In this Edition:
- Death and Advent
- Website News-Preparation for Christmas
- Community News
Dear Friends of Carmel,
There is something about this month of November that urges silent reflection. All of nature is quiet and asleep. The color of life as seen in trees, blooming meadows and fields—is all gone. The landscape is gray and brown—or perhaps even covered in white! Holy Church, always in harmony with God’s providence and creation, dedicates this month to praying for the dead. And how can we do so without thinking of our own life—and our own death—which is meant to free us from the bonds of earth and bring us into God’s presence forever? Does not St. Francis say in his beautiful prayer, “it is in dying that we are born to eternal life”?
The thought of death is not, and must not be, a morbid thing. No. Correctly seen, this life of time, given by God, is only temporary and but the brief, passing trial that must bring us to eternity. Our Lord and His Saints teach us this incessantly. And this is where our short book review for this month fits in quite nicely. The book is The Art of Dying Well (1620) by St. Robert Bellarmine, S. J. Nothing sad or gloomy about this book! Here is what Sister has to say about it: “St. Robert was a brilliant and busy man. His duties as a Cardinal of the Church filled every moment of his day. And yet he still made time for his many and famous works of charity, not the least of which was to write this book for the Faithful of generations to come. The book’s current publisher adds this phrase to the title given by the Saint: (Or How to be a Saint, Now and Forever). That is a good little addition, since St. Robert’s whole message is, “If you want to die well, live well.” He presents all the solid practices of devotion given by the Church as means to holiness of life—and its happy result: peace! I love the practical advice he gives, with frequent examples from the Gospels and lives of the Saints.” —Sister J.
These are good thoughts to lead us into the liturgical season of Advent. For in this season of penitential, yet joyful anticipation, the Church continues these thoughts, as She presents for our reflection the coming of Christ Our Lord, not only in time, but also at the end of time. So is it not good to think about our own place in God’s providential plan, and perhaps to examine our lives to see just how well we are corresponding to that loving plan? And when we do, let us practice that virtue so greatly needed in our time—hope. Remember what hope means? It is good to read the consoling definition of this essential virtue as we read it so long ago in our catechism:
Hope is the virtue by which we firmly trust that God, Who is all-powerful and faithful to His promises, will in His mercy give us eternal happiness and the means to obtain it.
It is an infused theological virtue, received at Baptism together with sanctifying grace and having the possession of God as its primary object. It belongs to the will and makes a person desire eternal life, which is the heavenly vision of God, and gives one the confidence of receiving the grace necessary to reach heaven…
The Season of Advent is THE season of hope. To assist with your observance of this holy season, we are now offering Advent Calendars and an Advent Wreath. With the wreath is a prayer leaflet that explains the custom and use of the Advent Wreath, as well as prayers for all four weeks of this season.
While keeping the spirit of Advent’s penitential preparation for Christmas, we also know the importance of preparing joyfully for the Christmas customs of greeting, gift-giving and decorating in honor of the Savior’s birth. Even back in August we had people already asking us about our Christmas cards and ornaments, and also about ordering special rosaries for Christmas gifts. And as so many of you request each year our recommendations, we include these in this newsletter for you.
