October 2008 Archives

1 catherine.jpgCATHERINE OF SIENA


          God: Do you know how these three virtues come to be? Think of a circle traced on the ground and in, the center of this circle, a three with a sprouting shoot. The three lives on the soil contained within this circle. If the tree was uprooted it would die. It would not be able to produce any fruit until it was replanted in the soil.


Now think of the soul as a tree that was made for love and that can live only with love. It is therefore indeed true that if the soul does not have divine love, which is perfect  charity, it would not know how to produce living fruit but only dead fruit. The root of the tree, that is to say the will, must be deeply rooted in self-knowledge because it is precisely this self-knowledge that unites it to me who, like a circle, am without beginning or end... You can turn round and round inside a circle finding neither its beginning nor end and remain within it. This knowledge of yourself and of me within yourself is found in the soil of true humility, which is as great as the surface of the circle, that is, as great as the knowledge of yourself united with me. If this were not so, there would be no circle without beginning or end: there would be a beginning since you would have begun to know all about yourself, but it would end in confusion, if this knowledge were not linked to me. The tree of charity is nourished in humility, and it puts forth from its side the shoot of discretion.  ~ Women Mystics of the Medieval Era (Catherine of Siena, 2003, pp. 90-91)





Take a few minutes to tell Jesus of your own struggles with humility. Review Clelia's Vow of Humility. What part of it speaks to you? What do you hear God calling you to do?





Father in heaven, Creator of all, look down upon your people in their moments of need, for you alone are the source of our peace. Bring us to the dignity which distinguishes the poor in spirit and show us how great is the call to serve, that we may share in the peace of Christ who offered his life in the service of all. We ask this through Christ our Lord. (CP Twenty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time p 630) 


730chrysologus.jpgTHE SAINTS SPEAK





          Why then, man, are you so worthless in your own eyes and yet so precious to God? Why render yourself such dishonour when you are honoured by him? Why do you ask how you were created and do not seek to know why you were made? Was not this entire visible universe made for your dwelling? It was for you that the light dispelled the overshadowing gloom; for your sake was the night regulated and the day measured, and for you were the heavens embellished with the varying brilliance of the sun, the moon and the stars. The earth was adorned with flowers, groves and fruit; and the constant marvellous variety of lovely living things was created in the air, the fields, and the seas for you, lest sad solitude destroy the joy of God's new creation. And the Creator still works to devise things that can add to your glory. He has made you in his image that you might in your person make the invisible Creator present on earth; he has made you his legate, so that the vast empire of the world might have the Lord's representative. Then in his mercy God assumed what he made in you; he wanted now to be truly manifest in man, just as he had wished to be revealed in man as in an image. Now he would be in reality what he had submitted to be in symbol.


          And so Christ is born that by his birth he might restore our nature. He became a child, was fed, and grew that he might inaugurate the one perfect age to remain for ever as he had created it. He supports man that man might no longer fall. And the creature he had formed of earth he now makes heavenly; and what he had endowed with a human soul he now vivifies to become a heavenly spirit. In this way he fully raised man to God, and left in him neither sin, nor death, nor travail, nor pain, nor anything earthly, with the grace of our Lord Christ Jesus, who lives and reigns with the Father in the unity of the Holy Spirit, now and for ever, for all the ages of eternity. Amen



MClelia2.jpgCLELIA PRAYS    


I am nothing; and You... you, O Jesus, know that unless my nothingness is enriched by Your divine power it cannot accomplish anything... Give me generosity, and I, assisted by Your power,... promise You heroic sacrifices. I will not cease offering all of them to You without exception. The more repugnance I feel in making certain sacrifices, the more I will seek these trials and sacrifices, which You ask of me. (Merloni, 1970, 370)



My God, to honor your bountiful mercy, I make to you a vow of humility:

  • I will never complain either interiorly or exteriorly about any treatment whatever which I receive whether from God or from creatures--rational or irrational. To nothing, nothing is owed and it never complains.
  • I will not speak of myself except for obedience, or charity, and never to satisfy myself, for any human goal. For obedience, for charity, when it would be of use to my neighbor.
  • I will not avoid saying things that mortify me, so long as these do not make the Superiors who listen to me uncomfortable, when it is intended by obedience and when I would not be failing in the fulfillment of my duties.
  • I will keep myself in spirit under everyone's feet, with the conviction of my nothingness, and in action making myself be the servant of all, when this is not hindered by the intention of obedience or by the practice of my duties.
  • I will be happy and jubilant to prove to Him my love by conquering my self-love in occasions that God will grant me.

