What is your favorite phrase to refer to Jesus: Son of God, the Christ, the King, or perhaps Lord. For St. Mary Magdalene de Pazzi, a Carmelite Mystic who lived from the late 1500’s to the early 1600’s, the favorite way of referring to Jesus was simply the Word. For her ‘the Word’ described Jesus, and for her the Word was simply Love. Jesus represented the Word spoken by Father, and that Word was Love. In this conversation Mark and Frances explore the details of the life of St. Mary Magdalene de Pazzi. During her lifetime she had a number of encounters with God the Father and with the Lord Jesus. During these ecstatic encounters Mary Magdalene de Pazzi received a number of profound insights about the nature of our relationship with God the Father and the depth of the sacrifice made by our Lord. Most importantly, St. Mary Magdalene de Pazzi’s entire life was a model of what she heard from the voice of the Father and witnessed in the life of the Son our Lord and Savior.
It is always interesting and spiritually rewarding to be introduced to other Carmelite Saints, Blesseds and Venerables. This week Mark and Frances reintroduce the Venerable Dominic of Jesus and Mary. Venerable Dominic lived a very active life within the Order, withing the Church and in helping to battle some of the most significant military and political issues in his time. He was known and hailed by Popes and Kings for his ability to mediate difficult situations, and also for his ability to rally men to a cause. And, despite his busy schedule and extensive traveling, he never allowed it to interrupt his very assiduous prayer life. Indeed, he was the author of a couple of very important works on spiritual direction and the stages of development in the spiritual life.
Another important feast associated with the Order of Carmel, and dedicated to Our Blessed Mother, is the Feast of Our Lady, Mother of Divine Grace. This week Mark and Frances discuss the brief history of this important Feast, and the unique role that Our Blessed Mother plays in dispensing grace to the Church. They also discuss a very unique image of Our Blessed Mother known as the Lady of the Bowed Head. This image has its own unique story, which they discuss, and they also touch on an important Carmelite Venerable who is directly associated with this image. Again, for anyone who wishes to learn more about the Blessed Mother’s role as dispenser of grace, this is an important conversation.
This week all Carmelite celebrate one of the most significant feasts in our calendar year, the Feast of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel. In this conversation Mark and Frances discuss briefly the history of this great feast, but then go on to discuss its relevance for the Church today. They discuss the importance of Mary’s Patronage to the Order of Carmel, and then they take their listeners through a full nine day novena in Honor of Our Lady of Mt.Carmel. The novena presents nine different titles by which Mary is known, and then offers specific reflections and prayers associated with those titles. This is a very important conversation for anyone who has a special devotion to the Blessed Mother.
In the month of June the Church celebrates the wonderful feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. This is a very special feast and a very powerful devotion. In this particular program, Mark and Frances build on a series they did previously on the Sacred Heart, but discussing the more practical aspects of practicing the devotion. They discuss how we can actually go about conforming our hearts to the Heart of Christ. Drawing from two historical and comprehensive texts on the devotion, they describe how the activities of prayer, detachment, the sacraments and even our trials can all assist us in entering into the many Blessings of the Sacred Heart. They also explore Christ’s own words on the need to enter by the Narrow Gate as an analogy for how we must allow Christ to increase His presence within us. Much like St. John the Baptist, we must decrease and we must allow Christ to increase within us. Drawing on numerous scripture verses, Mark and Frances describe just how we can apply ourselves to this most powerful devotion to the Sacred Heart.
In this program Mark and Frances discuss one of the greatest mysteries of the Catholic faith, what is theologically described as the Indwelling Trinity, or the Dogmatic teaching on how the three persons of the Trinity truly reside in the hearts of the faithful. This great mystery was the entire spirituality of a well known Carmelite Nun who went by the name of Elizabeth of the Trinity, currently Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity, though her cause for Sainthood is being examined. Elizabeth is perhaps best known for a prayer she wrote to the Trinity that reflects both her belief in this great blessing, and her petition to each member of the Trinity for the unique gifts they each offer. This prayer is very powerful in providing believers consolation in the midst of trials, and it helps individuals conform their hearts and minds to the will of the Father. For those who pray it consistently, it allows Blessed Elizabeth to fulfill her mission: “I think that in Heaven my mission will be to draw souls by helping them to go out of themselves in order to cling to God by a wholly simple and loving movement, and to keep them in this great silence within which will allow God to communicate Himself to them and to transform them into Himself.”
