In this Edition:
- A Christian Advent and Christmas
- Valuable Gifts of Faith
- Community News
Dear friends of Carmel—
The days of November are quickly coming to their end, and with them, those familiar emotions of happy anticipation of the upcoming celebrations of Thanksgiving, Advent, and Christmas. But what is also familiar is a sort of conflict of emotions—isn’t it true? Secular society, and its heavily commercial influence, pulls people into a worldly, month-long party with pretty much constant revelry and merry-making. For the Christian, that urging of the commercial world presents a conflict, since they know that Advent and Christmas have basically nothing to do with what society has done to it. The galloping pace of planned events and festive get-togethers and shopping and all the rest can remind one of a runaway horse. And one might hear a distant voice within calling, “Whoa, Nellie!”…to one’s own soul, and to all the world… Or is it the voice of Holy Mother Church that is calling to us?
Let us heed that call, pausing to observe the November remembrance of the Holy Souls in Purgatory, as well as the true spirit of a joyful, but penitential Advent season. In these final November days, then, let us not fail to keep in mind the souls of our “brethren who have passed out of this life” and who suffer in Purgatory. We are urged by charity to pray for these souls—for the hastening of their purification and deliverance from their sufferings. We must understand that these souls now share in the sufferings of their crucified Master, having failed to do so during life—which would have been the expiation of their sins. They must now, after death, “fill up what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ” (Col. 1:24) in their own lives. Who better understands this cost of winning Heaven than the Virgin Mary, our model in prayer for these souls? She stood at the foot of the Cross and offered with Her Son that mighty and unsurpassed sacrifice. We recall the words from the Gospel addressed to Our Lady: “Thy soul a sword shall pierce, that out of many hearts, thoughts may be revealed.” “Our Lady is Queen of Purgatory, and her titles are not empty names but indicative of the nature and measure of her sufferings. It is true that she shares the glory of her Son in the measure that she participated in His Passion. May the sword that pierced her most sweet soul reveal to many hearts the depths of His sorrows and their fellowship in the Holy Souls.” (from The Divine Crucible of Purgatory)
With Vespers this coming Saturday, we begin the new season of Advent, as well as a new liturgical year. Like many families, the family of our religious community blesses and lights the Advent wreath, contemplating the symbols of the lighted candles and the circle of evergreens—Christ, the Light of the World and the eternal, living God. In Carmel, we light this wreath at each Hour of our Divine Office. It is the privilege of the youngest Sister first to light the wreath, which is blessed by the Prioress. Advent, as explained in our Catholic Doctrine and Devotions pages, is a time of prayerful preparation for the two-fold coming of Christ—the first in Bethlehem, the second at the end of time. Study of the sermons of the Fathers of the Church reveals that these holy men used this time before Christmas to preach and teach about the end of time and the life of the world to come. Once again we recommend the book The End of the Present World and the Mysteries of the Future Life, in which Father Charles Arminjon teaches of these matters that are of such deep interest to us all. As the best spiritual books will do, it offers, in addition to “information” about its topic, excellent counsel for leading a holy and devout life rooted in the love of God. We have the testimony of St. Therese about this book, who valued the reading of it as one of the greatest graces of her life, so much did it influence the direction of her life.
Let us attend, then, to the words of our Divine Master Himself, who cautioned those He loves: “But take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be overburdened with self-indulgence and drunkenness and the cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly, as a snare. For come it will upon all who dwell on the face of all the earth. Watch, then, praying at all times…” (Luke 21:34-36) A life of dedicated prayer, in whatever vocation to which the good Lord has called us, will give us security and joy in this “vale of tears”.
It’s a good thing folks started ordering early for Christmas giving because our growing list of rosary orders is keeping our days full—and will probably do so all the way until just before the feast. We marvel at the unique choices people make as they “Build a Rosary” on our website, combining beads, medals and Our Father bead “options” admirably! Your creative genius is inspiring! But this is just what we hoped for when presenting our Rosary Gallery, where we “showcase” not only our own ideas, but the splendid results of people creating gifts for loved ones—and sometimes for themselves. So choose from the Gallery, either complete rosaries, or just the parts of those you like, and make yet another unique rosary, to be treasured for years to come. It is a joy for us to make them for you.
New books include two special Christmas ones for children: Easy-to-Make Nativity Scene and Nativity Stained Glass Coloring Book. There are several other Stained Glass Coloring Books available too. Please also see our other Christmas books, especially Father Weiser’s fascinating and enjoyable Catholic Christmas Book. We wish to recommend to Third Order Carmelites and other generous souls who pray the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the newly re-issued Living the Little Office. Though written by a teaching religious Sister, all will find familiar the challenges she faced in her busy, dedicated life. Prayer threatened to become routine and quickly carried out so that pressing duties could be pursued and accomplished. But these reflections on the Psalms and other elements of the Office will lend helpful guidance for more fruitful prayer.
We could go on telling you about all the wonderful books and other very nice things on our website that make excellent gifts—not empty tokens, but beautiful gifts of faith that have more value than most of the standard gifts that people receive at Christmas.
Our thanks to those who sent greetings and prayers for our young vocations: Sisters who have received the Holy Habit in the last few months. One of the significant points of the Clothing Ceremony is the very first one of all: the entire community is assembled in the cloister before processing into the choir. The bell is rung, and at this signal the postulant approaches to kiss the feet of the crucifix held out to her by the Sister just above her in rank. The ceremony is reminiscent of her entrance into the monastery enclosure when she steps through the door, met by the Prioress holding out to her a crucifix and saying, “Passio Christi, conforta me! Passion of Christ, strengthen me!” Christ Jesus is all things to the consecrated religious, and the Clothing Ceremony emphasizes this through the prayers and blessings of the Priest who represents Our Lord. The Priest blesses each part of the habit: tunic, cincture, scapular and mantle. (Since the white veil is temporary, it is not blessed; only the black veil of the final profession is blessed.) The graces received on our Clothing Day remain with us always.
The Sisters’ sewing skills were challenged with the recent project of the making of a special banner for the Feast of Christ the King. They continue working on various vestment and altar works. Canning season is at last completed, and our Kitchen Sister mentioned the other day how satisfying it was to preserve all the wonderful produce from summer. She said it all reminded her of the farmers of old in her rural Ohio, storing up the harvest for the coming winter. The extraordinarily long summer kept the food coming long past the regular time, and Sister is ready for a rest! The last bit of canning was for our traditional Thanksgiving cranberry chutney—made with apples, walnuts, celery and raisins. Quite a combination…and delicious.
That ends our bit of news from Carmel. Please know of our continued prayers for you. May Our Lord guide our steps in this holy Advent season, leading us to the peace of Bethlehem.
Your Carmelite Sisters