O my God, grant that I may do it always with increasing generosity. (Merloni, 1970, p. 376-377)




MClelia2.jpg          I, Sister Clelia Merloni, Foundress of the Sisters Apostles of the Sacred Heart, not Zelatrices, having lived in the Congregation itself for 23 years, giving little edification to my Sisters in Religion because of my impetuous and suspecting nature.


          Not having directed my daughters in Jesus during my term as Superior with the even temper, humility and prudence that are so necessary for a General who must govern an Institute of about 500 Sisters scattered in houses throughout Italy, Austria and the two Americas, and not having had that tact and virtue for directing those poor Sisters who were always reproved by me, either justly or unjustly, according to my state of soul or nervous irritability in which I found myself... and furthermore, having borrowed the dowry that some of my Sisters had handed over to the Institute using it partly for the needs of the Institute and partly for works of charity but with the intention that when the Institute would be in better circumstances I would return, a little each year, the dowries spent (these grew to the total sum of 65,000 Lire),


          Whether it is because of my rash and incorrect behavior or because I drew on the capital of the dowries, it is understandable that some of the Sisters of the Institute must have referred this matter to the Sacred Congregation, and by order of the now deceased Cardinal Vives y Tuto, two Visitators were sent to examine the actual situation. Having examined everything, they removed me from office and handed over the government to a Sister who in the past had been the Vicaress General.


        Immediately upon hearing that they wanted to take the responsibility of the Institute away from me because of my ill health, I believed it and was grateful; but later when they removed the Councilors and replaced them with other Sisters who were anything but suitable, and even more when they changed the spirit of the Institute, I understood that this was not all done out of concern for my health but rather for motives which I was able to intuit but was not able to understand clearly at that time.


          Then, my nature rebelled against my spirit and a hateful revolt took possession of my poor soul. Notwithstanding this, I continued to pray always and to beg the Lord not to permit me to stain my soul with the serious guilt of hatred. 

~Mother Clelia's Letter to Padre Pio on November 22, 1920 in Book 12





          In this letter to Pade Pio, Clelia sketches in a few, brief words with broad strokes her feelings and the situation in which she finds herself. As we listen to her speak, it sounds as though she is going to confession, as she lays bare her soul, as well as she admits her faults and shortfalls.


"Not having directed my daughters in Jesus during my term as Superior with the even temper, humility and prudence that are so necessary ...and not having had that tact and virtue for directing those poor Sisters who were always reproved by me, either justly or unjustly ...


Her humility is more than evident as she reveals what she knows to be her faults and short-comings. She struggles to honor charity and not fall into sin, for she writes:


 "Then, my nature rebelled against my spirit and a hateful revolt took possession of my poor soul. Notwithstanding this, I continued to pray always and to beg the Lord not to permit me to stain my soul with the serious guilt of hatred. "


We see in her letter to Padre Pio, Clelia's great desire for truth and an understanding of God's action in her life. This desire for truth and her own simplicity reveal Clelia's rootedness in humility. Her Vow of Humility, found in the Clelia Prays section reveals Clelia deep understanding of this beatitude. 




  • Which of the words of Clelia touched me the most?
  • What do I understand poverty of spirit to mean?
  • How do I practice it?
  • Do I share who I am and what I am with others or do I just give the minimum in community?
  • What is the connection between this beatitude and my following of Jesus as an Apostle?




          My daughters, how tender is God's love for the humble soul! When Jesus sees a the humble soul in trial, he consoles her; when he finds her immersed in the knowledge of her true nothingness, he draws near and gives her a great abundance of graces and, to the degree that she humbles herself, he raises her toward glory, reveals to her his secrets and draws her gently to himself. My daughters, the more you descend in the abyss of your misery, the more God will lift you up in grace here below and to glory in heaven. When you, daughters, ask him something with humility of heart, be certain that your prayers will be well received. (SA 142) 


