Wednesday, August 15, 2012

PRAYER



Summer reading update:

I have many books on prayer at the moment, many of them gifts, that I can only take in small doses even though my impulse is to plow through the whole pile in an afternoon. My prayer has been I won’t say interesting as comical would be more apt, but very short, fleeting glimpses of melting love, of disappearing, of constantly wanting to just sit and be quiet, not, as is usually the case, to “think,” but just to passively though in a way actively sit. Let God think for me. On the other hand I’m more aware than ever of my utter selfishness, self-centeredness, self-absorption, and extreme reluctance to do one thing for anyone else in this world.

Here is a beautiful interview with Carmelite contemplative nun Ruth Burrows.
And an excerpt from her Essence of Prayer, about which I have a very strong feeling I'll be sharing more later:

Many people carry a romantic notion of Carmel. For those who enter it this is quickly destroyed. Almost always there is the shock, the scandal almost, of ordinariness. In Teresa [of Avila]'s thought this blessed ordinariness is where God is, where we meet him and surrender to him. The sole 'specialness' of Carmel is simply to isolate the essential ingredients and live them in an intense, absolute way for the sake of all. It may seem a far cry from Carmelite nun to politician, civil servant, actress, or mother of a growing family. Speaking spiritually, there is no difference. Their lives are made up of the same ingredients; all have the same path to holiness.


this flower looks big but was actually minuscule!
check out that little wrinkled looks-like-a-brain bud
on a tree on Coronado Terrace in Echo Park
From The Mystical Doctrine of St. John of the Cross, with an introduction by the Very Rev. R.H.J. Steuart, S.J. (Sheed & Ward, London, first published 1934):

O souls that seek your own ease and comfort, if you knew how necessary for a high state is suffering, and how profitable suffering and mortification are for attaining to God's great blessings, you would never seek for comfort anywhere...This is the way God deals with those whom it is His will to exalt: He suffers them to be tempted, afflicted, tormented, and chastened, inwardly and outwardly, to the utmost limit of their strength, that He may deify them, unite them to Himself in His wisdom, which is the highest state.

St. Francis of Assisi on an interesting form of DIY exorcism, from The Little Flowers of St. Francis, trans. from the Latin and the Italian by Raphael Brown:

"But when the devil says to you again, 'You are damned,' St. Francis said, "you answer him confidently, 'Open your mouth--and I will [empty my bowels] in it!' And let it be a sign to you that he is the devil taht when you say those words, he will immediately go away. You should also have known that he was the devil because he hardened your heart to everything that is good, for that is exactly his job. But the Blessed Christ never hardens the heart of the faithful man but rather softens it, as He says through the Prophet: 'I will take away your heart of stone and will give you a heart of flesh.' "

From The Science of the Cross, by Edith Stein, trans. by Josephine Koeppel, O.C.D.:

Even worse than the misuse of pictures is the imperfection with which "one is accustomed to use a rosary. One rarely meets someone who does not show some weakness in this regard. They want the rosary to be made in one style rather than another, or that it be of this color or that metal rather than another....Will God hear the prayer more readily if it is prayed with this or that rosary? It is after all only important that one prays with a simple and pure heart, that one aims only to please God."

one of my favorite rosaries is from my friend Frank Crean,
who gave it to me just after his wife Louise died

6 comments:

  1. Heather, just a very quick correction: it's "DIY" (exorcism), not "DYI".

    Also, loved the excerpt about Carmel's ordinariness. It tests our humility, like a king disguised as a simple beggar testing our ability to look beyond appearances - our spiritual eyes, as it were. I entered Carmel through the lay door this past year and am still learning how to align my heart with it.

    Lastly, re: your self-accusation about not being able to do for others, isn't the time you spend composing your heart's contents on this blog a work you do for others? I cannot number the ways you have blessed me through some post or meditative quote you've shared. Learn to recognize and rejoice in Christ's gifts to you! Let Him give you your new identity; when He enters us, we're not who we once were.

    Thank you for this blog. It's among my favorites.

    NY Mom

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  2. I would like to second what anonymous said about your being unselfish. You have shared many rich contemplations with this fan, and I thank you.

    St. Francis's DIY exorcism reminds me of a Lebanese friend who used to tell the devil to "F-bomb off." I do it myself and it works wonders!
    God bless your beautiful works.

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  3. Oh my, that's quite a quote from St. Francis!!

    Susan

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  4. Thanks, gals--I didn't say I was unable to do for others, I said I was extremely reluctant. That's not false modesty: I do think prayer reveals to us our monstrous self-centeredness. When things really start to move is when you truly yearn to be more generous, kind, etc. and see to your horror that ON YOUR OWN, you cannot! So the point is not to self-accuse--I'm quite aware that miraculously, every once in awhile, I "do for others"--the point is that prayer, by revealing to us our powerlessness, points toward He who has all power...

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  5. I just saw your youtube video. My mom has suffered with alzheimer's for the past three years. God bless her, and you.

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  6. St. Francis used the Italian equivalent of the usual four-letter word in English, of course. The first version of that I read was in a story about Brother Juniper in The Little Flowers of St. Francis: he'd been seeing what seemed to be Jesus in visions, telling him that Francis and his followers were all damned, and got this simple advice. My favorite story of the lot, though St. Anthony's preaching to fish comes close.

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