In this Edition:
- The Coming of the Holy Ghost
- Community News
Dear Friends of Carmel,
We wish to send our prayerful greetings as the Paschal season comes to a close. This holy season soon culminates, as you know, in the wondrous day of Pentecost. Holy Church cherishes with reverence the great Gift received upon that day and prepares for this Feast with an attitude of prayer and recollection, encouraging the observance of some type of novena in preparation (See the Novena to the Holy Ghost). God the Holy Spirit is the Source of all truth, all virtue, all genuine holiness. This year, the Feast of Pentecost takes on greater meaning for all of us here in Carmel, since we have spent many months contemplating and studying the beautiful doctrine of the Holy Spirit—through our sewing and embroidery! Yes, we recently completed new vestments in honor of the Holy Spirit to be worn on Pentecost. More about this further on in our letter; but let us first remember what our holy Faith teaches us about this Person of the Holy Trinity, Whose name we use often in our prayers, but perhaps with little reflection. In the Nicene Creed, we proclaim, “And I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and giver of life; Who proceeds from the Father and the Son; Who together with the Father and the Son is adored and glorified, Who spoke through the Prophets.”
Pope St. Leo the Great (5th century), wishing to emphasize the eternal plan and work of redemption in souls done by all Three Persons of the Holy Trinity, preached on the Feast:
The Coming of the Holy Ghost, Dearly Beloved, Who, on the fiftieth day after the Resurrection of the Lord, flowed down upon the Apostles and the Faithful, has consecrated the Festival that is reverenced this day throughout the whole world. They had awaited it in hope, for the Lord Jesus had promised He would come (Acts 1:8); not that He would then begin to dwell within the sanctified, but that He would then fill more abundantly, inflame more ardently, the hearts that were consecrated to Himself; increasing, not beginning, His gifts to them… For never was the divine majesty of the Holy Spirit separated from the Omnipotence of the Father and of the Son, and whatever has been done in the ordering of all things proceeded from the Providence of the Whole Trinity… Fourteen centuries later, the hidden Carmelite, Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity, exemplified the words of this great Doctor of the Church by striving ever to live in the company and under the direction of the her “Beloved Three” and cried out in her unforgettable prayer, “Oh Consuming Fire, Spirit of Love, descend within me and reproduce in me, as it were, an incarnation of the Word, that I may be to Him another humanity wherein He renews His Mystery.” St. Paul had set the standard by which all Christians must live: “For whoever are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God” (Romans 8:14), encouraging us that we may even exult in tribulations and sufferings, for hope is engendered thereby and made strong in souls, “because the charity of God is poured forth in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (5:5). St. Therese, echoing the Apostle, wrote, “All those who love God, always follow the movement of the Holy Spirit.” She knew by experience what our holy Father, St. John of the Cross stressed, that “The principal guide is the Holy spirit, who is never neglectful of souls” (Living Flame).
St. Augustine gloried in what the Holy Spirit is to the Church, saying that: “What the soul is to the body of man, the Holy Ghost is to the Body of Christ, which the Church is. What the soul does in all the members of one body, this the Holy Spirit does throughout the Church…” And many of the Church Fathers and Saints loved to study the multitude of names given to the Holy Spirit in Scripture and Sacred Tradition. Our Lord Himself spoke of “the Spirit of Truth”, “the Paraclete, the Advocate”, “Promise of the Father”. All of these names teach us and lift our minds and hearts with desire to know and love this majestic Spirit of God, Whom Jesus, Our Lord, assured us would “dwell with us, and be in us” (St. John 14:17).
This indwelling of the Holy Spirit in souls is often forgotten or ignored—even by devout souls. Happily, there are helpful writings about this wonderful and very practical truth of our Christian life. Books on our web site about the Holy Spirit deal especially this aspect and make excellent reading during this and all seasons of the liturgical year; indeed, this one truth well understood and lived is itself the spiritual life and progress to divine union. The Dominican, Father Bede Jarrett, in the preface of his book, wrote:
Hardly anything can render us more sensible of our worth and Christian dignity than does the teaching of Our Lord on the indwelling of the Spirit of God. The wonderful beauty of this teaching, while it deepens our acquaintance with His mysterious governance of the universe and reveals to us the hidden beauties of our soul’s life, should bring also its measure of comfort, for whatever makes us conscious of the intimacy of God’s dealing with us lessens life’s greatest trouble, its loneliness. (Little Book of the Holy Spirit)
All of this brings us back to our project of the Pentecost vestments. As in the past, this project was the joint gift and endeavor of both Priests and Sisters for the 40th Ordination Anniversary of the Father Superior of the Priests’ community and our spiritual director. The research, study, love and labor of us all produced something truly wonderful, so much so that even those of us who did the work, look at it in wonder. We well know that the good Lord helped us mightily! In a nutshell, the Fathers gave of their theological training and strong liturgical knowledge, while the Sisters provided creative sewing and embroidery ability. And ALL contributed the most important thing of all: loving generosity.
The vestment set is, simply enough, a catechism of the Holy Spirit. And what an excellent way to teach and to proclaim our Faith—in the time-honored way it has always been proclaimed—through “visual art”! The image of the dove representing the Holy Spirit is found on both the chasuble and the cope, one as ruling, the other as hovering lovingly over the world. Tongues of fire in bright rays flow forth from these images. The Holy Spirit inspires the writers of Scripture: the four Evangelists and the four major Prophets are appliquéd onto the cope. Symbols of the Holy Spirit adorn the entire set of vestments: the seven Gifts (Isaias 11:2-3), the twelve Fruits (Galatians 5:22-23), the eight Beatitudes (St. Matthew 5:3-10), as well as the seven Sacraments, and the many Virtues of Christian life.
