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The Human Face of Divine Mercy

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The painting (1488) is by Bartolomeo di Giovanni and was commissioned for the Hospital of the Innocents in Florence. The six-sided altar at the centre of the composition points to the Sixth Day Sacrifice of the Cross. There is fire burning on the altar, a sign of the Holy Spirit. The Blessed Virgin Mary's gesture indicates that she is offering the Infant Christ and participating in His sacrifice. Simeon's gesture is one of acceptance; he is an image of the Eternal Father. Saint Joseph holds the turtle doves in his cloak; Joseph was chosen by God to veil the mystery. Anna, entering the painting at the extreme left, holds the lighted candle of her faith and hope as she witnesses the arrival in the temple of the long-awaited Priest and Victim, the Consolation of Israel.

The Face of a Little Child

In today's splendid Introit we sing that we have received Mercy "in the midst of the temple" (Ps 47:10). At the heart of today's mystery shines the face of a little Child, the human face of Divine Mercy. The four other figures in today's Gospel -- Mary, Joseph, Simeon and Anna -- are held in His gaze. In a homily for January 1, 2010, Pope Benedict XVI spoke tenderly of the Face of the Infant Christ. "God's Face took on a human face, letting itself be seen and recognized in the Son of the Virgin Mary, who for this reason we venerate with the loftiest title of Mother of God. She, who had preserved in her heart the secret of the divine motherhood, was the first to see the face of God made man in the small fruit of her womb."

Today we meet the gaze of the Infant Christ, "made like His brethren in every respect" (Heb 2:17) and, looking into His eyes, we see that He is already our "merciful and faithful High Priest in the service of God, to make expiation for the sins of the people" (Heb 2:17).

The Presentation of Christ Our Priest

Today in the midst of the temple the Father presents His Christ, our Priest, to us; and today the Father presents us to Christ our Priest. Of ourselves we have nothing to present; we can but receive Christ and allow ourselves to become an offering in His hands. "We have received your Mercy, O God, in the midst of your temple" (Ps 47:10).

The Infant Christ, presented to us as our Priest, presents us, in turn, to the Father. It is fitting that the symbol of the Infant Christ should be the living flame that crowns our candles. This Child has a Heart of fire, and so the prophet says, "But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner's fire . . . and he will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, till they present right offerings to the Lord" (Mal 3:2-3).

The Infant Priest and Victim

Today is the World Day for Consecrated Life. Consider the images that the liturgy sets before us: a flame that burns, consuming the wax that holds it aloft; a Child with the all-embracing gaze of the "Ancient of Days" (Dn 7:13); an Infant who is already Priest and Victim.

Identification with Christ the Victim

One consecrated in the monastic life is a taper offered to the consuming flame of love. One so consecrated has eyes only for the gaze of Christ, revealing a Heart that is all fire. One consecrated is presented and handed over to Christ the Priest. One consecrated is inescapably destined for the altar of sacrifice, for identification with Christ the Victim. Monastic life cannot be anything less than this, nor can it be anything more. This is why the Apostle says, "I appeal to you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship" (Rom 12:1).

The Woman Wrapped in Silence

Each of the four figures surrounding the Infant Christ in the temple is an icon of consecrated life, beginning with his all-holy Virgin Mother. How does today's Gospel present her? She is a woman wrapped in silence. Even when addressed by Simeon, she remains silent. Her silence is an intensity of listening. She is silent so as to take in Simeon's song of praise, silent so as to capture his mysterious prophecy of soul-piercing sorrow and hold it in her Immaculate Heart. She is silent because today her eyes say everything, eyes fixed on the face of the Infant Christ, eyes illumined by the brightness of his gaze.

Wordlessly, Mary offers herself to the living flame of love. She is the bride of the Canticle of whom it is said, "Behold, you are beautiful, my love, behold you are beautiful! Your eyes are doves behind your veil" (Ct 4:1). Consecrated life in all its forms, and monastic life in particular, begins in the silence of Mary that, already in the temple, consents to the sacrifice of her Lamb and to the place that will be hers beside the altar of the Cross.

Joseph and the Divine Desires

Turning to Saint Joseph, what do we see? Joseph shares Mary's silence. Silence is the expression of their communion in a tender and chaste love, a love that is ready for sacrifice. Joseph listens with Mary. Saint Joseph is the first to enter deeply into the silence of the Virgin. It is his way of loving her. It is his way of trusting her beyond words.

