From a letter by Fr. Almire Pichon to St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus

“You speak to me of the weight of years and you are twenty years old! Twenty, oh! I want sixty more years for you, filled with good sacrifices, all perfumed with myrrh and incense to console the Heart of your divine Spouse at your own expense.”

“May Jesus always keep for you this ideal of the exile which your eyes can discover and your soul taste. The Saints loved so much everything that was amiable in the works of God: flowers, nature, above all souls, and heavenly affections.”

“Could a spoiled child like you ever hesitate to abandon herself, to fall asleep peacefully in the arms of her Jesus, never fearing to be betrayed?”

Sursum corda! Let us lift up our hearts! Let us soar more and more far away from what is earthly and human. Let us climb up to the Heart of Jesus. This is heaven before heaven; the heaven of heavens.”

“Long live peace, joy, confidence. Always smile for the divine Spouse.”

From “The Prayer of the Church” by St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross

The work of salvation takes place in obscurity and stillness. In the heart’s quiet dialogue with God the living building blocks out of which the kingdom of God grows are prepared, the chosen instruments for the construction forged. The mystical stream that flows through all centuries is no spurious tributary that has strayed from the prayer life of the church—it is its deepest life.

When this mystical stream breaks through traditional forms, it does so because the Spirit that blows where it will is living in it, this Spirit that has created all traditional forms and must ever create new ones. Without him there would be no liturgy and no church. Was not the soul of the royal psalmist a harp whose strings resounded under the gentle breath of the Holy Spirit?

From the overflowing heart of the Virgin Mary blessed by God streamed the exultant hymn of the “Magnificat.” When the angel’s mysterious word became visible reality, the prophetic “Benedictus” hymn unsealed the lips of the old priest Zechariah, who had been struck dumb. Whatever arose from spirit-filled hearts found expression in words and melodies and continues to be communicated from mouth to mouth. The “Divine Office” is to see that it continues to resound from generation to generation. So the mystical stream forms the many-voiced, continually swelling hymn of praise to the triune God, the Creator, the Redeemer, and the Perfecter.

Therefore, it is not a question of placing the inner prayer free of all traditional forms as “subjective” piety in contrast to the liturgy as the “objective” prayer of the church. All authentic prayer is prayer of the church. Through every sincere prayer something happens in the church, and it is the church itself that is praying therein, for it is the Holy Spirit living in the church that intercedes for every individual soul “with sighs too deep for words.” This is exactly what “authentic” prayer is, for “no one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except by the Holy Spirit.” What could the prayer of the church be, if not great lovers giving themselves to God who is love!

The unbounded loving surrender to God and God’s return gift, full and enduring union, this is the highest elevation of the heart attainable, the highest level of prayer. Souls who have attained it are truly the heart of the church, and in them lives Jesus’ high priestly love. Hidden with Christ in God, they can do nothing but radiate to other hearts the divine love that fills them and so participate in the perfection of all into unity in God, which was and is Jesus’ great desire.

This was how Marie Antoinette de Geuser understood her vocation. She had to undertake this highest Christian duty in the midst of the world. Her way is certainly a very meaningful and strengthening model for the many people who, having become radically serious about their inner lives, want to stand up for the church and who cannot follow this call into the seclusion of a monastery. The soul that has achieved the highest level of mystical prayer and entered into the “calm activity of divine life” no longer thinks of anything but of giving itself to the apostolate to which God has called it.

This is repose in orderliness and, at the same time, activity free of all constraint. The soul conducts the battle in peace, because it is acting entirely from the viewpoint of eternal decrees. She knows that the will of her God will be perfectly fulfilled to his greater glory, because—though the human will often, as it were, sets limits for divine omnipotence—that divine omnipotence triumphs after all by creating something magnificent out of whatever material is left. This victory of divine power over human freedom, which he nevertheless permits to do as it pleases, is one of the most wonderful and adorable aspects of God’s plan for the world…

From the spiritual dialogues of Gabrielle Bossis

August 10—Lourdes. At the procession of the Blessed Sacrament, I was thinking of a proud answer I had just given.

(With tender pity.) “How your littleness makes you suffer!”

And I remembered what He had told me once before from the monstrance in the same place, surrounded by cardinals and archbishops in rich vestments:

“You see, I am the smallest.”

