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The World is In Flames

August 9, 2013 by  
Filed under Carmelite Spirituality, Meditations, Prayers of Saints

In the Discalced Carmelite Propers, today is the Feast of St Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein) Teresa Benedicta 2who was martyred during the Nazi persecution. At a time close to her death she penned an ominous reflection on the state of the world and of our need to abandon all to Christ. Though we are not in a world war now, we are no less in a battle for the soul of our country. On the stage of the world, in the past 100 years, more Christians have been martyred for their faith than in all previous centuries combined. Her words are worthy of reflection:

The world is in flames. The struggle between Christ and Antichrist rages openly, and so if you decide for Christ you can even be asked to sacrifice your life.

Contemplate the Lord who hangs before you on the wood because he was obedient even to the death of the Cross. He came into the world not to do his own will, but that of the Father. And if you wish to be the spouse of the Crucified, you must renounce completely your own will and have no other aspiration than to do the will of God.

Before you the Redeemer hangs on the Cross, stripped and naked, because he chose poverty. Those who would follow him must renounce every earthly possession.

Stand before the Lord who hangs from the Cross with his heart torn open. He poured out the blood of his heart in order to win your heart. In order to follow him in holy chastity, your heart must be free from every earthly aspiration. Jesus Crucified must be the object of your every longing, of your every desire, of your every thought.

The world is in flames: the fire can spread even to our house, but above all the flames the Cross stands on high, and it cannot be burnt. The Cross is the way which leads from earth to heaven. Those who embrace it with faith, love, and hope are taken up, right into the heart of the Trinity.

The world is in flames: do you wish to put them out? Contemplate the Cross: from the open Heart the blood of the Redeemer pours, blood which can put out even the flames of hell. Through the faithful observance of the vows, you make your heart free and open; and then the floods of that divine love will be able to flow into it, making it overflow and bear fruit to the furthest reaches of the earth.

Through the power of the Cross you can be present wherever there is pain, carried there by your compassionate charity, by that very charity which you draw from the Divine Heart. That charity enables you to spread everywhere the Most Precious Blood in order to ease pain, save, and redeem.

The eyes of the Crucified gaze upon you. They question you and appeal to you. Do you wish seriously to renew your alliance with Him? What will your response be? ‘Lord, where shall I go? You alone have the words of life.’ Ave Crux Spes Unica!

cf Meditation III.2 on the “Elevation of the Cross, September 14, 1939 Ave Crux, Spes Unica [Hail Cross, Only Hope]” Copyright ICS Publications. Permission is hereby granted for any non-commercial use, if this copyright notice is included. Maintained by the Austrian Province of the Teresian Carmel


Art for this post The World is In Flames: Passport photo of St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein), unknown photographer, between circa 1938 and circa 1939, PD-US author's life plus 70 years or less, Wikimedia Commons.

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About Dan Burke

Dan is the President of the Avila Foundation, the parent organization of, the Avila Institute for Spiritual Formation, Divine Intimacy Radio and Divine Intimacy Radio - Resources Edition, Into the Deep Parish Programs, the Apostoli Viae (Apostles of the Way) Community, and the FireLight Student Leadership Formation Program, author of the award-winning book, Navigating the Interior Life - Spiritual Direction and the Journey to God, Finding God Through Meditation-St. Peter of Alcantara, 30 Days with Teresa of Avila, Into the Deep, Living the Mystery of Merciful Love: 30 Days with Thérèse of Lisieux, and his newest book The Contemplative Rosary with St. John Paul II and St. Teresa of Avila. Beyond his "contagious" love for Jesus and His Church, he is a grateful husband and father of four, the Executive Director of and writer for EWTN's National Catholic Register, a regular co-host on Register Radio, a writer and speaker who provides online spiritual formation and travels to share his conversion story and the great riches that the Church provides us through authentic Catholic spirituality. Dan has been featured on EWTN's Journey Home program and numerous radio programs.

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  • LizEst

    Beautiful–not the state of the world, but how St. Teresa Benedicta expresses this here! Thank you for this post, Dan.

  • “And if you wish to be the spouse of the Crucified, you must renounce completely your own will and have no other aspiration than to do the will of God.”

    Just minutes ago on the Marian Father’s site, I read that Jesus told Saint Faustina, “The bride must resemble her Betrothed.”

    Both of these quotes, I know Jesus is speaking to me. I finally started the Marian Consecration in “33 Days to Morning Glory” for September 8. And today, the 4th day I was a little frightened by the reflection. This total gift of self, I’ve longed for it! Yet this morning, I feared it. Why did I fear it? Because I realized the enormity a total gift of self entails?

