In This Edition :
- Lenten Reading
- Community News
Dear Friends of Carmel,
Good Christians, fear for sinners here,
The silent Word is pleading.
Nails, spear shall pierce Him through,
The cross be borne for me, for you.
Hail, hail the Word made flesh,
The Son, the Babe of Mary.
The last time we visited with you through our newsletter was Christmas – how quickly time passes! The above words from a dear and familiar carol remind us of that holy season – and of its whole loving purpose from all eternity. Yes, time passes, and with it, the seasons – and our beautiful liturgical seasons, as well.
Have you ever heard the word “Septuagesima”? No, it is not a variety of pasta. And – no, it is not the term for some rare disease! Many Catholics have no familiarity with or remembrance of this term, but it does refer to a liturgical season. The word comes from the Latin word meaning “seventieth”, and it refers to the approximate number of days until Easter. These weeks (roughly three) prior to the beginning of Lent are meant to prepare us for “Quadragesima,” the season of Lent, the solemn and holy forty days of the purifying prayer, sacrifice and penance that make our souls worthy to celebrate Our Lord’s Resurrection. [The Sundays have the names, Septuagesima, about 70 days, Sexagesima, about 60, and Quinquagesima, about 50 days until Easter. Read and research more at length about the rich and beautiful history and meaning of this season in Abbot Gueranger’s Liturgical Year]
The Scriptural texts of Septuagesima season remind and re-instruct us about our great enemy, sin – its origin (Adam and Eve), our own actual sins that burden us (Noah and the Flood) , and the answer for sin (Abraham and his prophetic sacrifice). The traditional liturgy of the days of Lent continue these lessons from the Patriarchs of the Old Testament. So really, this season begins our examination of conscience for Lent. And considering God’s dealings with these men and their Providential purposes, we must take the lesson to heart that our soul-searching and penance are to be done in peace and with confidence in the good God, Who prescribes these medicines only for the good and health of our souls. So as we move toward Lent, don’t stiffen up with dread – and don’t be afraid. Let us all, rather, be heartened by the encouraging counsel of St. Peter:
“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in the time of visitation; cast all your anxiety upon Him because He cares for you. Be sober, be watchful! For your adversary, the devil, as a roaring lion, goes about seeking someone to devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith…”
-1 Peter 5:6-9
New Testament readings for the three Sundays of this preparatory season extend the message given by the Old. Without giving a lengthy analysis, let us just give the hard-hitting, soul-searching passages from Epistles and Gospels. They are meant to direct and support us – and send us on our way into Lent, strengthened, chastened, enlightened, guided. Try to take time to meditate upon them.
Brethren: Do you not know that those who run in a race, all indeed run, but one receives the prize? So run as to obtain it. (1 Cor. 9:24)
… Even so, the last shall be first, and the first last; for many are called, but few are chosen. (Mt. 20:16)
“My grace is sufficient for you, for strength is made perfect in weakness.” Gladly, therefore, I will glory in my infirmities, that the strength of Christ may dwell in me… (2 Cor. 12: 9)
The sower went out to sow his seed… But that upon good ground, these are they who, with a right and good heart, having heard the word, hold it fast and bear fruit in patience.” (Lk. 8:5, 15)
… Charity is patient, is kind; charity does not envy, is not pretentious, is not puffed up, is not ambitious, is not self-seeking, is not provoked; thinks no evil, does not rejoice over wickedness, but rejoices with the truth; bears with all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Charity never fails… (1 Cor. 13:4-8)
Jesus, taking to Himself the Twelve, said to them, “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and all things that have been written by the prophets concerning the Son of Man will be accomplished. For He will be delivered to the Gentiles, and will be mocked and scourged and spit upon; and after they have scourged Him they will put Him to death; and on the third day He will rise again.” (Lk.18:31-33)
Lord, that I may see! (Lk. 18:42)
What better help during the Holy Forty Days than to have a companion with us along the way? We need support in the combat we must wage with ourselves and our sins. The Spiritual Combat is just such a companion, a book used and recommended by Saints, most notably, St. Francis de Sales. The purpose of the work is to lead the soul to the summit of spiritual perfection, by means of a constant, courageous struggle against our weak and often evil nature, which tends to keep us away from that goal. It deals with fostering distrust of self and confidence in God alone; turning and controlling our will to good ; combating our faults; in a word, living the Christian life in all the battles we must engage in with ourselves and the forces that work against us.