Saint Joseph: Tenderly Focused on the Face of Christ

The silence of Saint Joseph becomes for all consecrated persons a way of loving, a way of trusting, a way of pushing back the frontiers of hope. I recall what Pope Benedict XVI said concerning the silence of Saint Joseph. "The silence of Saint Joseph," said the Holy Father, "is an attitude of total availability to the divine desires. . . . He stands beside the Church today, silent, listening, tenderly focused on the face of Christ in all his members." Consecrated life is just that: availability to the desires of God, a listening silence, and a way of focusing tenderly on the face of Christ in all his members.

The Old Priest Sings

Saint Simeon represents the ancient priesthood disappearing into the light of Christ, our "merciful and faithful high priest before God" (Heb 2:17). Simeon is the old priest pointing to the new. He speaks; he sings his praise; he utters prophecy. Saint Simeon models the vocation of every priest charged in the celebration of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass with the calling down of the Holy Ghost over altar, bread, wine, and people. Simeon has a particular relationship with the Holy Ghost. Three times in as many verses Saint Luke emphasizes the mystical synergy of Simeon and the Holy Ghost: "The Holy Ghost was upon him. . . " (Lk 2:25); "It had been revealed to him by the Holy Ghost. . . . ; (Lk 2:26); "He came in the Spirit into the temple"; (Lk 2:27). In the Holy Spirit, Simeon contemplates the face of the Infant Christ; in the Holy Spirit he raises his voice in prophecy and in thanksgiving. In all of this Simeon shows us the characteristic traits of the new priesthood called to serve in the Holy Spirit.

Anna of the Face of God

Finally, there is Anna the prophetess, Anna the daughter of Phanuel whose name means "Face of God." The widow Anna has made the temple her home. Abiding day and night in adoration, she emerges from the recesses of the temple only to give thanks to God and speak of the Child. Drawn into the light of the face of Christ she cannot but praise and immediately publish the good news "to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem" (Lk 2:38).

Anna of the Face of God models the vocation of every consecrated woman called to be at once fully contemplative and fully apostolic. The old woman's encounter with the Infant Christ energizes and rejuvenates her. In some way, Anna is the first apostle sent out by the Holy Spirit. Before Mary Magdalene and before the twelve, Anna announces Christ. She is compelled to speak but does so out of an "adoring silence." She appears in the temple to publish the long-awaited arrival of Mercy, and in her eyes shines the light of his Face. Mercy in the flesh was passed like a living flame from the arms of Mary and Joseph into the arms of Simeon and, then, undoubtedly into the embrace of holy Anna. "We have received your Mercy, O God, in the midst of your temple" (Ps 47:10).

The Consuming Fire of the Most Holy Eucharist

We, who welcome Mercy in the midst of the temple, are compelled to present ourselves to Mercy at the altar, to give ourselves back to Mercy, to give ourselves up to Mercy, to surrender to Mercy's sweet, purifying flame. "Let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe; for our God is a consuming fire" (Heb 12:28-29).

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In her letters to Marguerite, the Duchess of Orléans (1613-1672), Mother Mectilde de Bar has some very beautiful things to say about the mystery of the Child Jesus. To me they seem to reflect something of the experience of Jesus, the King of Love, that one finds in the writings of Saint Thérèse, of the Trappist Abbot, Dom Vital Léhodey, and of Mother Yvonne-Aimée. Here, in my own translation, is what Mother Mectilde has to say:

It seemed to me that the desire to belong to God and to love Him enlivened your heart several times. Your heart wants to rise above itself, so as to abide in God: but the weight of human misery does not allow it to enjoy this happiness without intermission in this life. One must suffer the length of our exile in patience. This will be lighter for us to bear i we look upon the Eternal Word under the figure of our flesh; he comes . . . to make Himself our companion on pilgrimage.
He comes into the world, and the world has not received Him. He comes among His own, and they know Him not. Here, then, is Jesus upon earth like a stranger who has nowhere to rest His head. It is the love He bears us that reduces Him to this indigence. But, my God, how great this love is, that it casts Jesus into nothingness. Among His subjects, He is like a slave, and all that He does are but wondrous inventions of His love to draw us to Himself. It is to win our hearts, and to give us the freedom to converse with Him, and never more to doubt of his kindnesses toward us; and so that we will cling no longer to the thoughts of distrust and fear that get in our way and disquiet our spirits. . . .
If this Child God manifests Himself in the secret of your soul, His presence will bring you joy, and His love will make you strong. There is nothing so sweet as to love and to know (and to love) Jesus; the prophet assures us of this. Love, love this lovable Saviour who loves you so tenderly, and who presses upon you His merits and all that He is in Himself. Possess Him, and find in His fulness all that you lack. Make use of His virtues and of His love to make up for everything, and rest in His goodness by means of a childlike confidence. And you will experience that your hope is not in vain, nor your confidence disappointed.

