OCDS Conference: Columbus, Ohio Mar., 10, 1992 Fr. William Healy
[The reason that the Church has a yearly cycle], Christmas, Lent, Easter, so forth... is because (and now I'm talking, again, to you as an individual) that in the course of the year, you are to be another Jesus Christ, as a result of your baptism. As we said so frequently, a Christian is not just to be a follower of Christ, a Christian is asked, to be as far as possible, a duplicate copy of Christ in word, thought, and deed, according to his or her personality, temperament, and character...so that following the baptism the Heavenly Father could look upon each of you and say, "This is My beloved child, in whom I am well pleased." It means, as I said, to duplicate His Son, and at the same time, like His Son, as the last part reveals, "in whom I am well pleased ( from the prophet Isaiah)," you are to experience the problems of life, the temptations of life, and the sorrows of life, in union with Him, so, as I repeat, your thoughts, your words, and your response to life, will be as closely as possible identified with Him.
At the beginning of Lent you were signed with the ashes to symbolize that your beginning was from clay, from dust, but you are never to forget that the One who formed the dust is your Heavenly Father, and the One who brings that dust into life is the Holy Spirit, and the One who died that that dust might become something is your Brother, the Jesus Christ, the Son of the Living God.
[As to the Church year], Lent is a picture of life in miniature...the humble beginning in which you place the clay in spirit in the hands of the Heavenly Father...you go through the trials of life, depicted by the penance of Lent...and you enter into a glorious resurrection with Jesus Christ, your Brother. Finally, with Him, you are sent into the Heavenly Kingdom by the power of God, Himself, as He raises you, body, soul, mind and spirit on the Last Day in the realm of your real and lasting home.
At Christmas you celebrate His birth. No person was [ever] born [with] the more explicit intention of dying. The whole purpose of His coming was to show you and to show me that it is by dying that we actually live, it is by dying that we show our life, when we die for others. His message then is: [even if] you were born in a barn, and if you died on a cross in ignominious death between two thieves, life is worth living, if you can offer it, as He did, under all circumstances, to the Heavenly Father.
That's the purpose of the liturgical year. St. Theresa says, you recall (this is the height of pride, asking you to remember!), the method of mental prayer, as we gave it..the presence of God, the reading, in the presence of God considering the past present and future, and then the word TOP (thanksgiving, offering of self, and petitions), your personal conversation...St. Theresa says, if you can, and especially for those, who cannot concentrate on the mental part, the past the present , and the future, to put yourself in spirit, in your imagination, in the presence of Jesus Christ, especially in the scenes where He is alone. Her favorite night prayer, as you know, was depicting Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemene. She would kneel beside Him and tell Him the events of the day. This is the honest to goodness you, talking to Jesus, as I am to you, about your life as you life it...its joys, its sorrows, its successes, and its failures. Then, pause...don't make it a monologue, such as you're listening to now, or a soliloquy, but pause to give Him the chance to answer. if He is silent, don't be disappointed. From all eternity the Heavenly Father used no language except one word...Son...Jesus Christ. Theresa of Avila said that for twenty-three years she experienced aridity, she experienced distractions, and she was tempted to give up prayer, but in God's good time she was rewarded even in this life. That's the way it works with each of you...don't look for the reward...leave that in God's hands, how He wants to give it or when.
Your prayer is, "Into Your hands I commend my spirit..I give You myself, as I am, God, this day." Speaking then to Jesus Christ, take to heart the woman at the well, one of Theresa's favorite contemplations. She had several husbands, but it was Jesus who asked her for the drink. He opened the conversation, which a rabbi never did-talk to a woman alone..and she was a Samaritan, the outcasts of society, as far as the Jews were concerned. He asked her for the drink...and He hasn't changed...that's what he asks of you..."give Me your thoughts, give Me your reflection on life, and above all, offer yourself." Instead of being overwhelmed at the fact that He revealed to her how many husbands she had and what a sinful life she had, she went out and she preached and called others to the feet of Jesus Christ. That's what you do when you pray. Your not only praying that your own personal life will be improved, but you can also offer to Jesus every person who plays a part in your life, [and] every person who has passed on in to the realm of eternity whom you knew...and you're giving to Him your confidence.
