“All that You have done to us, O Lord, You have done in true judgment, because we have sinned against you, and have not obeyed your commandments. But give glory to Your name, and deal with us according to the multitude of Your mercy.”
– Daniel, 3:31, from the Mass of Thursday in Passion Week
Dear Friends of Carmel,
During the weeks of February and March, as each day passed, more and more people from across the globe have been contacting us, asking for prayers in circumstances unprecedented in our lifetime. Each day has brought an increased number of souls to us through the emails, whether they be immediately affected by the virus, those infected themselves, those working “in the field” with the infected, those worried for their sick loved ones or mourning those who have died. Then there are those not touched at all by a virus infection, but are indeed stirred to growing fear and worry – some even to anger, as they question the political motives of the policies being brought forward. This widespread fear, the economic impact beginning to be felt by many, and the quarantines that have closed churches during the holiest week of the year – all are working mightily to shake the trust that God, our loving Father and the Author of life and of all good, deserves, come what may.
This has truly been a Lent of God’s making. The purpose of Lent has never been so vividly put before our eyes: “BE CONVERTED TO ME WITH ALL YOUR HEART, IN FASTING AND WEEPING AND MOURNING!” Yes, we are reminded that Lent is all about conversion. Why? Conversion from what? From sin, from culpable weakness and ignorance, from habitual compromise with the Truth we know must rule our lives. For make no mistake about it. The cause of all suffering – all sickness, anxiety, loss of security, death – is sin. And God will use anything He wills to call His people from sin and death, to conversion and life – everlasting life. Behold what He willed to accomplish upon the Cross!
As ever, holy Church in Her liturgy instructs, comforts and guides us. Gathering from the deep treasures of the inspired texts of holy Scripture, she gives in the Passiontide liturgy answers, explanation, guidance for these troubled days of ours. The prophecies and lamentations of Jeremias, as well as the plaintive cries of the Psalms, especially Psalm 21 (22), fill the Masses and Divine Office of these days. And all of these passages are rich with instruction, interpretation, consolation – and in the end, peace.
In the days of Jeremias, God’s chosen people, the Jews, had grown cold in their religion. Among many other sins against God, they had fallen so low as to worship false gods. Jeremias warned of God’s impending punishment if their ways were not amended. But they did not heed his words – the temple was destroyed, Jerusalem burned to the ground, and the chosen people carried into captivity. And Jeremias prophetically mourned, “O Lord, all who forsake You shall be confounded; those who fall away from You shall be written in the earth; for they have forsaken the source of living waters, the Lord.” But note well: only those who forsake and fall away from God will be confounded and confused. Those who trustfully await God’s holy Will to be accomplished, will not be annoyed or perplexed by the events of our days.
Repeatedly during the office of Tenebrae, we chant the words of Jeremias, the Prophet of Sorrow: “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, return to the Lord your God.” Is not the Church the “new Jerusalem”? We should not hesitate to hear this warning of the Sorrowful Prophet as spoken directly to each one of us, members of Christ’s Body, the Church. The Jews, from their captivity in Babylon, cried out for God to bring them back to their temples: “O God, why have You forsaken us?” Cannot Catholics relate, who for the most part been banished from their Churches, and just at these holiest days of the liturgical year? But let us “rend our hearts” and intensify our prayers and penances, asking for God’s mercy on our sins: “Spare O Lord, spare your people! And do not be angry with them forever…” In these days when most cannot physically be present at the Passion and Death of Our Lord through the Liturgy, let us unite ever more closely to its spirit, offering our sufferings in union with Christ and His holy Mother; let us make this Lent, this Holy Week, one that really does effect the conversion of heart and soul that God so longs to accomplish in the world – in each one of us.
Bitterness and rancor of heart have never accomplished any good. One and all must turn to God in prayer for the answers to this dilemma, whatever fundamentally it is, however it is being driven. Just as God will use anything to accomplish His designs for the good of souls, so also the enemy of souls, Satan, will mockingly mimic the Creator – and use any event, any evil design, any sickness, weakness or fear – to drag souls down and distract them from prayer, trust, penance for sin.
Our duty as faithful members of Christ is to remain in peace: “Take courage, it is I…” (Matthew 14:27 ) “Let not your heart be troubled or be afraid. You believe in God…” (John 14:1 ) And we are not to adopt a false peace of distraction and forgetfulness: “My peace I give you. Not as the world gives do I give to you…” (John 14:27)
The Crucifixion was terrifying for Our Lord’s closest friends. In fact, all of the apostles fled, only one returning to stand by Him. It was a dark and confusing time for them all; all seemed hopeless and lost. But Our Lord was in control, all along. Out of the greatest of evils, His death, He was bringing about the greatest good, our Redemption. Despite the evils of the times, Our Lord is still working for the good of souls, and whatever He asks of us to participate in this great work, whatever sorrows or crosses we may be asked to bear, He will also give us the strength we need to carry them worthily and meritoriously, if we only ask His help. Let us imitate St. John, who was strengthened by resting his head on the Sacred Heart, and who stood with Our Blessed Mother at the foot of the cross. And as the world is shaken, just as it was then, let us abandon ourselves to God’s will and mercy – “Into your hands O Lord, I commend my spirit.”
It would not be prudent to go out into this battlefield unprotected and unarmed. If you are among the many deprived of the Mass and Sacraments during these days, make even greater use of your blessed Sacramentals, which draw their power from the Eucharist. Similar to the Sacraments, though of course not as perfectly, they put us in contact with God’s grace and assistance. Pray the Rosary, the most efficacious prayer after Liturgical prayer. Recall and be consoled by the words of Sister Lucia, Our Lady’s “spokesperson” for her messages at Fatima: “The Most Holy Virgin in these last times in which we live has given a new efficacy to the recitation of the Rosary to such an extent that there is no problem, no matter how difficult it is, whether temporal or above all spiritual, in the personal life of each one of us, of our families…that cannot be solved by the Rosary. There is no problem, I tell you, no matter how difficult it is, that we cannot resolve by the prayer of the Holy Rosary.” Pray the Litany of the Saints, which in the history of the Church, has always been powerfully effective when used in times of plague, famine, pestilence and in any crisis.
Know that you are all in our thoughts and prayers each day, united as we are in the great Mystical Body of Christ. Especially at Tenebrae, chanted in the early hours of Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday, we will be remembering you, bringing all of these sorrows, crosses and trials before Our Lord as He relives His passion through His Church.
In Our Sorrowful Mother,
Your Carmelite Sisters
“Our Lady had no sin of her own to expiate by suffering and no penalty to pay for the sin of Adam. Yet the waters of bitterness overwhelmed her soul. Who then can doubt that suffering is the portion of God’s elect, the seal of His favor, the badge of our conformity with Christ? The Mother of Sorrows rebukes with her gentle example our self-love and shrinking from pain. She repeats the great lesson of sacrifice which her Son has taught; and she encourages us to bear patiently the sorrows and trials that God may send us. She does more: she moves all souls who are devoted to her to seek after suffering and to welcome it for the love of her Son.
Mary was present on Calvary to offer up her Divine Son for our redemption, to consent to His death that we might live. This is the real significance and value of her Dolors.
Only those who stand with Mary at the foot of the Cross really know what the Passion means, and no one who keeps watch with her is denied a share in her love and her sorrow.“
“Grant, we beseech Thee, almighty God, that we who seek the protection of Thy grace, may be delivered from all evil and serve you with peace of soul…”
– from the Liturgy of Friday of Passion Week