-Jews, or gentiles. Some of us contemporary Catholics – with a certain sense of ironic humor – see this conflict as the first among many between a Pope and a theologian.

What is most significant about St. Paul’s conversion is his acceptance by the leadership of the early Christian community. Although they had substantial reasons to distrust his sincerity, they forgave an enemy – even one who had been an accomplice in the stoning of St. Stephen, the first martyr. They forgave a man who arrested and imprisoned their family members and friends. The book of the Acts of the Apostles shows that the leadership and the community had their misgivings, but they helped the repentant Saul to demonstrate his conversion, acting as mentors, teachers, and friends. Some helped more than others, and many not at all, yet it was enough.  And as they say… the rest is history.

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Posted by on Dec 14, 2007

Quote of the Day – Meister Eckhart on Loving

Saint of the Day – St. John of the Cross


December 14 is the feast day of St. John of the Cross (1542-1591), a mystic, reformer, and one of the greatest poets of Spanish literature’s Golden Age. He was born Juan de Yepes y Alvarez into a “converso” or converted Jewish family. His father died when he was young and he and his two older brothers, along with their mother, moved from village to village in Castilla, suffering from poverty and rejection by both Jews and Christians. At Medina del Campo, from 1559 to 1563, he studied humanities at the Jesuit school. In 1563, he entered the Carmelite Order and in 1564, he studied philosophy at the Colegio San Andres at the University of Salamanca. In 1567, he was ordained a priest and wanted to join the Carthusians, since he felt called to a life of silent contemplation. St. Theresa of Avila convinced him to help her reform the Carmelites instead.

In 1568, he co-founded the Discalced Carmelites ,with St. Teresa of Avila. (The were called discalced because they returned to the custom of walking bare foot.) St. Teresa had a vision for restoring the Carmelite order to its original austerity and seclusion from the world. St. John founded the first Discalced Carmelite monastery at Duruelo in 1569. There was great opposition to the reform within the Carmelite Order. He was imprisoned in Toledo by his superiors for 9 months, from December 1577 to August 1578, when he managed to escape after brutal treatment and privation. His tormentors tried to sway him from his leadership of the reform movement, which had been legitimately authorized. Nevertheless, St. John of the Cross went on with the reform and produced wonderful poetry and treatises on the spiritual life.

It may seem incomprehensible to us today that there could be opposition to such a reform that would return an order to its original vision. However, many of the men and women in convents and monasteries at the time were placed there by their families, especially if they were younger sons and daughters. A position in the Church strengthened the family’s position and avoided the costs and alliances that came with marriages. Making the best of a bad situation, many of these men and women with “enforced” vocations tried to live as comfortable a life as possible. They weren’t called to live lives of austere, silent contemplation and fought the reform.

Just as he had suffered from those opposed to the reform, St. John’s latter years would be marked by suffering from those who embraced the reform but went too far in their austerity. When he opposed and corrected their excesses, they did their best to neutralize his influence. St. John of the Cross died in 1591 after he had been denied adequate medical attention and endured isolation. It seems that much of his maltreatment by both sides was not due entirely to his authorized reform activities. He was a “converso” and considered a renegade and certainly beneath the standing of so-called “pure bloods,” who resented and were shamed by his holiness and learning.

el-greco-toledo.jpg El Greco’s “View of Toledo”

St. John of the Cross was a man of great courage, without bitterness, because his suffering never conquered him. Thomas Merton reflects on the imprisonment of St. John of the Cross in Toledo as an example of the holiness of a saint coming from grappling with the problem of evil. Why do good people suffer? Why do I suffer? His response during his inhuman imprisonment was to write a major part of one of his greatest poems on union with Christ, The Spiritual Canticle. Out of great darkness and suffering came great light and peace.

Stanzas Of The Soul

One dark night,
fired with love’s urgent longings
—ah, the sheer grace!—
I went out unseen,
my house being now all stilled.

In darkness, and secure,
by the secret ladder, disguised,
—ah, the sheer grace!—
in darkness and concealment,
my house being now all stilled.

On that glad night,
in secret, for no one saw me,
nor did I look at anything,
with no other light or guide
than the one that burned in my heart.

This guided me
more surely than the light of noon
to where he was awaiting me
—him I knew so well—
there in a place where no one appeared.

O guiding night!
O night more lovely than the dawn!
O night that has united
the Lover with his beloved,
transforming the beloved in her Lover.

Upon my flowering breast
which I kept wholly for him alone,
there he lay sleeping,
and I caressing him
there in a breeze from the fanning cedars.

When the breeze blew from the turret,
as I parted his hair,
it wounded my neck
with its gentle hand,
suspending all my senses.

I abandoned and forgot myself,
laying my face on my Beloved;
all things ceased; I went out from myself,
leaving my cares
forgotten among the lilies.

