In This Edition :
- Holy Rosary, St. Teresa of Avila and St. Raphael
- Website News
- Community News
Dear Friends of Carmel,
Blessed Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary! What a joy and consolation it is prayerfully to recall the victory of our great Queen and Mother over the enemies of her Son – at Lepanto in 1571 and in so many other battles the Church has waged through the centuries – all in answer to the prayers of her children through her Holy Rosary. Let us gather from the graces God bestows through her hands the courage we need in all the spiritual battles of life and look forward with confidence to the final triumph of Christ Our Lord and King. As one moving prayer to Our Lady pleads, “Give to all hope and peace, with victory!”
Three months have passed since our last letter to you – another three months filled with prayer and labor in God’s presence at our “Mount Carmel”. October brings us to a month rich in spiritual treasures in addition to the devotion of the Rosary. Holy Church sends out the call to intensify our spiritual life, even as we see nature’s appearance take on a kind of death as the season changes.
This year, the Catholic and Carmelite world is animated with enthusiasm over the celebration of the 5th Centenary of the birth of St. Teresa of Avila – known and loving called by Carmelites “Our Holy Mother St. Teresa”. She was born in Avila, Spain, on March 28, 1515. Thus, 2015 is the 500th anniversary, or Fifth Centenary, of her birth. Officially, the centenary year begins this October 15th and continues through October 15, 2015, this date being St. Teresa’s feast day in the Church. Friends of our Carmel have been asking how we will be honoring this special occasion. Of course, with all those who look to this favored Saint as Foundress and spiritual Mother, we pray, above all else, for a renewal of our own dedicated and steadfast observance of her spirit and teaching. How blessed we are to have the vocation to live according to the Holy Rule and customs that she herself initiated, instilled and lived herself. Instructed by the Saints and holy popes, we know that members of religious orders can do no better work than faithfully to preserve the “spirit of the founder” in the fulfillment of their religious life and vows. Therefore, the best way to “celebrate” this great Saint is to renew our imitation of her virtues and re-dedicate ourselves to a more perfect observance of the life she has bequeathed to us. The words of Our Lord come to mind: “If you love Me, keep my commandments…” So if we really love Our Holy Mother and want to thank our good God for giving her to us as teacher, leader, guide, friend and mother in the life of Carmel, the best way to show it is to obey her! Not too much fanfare in that, but that’s surely what counts – we know you will agree!
All of the Sisters are picking up again her writings and other works by reliable authors about her doctrines. Of course, these books are never far from our frequent reference and remembrance. Always fresh and so interesting, they really draw us to her and keep us close to her as daughters of Carmel following her way of life and way of prayer and sacrifice for God and His Church. But not only Carmelites benefit from reading books by and about St. Teresa, which is why we offer her written works to the devout who seek a deeper spiritual life. Still one of the best biographies of the saint is that of William Thomas Walsh; a shorter life by Mother Forbes is also available. St. Teresa’s own autobiography and other works reveal a humble, vibrant woman, warm in her love for God and neighbor. Reading the Collected Letters is a wonderful way to get to know her beautiful character and life. Another book that is a treasure of Carmelite prayer is Drink of the Stream: Prayers of Carmelites, and St. Teresa is, of course, prominently featured in this book, which includes some of her beautiful poetry. Wonderfully varying are the Saints of Carmel, but they all share in the fervent spirit of their Holy Mother, and this collection is a helpful volume for both spiritual reading and prayer. St. Therese, whose feast we also celebrated earlier this month, is well-represented.
