The Conversion of St. Augustine in the Garden

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The Conversion of St. Augustine in the Garden

As St. Augustine was distraught and his heart and soul, wrenched, at the conflict between his concupiscence and worldliness and the call of Christ, and the story about the conversion of his fellow rhetoricians and professors in the university, Victorinus, Simplicianus, Nebridius, and Pontecianus, and touched by the calling of St. Anthony, and the Letters of St. Paul, he ran to the garden, beat his breast and cried to God. He said, “You thrust me before my own eyes…. The day had now come when I stood naked to myself.” Through this struggle of heart and soul, he heard the voice of a child from a nearby house: “Pick up and read, pick up and read.”

St. Augustine picked up St. Paul’s epistles and read the first verse that he opened up to: “Let us walk properly, as in the day; not in revelry and drunkenness, not in licentiousness and lewdness, not in strife and envy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts.” (Romans 13:13-14). St. Augustine told his friend, Alypius, of his experience. Alypius took the epistle and read the next words: “Receive one who is weak in the faith.” Alypius applied these words to himself and decided to join his friend, St. Augustine, in his resolution to convert to Christianity.

Christian friends will never go to heaven alone. They will bring along with them their friends as company!
(August 27 is St. Monica’s Feast Day. August 28 is St. Augustine’s Feast Day.)

Interior Castle

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Interior Castle

St. Paul says that our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit (cf. 1 Cor. 6:19).

I was reading the “Interior Castle” of St. Teresa of Avila for the second time when her imagery of our soul as a beautiful castle made of precious diamond where God lives struck me for the first time as vivid and picturesque. Our soul is so precious to God, in a way we can never understand. Then it just struck me how majestic and grandiose God is and it is He Who actually dwells in my soul, created in the image and likeness of Himself. Suddenly, all through my thick layers of human flaws and imperfections, I felt the Spirit of God within the deepest part of me. I felt humbled that such a great God is in me.

Then the imagery of St. Teresa’s silkworm wrapped in its cocoon that has emerged into a beautiful butterfly struck me even more. The worm is myself, very human, very weak. Like the silkworm, I have to use all my human faculties and skills within my power to spin the silk for my cocoon, and God will do His part of transforming such ugly worm into a beautiful butterfly.

Or to use another imagery of St. Teresa, I am just a wax in the Hand of God. For Him to leave His imprint on me, I will just have to let Him stamp His seal on the wax. All I have to do is be pliant.

Suddenly, I thought of the many times when I harshly condemned myself for all my faults and failings. I said to God, “Lord, I don’t want to condemn myself anymore. You know how very weak, very human, very sensual I am. But whatever human part I have, I offer to you completely. I am the human part. You are the Divine part of me. I will do what is within my power as human. I will observe the precepts, teachings and laws of Mother Church. And I leave to You whatever work You want to accomplish in me.”

Then, I felt a kind of peace in me like I never felt before. All my anxieties about pleasing God were dispelled. I only have to cooperate with God. The main action will all depend on Him. Suddenly, things looked relatively simpler than I perceived them before. I will go to Mass as frequently as possible, do my spiritual readings, go to confession regularly, practice charity to my neighbors, and do my work conscientiously. Even my prayer took on a simpler light: pray for priests, for the conversion of the world, and for the salvation of souls. When I entrusted the major work to God, taking on only what really pertains to me as mere human, I felt a ton of burden lifted from me. For the greater part of my life, it was like I was too worried how God would accomplish my salvation, feeling all too burdened by it. The moment I entrusted it all to God, I felt free and light, with a gentle joy and peace in my heart.

God in my soul as His Castle! Keep this Castle pure and worthy of You, Lord. Truly, the Kingdom of God is within us! (cf. Lk 17:21) The King of the Universe dwells in our soul!

Postscript

After several days, I was made to understand that even the human actions that I do are not mine alone. Perhaps, to make me realize that even my efforts at saying my prayers depend on God’s grace, I seemed to have lost one time the sense of devotion and tenderness that I usually had. Truly, everything is grace, both the human and the divine. Even my human nature is a mystery which I cannot arrogate unto myself. Both pertain to God alone! Glory to God forever!

