“The Lord saith:
I think thoughts of peace and not of affliction.
You shall call upon Me, and I will hear you;
and I will bring back your captivity from all places.”
– Jeremias 29:11, 12, 14
Dear Friends of Carmel,
Most people desire peace. They desire peace of mind and of heart, peace with themselves, in their families and friendships, peace at work and at home. They have a constant yearning for it, but so often, it seems ever out of reach. Perhaps it seems out of reach because many don’t know what peace really is. What they think is peace – is not peace. Selfish absorption in distracting amusements does not bring about serenity of mind or soul.
The famous definition of St. Thomas Aquinas speaks volumes, especially in the present state of our world and society: Peace is the tranquility of order.
The simplicity of such a phrase is breathtaking, almost startling! But then, true peace is simple – however, not so easy to attain and preserve. Order? Not too much of that right now, is there? The calm of stability, the atmosphere of things being as they should be – no, not to be found in all this upheaval!
And yet – The Christian soul seeks not its peace in the things, events, triumphs or losses of this world – trials belonging only to our short life on earth. Our Lord Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, or be afraid (Jn.14:27).” Rooted in God and in His will, the Christian soul dwells in the stability of faith and of hope, that wonderful “anchor cast into Heaven.” And recalling God’s severe castigation through the Prophet Ezechiel of false prophets, “For the very reason that they led My people astray saying, ‘Peace!’ when there was no peace,” we do not put any stock in the world’s false version of this great treasure.
St. Thomas had a good deal more to say about what peace truly is and remarks that peace is the work of justice, because justice removes the obstacles to peace. The saint was more directly addressing the issue of just war, but the principle that rules nations (or should) is the same that rules each individual soul. So dealing with one’s neighbor justly with a right and clear conscience is the foundation of peace of soul. St. Thomas also says that peace is found in obedience to God. Rooted in God’s will means following and loving God’s will – in whatever way it is revealed to us day by day, moment by moment. For this, we must be prayerful and attentive to the guiding inspirations of the Holy Spirit. “Much peace have they who love Thy law (Ps. 118:165)!” Lastly, the great theologian says that peace is directly “the work of charity, since charity (love), according to its very notion, causes peace.”
Saint Alphonsus Liguori, another great saint-theologian of the Church, expanded on these thoughts:
The more a person loves God, the more reason he has to hope in Him. This hope produces in the Saints an unutterable peace, which they preserve even in adversity. Because as they love God, and know how beautiful He is to those who love Him, they place all their confidence and find all their repose in Him alone.
Lofty ideals? Yes, but practical, too – and attainable. We are not excused from the effort necessary to reach the realm of peace within our own souls, however chaotic and worrisome the world is around us. We must make this effort and carry on this labor all our life long. For there is no denying that it is indeed strenuous work. We are working not only for our own interior peace, but for justice and peace in our poor world. Remember, we on earth are the Church Militant. It is for the love of God, for His glory, for the good of those we love and the good of the entire world that we work and fight and live. The great endeavor of becoming true peacemakers is, again, lifelong – but “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God (Mt. 5:9).” Yes, happy and blessed are those who strive in this way for Home, for the Kingdom that belongs to the children of God.
We pray each day, sometimes many times in a day, “Thy Kingdom come!” Our Lord and Master testified on the day of His death, before the highest governing official, that He came into this world to be a king that bore witness to the truth; but He said, “My Kingdom is not of this world (Jn.18).” The kingdom of God that Our Lord said is within us (cf. Lk. 17:21) is not of this world, but of God’s world. Our labor for Christ our King is that we must bring His kingdom “of truth and life … of holiness and grace…of justice, love and peace,” into this world!
