In a long course of years, I have made many mistakes. I have nothing of that high perfection which belongs to the writings of Saints, viz., that error cannot be found in them; but what I trust that I may claim all through what I have written, is this—an honest intention, an absence of private ends, a temper of obedience, a willingness to be corrected, a dread of error, a desire to serve Holy Church, and, through Divine mercy, a fair measure of success. And, I rejoice to say, to one great mischief I have from the first opposed myself. For thirty, forty, fifty years I have resisted to the best of my powers the spirit of liberalism in religion. Never did Holy Church need champions against it more sorely than now, when, alas! it is an error overspreading, as a snare, the whole earth; and on this great occasion, when it is natural for one who is in my place to look out upon the world, and upon Holy Church as in it, and upon her future, it will not, I hope, be considered out of place, if I renew the protest against it which I have made so often…
Cardinal John Henry Newman
Excerpt from his words upon receiving the Cardinal’s hat,
the “Biglietto Speech,”1879 – See entire Speech
Dear Friends of Carmel,
As we approach to the end of the liturgical year, and the calendar year, too, we are once more faced with the consideration of the end of time – and most people sense a personal realization of it, in a way, because we all must admit how swiftly this year has passed. These days of a waning November always give a sense of looking back and reflecting. One’s reflections may be mixed with gratitude and warm remembrance, but perhaps also some regret, a little weariness, and a wondering for the future.
How greatly the life of the soul is enriched when reflections turn to prayer, remembrance to gratitude, regret to penitent, loving sorrow, and one’s weary path and disquiet to steadfast hope in the God and Father Who loves us. This is the life of trustful abandonment and of attentive watchfulness to Our Lord’s presence in the simple events of daily life. Manifest and constant are the signs of His work in our souls each day.
My sermons can be summed up thus: be simple with God. Serve Him with simplicity, love him with simplicity; no violent or extraordinary states, but peace of heart and soul in Our Lord. Busy yourself with him more than with yourself. Any mania about becoming “deeper” is dangerous, and apart from the time that it wastes, it leads to nothing. Is it necessary to chew over oneself so much in order to be aware that one is full of wretchedness in the past, of imperfections in the present, or weaknesses in the future? As for the past: love God. As for the present: love God. As for the future: again, love Him and that way all will be well. For it isn’t the present or the past or the future, or yourself that should occupy you, but God: He who gives Himself to you and becomes impatient when you amuse yourself by dressing yourself up endlessly in order to go to Him, when it is you that He asks for and not all your adornments. The point is to love God a great deal. How is one to love God a great deal? By loving Him little by little.
– Abbot Gueranger, The Spirit of Solesmes
This is the spirit of the Holy Liturgy, and of the coming season of Advent, in particular. Expectancy, hope, readiness – to search, to labor and to trust – and to welcome the arrival of Our Lord in whatever way He chooses to come to each one of us.
The Christian, whatever his profession or path in life, must strive to be all for God, since we are, after all, His children, His “possession from the beginning.” Further on in our letter, we will share excellent counsels from the saints for the spiritual life and Advent through prayerful reading. You can also see our past newsletters to read more about this important liturgical season.
Looking toward Advent and Christmas, it seems appropriate to speak of devotion to the Infant Jesus. The most celebrated form of this tender devotion is the Infant of Prague. Jesus Christ as a child, yet King of Heaven and earth, is a mystery to contemplate in prayer. The seemingly opposed virtues of humility and powerful authority are joined in this view of Jesus Christ. We are drawn to imitate His humility and to trust in His sure providence and care over us, this “Great, Little King”. The best images of the Divine Infant illustrate the Child’s countenance, radiant with innocence joined to age-old wisdom…
As far back in Old Testament times the prophet Isaiah spoke: “There shall come forth a rod out of the root of Jesse, and a flower shall rise up out of his root. And the spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him: the spirit of wisdom, and of understanding, the spirit of counsel, and of fortitude, the spirit of knowledge, and of godliness.” (Isaias 11:1-2) The Christ Child is given to us, He who “being rich, became poor for your sake, in order that by His poverty you might become rich” (2 Cor. 8:9). Our Eternal Father ordained that His Son, Jesus, should know all life’s stages: infancy, childhood, youth – and that He should be like us in everything, except sin. Above all, we have Our Lord’s own instruction about spiritual childhood and its necessity for salvation: “Amen I say to you, unless you turn and become like little children, you will not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Whoever, therefore, humbles himself … he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”
Most historians believe that the original wax statue known as the Infant of Prague was carved in Spain around the year 1340 in a Cistercian monastery. Some traditions claim that a monk had a vision of the Child Jesus and fashioned the statue after what he saw. The statue remained in Spain for several centuries, and a pious tradition claims that St. Teresa of Avila possessed the statue in the 16th century. Whatever the case may be, the statue found its way to Prague during the reign of the House of Habsburg in 1556.