An Urgent Request

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Therefore I say unto you, all things, whatsoever you ask when ye pray, believe that you shall receive; and they shall come unto you. (Mark 11:24)
And I say to you, Ask, and it shall be given you: seek, and you shall find: knock, and it shall be opened to you. For every one that asketh, receiveth; and he that seeketh, findeth; and to him that knocketh, it shall be opened. (Luke 11:9-10).

Life at Silverstream Priory is a day-to-day and hour-to-hour act of trust in Divine Providence. Some would say that living as we do is folly; I maintain that it is the highest wisdom. The other evening as I brought our pressing financial concerns to Our Lord in prayer, these words of the psalmist rose from my heart to my lips:

Trust in the Lord, and do good, and dwell in the land, and thou shalt be fed with its riches. Delight in the Lord, and he will give thee the requests of thy heart. Commit thy way to the Lord, and trust in him, and he will do it. (Psalm 36:3-5)
Cast thy care upon the Lord, and he shall sustain thee. (Psalm 54:22)

One of the priestly figures in my gallery of heavenly heroes is Father Ernest Lelièvre (1826-1889), the devoted co-worker of the Little Sisters of the Poor, a true friend and father of the destitute elderly. Father Lelièvre wrote:

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I know that I serve a Master
who values the will of a sincere heart
beyond any talent.
My ignorance counts on His knowledge,
my poverty on His wealth,
my weakness, on HIs strength.
And I know,
and am perfectly certain that,
of all the calculations I could make,
the wisest is to abandon myself to Him.

Renovating Silverstream Priory

The renovation of Silverstream Priory is a daunting task. The work required to make the existing buildings functional and suitable for our purposes is extensive and costly.

We are focusing now on the book store, knowing that once it is open, it will generate income, and the church, knowing that once it is open, it will generate charity, peace, and joy.

Asking for Your Help

At the moment we are in need of funds -- and so we are turning with confidence to Jesus,King of Love. Will you not pray with us, asking Him to provide the funds we need? Here is the prayer that we started saying at the end of the Hours. Please say it with us.

O Jesus, King of Love,
Whose resources are infinite,
Whose Heart is divinely generous,
and to Whom nothing is impossible,
our resources are nought;
we cannot give what we do not have;
and without Thee we can do nothing.
Therefore, in this hour of need,
we place our trust in Thy merciful goodness.

Thou art our Shepherd, O King of Love;
Thy Heart is our unfailing Treasury
and Thy hands dispense inexhaustible treasures
to those who trust in Thy merciful goodness.

Thy most loving Heart is our only recourse.
To whom shall we go in our poverty
if not to Thee, O Jesus, King of Love?

Let Thy merciful goodness hasten to deliver us
for we are hard pressed in our necessities.
We praise Thee for Thy gracious condescension,
and we thank Thee for Thy speedy help,
more certain than the break of day
at the end of the darkness of night.

O Jesus, King of Love,
Thou wilt not disappoint us in our hope,
for we trust now and shall trust always
in Thy merciful goodness. Amen.

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This morning, following the blessing of the statue of Jesus King of Love at the end of Holy Mass, we made the following Act of Consecration:

O JESUS, KING OF LOVE,
WITH TRUST IN THY MERCIFUL GOODNESS,

we consecrate ourselves to Thee;
and offer to Thy Sacred Heart
all that we have received from Thee:
our life itself,
our strength, and our talents,
our desires, our works, and our humble efforts.
At the same time we offer Thee
our weaknesses and our inconsistencies,
our fears, our failures, and even our sins,
for there is nothing of ours
that Thy merciful love cannot redeem, and heal,
restore, and turn to Thy Father's glory.

Thou hast come to us in Thy image,
and so we come to Thee
to offer Thee what is already Thine:
the church built to Thy glory sixty years ago,
this house and all the constructions adjacent to it,
the entire property of Silverstream,
its fields, its water, its woodlands,
and all Thy creatures therein.