“I’m Always Mary”

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When the Gospel one day was about Mary and Martha, a friend asked me who I was, Mary or Martha. And I answered readily, “I’m always Mary.” Then speaking Jesus’ part, she answered, “You chose the better part. And it will never be taken away from you.”

In my faith relationship with Jesus, I’m always Mary, choosing always to sit at the feet of Jesus to listen to His words, to ponder at the mysterious ways of God, and to relish His mercy and compassion in my life and for the rest of the world. There are times when I’m so loquacious, droning over and over to Jesus about my daily experiences in life, most of the time grumbling away all my pains. But there comes a point when the pain and weariness become so unbearable that you merely stay in silence at the feet of Jesus, crying, just feeling His presence with you, just knowing that He is there and you are not alone. It is like gazing at the face of Love and Truth, and just being merely with Him gives you comfort.

Being Mary at the feet of Jesus, I felt I wanted to be a Tertiary Carmelite contemplative, following the examples of my Patron Saint, St. Therese of Lisieux, and my Spiritual Mother, St. Teresa of Avila. I started as an Observer in November 2012. I was attending the second Sunday formation together with the aspirants, novices and other fully professed Carmelites. Midway, I was rethinking my intention of being a Carmelite, questioning my presence there. After several months as an observer, I stopped going to the Sunday monthly formations. I wanted some actions in my life, like Martha, always restless, always planning ahead of time and of herself. I said to myself, I would rather concentrate on my work, improve my service to the public through my profession, and just do my own readings of the works of St. Teresa of Avila, St. John of the Cross and St. Therese of Lisieux. I said all these things to myself, despite my earlier promise to God and to St. Teresa and St. Therese that I would become a Carmelite.

It seems that God, and my insistent Spiritual Mother, St. Teresa, do not take a promise lightly. A promise is a promise which is a very serious matter with them. Slowly but surely, I just felt that they wanted me back at the Carmel House, no if’s and but’s, no long winding arguments and explanations, no sagacious interlocutions, they just wanted me there. God seemed to be missing me just sitting there at His feet, and I missed just being there gazing at the Face of Love and Truth. I wasted no time after that realization and in August 2013, I was back at Carmel, together with my Carmelite brothers and sisters. I did not only miss being at the feet of Jesus. I missed my brothers and sisters there.

St. Teresa said we cannot be priests but what we can do is pray for these ministers of Christ and for the conversion of the world. How blessed our calling is!

When God Loves at First Sight

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When God Loves at First Sight

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind…” (Luke 10:27) This is the first commandment. This is the kind of love with which all the Saints loved God, without having any attachments to things and people, having a single-mindedness of purpose, like a laser beam light, focused, intense, with God as the only object of their love.

I wonder how God thinks. Maybe, I can never fathom how. I am very human and my thoughts are very human. The Scriptures say, “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Is 55:9) But I can only go by my natural, human experience in trying to understand the supernatural, the mysterious ways of God. I often ponder why some people are instantly likeable, and some are just instantaneously obnoxious. There are people who are just attracted towards one another as friends, and there are people who suddenly feel antipathy without any rational explanation for it. I have some friends I’m really very fond of. It’s a kind of tenderness and warmth, a special favor I feel towards them. Most often, these people who enjoy my special favor are themselves showing a very special kind of fondness towards me. It’s like a given, an existential fact that the human psyche recognizes when it sees such special kind of fondness between persons.

When a person has this kind of love towards God, it is a truth that God cannot gloss over. It’s like a magnet attracting God. Likes attract. Love gravitates towards the object of its love. So when we love God with all our hearts, all our minds, and all our strength, it’s like God is swooning, humanly speaking, over our love for Him. As a recognition of that truth, God “falls in love at first sight” with His children. It’s like the total adoration, admiration, and dependence of a child towards its parent. It’s the kind of love that makes God “weak”, humanly speaking, if God can be described in human terms.

I often thought of Jacob and Esau and asked why Yahweh favored Jacob over Esau. As the Scriptures say, “The elder shall serve the younger.” (Gn 25:23) And so it went that Jacob tricked his older brother to sell his birthright as a firstborn son to him and tricked his father into giving the blessing of a firstborn son to him. Not that God loved tricks and fraud but that God saw what was in Jacob’s heart and what was in Esau’s. God knew, in His omniscience and foreknowledge, that Esau would trade his birthright for a morsel of meat, and it was Jacob who would seriously take on the responsibility of a firstborn son, from whom the twelve tribes of Israel would originate. God knew.

