In This Edition :
- Prayer and the Rosary
- Our Lady of Confidence
- Community News
“Without prayer we have neither light nor strength to advance in the way which leads to God… He who prays will be saved, but he does not pray will be damned.” – St. Alphonsus
Dear Friends of Carmel,
By the grace of God and in answer to His call, we here in Carmel are consecrated to a life of prayer and devoted sacrifice. But all souls must pray – the Christian life is necessarily a life of prayer. One cannot really call himself a Christian if he never prays – never even thinks of God. And what is prayer? We are all familiar with the beautiful answer to this question: “Prayer is the lifting up of the mind and the heart to God.” Mindfulness of God, faith in His care and love of us, hope in His certain and most willing (and most needed) help, love of Him as our Father and Creator – all of this is the foundation of prayer.
We cannot make our newsletter a theological lesson on prayer, but we can, as we ever love to do, pass onto you the wisdom of the Saints and holy teachers of our Faith, so that you may be encouraged to pursue a life of prayer – and a wholesome and so very necessary communication with our God. For prayer is nothing other than a contact with God – a conversation, a “linking-up” with the Almighty!
“Prayer is the best weapon we possess. It is the key that opens the heart of God.”
– Padre Pio
Mindful of the “lifting up” aspect of prayer, Fr. Lajeunie, writing of the spiritual life of St. Therese, said, “We rise to God, not by bodily leaps and bounds, but by the ascent of the soul, ‘by the steps of love.’ Nothing can stay this great and glorious ascent. God is its infinite end and its almighty cause which nothing can resist…” And since love is the power behind all our seeking for God, he goes on to state, “… our capacity for love is unbounded, because (as St. Thomas Aquinas teaches) in proportion to the growth of charity, we become more and more apt for its exercise.” Love then is and must be both the path and the end of all our prayer. This is, by the way, the signature counsel of all our Carmelite Saints regarding prayer.
“Prayer is being on terms of friendship with God, frequently conversing in secret with him whom we know loves us… Prayer is not to think much but to love much.”
– St. Teresa of Avila
“The practice of … prayer should commence,” says the great Bishop Bossuet, “by making an act of faith in the presence of God who is everywhere, and of Our Lord Jesus Christ, whose gaze never leaves us, even were we buried in the center of the earth.” It is essential to be mindful of the One to whom we address ourselves when we pray, to recognize Who He is (“I am Who am”) and who we puny ones are: wholly dependent upon God for our very existence. Reflection upon this alone can sometimes lead to a lofty prayer! The humble Carmelite, Brother Lawrence of the Resurrection built his entire spiritual life on this practice of remembrance of and attention to the presence of God – all his prayer, all his work, all his union with God was based on this holy practice. He called it “the life and nourishment of the soul” and insisted any of us can acquire this habit with God’s grace and our effort. His book, The Practice of the Presence of God, has become a classic guide for learning how to make prayer – and all the spiritual treasures that flow from it – a way of life. The Prayer of the Presence of God by the Carthusian Dom Augustin Guillerand is another guide for attending to God’s presence in and around us.
“We must speak to God as a friend speaks to his friend, servant to his master; now asking some favor, now acknowledging our faults, and communicating to Him all that concerns us, our thoughts, our fears, our projects, our desires, and in all things seeking His counsel.”
– St. Ignatius of Loyola
Communication and conversation require not only speaking, but also listening. At the very outset, it is important that we be ready and willing to listen to God. How else will we know Him? How else will we learn to understand our life in this world and His reason for creating us – and His will for us? Do you recall the story of the young Solomon, when he had just inherited the throne of David, his father? The Lord spoke to him in a dream: “Ask what I shall give you.” (1Kings 3:5) Confronted with this stupendous offer, Solomon simply says: lébh shoméa’. Although often translated as “a wise heart,” “a docile heart,” “a heart that understands,” the literal meaning of the two words in Hebrew is “a listening heart.” (This is from a beautiful study on prayer by Sister Jeanne d’Arc, OP.) Listening to God depends on a heart open and attentive to His voice. If we are attentive, sometimes He will, through His Holy Spirit, give lights in our prayer – about our souls, about our life, perhaps about our faults and failings, about what paths we should take in our service of Him. And the fruits of prayerful attention can and should become more and more habitual, so that God’s voice and His will can be known in the smallest events of our daily life.