By the light of Thy Eucharistic Face
and the fire of Thy Eucharistic Heart:
make Silverstream entirely Thine:
a little kingdom where Thy Love holds sway,
and in which all are subject to Thee.

O Jesus, King of Love,
make this monastery a hospital for the healing of sick souls,
a safe refuge for fearful and anxious souls,
a welcoming home for poor and restless souls.

Here, O King of Love,
let sinners be converted;
here, let the lukewarm be set ablaze;
here, reveal to Thy friends the secrets of Thy Sacred Heart.

Here, let souls receive the gifts of Thy Divine Friendship:
perseverance in prayer, peace of mind, and purity of heart.
Here, make Thy servants joyful in a shining chastity,
and ardent in an unassailable purity.
Here, raise up those who have fallen,
give light to those who are in darkness,
give courage to those beset by fear.

O King of Love,
so establish the sovereign rule of Thy Heart in this monastery and over it,
that it will become a garden enclosed,
a sanctuary of silence and of peace,
a place of tranquil order, where beauty is at home.

Cast out from this place the powers of darkness,
the enemies of our souls,
the cruel tempters of Thine anointed,
and the bodiless persecutors of those who would live for Thee alone.

Impart to all who live here,
or labour here,
or visit here,
or in any way participate in this monastery's growth,
a share in the incomparable grace of spiritual childhood,
and an unfailing light along the path of confidence
and abandonment to Thy merciful love.

O Jesus, King of Love,
meek and humble of heart,
rule over this, Thy little kingdom;
make all herein the faithful subjects of Thy Love,
the adorers of Thy Eucharistic Face,
and the friends of Thy Eucharistic Heart.

Having lived in Thine intimacy here below,
vouchsafe that we may pass from this life
to the glory of heaven,
there to praise Thy merciful goodness
in the company of Thy Immaculate Mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary,
of Saint Joseph, Saint John, Thy Beloved Disciple,
Saint Benedict, Saint Thérèse, Blessed Abbot Marmion,
Thy servant Mother Yvonne-Aimée,
the Holy Angels, and all Thine elect,
forever, and unto the ages of ages.
Amen.


Jesus, King of Love

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Cast thy care upon the Lord, and He shall sustain thee.
From the Introit (Psalm 54:23)

O God, who dost manifest Thy almighty power chiefly in showing mercy and pity; increase Thy mercy towards us, that we, seeking the way of Thy promises, may be made partakers of Thy heavenly treasures.
The Collect

And the Publican standing afar off would not so much as lift up his eyes to- wards heaven, but struck his breast saying: O God, be merciful to me a sinner.
From the Gospel (Luke 18:13)

To Thee, O Lord, have I lifted up my soul: in Thee, O my God, I put my trust, let me not be ashamed: neither let my enemies laugh at me: for none of them that wait on Thee shall be confounded.The Offertory Antiphon (Psalm 24:1-3)

The Statue of Jesus, King of Love

The Propers of the Mass of the 10th Sunday After Pentecost proved to be more than fitting for this morning's solemn blessing of the statue of Jesus, King of Love. The statue, handcarved from linden wood and handpainted in Germany, is the gift of a friend of the monastery.

The Invocation

The image of Jesus, King of Love is linked to the little invocation given by Our Lord to Yvonne Beauvais on 17 August 1922. Yvonne was sojourning at the Augustinian Monastery of Malestroit when Our Lord manifested Himself to her, and said: "Say and , morning and evening, O Jésus, Roi d'Amour, j'ai confiance en votre miséricordieuse bonté. -- O Jesus, King of Love, I put my trust in Thy merciful goodness."

On 28 August 1922, the feast of Saint Augustine, the Doctor of Charity, the Superioress of the Monastery of Malestroit, at Yvonne's request, introduced the practice of reciting the little invocation every morning and evening. She did this without revealing the origin of the prayer and without mentioning Yvonne.

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Indulgenced by Blessed John XXIII

At first, the little invocation spread by word of mouth. In 1927 modest bookmarks bearing an image of the Sacred Heart were printed to promote the recitation of the prayer. In 1932 the Bishop of Vannes, France, approved the invocation for his diocese. The following year, Pope Pius XI indulgenced the prayer for the Augustinian Canonesses of the Mercy of Jesus, for their sick and for those hospitalized in their institutions. Pope Pius XII renewed the favour and, on December 6, 1958, Blessed John XXIII extended it to the universal Church.