In 1631, when enemies of the Church sacked Prague, they mocked the Holy Infant and threw the statue into a heap of trash in an obscure place. Some years later, Ven. Father Cyril of the Mother of God of the Carmelite Monastery in Prague, found the statue. One day, while praying in reparation before the damaged holy image, he heard the consoling words, “Have pity on Me and I will have pity on you; restore My hands and I will give you peace; the more you honor Me, the more I will bless you.” The image indeed was, through the labors of this holy Carmelite priest and a series of trials and difficulties, repaired and restored.
In the ensuing centuries, so many graces, blessings, and miraculous cures came to those who embraced this devotion, that it spread throughout the Catholic world and continues to be a source of much grace to this day. Many books and sacramentals promote and express this devotion, dear to Holy Church and one especially realized and appreciated at the Season of the Nativity, so quickly approaching. More can be read in this book “A Gem from the Diamond Mine,” which had been long out of print. It tells the story of the life of Venerable Margaret of the Blessed Sacrament, another Carmelite, who was chosen by God to propagate this devotion. We also carry a small booklet which explains the devotion.
Many years ago we added an exquisite hand carved wood Infant of Prague statue, imported from Italy, to our collection of sacramentals. In fact, it was one of the first statues we added to our site. We have a statue of the Holy Infant in our own Monastery, and wanted to continue the Carmelite work of spreading the devotion. More recently we found a good quality resin version, still beautiful and devotional but a little more affordable.
We opened this newsletter with a strong, relevant-to-our-day statement of the great Cardinal Newman. How grateful we must always be to the truly holy men of God, who speak for us even now, and instruct us. This is why we are so very pleased to have the beautiful soul of this 19th century English convert teach and assist us in our observance of Advent with the book, Waiting for Christ: Meditations for Advent and Christmas. Selections from Cardinal Newman’s fine sermons and writings provide excellent reflections for meditation and prayer for each day of Advent (beginning on November 30th), the Octave of Christmas, and the days up to and including the Feast of the Epiphany. The reputation of this brilliant man tells not only of his astounding intellect, but his empathy and his deep understanding of the human heart. We warmly recommend this book and share just this short sample from the meditation of December 13th, called “Watching”:
… Let us consider this most serious question, which concerns every one of us so nearly: what is it to watch for Christ? He watches for Christ… who is zealous in seeking and honoring Him, who looks out for Him in all that happens, and who would not be surprised, who would not be over-agitated or overwhelmed, if he found that He was coming at once.
. . .
This then, is to watch: to be detached from what is present, and to live in what is unseen; to live in the thought of Christ as He came once, and as He will come again; to desire His second coming, from our affectionate and grateful remembrance of His first. And this it is, in which we shall find that men in general are wanting… Year passes after year silently. Christ’s coming is ever nearer than it was. O that, as He comes nearer earth, we may approach nearer heaven! O, my brethren, pray Him to give you the heart to seek Him in sincerity. Pray Him to make you in earnest…
Along with this excellent meditation book, we recommend yet again the wonderful work, Liturgical Year. The Advent volume holds so much – history, doctrine, tradition – as the holy Abbot Gueranger (quoted at the beginning of this letter) explains fully and with unction the purpose of the liturgy of the Church – and its sublime beginning each year with the season of Advent. The entire 15-volume set has often been chosen as a very special Christmas gift, as the Church Year begins.
St. Catherine of Genoa was a soul gifted by God with graces in prayer to understand deeply the merciful work of God in the place called Purgatory. In addition to her Spiritual Doctrine, we have added the small volume, Fire of Love! – excerpts from her writings that invite prayerful study and meditation. St. Catherine was God’s instrument to make the world know that the purifying fires of Purgatory are the radiant fire of His own love.
