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MOUNT CARMEL MAGAZINE
VOL 64. NO.2 APRIL - JUNE 2016
We are pleased to commemorate, during 2016
The Year of Mercy
(December 8, 2015 - November 20, 2016)
The Canonisation of Sts Louis and
(October 18, 2015)
IN THIS ISSUE
St Thérèse and Prayer: An Incomparable Source of Wisdom and Growth
Sts Louis and Zélie Martin (2): Nurturing Life for the Glory of God
The Wounded Stag: Echoes of Christ in 'The Spiritual Canticle', Literature and Life
Voices of the Heart
The Story of Sts Louis and Zélie (2): A Shining Example of Family Life
Protected and Guided: Walking with the Good Shepherd
'The Little Arab': St Mariam of Jesus Crucified
Springs of Living Water
The Art of Leisure: A Lost Inheritance?
Feast of the Annunciation of the Lord - A Reflection
Waiting for God: 'Behold, I am coming soon'
Food for the Journey - Books
PRAYER OF POPE FRANCIS
FOR THE YEAR OF MERCY
Lord Jesus Christ,
Your loving gaze freed Zacchaeus and Matthew from being
enslaved by money;
Let us hear, as if addressed to each one of us,
You are the visible face of the invisible Father,
You willed that your ministers would also be clothed in
Send your Spirit and consecrate every one of us with its
We ask you this through the intercession of Mary, Mother
We all need healing - and Jesus is the great healer. There are many accounts of his healing ministry in the Gospels: the blind and the deaf are cured, and the dead are even restored to life. Yet, physical healings also point to a deeper spiritual reality: to our need for the healing of spiritual blindness and spiritual deafness, and our need to be born to new life from sin and death. This 'death' can take many forms.
My experience as a priest has taught me that many people are carrying very deep wounds or hurts, as a result of either their own sins or the sins of others. These wounds can manifest themselves - unwittingly - in many different ways: frustration and anger, distress and sorrow, fear, hatred and guilt, the inability to forgive It is always helpful to look deep into our own heart. Perhaps this is something we may do in prayer, perhaps in the company of a spiritual guide or in the sacrament of reconciliation. We will know instinctively if we need the support of another human being before we choose to allow these painful experiences to surface. But at whatever time we are ready, it is to Jesus that we bring our wounds and our sins. They may be buried deep within us - but deep within is the very place where Jesus dwells. Look at Jesus. Learn to look at him as we bring before him - to him - our wounds and our hurts.
Jesus himself experienced our weakness and our wounds. Moreover, it is 'by his wounds that we have been healed'. The author of Hebrews speaks of him simply and clearly, in these magnificent words:
Jesus was flesh and blood, as we are; he felt human emotions, as we do. One emotion in our lives we find particularly hard to handle is anger. We need to be reminded that Jesus knew anger. His was a righteous anger - that is, an anger that was justified. He was 'indignant' with his disciples, rebuking them for not allowing the children to come to him; he was angry in the Temple, driving out the traders from his Father's house; he looked around at the Pharisees 'with anger', we are told, as he 'grieved at their hardness of heart'.
From Jesus we can, and must, learn to deal with anger in a positive way. The problem, for us, is that this emotion can so easily cling tenaciously to the memory of past hurts and wounds. It can rankle deep within, festering and gnawing away at us beyond the conscious self; and even for years, it can fuel repressed jealousy, resentment, inability to forgive, hatred, revenge - all so many disguised and dangerous expressions of our buried anger. The memories of past hurts and wounds need to be purified and cleansed: 'Do not let resentment lead you into sin,' we read in Ephesians, 'the sunset must not find you still angry. Do not give the devil his opportunity.'
John of the Cross invites us to experience a healing of such challenging memories. His message, here, is about the need to empty that storehouse within us that we call 'memory'. John does not hesitate to remind us that anger, and other strong emotions, can play havoc not only with our spiritual life but with our peace of mind, too - that this emptying is beneficial even at a purely psychological level. Some memories can be so destructive. But John's main concern is with our spiritual well-being, and he writes:
John wants us to empty the memory, then, so that we may make room within ourselves for the Holy Spirit to heal us and fill us with God's peace. There is a longing for peace deep in every human heart. Augustine expresses it in this immortal prayer: 'You have made us for yourself, and our hearts are always restless until they rest in you.'