We spoke above of the numerous titles given to the Holy Spirit and His devoted work in souls and in the Church. Some of the most beautiful of these titles are found in the magnificent liturgical hymn of the Pentecost Mass, Veni Sancte Spiritus. Sometimes called the “Golden Sequence,” it was composed sometime between the 10th and 12th centuries and is commonly regarded as one of the greatest masterpieces of sacred Latin poetry ever written. The words of this entire hymn grace nearly every piece of the vestment set, as you will see in the photos we share here. This hymn was a constant source of meditative prayer for us while we worked. Who would not be inspired by tender expressions such as these: “Come, Father of the Poor… best of Comforters… most blessed Light! Fill the inmost hearts of those who hope in Thee…” Please see our Catholic Doctrines and Devotions page for a full translation of this sublime hymn; and you may also wish to listen to it. Since it would not be possible to share with you the entire story of this project, which was such a privilege for us to carry out, we hope our photos along the left will give you some idea of it all.
One little humorous part of this beautiful project was about the fabric we used for it. We were fortunate to find good, strong velvet/crushed velvet in a stunning red color. As the months passed, we noticed on our habits tiny red sparkles when the light hit just right. At first, we thought this was just a leftover “something” from Christmas decorations. But as the sparkles endured long after Christmas, one of us finally hit on the source: the velvet! One of the Sisters referred to it as “The Red Badge of Courage”—since the endeavor we undertook, with its goal for Pentecost and especially the embroidery, was quite an ambitious one for practically beginner-digitizers! (Digitizing is the process of converting artwork to thread stitches to be embroidered by machine.) And let it be known: this was the work of the entire Community, even those who never sewed a stitch on it; since the regular life of the monastery had to carry on, with the daily tasks of cooking and cleaning. As well, each Sister contributed a critical eye, helpful insights, or fresh ideas of how to execute some particular challenging part. For example, the Sister who made the first excellent sketches of the doves can hardly sew a button on, but those sketches carried the most important symbol on the vestment. By the way, the digitizing of just that one emblematic bird was very painstaking, producing at first what looked far more like a penguin than a dove…
As Lent drew to a close and we were nearly finished with the vestment project, we ventured into a number of household repairs and a little bit of building. The dear brother of our Mother Prioress spent Lent and Easter Week in town, just for the purpose of helping the Sisters tackle these jobs. He built a wall at the end of our sewing room, with some sound-blocking materials, so that we can run our embroidery machine a bit less noisily! But once the wall was in place, the Sisters helped with the drywall work and the painting. In our next letter, we will share more about the building and remodeling projects at Carmel, including the work on our little forest hermitage.
As spring slowly comes to Colorado, we look to the gardens again—and all the work they need! This year, we are starting some rhubarb, in addition to our leafy vegetables and herbs. Digging, moving plants, weeding, pruning… It is a joy and relief to see plants and trees finally taking off a bit, after enduring late sub-zero temperatures and snowstorms well into April, and even May! The last of the storms, on May 1-2, gave us a few inches of much-needed moisture in our drought conditions. That cloudy, cold May 1st was brightened by a surprise in our turn: apple fritters from dear friends of the Carmel! These good friends know that day, the Feast of St. Joseph the Worker, is also the Profession Anniversary of three of our Sisters. But hardly anyone knows that May 1st was a quietly magnificent day for another of our Sisters—the day that decided her Carmelite vocation. Sister comes from another state, but she and her family would visit Colorado and the Carmel occasionally in the early 1990’s. Sister actually moved here for a time after leaving home and mulled over the possibility of a vocation, but was unsure. After taking employment and settling in for some months, she knew that the conflicting events and pulls in her life needed to be resolved: was God calling her to religious life or not?
Wanting to settle her anxiety and indecision, she decided to make a novena in honor of St. Joseph, who in his life also knew anxiety and worry. The nine days passed uneventfully, until the very last day, May 1st. After Mass, she stayed to pray for a time in the chapel here, and after a little while, one of the priests, our spiritual director, approached her and motioned with his finger to follow him out of the chapel for a moment. As soon as the door of the chapel closed, he asked her one question: “Have you ever thought about giving your life to God?” Well, the rest is history, as they say, and Sister has spent nearly 20 years of joyful self-gift in Carmel. Later, Father shared with us that he himself felt a sudden impulse to approach this young lady, with whom he was hardly acquainted. We all love to hear this story again and again. Sister was given the title “of St. Joseph” in her religious name for very good reason!
We cannot write a letter in May and not give honor to Our Blessed Mother. Two special prayer books pictured here are ideal for Marian devotions during this joyous month and always: Favorite Prayers to Our Lady and the Our Lady Book. What an example of prayerfulness Mary is to us as we look forward to the renewing of the Holy Spirit’s coming upon the Church and the world. In her company and under her guidance, as the Apostles and Disciples of Christ did, let us prepare, “with one mind and steadfast prayer.”
In the Divine Consoler and Spirit of Truth,
Your Carmelite Sisters
P.S. We will have all-night Adoration and Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament one day this week and will remember you in our prayers.