My Own Witness

As a young monk, I tried for years to practice the ceaseless prayer of the heart that is the aim of all monastic observance. Time and time again I resolved to pray always, failed at it, and began again. About thirty years ago, quite providentially, I came upon an old biography of Mother Yvonne-Aimée (1901-1951) in a used book store and, in reading it, learned of the prayer, "O Jesus, King of Love, I put my trust in thy merciful goodness."

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One day, kneeling before the Blessed Sacrament, I realized that the prayer was repeating itself ceaselessly and effortlessly in my heart. I found himself praying the little invocation at every waking moment and even during the hours of the night, in a way similar to the "Jesus Prayer" of monks of the Eastern Church. Over the years, the grace of ceaseless prayer by means of the little invocation has not abated. It is always there: a gentle murmur of confidence bubbling up from the depths of my heart.

Early in my priesthood I began hearing great numbers of confessions. Having discovered for myself the soothing and healing power of the little invocation, I began to give it as a penance to those whom came to me for confession. Individuals from all walks of life attest to the graces received: graces of inner healing, of victory over persistent and deeply rooted habits of sin, of trust in the mercy of Christ, and of a ceaseless prayer of the heart.

The Image

In 1940, during World War II, in order to make the prayer even better known and loved, Mother Yvonne-Aimée herself designed a medal and an image. She depicted Our Lord as a little boy of two or three years of age. His expression is loving and compassionate; He is completely approachable. The crown signifies His kingship; the olive branch, the gifts of healing and of peace that He offers; with His other hand He points to His Heart overflowing with tender mercy.

Its Healing Grace

The devotion to Jesus, King of Love is especially helpful to adults having suffered from some trauma in childhood such as sexual, emotional, or physical abuse. The Child King is not threatening. The child living inside the emotionally wounded adult can accept the embrace of the little King of Love. One traumatized in childhood can allow the Little King to come close and to absorb into the innocence of His Divine Childhood the shattered innocence that continues to cause fear, shame, and an inability to keep oneself safe. At the same time, Jesus, King of Love restores to souls the innocence that was lost in childhood, or stolen, or cruelly defiled.

In Silverstream Priory

The statue of Jesus, King of Love that we blessed this morning corresponds in every detail to the image designed by Mother Yvonne-Aimée de Jésus. Here is the text of the blessing:

Solemn Blessing of the Statue of Jesus, King of Love


V. Our help is in the name of the Lord.
R. Who made heaven and earth.
V. The Lord be with you.
R. And with thy spirit.

Let us pray.

Almighty everlasting God,
Father of mercies and God of all consolation,
Who hast delivered us from the power of darkness,
and hast translated us into the kingdom of the Son of Thy love,
Thine adorable image,
the brightness of Thy glory,
and the figure of Thy substance,
Thou hast not forbidden men to carve representations of Him,
so that, by looking upon His image with our bodily eyes,
we may receive an inward impression of His divine majesty,
His meekness, and the merciful goodness of His Heart;
Deign, therefore, to bless and to hallow this statue
which has been made in memory and honor
of the Childhood and Kingship
of Thine Only-Begotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ,
and grant that all who in its presence
put their trust in His merciful goodness,
may receive the gifts of healing and of peace there signified,
and may by the love of His Heart,
so advance in faith, in hope, and in charity,
as to come at length to the Kingdom of Thy Glory,
where He liveth and reigneth with Thee,
in the unity of the Holy Ghost, one God, forever and ever.
All: Amen.


The Triumph of Grace

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A few years ago, while in France I read a biography of Dom Vital Léhodey, entitled Frère Vital, ou le triomphe de la grâce, written by Father Michel Niassaut, a Trappist monk of the Abbey of Briquebec.

I decided to devote some time to translating part of the book for the readers of Vultus Christi. Here is Dom Léhodey's account of the Child Jesus in his life:

“I hasten to leave the account of my exterior life and come to the great devotion, I should say the grace of graces, which has been the charm and the fecundity of my existence. I attach great price to my priesthood, even more to my monastic vocation added to my priesthood. But for me, the grace par excellence was the entrance of my Beloved Little Jesus into my life. It has lasted for forty years; far from having lost its value with the passing of time, it is to me dearer and more precious than ever.

