In this Edition:
- The blessed season of Lent
- The Community: Much activity
- The Monastery: Building project
- Website News
Dear Friends of Carmel,
Once again, we greet you during a holy season, a time of special graces, the blessed season of Lent. So many people think of this time of the liturgical year with a certain dread or dismal depression. Oh, how far these feelings are from the Church’s intentions as She comes to the season of Lent, with all its salutary practices.
WHY? Let us recall some of the reasons for our penances and fasts. We are told by Our Lord Himself and reminded by the Fathers of the Church, the Saints and many spiritual writers, that we must do penance for sin: our own sins and the sins of others. The small sufferings we voluntarily take upon ourselves also serve to call us to a greater purity and holiness of life, to conversion. As St. Paul tells us, God calls us to be Saints, every one of us! He calls us to strive for perfection and to “be imitators of God, as very dear children…” Most importantly, our observance of Lent is meant to draw us closer to God by our deeper meditation of and union with the sufferings and death Our Lord Jesus Christ. The sacrifice Our Lord made on Calvary was our redemption. Let us receive the graces of that redemption with loving gratitude and steadfast faith by embracing all the crosses God sends us that are meant to make us more like Christ and lead us to the joy and peace of His Resurrection.
HOW? Holy Mother Church instructs us how to do penance: fasting, almsgiving and prayer. Fasting: The laws of the Church regarding fasting may be found in the back of the liturgical calendar we offer on our web site, published by the Seraphim Company. Many of you have asked what Carmelites eat and how we keep the Lenten fast. Meat is not part of the Carmelite diet, and the Lenten observance commands that we also abstain from eating eggs or dairy products, except on Sunday. We know many lay people who devoutly keep a strict no-meat abstinence on all Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays during Lent. Almsgiving: “Hide your alms in the breast of the poor, and the alms itself shall pray for you.” (Eccl. 29:15) Prayer: The prayers of the Liturgy of the Lenten season are the best possible prayers. Spiritual reading and study give food for prayer. We cannot count how many of you have asked us about spiritual reading, and we always give our favorite sources for spiritual food and inspiration: Holy Scripture, My Imitation of Christ by Thomas a Kempis, Divine Intimacy, and during Lent a new book we now offer on our web site, On the Passion of Christ, also by Thomas a Kempis.
The Sisters celebrated with special happiness the Simple Profession of Vows of our senior novice, February 11, 2004, Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes. If possible, we love to schedule these important days in our Carmelite life to be on feasts of Our Blessed Mother, both to honor this great Queen of the Religious Life and to gain her unique and loving patronage.
At this time, “Community News” and “Building Project” are practically one thing. We look out our north window and see the daily progress as foundation, floor joists and walls are built before our eyes! Just today, our north window has been removed while the builders work on connecting our existing building to the addition. We do not let a day go by without thanking the good God and St. Joseph for the wonderful builders we have.
We continue to receive many letters, emails and calls from women all over the world who are interested in the contemplative Carmelite vocation. Keeping up with this correspondence is a growing challenge! One young lady from the Caribbean has been accepted. Another from Brazil, please God, will enter in the summer or fall of 2004. We are currently corresponding with a number of young ladies from Africa. And yes, a good number of possible vocations are from the United States.
Earlier this month, we were privileged to have all-night adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. After all the hammering and building noise stopped and the day’s work was finished, we had Heaven on earth! The peace of night’s silence in the Divine Presence can be compared to no other joy. Kneeling before Our Lord, we brought not only our own cares, but the cares, sorrows and burdens of all the Friends of Carmel. As well, during the days of the St. Joseph Novena before his feast day today, we have been remembering you in our prayers.
So many unexpected problems have surfaced since groundbreaking day, December 16th, that we cannot list them all. But the first interesting challenge presented itself in the form of an underground stream meandering right under the building site! As excavation progressed, our builders could see that special measures would need to be taken to protect the foundation from this constant flow of water. Other “challenges” continue to crop up, but our trust in St. Joseph has been rewarded over and over again.
We are amazed at the countless choices and decisions that go into a project like this. Things like proper lighting for the important sewing room, suitable cabinets for the kitchen and pantry, how to plan for a future guestroom, when to schedule the roofers who are volunteering their labor, what sort of doorknobs for the doors! The list goes on… Even though we have started building we still don’t have all the funds we need to complete the interior of this addition. Won’t you help us to be able to accept more vocations by donating to help finish the building?
Our web site continues to be of help to us in earning needed funds for the support of the Sisters and for the building project. It also continues to present its challenges! Those of you who visit often will notice that we are in the process of changing its format to make it easier to use, search, and shop. We are adding items very often and are excited about the response to our Patron Saint Medals. Saints most people have never heard of are among the medals we offer. The past weeks have brought requests for the patron Saint of adopted children (St. William of Rochester), of psychiatrists (St. Christina) and of people with headache trouble (our own St. Teresa of Avila).
We have added many new books to our site, answering the needs of First Communicants and those looking for appropriate gifts for this special occasion.
We are pleased that the Salerni sterling silver art has been so well received by visitors to our web site. These stunning works, as well as our other Religious Art, make perfect gifts, especially for weddings, anniversaries and graduations.
Our thanks and prayers for you always!
In Our Crucified Lord,
Your Carmelite Sisters