From the spiritual writings of St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

“The world is in flames: do you wish to put them out? Contemplate the Cross: from the open Heart the blood of the Redeemer pours, blood which can put out even the flames of hell. Through the faithful observance of the vows you make your heart free and open; and then the floods of that divine love will be able to flow into it, making it overflow and bear fruit to the furthest reaches of the earth.”

“The eyes of the Crucified gaze upon you. They question you and appeal to you. Do you wish seriously to renew your alliance with Him? What will your response be? ‘Lord, where shall I go? You alone have the words of life.’ Ave Crux Spes Unica!”

Caryll Houselander

Every day crowds of unknown people come to him, who feel as hard, as cold, as empty as the tomb. They come with the first light, before going to the day's work, and with the grey mind of early morning, hardly able to concentrate at all on the mystery which they themselves are part of: impelled only by the persistent will of love, not by any sweetness of consolation, and it seems to them as if nothing happens at all. But Christ's response to that dogged, devoted will of a multitude of insignificant people is his coming to life in them, his Resurrection in their souls. In the eyes of the world they are without importance, but in fact, because of them and their unemotional Communions, when the world seems to be finished, given up to hatred and pride, secretly, in unimaginable humility, Love comes to life again. There is resurrection everywhere."

Psalm 103

One day in winter, I left my monastery and braved the highways of San Jose to meet up with my spiritual director in Cupertino and make a general confession of my sins, and as I drove, heart pounding, I heard (on a CD another brother had left in the car) this heart-rending rendition of Psalm 103, sung by the monachói of St. Anthony’s Greek Orthodox Monastery, Florence, Arizona. God’s mercy is so great: “from eternity, even unto eternity!” At the very moment I was preparing, with “fear and trembling,” to pour out a lifetime of sins at the feet of the Father, I hear a distant voice chanting, as if carried on the wind over a vast and lonely desert or the Spirit hovering over the waters of my heart: “As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our iniquities from us.”

Bonus: the most beautiful Kyrie I have ever heard, sung by Serbian Orthodox musician Divna Ljubojevic.

Pray for unity in the Church! The East is such a treasury of beauty for the glory of God and the salvation of souls. How true that “the Church must breathe with both lungs”—East and West, mystical and prophetic.


103

Distressed by exile or sickness, the soul recounts God’s infinite kindness and is calmed by the knowledge that its merciful Father in heaven is loving and forgiving and can effect any redemption or cure.

Bless the LORD, O my soul; blessed art Thou, O LORD! Bless the LORD, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless His holy name! Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all that He hath done for thee. Who is gracious unto all thine inquities, Who healeth all thine infirmities. Who redeemeth thy life from corruption, Who crowneth thee with mercy and compassion. Who fulfilleth thy desire with good things; Thy youth shall be renewed as the eagle’s. The LORD performeth deeds of mercy and executeth judgment for all them that are wronged. He hath made his ways known unto Moses, unto the sons of Israel the things that he hath willed. Compassionate and merciful is the LORD, long-suffering and plenteous in mercy. Not unto the end will He be angered, Neither unto eternity will He be wronged. Not according to our iniquities hath He dealth with us, Neither according to our sins hath He rewarded us. For according to the height of heaven from the earth, the LORD hath made His mercy to prevail over them that fear Him. As far as the east is from the west, so far hath He removed our iniquities from us. Like as a father hath compassion upon his sons, so hath the LORD compassion upon them that fear Him. For He knoweth whereof we are made, He hath remembered that we are dust. As for men, his deeds are as the grass—as a flower of the field, so shall he blossom forth. For when the wind hath passed over it, then it shall be gone, and no longer will it know the place thereof. But the mercy of the Lord is from eternity, even unto eternity, upon them that fear Him. And His righteousness is upon sons of sons, upon them that keep His testament and remember His commandments to do them. The LORD in heaven hath prepared His throne, and His kingdom ruleth over all. Bless the Lord, all you His angels, mighty in strength, that perform His word, who hear the voice of His words. Bless the LORD, all ye His hosts, His ministers that do His will. Bless the LORD, all ye His works, in every place of His dominion. Bless the LORD, O my soul! Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, both now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen. Bless the LORD, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless His holy name! Blessed art Thou, O Lord!