Up until the approach of my solemn profession, I had no special devotion to Our Lord the Child; I am astonished when I remember how many graces for me are attached to the feasts of Christmas. It was between a retreat that I made at Melleray in January 1895 and my solemn profession (7 July of the same year), that my adored Little Jesus made His entrance into my soul, very softly, without the noise of words, in attracting me by His love and His sweetness. Since then, His hold on me became ever greater; at the moment of my profession, it was already preponderant; very soon thereafter, the dear Little Jesus had taken all the place. Alas! I had great need of this in order to detach myself from all things; but I was far from having merited this inestimable favour.

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Personally, I have neither seen Him nor heard Him. Everything between us happens in the order of faith. From time to time, He makes me feel His presence and His action in more lively a way. The veil that hides Him becomes transparent. Certainly, it is not yet the clear vision, nor is it entirely the obscurity of pure faith. He doesn’t let Himself be seen; He lets me almost glimpse Him and it is so evident that He is there that I converse with my Most Holy Little Beloved as if I were seeing Him. But that is a rare exception; ordinarily He contents Himself with attracting the heart and by the heart, the mind and the will, but He hides Himself.

My life is occupied with offering Him multiple acts of love, of confidence, and of abandonment, of love especially, often touched with humility, profound adoration, and filial submission. The heart pours itself out in very simple acts, without looking for phrases nor feelings, saying the same things to Him over and over again, without growing weary. I think that He never wearies of hearing them, since He gives me the grace to continue. This exercise becomes a real work; it remains all the same a need of the heart. To sustain and stimulate my good will, I count my little acts on our rosary beads, so as not to fall below the measure that I fixed for myself and which is always increasing. At present, in order to fulfill it I have to begin straightaway at the earliest hour of the day and not lose a single of my free moments. I would not counsel this method to others if it does not suit them; for me it has been immensely helpful.

My Little Jesus draws me to Himself at about the age of five years, or at about the age three or four. In the beginning, there was a little bit of imagination and a fair amount of emotion. It has been a long time now that the emotional has disappeared almost entirely; very often, it is desert, bleak and arid. What holds me in this way is the Word of God become a child, out of love for His Father and for us; or else it is the Saviour and Physician of souls; it is the God of my heart, the Friend, the Spouse and above all the adorable Little Brother. But it is always the Holy Humanity united to the Word, and so my worship goes to the Word become a child. When He presents to my spirit His infinite grandeurs and my nothingness, His holiness, my faults and my miseries, I adore Him in making myself very small. If He allows me to glimpse the charms of His childhood, His heart so humble and so meek, His infinitely touching holy littleness, the astonishing simplicity of a little brother (and so He does ordinarily), it is the heart that responds to Him, saying to Him the same protestations of love endlessly again and again, and from time to time, making itself very little before Him who is so great. This has lasted lo all these forty years and I never weary of always repeating to Him the same things. Since then, I have never aspired after another way; my Beloved Little Jesus is enough for me. And why would I have sought anything else, since, “all good things came to me along with Him” (Wis 7:11). I should never how to retell Him my gratitude enough.

And, first of all, He taught me better to know Him, and by that very means, better to know His Father. Like so many others, before that, I was inclined to see in God the Master and the Dispenser of Justice, rather than the Father and the Saviour. He veiled the grandeurs that would have dazzled me; He very nearly hid from me His Passion, which would have frightened me. He made Himself so very little, so that I would not be afraid of living with Him. It pleased Him to show me the goodness of His heart, His love and His tenderness, His mercies and His mildness, His patience in bearing with me, His quickness to lift me up. Truly, He has a Saviour’s heart, a heart that doesn’t know how to become angry, that never tires of pardoning, of healing, and of loving, a heart that loves extremely His mission as Saviour and physician of souls. In truth, He also has the heart of a friend. How many times has He not come to console me in my sorrows, to rejoice with me on my anniversaries by His loving visits. Now it pleases Him to remind me that He has the heart of a man, which heart needs to love men and to be loved by men, the heart of a Child God, who loves candidly and is candidly happy to be loved. He reminds me too that I also have a heart that needs to love and to be loved, and that our hearts are made one for the other. Let us then love one another and never cease loving one another.