Have you wondered what some of the key themes are for Pope Francis? Well he is certainly interested in the needs of the poor, and we know that he has some very specific ideas about economics and the need to pursue peace in the midst of political conflicts. However, if there is one consistent theme that Pope Francis has continued to focus on, it is the Mercy of God. In this particular conversation, Mark and Frances explore Carmelite perspectives on Mercy, largely through the writings of St Therese of Lisieux and also Pope France’s new book, entitled “The Church of Mercy.” Pope Francis himself stresses that we must remember that beyond the simple reality of God’s omnipotence, omnipresence and transcendence, God should first and foremost be known for His Mercy. Mercy is understood as compassion, kindness and forgiveness, and despite our too often view of God as judgmental, He greatest attribute is Mercy.
“The Holy Father just released a book entitled “The Church of Mercy.” In this particular conversation, Mark and Frances begin a series of discussions on the importance of the message of Mercy in the Church today. They begin by focusing on the upcoming event of Divine Mercy Sunday, and then move forward in time to both Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II and what they both had to say about the gift of Mercy that we receive from God. They then discuss our current Holy Father’s book about Mercy, and one of the sources of his inspiration for this book, a certain German Theologian and Cardinal named Walter Kasper, who himself wrote a book simply titled “Mercy.” It is a book that our Holy Father Francis strongly endorsed and from which he drew a great deal of insight for his own book. Mark and Frances go on to discuss a number of Saints, including St. Therese of Lisieux, and Saint Faustina, and what they had to say about God’s great Mercy. This is a message which is so important for us to hear today, especially in light of a world that so often struggles with the loss of Hope and the onslaught of despair. Mark and Frances will continue this important message through the Easter Season.”
“This program is the third and final in a series on the life and death of Blessed Titus Brandsma. In this program Frances and Mark discuss the last months of Titus’ life spent in a Nazi concentration camp. They explore both Titus great lows, his moments of near despair and loss of hope, and also his ultimately victory in overcoming his own will. Titus’ life is an example that few of us will ever have to experience; he was called to a particularly high degree of sanctity. But at the same time, it can serve as a model for what all of us must go through on some level, the overcoming of our individual desires and our self will. We see again the importance of the individual cell for a place of refuge in the interior life, but in Titus’ case even that cell must ultimately be abandoned to the will of the Father. Titus must go to his own Cross by completely abandoning himself to the mercy of the Father. His ultimate death, at the hands of his captors, is a testament to the struggle with evil, lived out in the most horrible circumstances of deprivation and cruelty. His life is truly a Witness to Hope.”
For this conversation Mark and Frances welcomed into the studio one of the new Aspirants in the local Carmelite Community in Dayton, Ohio, Tim Bete. Tim is actually married to one of the long time members of the Secular Carmelite Order, so Mark and Frances wanted to explore what it was like to have be a ‘couple in Carmel.’ They also asked Tim what it was that drew him personally to Carmelite Spirituality. In addition to their own journey in Carmel, Tim and his wife are also the parents of a daughter who is pursuing a vocation as a Dominican Sister. This led to an interesting discussion on what it takes to raise and keep our children Catholic in our modern culture. Not surprisingly the main points focused on prayer, witness and continued exposure to things spiritual.
In this second program on Blessed Titus Brandsma, a Dutch Carmelite Friar who ultimately was martyred during WWII, Mark and Frances continue the discussion of Titus’ contribution to the history of Mysticism. They discuss some of his more significant writings, his theology regarding the importance of creating a sacred space within our hearts, our cell, his political activities against Nazi tyranny, and the central role the virtue of Hope played in his life. Both Titus Brandsma’s teachings, and most significantly his life, serve as models of how we are to conduct ourselves on the path to holiness.