Our brethren who have passed out of this life are in our daily remembrance, most especially during November. We wanted to share with you that the response to our emails for Masses for loved ones during this month was simply astounding, and we thank you for your whole-hearted response. So many souls whose names are even now resting on our chapel altar, very near the tabernacle, are being remembered each day many times. As one of our priests said in his sermon for the Mass of that day, the image of their names, contained in the envelopes that are placed near the tabernacle, is a very tangible reminder that these souls could not be closer to Our Lord than they are now… until they are received by Him into Heaven.
The adventure continues with our discovery of excellent Catholic literature, now out of print. You will be reassured to know that all of these titles have been highly recommended to Catholics for generations. Priestly guidance has put them into our hands and onto our library shelves for over 30 years, and it is from there that we set out on our book hunts. Our Carmelite life does not allow us a great deal of time for this particular endeavor – not ours is the enjoyment of leisurely browsing old book stores! But what we ourselves are so blessed to have, we wish to pass onto you in the measure that we are able.
Seeking the Kingdom – This remarkable book presents, in its many facets, the theology of Christian perfection. Those of you familiar with the Cross and Crown Series of Spirituality will welcome this book from the same publisher, written with care by many of the eminent Dominican Fathers that produced the Cross and Crown Series. The essays deal with the goal of man’s existence, which is eternal life, and the road to that great destiny. God and His essence, the virtues, the necessity of self-knowledge and mortification, the life of prayer, the sacraments… These and more aspects of Catholic life are discussed and explained. Practical instructions and suggestions are offered. If you think you already know all of this, think again. The watering down of spiritual doctrine has rendered great harm to souls, and reading these chapters will be enlightening and refreshing. A new start on the arduous path of perfection in Christ.
Be sure to check all of the titles available – a few we have mentioned in the past, as well as others, new to the selection. We wish we could take time to discuss all of them, but hope the book descriptions will be of benefit for you. Our searches have turned up some very fine works by some of the best, most respected Catholic authors.
Is it really time to start talking about Christmas? The world around us is telling us yes. While we don’t want to take part in the pre-Christmas commercial rush that so dominates everything after Thanksgiving (and even before!), this will be the last time we write before Christmas. People are already looking for Christmas cards and Christmas gifts.
There are some new designs in our Christmas card collection this year. As always, the focus is on traditional Christmas messages and beautiful art. We find that the Christmas cards with the classic paintings fly off the shelves! If you are planning on ordering large quantities, please order soon. There is still time for us to fulfill the needs of churches, schools or other organizations.
It is also an opportune moment to remind you that our deadline for rosary orders will once again be December 1st – and that is coming up quick! We do want you to know that will do our best to complete post-December 1st orders in time for Christmas giving, but with the many orders coming to us during these weeks, we cannot guarantee that the rosary will arrive in time, if you order after that date.
Do you happen to have a teacher on your Christmas list? For the true, dedicated teacher, Mary and the Christian Educator will be a refreshing and challenging guide in their chosen profession. How many times have you heard that despicable saying, “He who can, does; he who cannot do, teaches”? Sadly, most of us have known individuals like this. But almost all of us can say we also had teachers that were pivotal in our lives, who won our hearts, because they gave their hearts so genuinely – and therefore, truly instructed us. The wise guidance of Father Neubert will teach the teacher – in the spirit of Our Lady, leading to Christ Himself.
If in doubt as to what book will be just right, something always appreciated and used is a book of prayers. Of special note: My Prayer Book, Our Lady Book, and Classic Catholic Meditations. But all of the prayer books in our selection are wonderful – and sure to be treasured and used in all of life’s sorrows and joys. Prayer is the refuge of our souls – and often books help.
This coming Sunday we will be celebrating the Feast of St. John of the Cross. Though many find St. John of the Cross and his writings somewhat foreboding and severe, his prudent, gentle personality won the hearts of those of good will. Many are the stories of his tender-hearted generosity, charitable discretion, prudent direction. He understood the human heart and mind and guided souls with compassion – and with practical counsels. We are happy to announce that the book Union with God written by Fr. Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalene (the same author of Divine Intimacy) is now back in print. It is a wonderful summary of St. John’s teachings and writings. We cannot recommend it enough! We in our Community have benefited greatly from this book and we hope that you will too.