Jesus was able to restore to health a man who had been paralyzed for over thirty years. He simply asked him, "Do you want to be healed?" When the man said he did, He [Jesus] said, "...then, take up your pallet and walk." So, He says to you, as He says to me, in your vocation, ''No matter what problems you may have, "Do you trust Me, that I will be with you, in each circumstance, as you recite the prayer I taught you?" This is the familiarity we, as Carmelites, are seeking to have with Christ. As St. Paul says, "We put on Christ," just as is symbolized when you put on your scapular, the seamless garment...you're putting on Christ...that, sandwiched between the two pieces of cloth, your thoughts, your words, and your deeds may resemble Him.
The Bible, then, is not just a book, which you reverence with awe. You and I are asked to take the New Testament, chapter by chapter, and ask Jesus to give us the familiarity He wants us to have...the ability to talk to Him, not in formal words, or in the use of a saint, or in another book, but only as we can express ourselves. That's the reason God made you and me, different, distinct, and unique, that we would be able to approach Him with our personality, temperament and character, and express ourselves different from anybody else. All that He asks is that we surrender ourselves to Him. That is message Theresa of Avila asks you to take to heart.
Visualize Him, and by the use of the imagination other distractions can't come, because two thoughts can't exist in the mind at the same time. Whenever it seems to you that a distraction is making its way [in your mind], talk to Jesus about the distraction. The distraction ceases to become a distraction-its part of your personal and intimate prayer.
The point to be considered this week in our Rule is, "We are to be contemplatives in action," in other words, to pray without ceasing. Its absolutely impossible to be constantly mindful of God, and to be on your knees through all twenty- four hours. God doesn't demand the impossible. All that he asks, is that as a result of your familiarity with Him, with His Son, and with the Holy Spirit, that you remember that wherever you are, whatever you're doing is witnessed by your lovable God, and whatever you're doing is worth offering [to Him]. He gave you the talents of mind and body to perform the work in your profession and in your vocation. There's no vocation, and there's no profession, no [obligation?], and no work which is to be looked down upon. No matter what the task may be, the individual is using the God- given talents of mind and body. As St. Benedict used to preach to his monks, "Ah,then, never forget, the motto of our order [Benedictine] is to labor is to pray, so I ask you to work and to pray."
So, I get back to you...in the morning, offering to God your daily works, as is done in the Consecration to the Sacred Heart, don't let it rest by just saying it once during the day, this is called the virtual intention, but just before you begin any task, repeat to yourself, "I'm doing it with You and for You, in thanksgiving for the talents of mind and body which You, my God, have given me." This is what we mean by being a contemplative in action- awareness of the presence of God, awareness of your own personal worth, that God's interest is individual and personal. Seek to respond by making a consecration of the work of your hands. Every Thursday, for instance, I advise our friars to pray for out trashmen, because they are doing a task which resembles the priesthood. They removing unnecessary worry, dirt and strain, so that the peace of the monastery can go on without it. Therefore, they are worthy of our payers. Jesus worked for thirty years in the carpenter shop in Nazareth to show us that the work of our hands can be given to the Heavenly Father. Joseph and Mary never offered a Mass, but they fulfilled their vocation, and in doing that they have immortalized themselves before God and before history. They can serve as models for you and for me.
If you want a deeper appreciation of whatever your task may be...in the Imitation of Christ , we read these words: When the priest celebrates Mass, he honors God, he rejoices the angel, he brings peace to the world, rest to the dead, and he himself becomes partakes of all good things. There is no profession as beautiful as our...as a result of our simple sentence of bread and a cup, we hold Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world, and ironically, the One whom we are going to face after death. While we hold him, we can communicate with the living and the dead, and ask Him to bless each person, even those who have passed the channel of life, the pilgrimage on earth...to renew each one, and to bless each one, as your my brothers and sisters, with whom we live and who we dwell, and who plays a part in our vocation. We can put all these things before Him so that every day , as a family, we [live in]union, even [with] the deceased.