In thus making known to me the goodness of His heart, His and His tenderness, His mercy and His mildness, His astonishing simplicity, all things that make Him so lovable and so attractive in His Holy Humanity, He, by that very means, makes His divinity known to me. His Holy Humanity is, in fact, the most faithful mirror of His Divinity. All that is found in miniature, as it were, in his sweet Childhood, is found infinitely in the Word. And, since the Word is the Splendour of the Father and the image of His Goodness, in learning of my Little Jesus, I learn also of the Father and the Holy Spirit. They are, all Three, one and the same infinite Charity. The sweet Childhood of my Little Jesus has, therefore, been for me like the “Gate which is called Beautiful” (Ac 3:2), through which He introduces me just a little bit, so little, alas, into the sanctuary of the Divinity."

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"The Little Jesus also taught me to know myself. I have but too many reasons to make myself little: my past faults, my present miseries, temptations. All these things recall me ceaselessly to humility. My Little Jesus does not permit that I should forget them; He takes care to recall them to me, but bathed, as it were, in His mercy.

Nothing, however, preaches effacement, and nothing makes humility sweet and amiable to me as does my Little Jesus at the age at which I love to contemplate Him. He is infinitely great, infinitely holy as is His Father, by reason of His divine nature, and His Sacred Humanity is adorned with the most marvelous gifts of nature and of grace. But, in order to teach us to make ourselves little, He received the counsel to hide His Divinity and let let appear in His Sacred Humanity only what befits a perfect child of His age. So well does He observe this counsel that, with the exception of His Most Holy Mother and of Saint Joseph, forewarned by revelation, no one knew who He was, so simply did He make Himself the very little One! And I, who amount to so little, should I not be ashamed to make myself great, when He who is so great makes Himself so little? And since I love Him and I want to be loved by Him, is it not in becoming like Him that I will please Him, in shrinking myself, in making nothing of myself, as it were, so as to be His size and so as to be able to walk with Him, hand in hand?

He gives me the same teachings in the Holy Eucharist where He makes Himself so small, to the point of hiding even His Sacred Humanity. But, beneath the veils of the Sacrament, it is always my Child Jesus that I delight in contemplating in His holy littleness.

He shows me His lessons and His examples realized to perfection in His Most Holy Mother. The Mother resembles her Divine Son so perfectly. Their hearts are so united by the bonds of love that they will not to be separated. One cannot better win the Heart of the Son than by loving with Him His Mother who is so loving and so loved. It is by her that He entered into the world; even now one must ask her where He is when He hides Himself. And the role of the Mother, her great joy, is to lead us to her Son, in such wise that in going to Mary, I do not leave her Little Jesus. Nor do I leave Him when He draws me to honour Him in His Passion, so sorrowful for Him and so blessed for us: “tam beatae Passionis”, as we say in the Canon of the Holy Mass.

Since the death of my youngest brother, He draws me to make the Way of the Cross every day, except when it is impossible; and I find there so much comfort. But I must admit that even in contemplating His humiliations as our Victim of Love, and even as I find Him so great in His generous sacrifice, I need not to forget His sweet Childhood and I hasten to return to my Beloved Little Jesus.

He has taught me many other things; because His Heart, as we say in the litanies, contains all the treasures of knowledge and of wisdom. It is the “abyss of all the virtues”. But He was most especially my light and my guide in the Ways of Mental Prayer and in Holy Abandonment."

Vespers at Holy Family Cathedral

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Twenty-Sixth Sunday of the Year B
27 September 2009
Holy Family Cathedral
Tulsa, Oklahoma

Pope Benedict in Czech Republic

This weekend, His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI is in the Czech Republic. He is visiting a nation wounded by 40 years of Communism, where two out of three individuals say they believe in nothing, and where the encroaching forces of secularism are allied to erase even the memory of a Christian culture from the hearts of rising generations. For all of that, our Holy Father is not intimidated.

The Little Jesus

Yesterday morning he accomplished an amazing gesture -- a prophetic one. The Supreme Pontiff and, quite apart from that, one of the greatest theologians of modern times, went in pilgrimage to the Little Jesus, to the Infant Jesus of Prague. Bareheaded, and with a look of indescribable tenderness and affection, the Pope approached the little statue known and loved around the world and left a golden crown at the feet of the Infant Jesus, as a token of his devotion.

Vespers and Benediction

What, you may ask, has this to do with Vespers of this Twenty-Sixth Sunday of the Year? In a certain sense, everything. Catholic tradition has, for centuries now, coupled the celebration of Sunday Vespers with Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament. Vespers, being a Liturgy of the Word, recalls the Liturgy of the Word at this morning's Mass. Mother Church frames the Magnificat with a fragment of the Gospel proclaimed at Mass. A grace remembered is a grace renewed. At Vespers, the Holy Spirit quickens the very Word we heard at Mass, and in that mystical quickening, we experience its power all over again.