So many large, laborsome, involved projects came to a happy conclusion this year. Our new website was one of those! We have had good feedback, in that people find it easier to navigate and find what they are looking for. We know that there are still some glitches and bugs….websites, and technology in general, it seems, are never entirely free from those. We continue to work on it as time allows, but we thank you all for your encouragement and patience as we have made the transition. Now if we could just halt the progress of technology…for a couple of years at least?!
Happily, we have noticed a calm in the Community. Yes, despite the busy – and increasingly busier –days, a quietness has settled on one and all at Carmel. And why? We delight in the fact that our calendar is empty of appointments with workmen! No big projects, no noisy tools, machinery or pounding. No time constraints and puzzle-piecing the day’s schedule together, every hour expecting the doorbell to ring, or trucks to drive in. At Loreto, we are all quietly about our day’s works, with sewing, correspondence, packing up orders, unpacking shipments of books and supplies needed for the rosaries, etc. We daily thank God for the blessing of the new building, especially as things are picking up for Christmas time. There is more room to be more organized, and we all marvel at how quiet the building is. Even though a good deal of the Community is there during the work hours, the separations between the rooms and work areas are very well insulated (something we were not expecting with modular buildings)! It can be so quiet, even with so much going on, that we can still maintain that spirit of “being alone with God.”
The silence may be interrupted momentarily, however, if Meika shows up: she has some sort of obsession with doors closing and opening, in that building in particular, that makes her bark loudly and twirl in a manner that puts ballerinas and ice skaters to shame. So we are working on correcting that! Those who have high-drive dogs might understand the somewhat neurotic behaviors that they tend to pick up. Zelie’s neurosis is the aerosol cans that we use to spray dust out of our sewing machines.
In fact, she will sit all morning in front of a cupboard that she knows contains one. Admittedly strange, this is less noisy than Meika’s pastime! But another, quieter feature of Meika is that when she wants to sleep and to be left alone, she will shut her eyes tight and actually pretend to snore! Very comical from Meika the comic. She does have her serious side, too, for her bark is fierce and truly scary! Zelie, though having her funny moments, is more serious. The two of them still love sometimes to wrestle, as though they had not left puppyhood. It’s more of a dance and low growling than a wrestle match – and they never do it, unless they have an audience!
Not a newsletter is sent out that people do not ask to know more about our German Shepherds, so we hope these little anecdotes tell the story! These dear creatures continue to do what God made them to do: give joy and a sense of comfort and protection.
Our Kitchen Sister is carefully organizing the baking schedule for our annual Christmas gifts to the many wonderful men and women who generously assist Carmel throughout the year. Sister’s efforts are important for our being able to keep our Carmelite observance in the midst of what amounts to a huge bake sale! The goal is to have a very few Sisters working on their various treats at one time – to keep things silent and without mishaps. We all know that mishaps there will be (overcooked peanut brittle, burnt cookies, forgotten ingredients, for example), but minimizing them is up to each of us!
Grateful we are for all the blessings God sends our Carmel, blessings great and small. We close our Newsletter sending our thanks to you for your kindness, interest and support, along with the encouraging reminder that amidst the challenges, sorrows and joys of life, “our conversation, our citizenship, is in Heaven, from which we eagerly await a Savior, our Lord Jesus Christ. (Philippians 4:20).” What a hopeful reassurance for all true Christians as we look forward to the holy season of Advent, the season of earnest preparation and sincere longing for Redemption.
With our continual prayers, grateful prayers,
Your Carmelite Sisters
… Joseph sought among the dwellings of Bethlehem one that would open its door and let the Son of God be born of a Virgin. That was not the first time, nor the last, that God was on a threshold knocking and waiting for a voice to invite Him in. In the soul of every man is a chamber that is meant to be God’s dwelling place: an airy chamber large enough, once its door has been opened, to hold even Him in all His infinity…
The emptying out of the human heart in preparation for divine occupancy is a process that lasts an entire lifetime, and it is carried out with the help of a simple tool, humility…
– from Seeking the Kingdom
“Room for God”