Our God is a God of peace. Peace was his first gift to the world at the birth of his Son: 'on earth peace for those he favours'. Jesus left his peace to us on the eve of his passion and death: 'Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you I have said this to you, so that in me you may have peace. In the world you have only tribulation; but have confidence, I have overcome the world.' It was again his gift to us, after the resurrection: the risen Jesus said to his disciples, 'Peace be with you', and he showed them 'his hands and his side' - the scars of his passion and death. Peace was his final gift to the world, with the gift of the Spirit and the promise of forgiveness:
We notice here the inseparable link between peace and forgiveness. It is entirely possible to come to terms with deeply buried wounds that, if we are not careful, could easily ignite anger and other emotions in a destructive way. All these wounds and emotions can be transformed into a positive force for good, and as a claim on God's mercy in the sacrament of reconciliation - so named as it makes us, once more, a friend of God. We recall these words of Elizabeth in her Prayer to the Trinity: 'Give peace to my soul Come into me as Adorer, as Restorer, as Saviour.'
Yes, Jesus is the great healer - he is the great bringer of peace.
THE STORY OF STS LOUIS AND ZÉLIE
The author is an Irish Carmelite friar who serves in Perth, Western Australia. He has completed two new biographies of Hermann Cohen and St Raphael Kalinowski, which await publication. In this article, the second in a series of three, he continues the story of Louis and Zélie, focusing on the time of their marriage up to Zélie's premature death, and revealing them as a loving couple and exemplary parents - two saints through whom marriage itself might be said to have been canonised.
A celibate romance
It is also worth noting that there may have been other motivations at work, too. In a much less enlightened age than our own, many young women - Zélie no doubt included - had led such a sheltered existence that they were ignorant of the facts of life. The ten celibate months, then, would have had a positive side in acclimatising her to the realities of married life. And in Louis's case, it is significant that in his notes he had copied out a passage speaking of the true and valid marriage of Mary and Joseph, which Louis apparently intended to be his model. My previous article also refers to Louis's romantic sensibility and his love of this kind of literature. Paradoxically, then, there may have been a strong romantic element in his wish for celibacy, since in Romance literature and tales of chivalry, the lady is portrayed as untouchable and is revered at a distance.
The parents' heartbreak
We can only imagine the grief that consumed her loving parents by this series of catastrophes. It needed all of their indomitable faith to see them through. Louis's cousin, Henri-Charles de Lacauve, was the intended godfather of this child, but at the time he was a prisoner of war. A source of particular sadness for the parents was the successive deaths of the two boys, both named Joseph: one of Louis and Zélie's most cherished desires was to have a son who would be a missionary priest. Even when expecting her ninth child, Thérèse, Zélie was hoping for a boy who would fulfil this role. Yet her prayers were more than answered: for what she was given was the future Patroness of Missions of the whole Catholic world.
In a time of war
The Prussian officers were strict with their men. When Louis reported an attempted robbery in his shop by one of them, he went along next day to intercede for the culprit: he feared the man would be executed as he had heard that this had happened to another soldier for stealing eggs. Louis himself had physically overcome the soldier and averted the robbery. It is difficult to see here the person who has so often been described as a dreamer or a weakling. In fact, both Louis and Zélie showed remarkable courage and faith in this war situation.
When peace of a sort returned, normal life resumed again for the Martin family. Louis Martin, like many others, lost a considerable amount of his investments due to the war, which had caused the French economy to collapse. An enormous amount of money was exacted from the conquered French by the Prussians. However, money was never a big issue for this family, although they always felt the pressures of work, and they continued to live in comfortable circumstances. During the course of the following year, we find Zélie expecting her ninth and last child. As it turned out, this child would be the reason why we are honouring her parents in the first place! On January 2, 1873 Zélie gave birth to Thérèse - named in honour of her sister who had died prematurely and needlessly two and a half years earlier. The rest is history.