One of the pleasures and privileges of our efforts with our sacramental/gift web site is working with dedicated and talented artisans, many of them overseas. Sometimes, it is still only possible to find the best traditional religious art in Europe. We have found this to be true with our crucifixes from France and religious medals from both Germany and France. And now, we are able to offer fine woodcarvings from the wooded, Dolomite-Alpine region of Italy. From them, we have at last found an image of the Infant of Prague we can be, and are, proud to present. An image of the Holy Infant should convey all the traits of the innocent Child, together with all the wisdom of the supreme and omnipotent King—and this one does. Woodcarvings of Guardian Angels and St. Therese are also available, while those of the Blessed Mother and the Saints will follow as the weeks and months pass. In woodcarvings for Christmas, the charming Angel Bells and Bell Ornaments will make perfect and very special gifts for family and friends. We know that many people collect Angel art of all sorts, as well as those who collect bells. So these lovely artistic pieces will make wonderful additions for collectors. We knew once a venerable old lady who collected religious art in the form of eggs—a special art of Russia and many Eastern European countries. She would have loved our Egg Nativity Ornament, which sold out so quickly last year and is now again available. You will see other ornamental Nativity pieces on our site, which are perfect for decorating and provide a constant remembrance of “the Reason for the Season”. We are again offering the colorful and imaginative Cloisonné Christmas Ornaments, which were admired so much last year. Another exquisite ornament, new this year, is dedicated to Our Lady of Good Counsel. Since Christmas is called the Feast of Light, we have added the True Vine Christmas Lantern, ideal for the Season and for all year, as well as a special Sacred Suncatcher to celebrate the Nativity. Please see all the other charming and festive decorations for Christmas.
To our Relic Badges, we at last are adding St. Francis of Assisi. First class relics of this highly beloved Saint are rare these days, but after much searching and inquiry we were able to find one. The small piece of cloth on this relic badge is touched to this authentic relic of the bones of St. Francis. Appropriately for the Christmas Season, but suitable for all times, is our new prayer chaplet in honor of the Holy Family. We think you will really like this chaplet, which is both simple and doctrinal, and uses the beautiful liturgical texts from the Feast of the Holy Family.
We mentioned in our last newsletter we would have a Clothing Ceremony, and so we did. Our young postulant changed her black attire for the brown of Carmel’s Holy Habit. And it was amid the joy of her new Community and friends, as well as that of all of her immediate family, who traveled many miles to be here.
Many of you know that we have in our Community a Sister from England. For ten long years we have been sifting through and carefully observing all the immigration policies: religious worker visa, “Green Card” and all the rest. And for ten long years Sister has patiently put up with our teasing on the Fourth of July and other times…of course, she has teased back just as much. So it was a happy day, and a relief to Sister, to have it all done with when on November 16th Sister became a citizen of the United States. We planned a little something special for recreation for her that evening. “All’s well that ends well!”
All news from Carmel can’t always be good news, for the real world hands out to everyone headaches and heartaches. And as with all shares in the Holy Cross that the Divine Master sends us, both great and small, we know that “This, too, will pass!” Without going into too many details, we have been planning and working for months to enhance and beautify our Mother of Mount Carmel shrine, which greets all who enter through Carmel’s front gate. Since day-one, we have had nothing but trouble, obstacle, mischief! We had thought it not to be such a great undertaking, and indeed it shouldn’t have been… But knowing that it is to honor the Mother of God and of Carmel, we push forward. We realize this all sounds a bit mysterious, and to make it more mysterious yet, sometime we will have to tell you about Carmel’s “Law of Proximity”! This “law” explains a great deal as to just why things done for God often have about them…let us say…challenge and difficulty. We do hope next time to have photos of a completed shrine. Meanwhile, with the tremendous help of three very patient gentlemen, skilled in masonry and carpentry, the Sisters work with stain, paint, grout sealer and all the rest to complete the work.
The other news is that your Sisters of Carmel are making rosaries. Many rosaries. A rosary makes a wonderful Christmas gift, and that is why we find ourselves once again, as every year about this time, elbow-deep in rosary wire, chain and beads, and nearly always with rosary pliers in our hands. Happily, our young Sisters have picked up the technique and “perfectionist” spirit for making the rosaries and chaplets. Two of the veteran rosary Sisters make the connecting bows for all of the rosaries; then, the real perfectionist Sister who organizes the whole process meticulously checks each rosary, putting any necessary final touches on each, before they are carefully packaged and shipped to all corners of the world. It is our privilege to put into the hands of so many of the faithful the Holy Rosary, through which, as Our Blessed Mother told St. Dominic, she “will one day save the world”.
Be assured of our prayers for you, the Friends of Carmel, during these coming weeks which bring us to holy Bethlehem.
Your Carmelite Sisters