“Prayer is the place of refuge for every worry, a foundation for cheerfulness, a source of constant happiness, a protection against sadness.”
– St. John Chrysostom
The duties and obligations of a busy life, along with all the joys and sorrows that fill our life, cannot but help to be a potential obstacle to prayer through distracting thoughts that insist upon our attention and interest. All of the “experts” at prayer, that is the Saints, declare that this annoying, inevitable happening when we pray is to be dealt with simply, humbly, swiftly – and without worry or anxiety. As Father de Caussade advises, let those thoughts “drop like a stone in water.” He says that when distractions and dryness come,
…bear them… in peace, submission, and abandonment for as long as it pleases God to permit them to continue… [T]he only hurtful distractions are those that are voluntary; therefore, all those that are displeasing do not prevent the prayer of the heart and the desire. Do not ever force yourself to fight against these obstinate distractions; it is better and safer to let them alone, as one takes no notice of the various follies and extravagancies that, in spite of ourselves, pass through the mind and imagination.
“It is an old custom of the saints of God to have some little prayers ready and to be frequently darting them up to heaven during the day, lifting their minds to God out of the mire of this world. He who adopts this plan will obtain great fruits with little pain.”
– St. Philip Neri
“Do you say your prayers, my children?” Our Lady asked the children at La Salette. We should consider that she asks that question of each of us. The prayers we learned as children – the Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory Be, Morning Offering, Acts of Faith, Hope, Charity and Contrition, Grace before and after meals… “Do you say your prayers, my children?” Do not underestimate the tremendous value of these simple prayers and of their power to keep us close to God. If you never learned them, learn them; if you’ve forgotten them, re-learn them and use them. Each one is not only valuable in and of itself, but also as a “springboard” to meditation and to deeper, mental prayer, even to contemplative prayer. For a good refresher on these basic, doctrinally-rich prayers, look at some good collections here, especially a small book called Catholic Prayers, as well as any of Fr. Lasance’s excellent compilations. St. Francis de Sales dedicated many sermons to the subject of prayer – its tremendous value and the place it should occupy in every Christian’s life; a small volume offers these sermons together in the book, On Prayer. Fr. Lovasik’s Basic Book of Catholic Prayer: How to Pray and Why, as well as The Paraclete: A Manual of Instruction and Devotion, are also both very good handbooks for learning about prayer and obtaining guidance in the practice of this essential aspect of Christian life.
“It is good to give thanks to the Lord, to sing praise to Your Name, Most High…”
Prayer has four ends, or purposes: 1) Worship/adoration/praise, 2) Thanksgiving, 3) Penitential reparation, 4) Petition. A ready book of prayers is the one composed through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit: the Book of Psalms. Every need, every emotion, every cry to Heaven may be found in the Psalms – and they have been left to us to put to use! The cry of admiration and joyful praise; the cry of anguish and grief; the cry of fear, whether it be the fear of one’s enemy, or of war, of persecution, of death… or even of oneself; the cry of love, hope and abandonment to God’s will – the expression of all of these and far more are in the holy prayers of the Psalms. Open that book, and you will find balm for your soul – even if it is only finding a way to express what is deep in both heart and mind. But there’s a good chance you will also find answers to life’s perplexing problems. Prayer is the key to opening these longed-for treasures. The compact little pocket-book, My Daily Psalm Book might be a great help for this – so that you may have this wonderful collection of inspired prayers from Scripture handy in purse, pocket or backpack.