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Posted by on Nov 7, 2007

Quote of the Day – Meister Eckhart on Loving

Saint of the Day – San Diego de Alcalá de Henares


November 7 is the current feast of St. Didacus, a latinized form of the name Diego. (The traditional feast day was November 12). San Diego (1400 to 1463), was a Franciscan lay brother who exemplified the reform movement of his time. He never learned to read or write and devoted his life to prayer, penance, and the service of the poor and the sick. San Diego’s life is an ironic example of a man who found fame and posterity by renouncing them.

San Diego was born in San Nicolás del Puerto in the province of Sevilla, Spain. As a boy, he served a local hermit, taking on that austere lifestyle and raising vegetables for the poor. At 30, he joined the Franciscans and around 1441 he was sent with a small group to Fuerteventura in the Canary Islands. Despite his lack of education, he became the Guardian of the small convent. Under his leadership and by his example, the observance and piety of the group came to the attention of Pope Eugene IV. San Diego returned to Spain in 1449 and went to Rome in 1450 for the canonization of fellow Franciscan San Bernardino de Siena. There was a severe outbreak of plague in Rome and San Diego became even more highly regarded for his care of the sick and the dying. He lived at Alcalá de Henares from 1456 until his death on November 12, 1463.

San Diego became a reluctant hero, even in death, because of the number of documented miracles that were attributed to him. However, he was not canonized a saint until 1588, due to reforms that the Church was undertaking to remove the lives of the saints from the realm of legend to those of rigorous historical fact. Despite the reformed standards, the holiness of his life and documentation of miracles made his biography similar to those of devotional legend.

San Diego’s wide popularity in the 16th and 17th centuries was emblematic of a major shift in Spanish society. San Diego’s patron, Santiago (Sant Yago – St. James the Apostle), was the patron of Spain and represented her struggle to reconquer Iberia after the Moorish conquest. As Santiago Mata Moros, St. James the Killer of Moors, was a less relevant model as the Reconquest came to a close. San Diego’s example of heroic Christian virtue became a new model of the Christian ideal in the emerging union of the seven kingdoms.

When Sebastián Vizcaíno entered San Miguel Bay in Alta California aboard the San Diego in 1602, he renamed it San Diego Bay, because his men would hear Mass there on November 12. On July 1, 1769, Blessed Junipero Serra would found Mission San Diego de Alcalá on the same bay, the mission which would later give rise to the City of San Diego, California.

Although San Diego now enjoys the obscurity that he sought in life, he should be remembered and celebrated as someone who saw that mysticism and service to the marginalized could not be separated. Spirituality and social justice are the two necessary dimension of meeting and serving the living Christ.


Mission San Diego de Alcalá, San Diego, CA

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Posted by on Oct 22, 2007

Quote of the Day – Meister Eckhart on Loving

Saint of the Day – St. Peter of Alcantara


St. Peter of Alcantara (1499 -1562) exemplified the spirit of the renewal and reform undertaken by the Catholic Church in the 1500’s. Even among Catholics, there can be an overgeneralized view that there were many abuses in the Church at that time and that reforms were undertaken only as a means of launching a counter offensive, called the Counter Reformation. As is always the case, life and history are more complex.

St. Peter of Alcantara was a contemporary of St. Ignatius Loyola and St. John of the Cross, and he was a confessor to St. Teresa of Avila. His life was modeled on St. Francis of Assisi. A young man, from a well-to-do and socially prominent family, he not only joined the Franciscans, but led a movement of Barefoot (Discalced) Franciscans, with a stricter rule of religious life. He was a gifted preacher, administrator, and leader who was not above washing dishes or chopping wood.

As Spain was expanding in the New World in the Golden Century (El Siglo de Oro), there was a strong movement to renew Christian life. Of course, Spain’s history was very different from the rest of Europe. Spain had been conquered by the Moors in the 700’s and the Reconquest (Reconquista) by the Christian kingdoms had just been completed in 1492. Spain was building on a 700 year Arabic and Jewish legacy that had focused on learning and asceticism. The Caliphate (the Moorish government organization based in Cordoba) united both religion and state under Islam and created a culture of immense wealth and knowledge.

St. Peter of Alcantara and his contemporaries had very little in common with the controversies that had enveloped northern Europe. Understandably, their lives had been shaped by different issues and forces. The 1500’s were a time of Christian resurgence in Iberia and of expansion overseas. The spiritual flowering of Spain occurred against a backdrop of massive change and the imposition of uniformity by the state and the Inquisition.

Yet, St. Peter Alcantara and his contemporaries led a major movement of renewal and reform that was more than conformist. Their movement would provide much of the impetus for the reform of Catholicism that would persist for 400 years.

Now that the Reformation and Counter-Reformation have formally ended, we would do well to take a closer look at St. Peter Alcantara and his contemporaries. Like them, we stand on the brink of a new era. We are leaving 300 years that played down the mystical heritage of western Christianity as a “combination of mist and schism.” St. Peter Alcantara was a mystic and a man of action. He and the other spiritual leaders of Spain’s Golden Century present us with a golden opportunity to have a vision beyond imperialism and reactionism as we face the challenges of our time.

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