Saturday, 26 May 2018

Chartres 2018: Meditations (1)

Over the next few days and weeks I will be posting the English translations of the meditations provided for the Chartres pilgrimage.

The theme of this year's meditations is St Joseph: Father and Servant

This seems particularly apt to me, as I believe that a major crisis in the modern world is a crisis of paternity. Many of our spiritual as well as our familial fathers no longer now how to exercise their paternity. St Joseph is a good model for us all.

The first day of the pilgrimage was also under the patronage of St Teresa of Avila, and the first meditation invites us to reflect on the relationship between St Teresa and St Joseph.

Dear pilgrims,

Do you know who had a passionate love to, and an unconditional trust in Saint Joseph? Who was at the origin of devotion to him that has spread all over the world?

Well, that person was Saint Teresa of Avila! That's why we chose her as Patron Saint of this first day of the pilgrimage.

Born in the early sixteenth century, she was said to be very pretty, deeply intelligent, of a fiery temperament, with a talented pen, a delicious sense of humour and a wonderful wit. She left the world to enter Carmel at the age of 20. At the age of 40, she was to be converted radically, to experience extraordinary mystical graces and to reform the male and female branches of the Carmelite Order with the help of St. John of the Cross. Canonized forty years after her death, she was to be the first woman proclaimed a Doctor of the Church, by Pope Paul VI.

All of that you probably knew already, but what you possibly didn’t know is the very close connection between this great Saint and Saint Joseph! This is what we will discover in this meditation.

It all started with an illness that lasted three years. But let her explain in what state she was: My extreme weakness cannot be described, for by this time I was nothing but bones... I remained in this condition for more than eight months, and my paralysis, though it kept improving, continued for nearly three years... For when I found that, while still so young, I was so seriously paralysed, and that earthly doctors had been unable to cure me, I resolved to seek a cure from heavenly doctors... I took for my advocate and lord the glorious Saint Joseph and commended myself earnestly to him. He came to my help in the most visible manner. This loving father of my soul, this beloved protector, hastened to pull me out of the state in which my body was languishing..”

Saint Joseph did more than simply healing Saint Teresa, he continued to watch over her throughout her life, because dangers did not fail to arise; especially during her many journeys.

One day when she was traveling to found a convent in Andalusia, she went through the defiles of the Sierra Morena. The drivers of the wagons lost their way and advanced imprudently along a passage so narrow that it was soon impossible to move forward or backward. St. Teresa and her companions remained suspended above the precipice; a slightest movement would cause them to fall down into the chasm.

Pray, my daughters!says the saint. “Let us ask God through the intercession of Saint Joseph that He would deliver us from this danger!

At the same moment, a voice like that of an old man cries to them with force: “Stop, stop! You are lost, if you go ahead.”

But how do we get out of this trouble?they ask.

Tilt your carts on this side, says the voice, “and turn back.”

They followed these instructions; the guides, to their great surprise, immediately found an excellent route and, full of gratitude to their saviour, sprang up on the side where he spoke to them, in order to thank him. Saint Teresa follows them with her eyes, she sees them running at full speed and searching in vain.

Really,” she says to her daughters, “I do not know why we let these good people go, for it is the voice of my father St. Joseph that we have heard, and they will not find him.

Saint Joseph is especially well known for his help in material difficulties. Saint Teresa has benefited from this more than once, as for example during the construction of her first convent where the work was stopped for lack of money to pay the workers: “Saint Joseph, my true father and lord, appeared to me and gave me to understand that money would not be lacking and I must make all the necessary arrangements. I did so, though I had not a farthing, and the Lord, in ways which amazed people when they heard of them, provided the money.”

This convent was naturally placed under the patronage of its benefactor, Saint Joseph. Finally, the whole Order of Carmel will come under his protection and take him as its Patron Saint in 1631.

In her autobiography, St. Teresa explains the deep reason for her devotion to St. Joseph and why she dedicated herself and her Order to him. “To other saints the Lord seems to have given grace to succour us in some of our necessities; but of Saint Joseph my experience is that he succours us in them all and that the Lord wishes to teach us that as He was Himself subject to him on earth (for, being His guardian and being called His father, he could command Him) just so in Heaven He still does all that he asks.

For St. Teresa, Saint Joseph is indeed the universal intercessor! Not only for diseases, bodily dangers, material necessities, but also and especially for the spiritual life. Even for prayer; and knowing that the whole life of a Carmelite is based on prayer (at the very least, two hours a day... ), we can trust the saint when she tells us: If anyone cannot find a master to teach him how to pray, let him take this glorious saint as his master and he will not go astray.

So, dear pilgrims, you now know whom to turn to for prayer or perseverance. Do not hesitate to ask a priest, a seminarian or a nun on the column to enlighten you, since this pilgrimage is especially under the patronage of St. Joseph!

To conclude this meditation on Saint Teresa of Avila, we will gladly let her exhort all of us, once again, to have a true devotion to Saint Joseph: “I wish I could persuade everyone to be devoted to this glorious saint, for I have great experience of the blessings which he can obtain from God... I only beg, for the love of God, that anyone who does not believe me will put what I say to the test.

Finally, those who would like to know more about the life of St. Teresa of Avila are strongly invited to read the beautiful meditation dedicated to her life at the website of Our Lady of Christendom.

In the meantime, let us remain, dear pilgrims, in silence for a few minutes to meditate on this magnificent life of St. Teresa of Avila, and ask her for all the graces we need, especially to increase in our souls love and devotion for Saint Joseph.


St Joseph: pray for us
St Teresa: pray for us

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