“We must pray without tiring, for the salvation of mankind does not depend on material success; nor on sciences that cloud the intellect. Neither does it depend on arms and human industries, but on Jesus alone. “
– St Frances Xavier Cabrini
Since we are speaking of prayer, we will not pass over the opportunity to write briefly about the Holy Rosary. October is the month dedicated to this great and powerful prayer, second only to the liturgy itself. You can read about its captivating history and its work for souls on our Doctrine and Devotions page, as well as in past newsletters. Today we wish to suggest how to consider the Rosary and more importantly, how to pray the Rosary. It is not easy to pray it well! Although many people believe the Rosary to be a prayer to the Virgin Mary, it is more precise to know it as a prayer to God – with her and through her, the Mother of Our Savior and our Mother. Composed as it is of “vocal” prayers (The Our Father, Hail Marys and Glory Be), the Rosary is nevertheless, fundamentally, a contemplative prayer. The vocal prayers are meant to occupy our mind and body, while the gaze of our soul should rest with Our Lady upon each of the different Mysteries of the Savior’s life that are contemplated. Some people find it a strain to imagine all the details of the Mysteries and labor over doing so. But we are meant to “rest” in each Mystery, to be simply present, gazing upon Our Lord, sensitive to feel what He felt in those events of His life. Our Lady is with us to teach us, to explain to us, to enlighten our soul, to help us see these moments as she saw them.
In the Rosary’s closing prayer we say “Grant, we beseech Thee, that by meditating on the Mysteries of the most Holy Rosary, we may imitate what they contain and obtain what they promise.” This sentiment really should assist us throughout the praying of the Rosary, since Our Lord’s life is the model for our own and is the sure promise of our reaching the happiness of Heaven. All that we believe, all that we hope in and all that we love is within this beautiful prayer. It is a treasure always opening up to us new lights – if we follow the graces attached to its recitation.
That is why it is such a powerful prayer, a prayer that Our Lady herself recommended, and even commanded at Fatima: “Say the Rosary every day.” And later, she told Sister Lucy, “There is no problem so great that it cannot be solved by the Rosary.” Today, October 13th, is the 99th anniversary of the Miracle of the Sun at Fatima, and we depend more than ever upon her assuring promise as we face some of the most turbulent and confusing times of history. Our Blessed Mother promised St. Dominic, “Someday I will save the world through the Rosary.” Are we perhaps nearing that day? Let us entreat Heaven to the fulfillment of that promise!
To learn more about the Holy Rosary, and as helps to understand it better, these books may assist you: St. Louis de Montfort’s The Secret of the Rosary, The Rosary of Our Lady by Msgr. Romano Guardini, first published in 1937 (before the Fatima prayer, “O my Jesus” was officially added after each decade) , and the small but popular From the Rose Garden of Our Lady: A Book of Rosary Meditations by Rev. William Schaeffler. This last has beautiful illustrations of the Mysteries of the Rosary
It seems a good idea, with our Website News, to announce that we are moving our Christmas rosary deadline from December 8th to December 1st this year. If you are guessing from this announcement that we find ourselves pressed to complete these special rosaries in time, you are correct! So. If you are planning on ordering a rosary for a Christmas gift do not wait. We always have our procrastinators, we know, but the sooner the order is placed, the more certain you can be of getting it before Christmas. As we re-designed the Sacred Heart badge a few years ago, we have done so with our “My Mother My Confidence” relic badge. Our desire was to use for the badge the picture of the actual miraculous image of Our Lady under this title. We dedicated our work for this sacramental to the men and women of the US military service, praying for the safe return of those on tour in dangerous locations throughout the world. The reason for this is that in addition to cures and conversions, the image and invocation have become renowned for assuring the safe return of soldiers from war. In Rome, all 100 young seminarians called to military service during World War I were brought home safely. St. Mary’s Seminary at the Lateran Basilica in Rome owned a copy of the original miraculous image, and had long entrusted themselves for all needs to Our Lady’s protection under the title of “Our Lady of Confidence,” and they knew that she would shelter them from harm at that time of dire need. Thus its special place in the tragic times of war and world unrest. A fitting devotion for all in our own times of turmoil within individual lives, within the Church and all over the world.
Do not forget to order your 2017 Liturgical Calendar!
It seems a good idea, with our Website News, to announce that we are moving our Christmas rosary deadline from December 8th to December 1st this year. If you are guessing from this announcement that we find ourselves pressed to complete these special rosaries in time, you are correct! So. If you are planning on ordering a rosary for a Christmas gift do not wait. We always have our procrastinators, we know, but the sooner the order is placed, the more certain you can be of getting it before Christmas.
It seems impossible that we are just a few months from Christmas again. We are already getting orders for Christmas cards and Nativity Sets! Since we are often asked, we will be sending another newsletter closer to Advent, that will include ideas and suggestions for gifts.
