As we approach St. Catherine’s memorial, April 29, let us offer our prayers for her intercession to our Lord.
O God, you are beauty and wisdom, mystery and love. Touch the hearts of your Sisters and Nuns to flame for you and for your Church through the prayer and example of St. Catherine of Siena. We ask this grace through Jesus the Christ, our Lord. Amen
(Public domain image by artist Rutilio di Lorenzo Manetti (1571–1639), St. Catherine of Siena Writing. Prayer adapted from Magnificat, v16, n2, p339)
On the feast day of St. Juan Diego this prayer to Our Lady of Guadalupe, found on EWTN, has been slightly tweaked as an intercession for our women religious.
Our Lady of Guadalupe,
make intercession for holy Church,
protect the sovereign Pontiff,
help all our Sisters and Nuns who invoke you in their necessities,
and since you are the ever Virgin Mary
and Mother of the true God,
obtain for them from your most holy Son
the grace of keeping our faith,
of sweet hope in the midst of the bitterness of life,
of burning charity, and the precious gift
of final perseverance. Amen.
St. Michael the Archangel, defend and protect our Sisters and Nuns in this time of great danger in Iraq. As they are persecuted for their faith, and in their fleeing from Islamic extremist, keep anger and hatred from damaging their souls. Help them to be a candle in this chaotic night of oppression that they may draw to themselves other Christians who, for the love of Jesus, have lost everything, fleeing genocide. Guard the souls of our Sisters and Nuns should they face martyrdom, and let their blood, and that of all those murdered for the love of Christ, strengthen the resolve of all who remain in exodus. Beloved St. Michael bring our holy women to safety in this world, and for those martyred in the name of Jesus, the Nazarene, guide them quickly home into His loving embrace. Amen.
UPDATE: a post from the Editor of the Catholic Channel, Elizabeth Scalia, has these wonderful words to offer prayer for all those being persecuted by ISIS, http://www.patheos.com/blogs/theanchoress/2014/07/22/the-isis-effect-flattened-everything-is-gone/
(An earlier prayer http://www.patheos.com/blogs/prayergardens/2014/06/tuesdays-prayer-for-sisters-and-nuns-in-mosul-and-throughout-iraq/)
“A beginner must think of herself as one setting out to make a garden in which her Beloved Lord is to take his delight…“
St. Teresa of Avila was a Spanish Carmelite nun and mystic who was an affectionate extrovert of great joy and determination. By her own admission, she tells of her exploits as a teenager with a great attraction to fashion, perfume, and boys! Her poor widowed father in exasperation and fear for her virtue sent her to an Augustinian nunnery, and once there her life found a different kind of fertile soil.
Often sick in her early years she did not labor in gardens as required of the other Sisters, but she did convalesce in them and found them a source of meditation and insight. It wasn’t until she was around forty and having regained her health that her spiritual development really began to take root and at forty-seven she began writing about the practice of prayer.
Part of her early writings on spiritual doctrine depicts different stages or grades of a life in prayer in metaphorical terms taken from watering a garden, known as The Four Waters. The water being how God reaches the soul and our soul is the garden to be grown for his delight. A very simple description of prayer is that God plants the garden that we grow through prayer which is equated with different ways of irrigation:
- We draw the water from a well using a rope and then carry the water to our garden; this is an active form of praying, using one’s faculties and reaping what benefits one can through ones own efforts. We work at this and with diligence unless what God had planted withers and dies.
- Next, to simplify the flow a water-wheel is used which has dippers. As the wheel turns the water is poured into a trough that hydrates our garden. St. Teresa describes this stage as a point when the faculties of the soul begin to recollect itself, bordering on the supernatural, and this enjoyment brings greater delight. Here we have learned to increase the flow of prayer and are aware of our growing with God.
- The flow of irrigation is then expanded by means of a stream. This form of prayer is more mystical, requiring little human effort with all the faculties focused on God. At this third way of watering the garden of our souls, we have a flow of prayer that moves steadily throughout our day. We can dip into the stream when needed to water an area of our garden that the Holy Spirit has brought to our attention.
- In the final method of watering our garden we accept the rain God sends without our own effort. This is called the Prayer of Union and is totally infused by God, a mystical action taking place in varying degrees. It is the ecstasy of prayer, those brief and unexpected moments when the beauty of our garden is so pleasing to God that our senses are overwhelmed as God rains upon us to cool our fervor and enhance the flowering soul.
In her book, The Way of Perfection, St. Teresa gives a much more expansive and beautiful explanation of the gardens of our souls.
 Teresa of Avila, The Book of my Life, Part Two, The Four Waters. There are many translations available on St. Teresa’s writings.