You do not hold the sacramental Christ, but when you offer to God the work of your hands, the profession that is yours..give it for His honor and His glory in union with every person, living and dead, who has played a part and does play a part in your life, and your work becomes a consecration, and your work becomes a prayer. Work, then, is never to be a substitute...you say, "I'm not going to pray, I'm going to work..." [but rather], your office and your mental prayer enforce the beauty of work, as long as you are mindful of the fact that you and God are together.
This leads, then, to the third and final point. You have found the presence of God in yourself, and you have found that you can serve Him and honor Him by the fulfillment of your vocation. The third point is to find Him in every person with whom you come in contact. As the Trinity dwells in you, it dwells in every person you meet. I f, unfortunately, the person is in mortal sin, the Trinity is [nevertheless], still there. If I may used the expression, God's hands are bound, because of the voluntary willfulness saying, "I will not serve," but the Trinity there. You are not to judge by the exterior, but look in the interior by your love, and your consecration, and you interest in that person, the Trinity may become, by thought word and deed. Remember the the example that Jesus Christ used, and its use often at funerals, "Come unto me, you blessed, [and] enter into the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For, I was hungry and you gave me to eat; I was thirsty and you gave me to drink; I was naked and you clothed me; in prison and you visited me; I was sick and you came. The blessed will ask, "When did we see you under these conditions?' [The judge will answer] As long as you did it to the least of my brethren, you did it to me." That word least should be put in quotation marks, because in your thoughts and my thoughts no one is least. Everyone is created by God. Every one is redeemed by Jesus Christ. Everyone is a temple of the Holy Spirit.
When I was first ordained (and I've used this example over and over again), I went to the city of New York, and they asked me, "Now, this is your visit to New York, what do you want to see?" I said, "The Bowery..." That's exactly where I went. I found the people whose faces were [disfigure and some were dying. Then these words came to me...] "Oh priest of God, you have no idea what these people practice in the realm of charity. You see them under these conditions. You are not to be like the priests or the pharisee, but thank God you are where you are and you are doing what you r are doing. [Despite] the evidence of the scene you have before you, they may have practiced even greater charity [than you know]. Judge no one, for you can learn from every person how to be a better self; how to come in contact with Almighty God.
As far as your family is concerned, where there are two people, we have [a] community. The Master said, "Where there are two or three gathered together, there am I in the midst of them." [We are here in this family] at Your invitation. Lord Jesus, make me mindful that you're with my family and under this roof; that the Father, the Son, and Holy Spirit dwells in each one, each member, of this family. Each one, Dear God, is totally different. Teach not to compare one with the other. Each one is an individual.
Whenever correction is to be given, and there is a just anger, call the person privately, and before you go off into a rampage...listen. Listen to every word that the other person has to say. Your listening is a prayer. Whatever the thoughts behind the words the person expressed, you're giving the individual a chance to get something off his or her mind that's disturbing the peace. When the silence comes [after the other person has finished speaking], during which time you have asked God's blessing on the words you're going to utter, profess your love for the individual. You're representing God. "Father, receive the prodigal son..." Point out, in God's name, what was wrong, [but] not as a judge to condemn. You'll say, "This will have absolutely no effect..." Perhaps it won't be shown in your presence. The person will never forget that you took out the time[ and how you expressed yourself].
So, you see, that's what your life and my life is all about.
[Editor's Note: From this section onward, due to a skipping of large sections of material in the tape recording available to me, which undoubtedly occurred due to mechanical reasons at the time of the recording, I can only summarize as best I can the remainder of the conference. If another tape is made available, I shall reproduce this portion in its entirety next month]
We must have a familiarity with Jesus in our prayers, and the ability to go through the liturgical year as he did.
He went through temptation in the desert for us. We would never even have know that the temptation took place, except that He revealed it. The devil tempted Him with material things, with the offer of all the kingdoms of the world, which are under His control (or at least a compromise for serving Him), and a test to reveal His [Jesus's] power that the people might worship Him [Jesus]. Jesus's response taught us that suffering enables us to offering to God. That work may be consecrated as a prayer.
This transcript is Copyright, 2001, OCDS Community, Columbus, Ohio.