In this conversation Mark and Frances continue with the second part of a three part series on conforming our will to the will of God. They are using a text from Carmelite Friar Father Wilfrid Stinissen entitled “Into your Hands, Father.” After finishing up the last section of the first part of Fr. Stinissen’s book, which concluded with the role of the memory and the practice of the virtue of Hope, Mark and Frances move to the second section of the book. In this second section Fr. Stinissen speaks about our need to not only accept everything in our life as God’s will, but to them move to put our hands on the plow and begin to do the work the Lord calls us to. Here Fr. Stinissen asks and answers his own question, namely, does God guide us through every moment of our day. The answer is yes, but He uses both external and internal means of doing this. After going through each of these means, Mark and Frances discuss the importance of the role of detachment, and our need to practice genuine human freedom in the context of pursuing our final ends as human persons. It is only through the practice of genuine freedom that we free ourselves to obey God in all things.
In our busy preparations for Christmas, even our spiritual preparations, we can sometimes forget the most significant theological aspect of Christ’s birth, the Incarnation of God into our human lives. During this conversation Frances and Mark discuss some interesting historical facts regarding the use of the term ‘Incarnation’ in the history of the Carmelite Order. They then go on to speak about an interesting phrase in a Prayer by Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity, which she wrote to the Trinity. In that well know prayer she asks: “Consuming Fire! Spirit of Love! Descend within me and reproduce in me, as it were, another incarnation of the Word that I may be to Him another humanity wherein He may renew His mystery.” This is a prayer very rich in meaning, especially as each of us is called to become another Christ and to Incarnate His life into our own. In this pre-Christmas conversation, Mark and Frances discuss how we can work to prepare ourselves to receive this ‘Incarnation’ in our own souls.
“During this conversation Mark and Frances discuss the unique Devotion that Carmelites have to the Sacred Heart. They begin by reading and discussing comments made by the Holy Father, Francis, regarding the role of the heart in our journey to Christ. Pope Francis speaks about the need to conform our heart to the heart of Christ, and to be transformed by that very act. Mark and Frances then go on to explore St. Therese of Lisieux’s perspective on devotion to the Sacred Heart. For St. Therese, Christ’s heart is always a heart of love. She does not focus, as so many others do, on the suffering of the piercing thorns which wounded our Lord, for St. Therese the central idea of Christ’s heart is an all-purifying love. She understands that suffering is part of the process, but she emphasizes that this is not an end in itself. The only reason for this devotion, in the mind of Therese, is to help us conform our own hearts to the buring heart of love, which is the heart of Jesus.”
In this particular program Mark and Frances discuss Devotion to the Sacred Heart, and the unique role this this devotion plays in Carmelite Spirituality. The Church is being called in a special way today to rededicate and consecrate herself to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, but what does this mean to us individually. This conversation will explore the history of the Devotion to the Sacred Heart, and then address how this powerful devotion can contribute to our personal growth in holiness. We will hear about how we, like St John the Beloved, can begin to get our own heart in rhythm with the heart beat of the Lord. This conversations explores the deeper and spiritual meaning of the ‘heart,’ and what it means to strive, as our Blessed Mother did, to become pure of heart.
This particular program discusses the Feast of St. Joseph the Worker, which is celebrated each year on 1 May. Mark and Frances explore the history of this important devotion, and how it was designed to counter the negative affects of atheistic Communism. They draw from Pope John Paul II’s encyclical ‘On Human Work,’ in order to explain the inherent dignity of work and the way in which it allows us to both participate in our own salvation and participate in the act of creation along with God. They also discuss the details of our most important work, the work of prayer. Not only can our daily work, whether in home or factory, itself become prayer, but we must also do the work of prayer through, with and in God.
