Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Saints are legit!

I’m reading a book on the life of St. Bernadette, “A Holy Life”, by Patricia McEachern, Ph. D. It presents many of her writings and spiritual insights which are deep and profound. I have had a special love for St. Bernadette since I visited the site where the Blessed Mother appeared to her in 1858: Lourdes, France. It is an overwhelmingly grace-filled place. Many miracles have occurred at Lourdes in the past 150+ years, physically and spiritually (many people have been cured of physical diseases but also have had amazing spiritual conversions). This is especially meaningful and timely for us because a group of us from the Newman Center are going to Lourdes as part of our World Youth Day pilgrimage starting this Saturday, August 6. Pray for us!

As Cardinal McCarrick used to say, “I was thinking of you” when I read the following reflections on mortification by St. Bernadette. I wasn’t thinking that you should be practicing all that she writes (I don’t even live it…I have a long way to go to be a saint!). I was thinking that you would be amazed like me at the intensity of her thoughts. They are intense! She was a religious Sister of Charity who embraced suffering in union with Christ’s Cross; she died at the young age of 35. This book is filled with her journal-like writings, probably the first of its kind. I enjoy reading about saints tremendously, but especially about their interior lives. Stories about saints are incredible because they reveal the power of God’s grace through our nature. But, it is just as meaningful and maybe even more so to see what makes saints tick.

Saints are legit – legit in love with Christ and the Church…legit followers of the Gospel…legit men and women just like you and me…legit funny, smart, beautiful, etc. A glimpse into their internal lives is a glimpse into their souls which is where they have had a profound encounter with the living Christ and have been changed forever. As the following passage from St. Bernadette’s writings reveals, even something like mortification of the flesh which seems so foreign and unnatural to us is embraced and ultimately loved by the saints because it brings them in union with the Savior.

To learn more about mortification, please see my post from 2006 by clicking on today’s title.

“…Oh, yes, my Jesus! From now on, I want you alone to be my everything and my life. I shall follow you everywhere you go…Come my soul, courage. Climb to Calvary behind Jesus and Mary for just one more day. And then, with Jesus and Mary: Joy, Rejoicing, Eternity!

O good Cross! O precious thorns along the way, soon your wounds will be glorious.

A Religious must live with mortifications as a fish swims in water. For a Religious, there is something missing if she is not mortified. The serious practice of all her duties necessarily leads to practice of a continual mortification at every moment. If she is not mortified, she is lacking in her duty.

What is the source of offences against the Rule and against one’s vows? What is the source of the laxity of some communities? It is the fact that mortification has not been practiced or maintained. The mortification God asks of us is the precise observance of our Rule, its practices, its customs and the recommendations made by our superiors. A Sister who is truly faithful in this way practices mortifications judiciously and with absolutely no danger of vanity. I believe that she could enter Heaven without passing through the fires of Purgatory!

There are many daily mortifications that a recollected and attentive soul does not let slip away. For example, we please God when we get up in winter at the appointed hour without lingering and turning over in bed.

We should control our senses. Unrestrained curiosity is an obstacle to prayer. If someone enters the house, do not look or ask who it is. As for the sense of taste, we can practice any number of mortifications without anyone noticing it. A Religious should never express a preference for a particular food. You should never hear a Religious talk about food. It shows a lack of an interior life. When she goes to meals, she should be humbled by the fact that this necessity is an act we have in common with animals, then she should remember how the saints have acted.

A Religious who allows herself to eat and drink whatever she wants will never have an interior life…”

A pic of her incorrupt body (132 years after her death!)

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