It is often of the greatest help to re-read the Gospels during Lent. Never can we exhaust the lights and lessons God gives through the life and example of His Son. Two books that can accompany our scripture study this Lent are Goodier’s The Public Life of Our Lord Jesus Christ (2 Volumes) and Characters of the Passion by Archbishop Sheen and The Passion of Jesus Christ and Its Hidden Meaning – all new to our website offerings. We were delighted to come across a book last year, My Holy Week Missal for Children, but the rather recent translation from the French arrived too late for us to tell you about it at the time. It is a wonderfully illustrated and simple missal that follows the liturgical ceremonies of Holy Week (1962 Liturgy). We know how long these ceremonies can be for small children, but this is the perfect tool to engage them and help them to learn, understand and love the Savior Who suffered and died for them – and how all is relived and renewed in the Holy Liturgy of the Church.
As for further suggested reading, besides perusing our Lent section and past newsletter recommendations, we thought you would appreciate reading reviews by other visitors to our website of additional recommended titles. We cannot overemphasize the importance of study and reading during these days of prayer and spiritual growth. If you have already read one of these or other books, please consider reviewing the book on our website. We are pleased to think that you are helping us help others find the spiritual food and guidance they need for their souls!
“The key to Heaven! This book is a must for anyone who would like to spend their eternity in Heaven. Not everyone in Heaven is a martyr or founder of a great religious order but everyone there is humble. Well written and easy to understand.” -Anonymous
“Wonderful book!” This book reminds us, in a beautiful way, that God is in control of everything that happens to us. It’s especially comforting with the anxiety over all that is happening in our world today. I like to keep a couple of copies on hand to give to friends who are going through an illness or other hard time. This is my favorite book!” – Cathy
“Timeless Spiritual Wisdom. This book is filled with such applicable, spiritual love that it has become, for me, a daily necessity. I come away from each day’s reading with a sense of lightness, calmness; and a feeling of love for my brothers and sisters. God bless the Sisters of Carmel and God bless Father Gabriel . I would place this book along with such classic Catholic works as The Imitation of Christ and the writings of St. Augustine.” – Mykal B.
“Are you ready to get serious? This is one of the best books on the spiritual life that I’ve read! It shows that attaining perfection and heaven is a battle…and even more an adventure. Are you ready to embark on this adventure? And the Treatise on Peace of Soul at the end tells us how to do it with peace and joy!” – Andrew G.
“I absolutely love this book “Way of the Cross.” The book provides different methods in experiencing the journey of how our Lord Jesus Christ suffers for our sins. Very Powerful exercises.” – Alice M.
“Excellent book. A wonderfully written book it is very useful for those whom have a difficult time with the Sacrament
and for those whom just need a little reminder.”– Tim
“A really interesting book detailing the relics of the Crucifixion of Jesus and how they were obtained and distributed throughout the Christian world over time. It is an easy read and answers a lot of questions. I thoroughly enjoyed it and recommend it for anyone interested in the history of these relics and what has been said of them by saints and kings.” – Lois F.
“For all Carmelites on the “go” that want to pray at those few brief minutes that happen during the busy day or night, this is the book !!! It is small enough to fit into a jacket pocket, briefcase or purse. With this small prayerbook we can be nourished with our Carmelite Spirituality when ever we feel the need for it.” – John G.
Sacramental – Our Lady of Perpetual Help
In our last newsletter, we told you about the new badge we had designed for Our Mother of Perpetual Help, and we find that now is a good time to tell you something more about this ancient and beautiful image. It is considered one of the first depictions of Our Lady of Sorrows.
It is considered to have come from the thirteenth or fourteenth century and is one of the only icons in the Western Church. The letters are in Greek. The initials next to Our Lady’s crown identify Her as the Mother of God, and those beside the Child identify Him as Jesus Christ. The letters next to the angel on the left name him as St. Michael the Archangel, carrying the lance, spear, and vessel of vinegar and gall from Our Lard’s Passion. The angel on the right is named as St. Gabriel, holding the cross and nails. Both angels are presenting the instruments of His future crucifixion to the Child Jesus. Our Lady comforts Him, but she is not looking at Her Son. Rather, she is looking at the viewer – at us. It is as if she asks us what we think, what are going to do in response, how we are going to help, seeing the sufferings of her Son.
The original image, the pride and glory of the Redemptorist Order, has resided in Rome for hundreds of years and has been the instrument of many cures during numerous processions. Pope Pius IX prayed before the image as a boy, and had the image crowned during his papacy. For centuries, this mysterious and attractive image has drawn young and old, good and bad, sick and well to seek a mother’s help in all their needs. Two wonderful booklets that we have trouble keeping in stock are Devotions in Honor of Our Mother of Perpetual Help and Novena Meditations to Our Mother of Perpetual Help
Our list of “projects” has not yet run out; what To-Do List ever does?! This year, the first things on that list are some very challenging sewing and embroidery projects for the altar. In fact, we’ve had to prioritize, and while we hate to do it, we are closing down our rosary repair service for the rest of the year. We cannot compromise our spiritual life nor our first and most important work for the altar, and we need some of the Sisters to be more free to work in the sewing room. We hope to offer this service again in the future, and for those of you who have already sent us repairs, do not worry! We will certainly complete the repairs we already have. Of course, we will always be available to fix any broken rosaries that were purchased from us in the past, so do not hesitate to send those to us.