In the Gospel according to Luke 7:47, Jesus forgave the prostitute woman who when she learned that Jesus was dining at Simon the Pharisee’s house, stood behind Jesus at His feet, wept and began to wet His feet with her tears, wiped them with the hair of her head, and kissed His feet and anointed them with perfume. Then Jesus said, “For this reason I say to you, her sins, which are many, have been forgiven, for she loved much; but he who is forgiven little, loves little.” God knows our sins and He knows our love. God does not miss a thing. And He knows when our love for Him far outweighs our many sins.

Our Lady of Mt. Carmel

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Our Lady of Mt. Carmel

Today, July 16, is the Feast Day of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel. Happy Feast Day, Mama Mary!

I heard Mass today concelebrated by three priests, meaning I heard Mass three times today in honor of our Lady of Mt. Carmel. Sadly, her feast day was not even mentioned in the Mass. Nevertheless, a downpour of graces surely made their way through to me on account of this very special day.

These past few days, I have given up on being good. I was not even trying anymore. Then a friend in college said to me on Facebook that I am the namesake of Mother Teresa, so I have be good like her. I noted that there are many St. Teresa’s who are my namesakes. Then she said I have to be like them. Then, out of nowhere, to my amazement, she asked me If she had thanked me for making her stay in our university dormitory during our college days a happy and memorable one and proceeded to thank me. She said further that she knows for sure that I continue to be a blessing to other people so I need not worry because the Lord is fixing my abode in Heaven. Just when I was about to give up on striving to be good and holy for God, a good friend said all these things to me! And on the feast day of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel! This kind of grace is something that only our Blessed Mother can give! I love you, my Mother!!! I offer to you my mind, heart and body! Offer them to your Son Jesus as you would your own mind, heart and body!

My Most Chaste Mama Mary, pray for me always! Totus tuus!! I am totally yours!!!

“My Daily Dose of Vitamins”

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I used to dream of becoming a saint one day. In fact, I keep a quasi library full of books about my favorite saints and various books about our faith and the Church. I love and admire all the saints, especially my favorite ones.

Little by little, though, I have come to the bitter truth that, maybe, I can only be a big fan of my favorite saints, admiring them from afar, but never to be like one of them. I saw myself as a terrible far cry from my beloved saints that for a time, I stopped going to daily Holy Mass, convinced that I was not worthy. My mind had never been in such darkness and confusion since I stopped going to daily Mass. I was living every day of my life without a sense of direction and purpose. But I always felt moved to hear the Wednesday Mass with the Novena to our Mother of Perpetual Help. It was like there was a force moving me to hear Mass on a Wednesday. Every novena, I prayed to our Mother of Perpetual Help for all spiritual and material graces that I and my family needed. And it always amazed me how solicitous and magnanimous our Mother of Perpetual Help was in providing all our necessities. Every time I heard the said Wednesday Mass, it gave me a feeling of comfort and peace that I thought the Enemy must be succeeding in preventing me from going to daily Mass by giving me all sorts of apprehensions and doubts. All those times that I was not going to daily Mass, my heart and mind were like plunged in darkness. I had no clear idea of God. I just knew that I was and would always be completely dependent on Him. That one Wednesday Mass felt so good, it dispelled all my grief and doubts about being loved by God.

The Holy Mass is the One Sacrifice of Jesus Christ as the Atoning Victim to the Father for the sins of humanity which we celebrate over and over in memorial of that One Sacrifice. Jesus is the active and prime Doer, Who bestows on us every spiritual and material benefit that we need. And I am like a sick patient in need of God’s healing. The Holy Mass is truly my efficacious and potent vitamin which I need to take daily. It gives me strength of mind and spirit and fills me with all hope in the love and mercy of God for a terrible sinner like me. Whatever we are, no matter how grievous our sins are, God’s timing and action in our souls, when and as He sees fitting, will never be amiss. Like the song goes, “I will be still, know You are God.”