During this program Mark and Frances conclude the series on the book entitled “Upon this Mountain.’ This particular book, written by a cloistered Carmelite Nun is the fruit of forty years of prayer and reflection. Mark and Frances explore some of the deeper meanings of our universal call to holiness, and how we are not called to this for ourselves but for the entire body of Christ. They discuss some of the more challenging aspects of the use of the imagination in prayer, and what is meant by our needing to empty ourselves of formal images. They also discuss the deeper meaning of silence in prayer.
In this particular program Mark and Frances discuss the reflections of a Carmelite Nun from England, Sister Mary McCormack. Sister McCormack has been a nun for forty years, and during that time she has served in a number of important positions, but none more important that that of Novice Mistress, where is was her responsibility to assist young postulants in learning the Carmelite way of life, especially prayer. She has written a wonderful book entitled “Upon this Mountain,” where she reflects on the most simple and yet most profound elements of what she has learned about prayer. She draws extensively on her own experience, but also on the writings of the two Masters of Carmelite prayer, St. Teresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross.
During this program Mark and Frances review the Carmelite Promise. This is the promise made by all Carmelites, after a specific period of formation, and relates to their commitment to both the Order, their brothers and sisters in Carmel and the Blessed Mother.
Mark and Frances discuss how important the need for both commitment and fidelity are in our modern society. At a time when we are seeing an increasing rate of divorce, broken families, and even departures from the priesthood and religious life, it is very important to understand the significance of making a commitment to others, and then fulfilling those responsibilities. The Carmelite Promise is just such a commtiment.
In this particular program Mark and Frances discuss the simply yet remarkable life of a Secular Carmelite from Spain named Josefa Naval Girbes who lived from 1820 – 1893. Blessed Josefa lived a perfectly simple life, opening her home as a school for embroidery. She used the quiet hours of labor to instruct her young female students about the Catholic faith. She was well known for instructing her girls that their primary mission in life should be to “sanctify yourself and sanctify others.” Despite her remarkable simplicity, she had a very disciplined approach to her pursuit of holiness, and is also remembered for her rather direct counsel to “Reach holiness, no matter what the Cost.” This simple woman, who chose to live in the world, perfectly fulfilled God’s will by living a life of holiness, but also by bearing remarkable fruit in helping so many others to pursue a life in Union with God.
During this conversation Mark and Frances discuss the March 19 Feast of St. Joseph and the devotion to him, which has grown so much in the past 100 years in the Church. St. Joseph is a great role model for husbands, and this Feast in his honor has a special significance for Carmelites. A little known fact is that St. Teresa of Avila is credited a good deal with helping to spread devotion to this great Saint. In fact, St. Joseph is the Patron of the Discalced Carmelite Order formed by St. Teresa and St. John of the Cross. St. Teresa recommended in her writings that everyone should turn to St. Joseph, as she herself often did, to help them overcome the difficulties of our earthly life. Since St. Joseph was put at that head of the Holy Family, and provided for all their earthly needs, we should all feel comfortable turning to him to assist us in our daily needs. Just as importantly, as St. Joseph is also the Patron of the Universal Church, and we should feel comfortable turning to him for all of our spiritual needs as well.
In this program Mark and Frances begin a series on the writings of Carmelite Priest and scholar Ernest Larkin. Father Larkin was a highly respected scholar in the field of contemplative prayer, the interior life, and most especially Carmelite spirituality. This particular conversation is a review of a very important article Fr. Larkin wrote about St. Teresa of Avila on prayer. The article loosely follows St. Teresa’s model of the Interior Castles, perhaps her greatest work. But here Fr. Larkin provides new insights and perspectives on how these various stages of development in prayer may be experienced, and what one can do to prepare themselves for this work that ultimately God must do in us.
During this program Mark and Frances complete the series of conversations on a work about the last months of the life of St. Therese of Lisieux, entitled, “Last Conversations.” This remarkable work, a true gift to the whole Church, is not as well known as St. Therese’s autobiography “Story of a Soul,” but none-the-less, offers very deep insights into what is most important in our life and our relationship with God. These are literally the last thoughts and commentary of a person who will go on to become one of the most loved and Saints in the history of the Church.