As for other news, we will let the pictures tell some of the other stories of the past few months. But we always have too many inquiries about Zelie to leave her out of this newsletter. She has been with us for over a year now and remains a wonderful example of zeal in everything that she does – barking at strangers, chasing a toy, eating and sleeping – and all about in that order. We admire her boundless energy, which easily outdoes the energy of all of us put together. She trails along behind the Sisters’ heels in the morning and has mastered the art of looking as sad and lonely as possible – her pout face. She knows all too well that this will give her the best chance of being taken outside for a few rounds of fetch. Any Sister who fails in this duty just might find, as an act of revenge, a sandal missing the next time she goes to her cell. We all know where to look for it when that happens…buried in the blankets on Zelie’s bed.
Vocations and following God’s will
Our biggest news is that God has continued to bless our Carmel with young souls interested in the religious life. Two postulants entered at the beginning of the year and are beginning their journey in Carmel. They discovered quickly that there is much to learn! From their studies about the Carmelite life and Divine Office, to learning the ropes in the sewing room, their day is certainly a full one. In that sewing room, they quickly learned to sew straight seams and not to touch hot irons – and of course, how to use one of the most important tools in sewing: a seam ripper! It’s pretty much smooth sailing thereafter… ha.
When asked about early impressions of their new life, one postulant remarked that her biggest surprise was that the nuns were so happy. She had learned from other people that nuns were generally crabby, unpleasant people! Naturally, this merited a round of laughter from all of us very “crabby” people. Our other postulant was shocked to learn at our recreation conversation that not every postulant who has ever come to the Monastery has stayed to persevere in the vocation. She thought it was so sad! We went on to explain that it was not sad. Not all young woman who enter Carmel are sure if they are being called to religious life, when they do come, it is because they have, among all other possibilities, made God their first choice. And God blesses them for putting Him first in their lives. But after some time living the life, many have come to realize (and we with them) that they do not have a vocation to the Religious life.
If someone feels called to the religious life, man or woman, the most prudent course always is to respond to that call. But it is also true that if one learns that life’s vocation lies elsewhere, the monastery or seminary, is the very last place one should be. Those of us here know, perhaps better than most, that a vocation is not something that we ourselves decide on: it is truly a gift of God. All the determination in the world alone could not have carried us if we did not have a vocation. Then there are some of us who were far less determined at first, and yet found that God carried us through, to our great surprise and almost in spite of ourselves. So sometimes we smile when someone thanks us for what we do or what we are, and think to ourselves, “The one to thank is God. I didn’t have much to do with it.” Yes, it is He who plans the future and life of each one of us – and then gives us the strength and qualities we need fulfill His plan worthily. It is He who gives the call, and He who grants the grace to answer it all the days of our lives. Yes, we thank God for His call to us, but everyone is called to some path of His plan, and gratitude must fill the heart of each one who finds that path and follows faithfully that vocation. There are those of you who are charged with the task of raising up the next generation of Catholics, or who are on the frontlines in the fight for Catholic morality, or who give inspiring examples to others by your quiet and steadfast practice of your Faith in the midst of so much adversity. Yes, thank God for all of the members of His great Mystical Body! We are all one in our goal to attain union with Him, according to the mighty Will that governs us.
“Have this mind in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who … emptied Himself … humbled Himself, becoming obedient to death, even to death on a cross. Therefore, God also has exalted Him…”
– Philippians 2:5,8,9 – Liturgy of Holy Week
Finding that Will for every individual person is not always easy. Often it is made yet more difficult when we already have our own agenda! Let this be a lesson to consider, not only in life’s great decisions, but in every moment of every day of our lives. Trusting conformity to God’s will very often means giving up our own will! But this death to self from moment to moment, this authentic following of Christ is the virtue of true obedience. Obedience is not just for Religious …it is the difficult, but freeing road all must take to reach our perfection and ultimate goal of Heaven. Is not Our Lord Himself THE great example of obedience to God’s holy Will, by word and deed? From the crib to the cross and the tomb, the one endeavor that occupied Him was the following of His Father’s Will: obedience!
May we all be faithful in following the wisdom of Our Savior in His
adherence to the perfect and all-loving Will and Providence of God!
A very Blessed Lent to all of you,
Your Carmelite Sisters
HELP US CONTINUE OUR LIFE OF PRAYER AND SACRIFICE