The month of October also turns our thoughts and prayers in a very special way to the Holy Angels of God. Holy Mother Church has placed the Feasts honoring St. Michael with all the Angelic choirs, our Guardian Angels and the Archangel Raphael within the time of late September to late October. In past newsletters we have spoken of devotion to St. Michael and the Guardian Angels. This year we want to pay particular tribute to St Raphael (Feastday, October 24th). During the liturgical year the Roman Breviary takes us though the Holy Bible from beginning to end, and we have just finished the beautiful Book of Tobias in the readings of the Divine Office. One of our favorites and a relatively short book of the Old Testament, it is an inspiring testimony, in the person of Tobias, of filial piety, fidelity to God, patience in adversity and a sublime example of all the corporal and spiritual works of mercy, illustrating how precious these works of charity are in God’s sight. It is truly one of the “can’t-put-it-down” books of the Old Testament! Here we meet the glorious archangel, St. Raphael, sent by God to accompany the young Tobias (son of the old Tobias) on his difficult and perilous journey, assisting him, protecting him, counseling him in matters both temporal and spiritual. It is here we see clearly why Holy Mother Church has made St. Raphael, whose name means “God who heals”, patron of the sick, of travelers and of those seeking a spouse. We have long desired to make available the chaplet of St. Raphael, actually encouraged by quite a few friends and customers who have requested it over the years. Happily, our new website format now makes this possible. For those who are ill, or travel, or – most especially – are seeking a good spouse as a lifetime companion in holy faith – St. Raphael, one of the great seven spirits who, as scripture tells us, stand closest to God, might be just the patron you are looking for as intercessor for your dearest intentions. Here is a short verse from a liturgical hymn in his honor:
May Raphael, the Angel-physician of man’s health, be with us to heal all that are sick and to guide all who are in doubt and uncertainty.
We have been adjusting, day by day, to this new website. Truly, it is an adjustment! We are starting, after three or so months now, not to feel it to be an unwieldy and strange animal to be tamed, but a useful and friendly tool. We’ve been attentively reading the suggestions and – well, complaints – that have come to our Inbox, and we are quite grateful for the kind people who take time to help us in this way. For those of you who shop with your phone, smartphones or iPad, or any “mobile devices” (all these tech-terms still tend to spin our heads…) things are looking up! We are currently working on that very problem now and thank you for your patience. One feature on our home page which we are especially happy about is the photo “carousel”. It is yet another way for us to present liturgical and Carmelite devotions. How many people still remember – or maybe never knew – that October 2nd is the Feastday of our Holy Guardian Angels? And seeing that reminder as you are welcomed to our web site, you might click on the photo and spend a few moments doing some spiritual reading for the day, learning more about the Angels of God and how they work in our lives.
We are noticing that many visitors to the website are finding items by going first to our New Items page. We are sure happy to see this, since our aim is to make things easy to find, especially whatever is newly augmenting our selection. New Christmas cards and some very special tree ornaments are among that selection, along with the 2015 Liturgical Calendar. We are especially pleased lately to have included in our book selection the new series of “Consoling Thoughts” books by St. Francis de Sales. In recent years, Catholic book publishers are tuning into the rather depressed and dire times in which we find ourselves in this 21st century. There is no denying it – the world news each day is rather grim. Especially is this true for Christians the world over. We have a steady stream of emails and letters with prayer requests to attest to this, if anyone doubts it. In addition to the serious worries of sickness, or of joblessness, poverty and security for the future, are sobering reminders of how Christians endure persecution on a daily basis – both deeply personal and on a wide scale. All of this encouraged us to add a category to our books called “Suffering and Sickness”. Many people, among them the Saints through the ages, can testify to the fact that one book can change one’s life… or can see one through a patch of distressing times in life. As Christians and Catholics, we know that God permits suffering for His own purposes: to draw us closer to Himself, to make our lives an imitation of Our Lord’s own life, to give us wisdom and strengthen our faith by testing it, to learn from our mistakes, recognize our weakness, and to lead us onto a better and happier life in the future. We hope our few offerings for spiritual reading will be one help on the way of the cross we must each follow in order to reach God in our heavenly home.
Not separate from the theme of challenges and sufferings in life, two new prayer chaplets enhance our website selection: the St. Raphael Chaplet, for the weighty personal intentions we mentioned earlier, and the St. Peregrine Chaplet, for those who suffer with cancer or have loved ones enduring its many difficult trials.
The radiant day of July 20th gave our Community the happiness of another Final Profession and Veiling of one of our young Sisters. Sister’s family traveled from afar for the joyful event, and her younger sister decorated the “wedding cake” with a beautiful floral design, along with the Brown Scapular, the vows, and a crown and Sacred Heart in honor of our King and Spouse.