    Oh Lord what do You want of me? Help me surrender all that I am to You! You are everything to me! Yet often I struggle to do Your will even in the smallest acts in my life. Help me to trust in You. To overcome my fears and throw myself into You gentle, loving embrace. Oh Lord I don’t know how to do this. But You do. Please help me! For I am nothing without You!

    • LizEst

      Beautiful prayer, Mary. You need not fear the total gift of self. Our Blessed Mother did not know all that being the Mother of God would entail when she gave her Fiat, her yes, to the Lord. Wisely, God does not always tells us what He has in mind.

      To be sure, we must all embrace the cross…that includes the Church as well, for the Church is the Bride of Christ, too. So, we’re all in this together. You don’t walk alone. Do not lean on your understanding but put your trust in Him. He won’t ask of you more than you can give, for He knows what you are made of. And, if the Cross becomes so heavy that you feel you can’t take another step, He will give you the extra strength you need to bear it. Do not fear. He is with us always.

  • Camila

    Dan, this is absolutely stunning. What I find so attractive of the saints is how they just give it all, and hold back nothing for themselves. They just literally abandon themselves into God. No matter the cost, the pain, the sorrow, the inconvenience, the injustice, they look at none of this. They have eyes only for their God, their crucified God. St. Teresa gives her heart to God and He takes it into the burning furnace of Love of His. Oh Dan, I want to be like that.

  • walker_percy

    Do countries have souls?

    • Nope – figure of speech that represents all of the hearts, minds, and collective beliefs and values of those in the U.S. Also, just to avoid causing you unnecessary worry, the world is not actually on fire. This too is a literary device. Blessings

      • LizEst

        Why am I reminded of Scripture? Ha! “I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing!” (Luke 12:49).

      • walker_percy

        I’m not too worried about the world being in flames, except maybe during the dry season. So the battle for the country’s soul so to speak would be a battle to convince individuals, then.

        • To bring them to know and love Christ, our only hope.

          • walker_percy

            Thanks. Seeking clarity regarding the political boundary you mentioned. And I’ll note from your post that the battle transcends those boundaries as well.

  • $1650412

    In this kind of reflection is the most natural response is to desire martyrdom?

    • Yes, but then you think better of it and just go and get a hamburger for lunch.

      • Just thought you needed to lighten up a bit. Your kids still need you and so does your husband. 🙂

        • LizEst

          …and you think that can’t be a martyrdom? Ha! Just kidding!

          • $1650412

            Dan, I am not made for martyrdom- just a hangnail and I am more like Job’s wife than the Maccabees’ mom!

          • LizEst

            Hey Jo–What happened to the hair shirts we were going to get last year?!! Ha!!!

          • $1650412

            I think the Lord called me on that one in other ways— probably a little less harsh and a little more permanent, but then again sometimes I can’t distinguish between penance and old age….you see the need here for a Spiritual Director, right?

          • LizEst

            ?? No director??!!!
            ps. You don’t look old in your picture.

          • $1650412

            No, I don’t have one yet although I do get some spiritual direction from a priest a couple times a year, (he knows me and has been both a confessor and advisor over time- so it is very beneficial, but not exactly what I really need. I need something more regular and more often). So when I can soak in the insight here on rcsd, I also get a lot of consolation from the Lord- and keep my bearings in some measure! :o)

          • LizEst

            You are well on your way, Jo. If you’ve read Dan’s book, then you know that a spiritual director can assist you in identifying your blind spots…and that you can grow tremendously through the process of direction. Are you actively seeking a spiritual director?

          • ThirstforTruth

            Yes, it is an amusing comparison…but truth be told, it
            is where the Cross exists for most of us…a sort of white martyrdom performed in the daily duties of wife and mother. Which is not a laughing matter ( I agree, a sense of humor does help to fuel our vocation) but a sanctifying matter.

  • Terese10

    The cross can’t be burnt. That speaks to me. So many things seem messed up, in and outside of myself, but in the cross will be victory.

    Not sure how a normal, not religious person, can “renounce every earthly possession” however. Not very practical.

    • LizEst

      Terese10-We renounce every earthly possession by renouncing our attachment to them. In other words, we do need to have things in our lives that help us in the work God has given us to do; but, we renounce our attachment to them so that God, and our neighbor because of God, are our focus not our possessions. God bless you, Terese.

      Per Crucem ad Lucem (Through the Cross to the Light [of Christ] )

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