The feasts of the liturgical year figured prominently in the Martin family, and reference to them came readily from Thérèse's pen. She equated the feasts with Sunday rest, and for her they were another reflection of the eternal feast of heaven. Here we have a hint of the romantic streak in Thérèse's character, with its focus on the life to come, which was not without its melancholy side as exemplified by this remark in a letter from Zélie: 'Life is short and full of misery. We'll see [our deceased children] again in Heaven' (CF 72). Another book that made it onto the Martin reading list was a richly illustrated edition of The Imitation of Christ and, appropriately enough for Louis the clock-maker, a work entitled, The Clock of the Passion. It is likely that Abandonment to Divine Providence by Fr Jean Pierre de Caussade was also a favourite.
The upbringing of Thérèse
If there was any tension between the couple at all, it would have stemmed from the fact that Zélie realised that children are not just little angels in disguise but need correction from time to time. Indeed, she recognised that Thérèse herself was the most stubborn, obstinate and self-willed of all of them. At the same time, she surmised that these traits in her youngest child could be channelled into sainthood. We know all this because Thérèse's mother was a prolific letter-writer who minutely chronicled her children's early lives. In a letter from Zélie to Pauline (CF 147), which Thérèse quotes in the first chapter of her Story of a Soul, their mother admits that on one occasion she had to 'correct' Thérèse who was throwing a tantrum. The French term is 'corriger'; but Pauline, in her customary way, changed this to 'raisonner' meaning 'to reason', watering down her mother's expression which no doubt implied a slap.
An ideal writ large
This was not written in the first flush of wedded bliss, but after five years of marriage and the birth of several children. 'I'm longing to be with you' - how many wives could only dream of having such a loving husband, who would sign off as 'Your husband and true friend, who loves you for life'! Here we have the ideal of Christian marriage writ large. This also explains why it is so important that, in our day and age, such a marriage should be showcased for the Catholic world. While it is a pity that we don't have more of Louis's love letters to his wife, the above example encapsulates what his lost or unwritten letters may have contained.
In Zélie's case, there is no such dearth of material, given her tendency to more feminine self-disclosure and her naturally prolific output. Zélie obviously basked in the sunshine of her husband's love. Like any loving couple they couldn't bear to be apart; she was almost physically sick when they were. Again like a loving woman, she wondered what her husband was doing at any given time of the day when they were not together. This extract from one of her letters says it all:
Canonising marital love
This is something long overdue. It shows that the passionate search for God, which should be the goal of every Christian life, is not impeded or compromised by the most intimate human relationship. Nor, with respect to St Paul (cf. 1Cor 7:32-35) and countless spiritual writers through the ages, is the heart divided and only half given to God, if given to a spouse in the mutual surrender that constitutes Christian marriage.
The shadow of the cross
As a child, Zélie had injured her breast against the corner of a table, and apparently this injury was the cause of its later developing into cancer. Treatment was not sought in time, and the young mother's health deteriorated. Zélie had referred to the problem a few years earlier, and even contemplated having an operation to remove the tumour, but for some reason this was never carried out. Possibly like many mothers in a similar situation, she simply carried on, prioritising the needs of a young family above her own.
The housekeeper of Lourdes
Zélie was disappointed not to meet the Abbé Peyramale, St Bernadette's own parish priest, with whom she had corresponded beforehand, but he was away at the time. It is more than likely that the person Zélie met and spoke to about Bernadette and the apparitions was Antoinette Tardhivail, the parish priest's housekeeper. She was a friend of Hermann Cohen, and had been an eyewitness of some of Our Lady's apparitions to Bernadette and had recounted them to him. The woman gave Zélie an account of what she had seen, especially the incident where Bernadette had allowed the candle to burn right down to her fingers but had shown no distress. Meeting this lady provided Zélie with a happy recollection afterwards of her visit to Lourdes.
A forlorn husband with his youngest daughters met the returning pilgrims at Alençon Railway Station. To her family's obvious disappointment, the resigned mother countered with Our Lady's words to Bernadette, inscribed in French on the balustrade of the Basilica: 'I do not promise to make you happy in this world but in the next.'
MOUNT CARMEL VOL 64. NO.2
APRIL - JUNE 2016