An early-bird suggestion, though, comes from among the newest additions to our website: a number of beautiful crystal/enamel rosary boxes. Beautiful sterling silver images decorate the tops of these boxes (see photos). If you are looking for something special to hold an heirloom family rosary, or if you want a special presentation for your rosary gift, you may want to take a look at the new styles we offer.
October is the month which brings with it two important Carmelite Feast Days: that of St. Therese, the Little Flower and of Our Holy Mother St. Teresa. On the Feast of St. Therese, we were blessed with one of the last warm days of the season, so we seized the opportunity to have dinner outside at a community picnic. With the trees all turning to their autumn finery, the October days have been incredibly beautiful here. The first frost wedged its way in between warm days, but not before we had time to pick all the peaches and apples that were growing on the grounds (the ones the birds and squirrels did not eat, that is). Those of you who live in warmer climates would probably raise an eyebrow at what we called the “peach crop,” but living at the base of the mountains and 7,000 feet above sea level, we were quite proud of it!
The arrival of fall always brings with it plenty of windy days, windy days which knock plenty of needles off of our many Ponderosa Pines. You may remember from our previous newsletters that Zelie’s favorite toy as a little puppy was the broom. We admit, we encouraged it, since it was such an easy way to tire her out! But when we went to the shed and pulled out the rakes for the needles, she nearly went wild with delight to see a “broom” that was three times as wide as the one she remembered! She also is about three times as big as she was in those days – and much harder to stay ahead of. It’s hard to say who gets more exercise now, Zelie, or the Sister with the “broom.” And don’t even ask us how much work we get done with Zelie “helping”…
We had another minor adventure when Zelie was stung once again by some kind of bee. Anyone who has tried to get a stinger out of a distressed German Shepherd’s nose would understand the difficulties we had! Yes, we are still having trouble with the wasps and hornets, finding two very large active nests on the grounds within the last few weeks. Our friend Lazarus came to the rescue once again, and even found two more large hives/nests, along with an early-stage hive where they were setting up shop with two new queens. A pair of owls has taken up permanent residence here. They apparently find us safe to be around. Their nest attempts the last two years have failed, due to the severe winds of late winter and spring, and we’ve found their nest of ponderosa branches in shambles on the ground. We hear their calls day and night – softer in daylight, more raucous in the evenings before they take off for the nightly hunt. They very often perch on our roof near the chapel – and swivel their amazing heads in our direction, mildly looking down on us whenever we come to the yard around evening time. They don’t seem to mind Zelie – nor Zelie them, and that’s good. In our last newsletter, we mentioned we were working on a set of red vestments – and that project was completed last month. As always, there were small mishaps along the way, but persevering prayer and work pulled us through. We are pleased to see the priests using the set often now.
Our last bit of news explains the picture of the hot-air balloon. One Sunday morning, our Mother Prioress had to attend to a small emergency just before Mass. Mother heard a strange sound outside, and having solved the small emergency, thought perhaps a larger one was looming outdoors. “I thought I’d better check before going to the Choir.” The loud, bizarre noise ended up being a distressed balloonist, who was having some trouble and seemed to need a place to land briefly. The fellow narrowly missed the property fence, but landed just outside our enclosure wall. After Mass, Mother told us of the bizarre event. Before closing this letter on prayer, we give you one last message of encouragement to give prayer the place it deserves in your life – from the well-known Father Thomas Verner Moore, who was both a psychiatrist and a priest. He wrote in his book on prayer:
“The laity, as well as religious, have as their ultimate end union with God by a life of prayer. Life in the world modifies, it does not render impossible, a perfect life… Let us pass through this beautiful world praising God who made it. Let us work so that all we do will be done generously for God and with God. Let us prevent our daily toil from becoming a drudgery of labor or amusement seeking, by setting apart some time every morning and every evening for prayer, that is to personal communion between our own finite mind and the Supreme Intelligence, who brought us into being and fashioned all that is, and destined man to find happiness in union with his Creator…”
As always, please be assured of our prayerful remembrance of you all –
In Our Lady of the Rosary,
Your Carmelite Sisters
HELP US CONTINUE OUR LIFE OF PRAYER AND SACRIFICE