Our limited “crops” were again abundant – lettuce, spinach and kohlrabi until midsummer, when tomatoes, beans and herbs took over. A few Sisters would go out for quick “picking sessions” every few days when the beans were growing so quickly. Of course, we’ve been canning again – peaches, pears, beets, beans, plums from the local farmers, who had a good year. Their Italian purple plums drew a delicious and abundant harvest, too, so we were able to make our Czech plum dumplings this year. Mother Prioress made it our evening recreation on the Feast of St. Therese – and there were juicy dumplings for our collation that night! Now our gardens are slowing and headed for their annual rest. With the beautiful, mellow autumn, the colors this year are stunning, even here within our small enclosure: maples and ash trees, along with so many other colorful leaf-changes. We have heard from friends and relatives in the area that the aspens in the mountains are putting on the best show in years.
In our newsletter last summer, we told you about our new courtyard landscaping and of our hopes for relief from our hot, dry summers of the past four or more years. Happily, we can tell you that God at last blessed us with that relief from the drought and sent beautiful rains throughout the summer. However, with torrential rain came the realization that our roof gutters and downspouts were not in the best condition – and were NOT ready for what God sent! As it happens, it was just where we did the very nice landscaping that the trouble occurred, where rain flows from three different roofs into our courtyard: from the monastery, the large chapel, and the little shrine of Our Lady of Sorrows.
We discovered the hard way that all downspouts, certain areas of the gutters, and worst of all, the underground pipe for taking water away from the area down a small hill, were all completely clogged with pine needles and leaves. Years of dry weather made us forget that all those waterways needed cleaning out! The result of the heaviest rainstorm on July 16th, Our Lady of Carmel’s great Feast, was a miniature swimming pool in our front courtyard and a wave of water seeping into Our Lady’s shrine. Gutter guys, roofers and landscapers came to the rescue, but we winced to see a good portion of the new landscaping needing to be disturbed and dug up…
We close this letter reflecting that a mini-flood seems a small disaster compared to suffering that we were discussing earlier. Always is it a challenge to maintain patience, calm and trust when facing the inconveniences and far more serious troubles of life. How sad this world has become, and on a greater scale, how far from God! Sometimes, the feeling of worry and fear remind us of the story in the Gospel of the apostles, struggling with the storm on the sea and then shaking Our Lord awake with the anguished cry, “Lord, don’t you see that we are perishing?” , roofers and landscapers came to the rescue, but we winced to see a good portion of the new landscaping needing to be disturbed and dug up…
In times like these, when we feel overwhelmed with helplessness and worry over the sorrows of life and the evils of the world, we can look again to the counsel of Our Holy Mother St. Teresa for the proper attitude to take:
“The Lord doesn’t look so much at the greatness of our works as at the love with which they are done. And if we do what we can, His Majesty will enable us each day to do more and more, provided that we do not quickly tire. But during the little while this life lasts – and perhaps it will last a shorter time than each one thinks- let us offer the Lord interiorly and exteriorly the sacrifice we can. His Majesty will join it with that which He offered on the cross to the Father for us. Thus even though our works are small they will have the value our love for Him would have merited had they been great.”
What consoling words to remember, not just for Carmelites, but for everyone. The only limits on our prayers and love of God and what they can accomplish in the world, are the limits we place on ourselves. May we all become more willing tools in the hands of Our Lord!
One last word from St. Teresa, perhaps her most consoling and well-known counsel, called “St. Teresa’s Bookmark”:
Let nothing trouble you,
Let nothing frighten you.
All things are passing;
God never changes.
Patience obtains all things.
He who possesses God lacks nothing: God alone suffices.
P. S. Remember devotion to the Holy Souls in Purgatory and the special observance of next month: during November, daily Masses for the souls of our loved ones.
With our continued prayers,
Your Carmelite Sisters
HELP US CONTINUE OUR LIFE OF PRAYER AND SACRIFICE