        Practice holy humility, my daughters, remembering always that humility is most useful in helping us bear all the trials of life in a Christian manner. The proud person can't bear anything, he becomes annoyed at and rebels against the cross; he doesn't want to understand that he, having surrendered to his impatience and wicked moods, deserves to suffer, that he needs to, and that suffering is from God who holds pride in horror. The humble person, on the contrary, accepts crosses willingly; she recognizes that, being a sinner, it is right that she suffer; that whatever she has to suffer is nothing compared to what she deserves... (SA 136)


          If I wish to obtain humility and to have it as a companion in my life, I must watch carefully so that nothing offends it in my thoughts, in my words, in my actions... Lacking humility in my thoughts, I made rash judgments. Lacking humility in my words, I offended a sister... Lacking humility in my actions I was haughty and spiteful. I was punished and humbled, and also obliged on my knees to ask pardon of the sister, such I did without hesitation, having realized that I acted unkindly. (WTR 485)




         In the passage from Corinthians Paul asks us to consider our own call, to be rooted in our own nothingness. Interestingly enough the word, humility, derives from the Latin word, humus, meaning earth or ground. So we are called to be grounded or rooted in the reality of our own nothingness. All that we are is gift. Of ourselves we have nothing but our sins! In the excerpt from Phililippians, Paul recommends that we have the same attitude of humility as Jesus who emptied himself and became as we are, so we might become as He is: Child of the Father and we, daughters and sons of God. This humility, this self-emptying, this kenosis, is seen pre-eminently on the cross when Jesus' side is opened and he empties himself, that is, blood and water flow out. He gives all He has to give, even in death, until there is no more to give.



1 Corinthians 1:26-30


Consider your own calling, brothers. Not many of you were wise by human standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. Rather, God chose the foolish of the world to shame the wise, and God chose the weak of the world to shame the strong, and God chose the lowly and despised of the world, those who count for nothing, to reduce to nothing those who are something, so that no human being might boast before God. It is due to him that you are in Christ Jesus...



Philippians 2: 3-11


Never act out of rivalry or conceit; rather, let all parties think humbly of others as superior to themselves, each of you looking to others' interests rather than your own. Your attitude must be that of Christ:


Though he was in the form of God

He did not deem equality with God

03 Jesus in Pittsburgh.jpgSomething to be grasped at.


Rather, he emptied himself

And took the form of a slave,

Being born in the likeness of men.


He was known to be of human estate,

And it was thus that he humbled himself,

Obediently accepting even death,

Death on a cross!


Because of this,

God highly exalted him

And bestowed on him the name

Above every other name.


So that at Jesus' name

Every knee must bend

In the heavens, on the earth,

And every tongue proclaim

To the glory of God the Father:






beatitude1.jpgThe first step on the journey to the Heart of Jesus is the first beatitude:  Blessed are the poor in  spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven. Helen Doohan explains in The New Dictionary of Catholic Spirituality:

"Poor in spirit" represents those empty, rejected, abused, who accept life's difficulties without bitterness, waiting for God's deliverance. They stand without pretense before the Lord, realizing their lack of self-sufficiency. (Doohan, 1993, p. 81)

What a challenge it is to "accept life's difficulties without bitterness!"  Even harder is the waiting! At least if we know what's going to happen we can prepare ourselves, but how often all we can do is see the next good step. What do we do? We wait. When all we know is darkness, we wait for God to reveal his will; we wait for God to show us where he wants us; we wait for God to lead us. This attitude of waiting on God reveals our need for God and our trust in Him. By this attitude we affirm clearly our total "lack of self-sufficiency." What is the promise? Blessed may you be if you know your need of God, "yours is the Kingdom of Heaven."


p0000001320.jpg          If we are to take Jesus seriously in the first beatitude, we must embrace the humility, which is of the essence of the poor in spirit. The challenge is to put on the mind and heart of Christ Jesus! Keep in mind the invitation given to us: Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Jesus calls us to enter his heart. His side was opened so we may enter. He invites us to enter into ever-deeper friendship with him. It is as if Jesus says to us: Make your home in me as I make mine in you.  The first step on the journey into the Heart of Jesus is to know our weakness, to know our own nothingness, to know our need for a Savior, to know our need to be loved by one who will never fail us.


      Blessed may you be if you know where to find the Pearl of Great Price, true treasure, real riches, in the Heart of Christ, then the Kingdom of heaven will be yours. This draws us to turn to Jesus for rest. Where do we find our rest? Where do we find the Kingdom of Heaven? In his Heart!