When you say the 'Our Father,' take for your foundation 'Thy will be done.' In the 'Hail Mary' take 'Jesus'; let Him be ever fixed in your heart and He will be your guide and shield in the course of life in all your needs. In Holy Scripture take 'Love,' with which you will ever go straightly, exactly, lightly, attentively, swiftly, enlightenedly, without error, without guide, and without the means of other creatures, since Love is sufficient for itself to do all things without fear or weariness, so that martyrdom itself appears a joy."
Photo credit: Simondi, Thomas E. "Our Lady of Sorrows", period piece from Mission Soledad Church, from the Mission Tour Website, http://missiontour.org/index.htm, (September 10, 2006). Photo used with the permission of Thomas E. Simondi.
August 20 is the feastday of St. Bernard of Clairvaux. This description of the saint comes from one of the classic biographies from the mid-19th century:
"It was decided that a larger assembly should be called together at Vézelay, in the county of Nivernais (in Burgundy), at Easter-tide, so that on the very feast of the Lord's Resurrection, all those who were touched by His grace might concur in the exaltation of the cross of Christ. . . .
"[Pope] Eugenius III . . . sent, as his delegate, the man whose authority surpassed, in some sort, that of the Pontiff himself; and when St. Bernard received the commission to preach the Crusade, its success was already insured beforehand.
"The humble monk of Clairvaux was overwhelmed with fear by the orders of the Holy See. He was, at that time, in the fifty-fourth year of his age; but his fragile and languid frame was so attenuated and weakened by austerities, and so exhausted by long sufferings, that his life seemed to be prolonged by a miracle. It was with difficulty that he could support himself on his feet, and for three years he had not left his monastery except when obliged by the most important affairs of his order; and even on these occasions, he was frequently compelled to excuse himself; for, as an old chronicler says, 'he was almost dead, and you would have thought he was about to breathe his last. And yet, this frail and emaciated body was animated by a superhuman strength when it became the organ of the Spirit of God.' 'At such times,' writes one of his contemporaries, 'he gradually became animated, and his sweet and burning words flowed from his lips, like a river of milk and honey, which sprang from his heart as from a furnace of divine love.'
"The monk Wilbold, Abbot of Monte Cassino, who had seen St. Bernard a few years before, and had been struck with his eloquence, writes as follows, on the subject: 'This venerable man is exceedingly pale, being attenuated by the fasts and excessive austerities of the desert; he bears the deepest traces of humility, compunction, and penance; he breathes such perfect sanctity, that his very appearance has a persuasive eloquence, even when he does not open his lips. He is endowed with great genius and wonderful talents; he speaks with simplicity; his enunciation is clear, powerful, and full of unction; his action is always easy and natural; his manner full of grace and truth. The sight of this great man is a most moving sermon; his discourses edify, and his example incites to virtue."
- L'Abbé Theodore Ratisbonne, The Life and Times of St. Bernard, translated from the French by the Sisters of St. Mary's Convent, Greenwich. French edition originally published 1842; English translation 1855.
Here are links to some other books related to St. Bernard:
Bernard of Clairvaux, Selected Works (Classics of Western Spirituality Series), 1987.
"She was the first tender sprout among these and gave forth fragrance like a bright white flower that blossoms in springtime, and she shone like a radiant star. Now she is glorified in heaven and venerated in a fitting manner by the Church on earth, she who was the daughter in Christ of our holy father Francis, the little poor man, and the mother of the Poor Clares."
"Consequently, from him, through him, and in him are all things; [Rom. 11:36] for he is all-powerful, all-knowing, and all good, and to see him perfectly is to be blessed, as was said to Moses: I will show you all good. [Exod. 33:19]"
May 30 is the feast day of St. Joan of Arc. To honor her memorial, here is an excerpt from the transcript of her trial, followed by reflections on the testimony:
When Jeanne was led in before us and the judges on this day, we, bishop, in our name and on behalf of the Vice-Inquisitor her judge with us, counseled her to attend to the advice and warnings which the lord archdeacon, professor of sacred theology, would address to her, as he was about to utter many things profitable for the salvation of her body and soul, to which she must agree, for if she did not she lay herself open to peril of body and soul: and we explained many things to the said Jeanne, according to the tenor of the memorandum below.
Then we the said judges required the lord archdeacon to proceed charitably to the said admonitions. In obedience to our order the lord archdeacon, beginning to teach and instruct the said Jeanne, explained to her that all faithful Christians were compelled and obliged to believe and hold firmly the Christian faith and its articles; and he warned and required her in a general admonition to correct and reform herself, her words and her deeds, in accordance with the advice of the venerable doctors and masters who were learned in divine, canon and civil law.
To this general monition Jeanne answered, "Read your book," meaning the scrip the lord archdeacon held in his hand, "and then I will answer you. I trust in God my creator for everything. I love Him with my whole heart."
And when she was asked if she had anything further to say in answer to this general monition, she answered: "I trust in my Judge. He is the King of Heaven and of earth."
- The Trial of Jeanne d'Arc, 1431, translated from the original minutes of the trial into Latin by Thomas de Courcelles (one of her judges) and Guillaume Manchonca (court notary), ca. 1435, translated into English from the original Latin and French documents by W.P. Barrett, Gotham House, Inc., 1932
She did not really answer the questioner's instructions. “Read that book, and I will answer you,” she said.