In this program, Mark and Frances will begin a series on the “Last Conversations” of St Therese of Lisieux. This is a collection of the statements and brief writings from her last months on earth. These reflections are very rich in spiritual depth and insight. St Therese seemed to want to impart the most important elements of her understanding of how God works with us, and how each and every soul might respond in order to pursue a genuine life of holiness. It is always so important to read the writings of the Saints, but perhaps never as important as reading and reflecting on what they have to share in the months and days before they are raised to Glory.
This particular program is a conversation on one of the lesser known, but very important Carmelite Saints, St. Teresa of the Andes. In this conversation Mark and Frances discuss the earthly life of this wonderful Saint. St. Teresa of the Andes, who died in 1919 at the age of 19, is a model for young people. Her remarkable, although short, life, is a testament to how our young people today can begin to develop an intimate relationship with our Lord. Though she came from wealth, and had the benefit of a good Catholic family and education, St. Teresa’s life was not without pain and trial. Her dark times, however, only served to deepen both her relationship and love for the Lord. John Paul II said of her, “The secret of her perfection could be none other than love, a great love for Christ, and a filial love for the Virgin Mary.” She is truely a Saint for our time.
In this program, Mark and Frances discuss the prayer fo the Church, or the Liturgy of the Hours. They discuss a little about the history of the prayer, the different elements of the prayer, how it is prayed by the entire Church and some of the benefits of praying this prayer. They cover some of the differnet options for getting copies of the prayers, including sources on-line, and they also talk about the differences of praying this prayer in community or privately. This is a wonderful introduction to this most import form of “praying without ceasing.”
On this program Mark and Frances speak again about the importance of Mary in the life of St Raphael Kalinowski. They also discuss the role he played in helping to bring unity between the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox churches. Finally, they discuss how St. Kalinowski was actually a forerunner for the teachings of the Second Vatican Council. Primarily his teaching on the significance of the Evangelical Counsels is explained. Furthermore, the importance of the Evangelical Counsels is discussed as a central theme in a life of holiness.
On this program Mark and Frances speak about the great Ploish Staint Raphael Kalinowski. St. Kalinowski was the boyhood hero of Pope John Paul II. He is noted primarily for his teaching on prayer and the need to find solitude in order to deepen our prayer life. St. Kalnowski spent 10 years in Siberia, as a result of his participation in a political uprising against Russia. This experience only deepened his understanding of the need for a personal and consistent prayer life. He also led efforts to rebuild the Carmelite Order in Poland.
On this program Mark and Frances speak about the great prophet Elijah. Elijah is identified as the Father of the Order of Carmel. They discuss how Elijah’s life and message serve as the perfect model of the Carmelite life and charism. They also discuss the importance of silence, living the interior life and how even the events of Elijah’s Old Testament story prefigures the importance of the future role of Mary in the Order of Carmel
This is the third in a series of 3 that focuses on the Holy Face.
This is the second in a series of 3 that focuses on the Holy Face.
This particular program picks up on the series of Devotion to the Holy Face. Mark and Frances trace the history of this devotion within the Church, and then outline some of the key events which led to its reinstitution on a number of occasions. They also provide specific details on the lives of Sr. Mary of St. Peter, the Carmelite nun of Tours who received revelations from the Lord on this devotion, and also, Leo Dupont, who actively practiced the devotion for years, after Sr. Mary’s death, and long before it received official Papal recognition.
On this program, Mark and Frances cover a list of their favorite Carmelite Books. This is a list of the less well known, but none-the-less very useful books on a whole range of Carmelite topics; including Carmelite spirituality, contemplative prayer, Mystical Theology and outlines of some of the key figures in the history of the Order. Each of the books presented have been read by one or both of the presenters, and Mark and Frances are able to offer their insights on how the texts can contribute to your own spiritual journey.