Word to Sacrament

Mother Church's liturgy is all of a piece. The Magnificat Antiphon, a mere fragment of this morning's Gospel, brings back the divine energy that compelled us at Holy Mass to go from the ambo to the altar.

The same thing happens at Vespers: the Word remembered, repeated, and prayed, drives us to the altar, just as Our Lord's explanation of the Scriptures to the disciples on the road to Emmaus compelled them to say, "Stay with us, Lord, for it is towards evening, and the day is now far spent." (Lk 24:29).

Every time we hear the Word, receiving it with hearts that are childlike and humble, it causes us to say over and over again, "Stay with us, Lord." At Holy Mass, He answers that prayer of ours by giving us bread changed into His Body and wine mixed with water changed into His Blood. At Benediction, that same adorable Mystery is withdrawn from the tabernacle and exposed to our gaze so that we, by looking, and adoring, and bowing low might be blessed, and so experience again, at the close of Sunday, the miracle of His Real Presence. The movement, at Holy Mass as at Vespers, is always from Word to Sacramental Presence.

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I pray thee, O Most Holy Virgin Mary,
that I might hear the Heartbeat of redeeming Love,
and that with Thee
I might adore the Heart of Jesus
formed in Thy womb by the Holy Spirit.

Through the Holy Spirit,
by whose power and overshadowing Thou didst become
the living tabernacle of the Heart of God,
may my soul rejoice in Thy every visitation
and leap in recognition of Him
who through Thee deigns to come to me.

Through the Holy Spirit
by whom Thou wert illumined by faith,
quickened by hope,
and inflamed with charity,
grant that I may believe all that the Sacred Heart of Jesus has revealed,
never despair of His boundless Mercy,
and burn with the fire He came to cast upon the earth.

In the Holy Spirit,
Thou adorest the Heart of Thy Son as the Heart of Thy God;
in that same Holy Spirit,
grant that I may adore the Heart of my God
as the Heart that, hidden in Thy womb, once beat beneath Thy own:
the same Sacred Heart that, pierced upon the Cross,
fills the heavens with glory
and the earth with mercy.
Amen.

The Santo Bambino of the Aracoeli

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One of my favourite little pilgrimages in the Eternal City is to the Santo Bambino Gesù in the Basilica of Santa Maria in Aracoeli. Aracoeli means "altar of the heavens." The present basilica stands on the site of an altar built to the glorious Infant God seen by the Emperor Octavian Augustus in a prophetic vision.

The statue of the Infant Jesus dates back to the fifteenth century. It is, according to tradition, the work of a Franciscan friar who carved it from the wood of an olive tree of Gethsemani. Over the centuries, the faithful have honoured this holy image of the Infant Jesus with rich garments, with crowns, and gifts of gold and precious stones. And so continues the procession of the Three Magi bearing gifts.

Every year, little children of all ages address letters of petition to the Santo Bambino. They write to Him as to their King, confident in the merciful goodness of His Heart. During Christmastide the children of Rome visit the crib of the Santo Bambino in the Basilica of Santa Maria in Aracoeli, to preach little sermons, to recite poems, and to sing to Him.

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On the 25th of every month it is customary to bless oil taken from the lamp that burns before the Santo Bambino. The oil is distributed in small bottles and is used in praying for the sick. I often use the "Oil of the Infant Jesus" in this way. One can obtain it at the Church of the Aracoeli.

The Child Jesus is Eternal High Priest and King of the Universe. Already in the mysteries of His infancy, He took upon Himself the infirmities and weaknesses of all men. Even as a Child, Our Lord presented Himself before His Father's Face as a Priest offering Himself, the Spotless Lamb. Those drawn to honour and contemplate the Infant Jesus do well to pray for the sick, anointing them with blessed oil, a sacramental of the Church, in His sweet Name. The Name of Jesus is, itself, an oil poured out for the healing of souls and bodies.

About Dom Mark

Dom Mark Daniel Kirby is Conventual Prior of Silverstream Priory in Stamullen, County Meath, Ireland. The ecclesial mandate of his Benedictine community is the adoration of the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar in a spirit of reparation, and in intercession for the sanctification of priests.

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