Yet, St. Joan answered the question Jesus had asked St. Peter when He walked with him after the resurrection: “Lovest thou me?” Perhaps if Jesus had then asked Peter “Are you holier than these?” instead of “Lovest thou me more than these?” Peter would have said “No,” and would have never been heard from again. If Jesus had asked him, “Do you believe everything I have taught you over the years,” Peter might have been unsure. Jesus only asked Peter one thing, and He asked it three times, “Lovest thou me?” Joan answered that question, “I love Him with my whole heart.” That was the answer Jesus wanted from Peter, and the only answer He really sought from Peter at that point in time, when Peter was most discouraged with his own recent doubts, and that was the question Joan answered (although not the one she was asked) when she faced trial.
Do we always ask ourselves the right question about ourselves? We need to pray for God to open our eyes to see His will.
“Lord, you know I love you,” Peter answered to the one question he was asked. Jesus told him to feed His sheep. Do we remember that love was the requirement Jesus wanted met by the man who would feed His sheep?
Joan wanted Jesus to be her Judge. Do we look forward to His reign in our own lives as a reign of love, grace and mercy by One who gave His life for us and rose again? He who is Joan’s Judge is also our Judge and Peter’s Judge. Faith matters, and orthodoxy matters, but the question Jesus asked when St. Peter was most discouraged was not “Believest thou all of this long list of things,” but rather “Lovest thou Me?” and on that one question turned all.
What goods and how great, belong to those who enjoy this good. --Joy is multiplied in the blessed from the blessedness and joy of others.
WHO shall enjoy this good? And what shall belong to him, and what shall not belong to him? At any rate, whatever he shall wish shall be his, and whatever he shall not wish shall not be his. For, these goods of body and soul will be such as eye has not seen nor ear heard, neither has the heart of man conceived (Isaiah Ixiv. 4; I Corinthians ii. 9).
Why, then, do you wander abroad, slight man, in your search for the goods of your soul and your body? Love the one good in which are all goods, and it suffices. Desire the simple good which is every good, and it is enough. For, what do you love, my flesh? What do you desire, my soul? There, there is whatever you love, whatever you desire.
If beauty delights you, there shall the righteous shine forth as the sun (Matthew xiii. 43) If swiftness or endurance, or freedom of body, which naught can withstand, delight you, they shall be as angels of God, --because it is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body (I Corinthians xv. 44) --in power certainly, though not in nature. If it is a long and sound life that pleases you, there a healthful eternity is, and an eternal health. For the righteous shall live for ever (Wisdom v. 15), and the salvation of the righteous is of the Lord (Psalms xxxvii. 39) If it is satisfaction of hunger, they shall be satisfied when the glory of the Lord has appeared (Psalms xvii. 15). If it is quenching of thirst, they shall be abundantly satisfied with the fatness of your house (Psalms xxxvi. 8). If it is melody, there the choirs of angels sing forever, before God. If it is any not impure, but pure, pleasure, you shall make them drink of the river of your pleasures, 0 God (Psalms xxxvi. 8).
If it is wisdom that delights you, the very wisdom of God will reveal itself to them. If friendship, they shall love God more than themselves, and one another as themselves. And God shall love them more than they themselves; for they love him, and themselves, and one another, through him, and he, himself and them, through himself. If concord, they shall all have a single will.
- St. Anselm of Canterbury, Proslogium, Chapter XXV, 1063-1078, translated from the Latin by Sidney Norton Deane, B. A. reprinted by Internet Medieval Sources, part of the Online Reference Book for Medieval Studies, sources editor Paul Halsall of Fordham University.
“God is love.” Julian wrote, “And so our soul ought to think that all that God has done was done for it.” God’s love for each of us is infinite, and it is reasonable to say, as she does, that Jesus would have died for each one of us, individually, to have salvation, out of His everlasting love for each of us. If we understand God’s love, Julian wrote, “the love of God unites us to such an extent that when we are truly aware of it, no man can separate himself from another.”
Julian learned most of what she knew about God’s love from meditating upon God’s love. The Bibles, the collections of translations, the Bible study resources on the internet, the libraries, resources we have are staggering compared to the simplicity of what she had. But that is only one side of the picture.
Julian’s meditation and prayer was not distracted by temptation to spend time learning about prayer instead of praying. Nor were her meditations limited by someone pressing her to be simplistic. Even before her illness, she had sought to understand the sufferings of Jesus. She hungered for knowledge, but she hungered more to know God.
In seeking to learn about prayer and meditation, and about the mystics, it is important to do that in context of the understanding that they were great, in part, because they did not spend too much time learning about these things, but rather because they spent time doing them, seeking to know God. We understand people like Julian best when, after we have spent some time learning from them, we set the books down and spend time alone with God.
"God showed the very great pleasure that he takes in men and women who strongly and humbly and eagerly receive the preaching and teaching of Holy Church; for it is his Holy Church; he is the foundation, he is the substance, he is the teaching, he is the teacher, he is the goal, he is the prize which every naturally good soul works hard to win; and this is known and shall be known to every soul to whom the Holy Ghost make it clear. And I truly expect that he will help all those who are seeking this, for they are seeking God."