Saint Benedict Center's main site is An online Journal edited by the Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, Richmond, New Hampshire.

Thursday, February 18, 2010


By Sister Marie Thérèse

Dear Friends,

As you can see from the picture, we are delighted to have our new wood stove at our convent. Besides the stove being donated, the beautiful hearth was built with some of the funds that you provided by your generous donations to the convent. A large portion of the wood was gathered by our brothers from the trees that had been damaged in the ice storm of last year. The rest of the wood for our winter supply was donated by a generous family; so it is not costing us anything to run our wood stove. Finally, we have met the challenge of being able to heat our entire convent with the wood stove and the aid by a few fans. So our furnace room has cooled off and we are now saving many hundreds of dollars per month in heating bills. Deo gratias!

The wood stove has benefits beyond just heating our convent. As one of the brothers said after he finished stacking our woodpile, “You’ll have many meditations with your new wood stove.” He was right. You’ll have to excuse me, Dear Reader, for sharing my Christmas meditations with you during this post-Christmas time, but I promise to lead you into Lent and Passiontide with them. The following is a poem in which I found an eloquent exposition of all the aspects of a hot fire, and it is what I have been using for my meditations in preparation for Christmas and for the twelve days of the feast. It was written by an English martyr, Saint Robert Southwell, S.J. (1560-1595).

The Burning Babe

As I in hoary winter’s night

Stood shivering in the snow,

Surprised I was with sudden heat,

Which made my heart to glow;

And lifting up a fearful eye

To view what fire was near,

A pretty babe, all burning bright,

Did in the air appear;

Who, scorched with excessive heat,

Such floods of tears did shed,

As though His floods should quench His flames

Which with His tears were bred:

“Alas!” quoth He, “but newly born,

In fiery heats I fry,

Yet none approach to warm their hearts

Or feel My fire, but I!

My faultless breast the furnace is,

The fuel wounding thorns;

Love is the fire, and sighs the smoke,

The ashes shame and scorn;

The fuel Justice layeth on,

And Mercy blows the coals,

The metal in this furnace wrought

Are men’s defiled souls,

For which, as now on fire I am,

To work them to their good,

So will I melt into a bath

To wash them in My blood!”

With this He vanished out of sight,

And swiftly shrank away;

And straight I called unto mind

That it was Christmas-day.

Because the wood stove needs frequent attention, I find myself drawn to it in my thoughts and then in my steps. It needs to be checked and fueled, and perhaps the heat generated is so great that it needs help to be dissipated throughout the house. I can’t help but think that there are two fire boxes in our house, not counting the obsolete oil furnace. One warms our bodies and the other warms our hearts. Of course, that “other” fire box is the tabernacle. So I have told the sisters that if they get up in the night they should put another piece or two of wood on the fire and also make a visit to the Blessed Sacrament.

It is unlikely, Dear Reader, that you have a tabernacle and a wood stove in your home, but the burning fire box that you should have can be found right in your own heart. Yes, it needs attention and fuel. Many of the saints felt that fire physically in their breasts. Saint Philip Neri, for example, would wear his cassock unbuttoned at the top to try to cool himself, and once, overcome by the excessive heat, he jumped into an icy pond which immediately began to boil.

Lent is coming, if it isn’t already here when you read this. This is an excellent time to clean out the furnace in your heart and, with Our Lady’s help, light a fire using the flames in Her own Immaculate Heart and fed by the acts of love and sacrifices you will make during Lent. As Our Lord said, “I have come to cast fire upon the earth, and what will I but that it be kindled?” A blessed Lent to you, Dear Reader. Thank you for helping to make these special meditations possible by your generous donations.

Email Sister Marie Thérèse at

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