[The] manifold evils in the world [are] due to the fact that the majority of men [have] thrust Jesus Christ and his holy law out of their lives, [believing] that these had no place either in private affairs or in politics … As long as individuals and states refuse to submit to the rule of our Savior, there [will] be no really hopeful prospect of a lasting peace among nations. Men must look for the peace of Christ in the Kingdom of Christ…
All men, whether collectively or individually, are under the dominion of Christ. In Him is the salvation of the individual; in Him is the salvation of society. … He is the author of happiness and true prosperity for every man and for every nation. If, therefore, the rulers of nations wish to preserve their authority, to promote and increase the prosperity of their countries, they will not neglect the public duty of reverence and obedience to the rule of Christ. … When once men recognize, both in private and in public life, that Christ is King, society will at last receive the great blessings of real liberty, well-ordered discipline, peace, and harmony. … That these blessings may be abundant and lasting in Christian society, it is necessary that the kingship of our Savior should be as widely as possible recognized and understood…from the encyclical of Pope Pius XI, QUAS PRIMAS
Perhaps it will be at great cost that we help in some small way to bring about such peace to the world. Behold Christ, our Leader in the quest, and what it cost Him! “… through Him, it hath well pleased the Father … to reconcile all things unto Himself, making peace through the blood of His Cross… (Col. 1:20).”
Righteous anger and indignation over injustice perpetrated in society is not alien to this peace. Vigorously defending the innocent is not sin! But we must avoid and reject the agitation that can worm its way into our minds and hearts, by the devil’s design and his agents in the world. “Be angry, and do not sin,” said St. Paul (Eph. 4:26). Depending wholly on God’s wisdom and guidance, we turn that agitation by earnest prayer into prudent action. In this way only do we become His instruments of peace in the world.
Reflecting on the coming Feast of Christmas, none of us can fail to remember that the Angels brought the message of “Peace to all men of good will.” They appeared as army legions, in full battle array, signaling the struggle of redemption that was about to begin in order to attain that peace, and that is indeed being lived out in the Mystical Body, the Church. The Savior would be to the world “a sign of contradiction,” and all His followers with Him…
We ready and steady ourselves in God’s peace to face all that is to come, taking counsel and courage from those who have gone before us:
See that you are not suddenly saddened by the adversities of this world, for you do not know the good they bring, being ordained in the judgments of God for the everlasting joy of the elect.
– St. John of the Cross
Who except God can give you peace? Has the world ever been able to satisfy the heart?
– Saint Gerard Majella
The best way to acquire that peace which is born of the love of God, the inexhaustible Source of all virtues, is to accept all tribulations, whether spiritual or temporal, as coming directly from the paternal hand of God; to look upon all unpleasant events as very costly gifts presented to us by our heavenly Father; to repeat often the sacred word of Our Savior: “Yea Father, for so hath it seemed good in Thy sight (Mt. 11: 26.)”
– St. Paul of the Cross
Keep your soul at peace, in order to be able to be attentive and very faithful to the inner movement of the Holy Spirit.
– Saint Peter Julian Eymard
Let us go forward in peace, our eyes upon Heaven, the only one goal of our labors.
– St. Therese of Lisieux
Give peace, O Lord, to them that patiently wait for Thee…
We don’t have any specific sacramental to describe for you this newsletter, but we can remind you of a few we have spoken or and recommended in the past.
As the years pass, more and more people are discovering a little-known chaplet that we offer: The Chaplet of St. Joan of Arc in honor of Jesus Christ, King. People are finding invigoration and strength in its purpose and prayers. St. Joan is a perfect patron for days like our own. Utterly disinclined toward public or political matters, she was chosen by God for a mission that forced her right into the fray. As we explain in the leaflet we offer with the chaplet: “During our turbulent times, when the enemies of the Church and Christian civilization have all but succeeded in their diabolical designs, there has never been such a need for the intercession of this great and powerful saint. It is our desire that this chaplet will foster through St. Joan’s prayers both a personal union with Our Lord Jesus Christ and an ardent desire to bring about His reign in society.”
We spoke more of St. Joan and other “warrior saints” (including Blessed Nuno Alvarez, who fought for and obtained the independence of Portugal as a knight and general before entering Carmelite Order as a lay brother), in one of our past newsletters: “Defending God.”
Another chaplet apropos to these days is the Holy Face chaplet, which is specifically prayed for the triumph of the Holy Church and the downfall of her enemies. St. Athanasius related that the devils, on being asked what verse in the whole Scripture they feared most, replied: “That with which the 67th Psalm commences; ‘Let God arise, and let His enemies be scattered. Let them that hate Him flee from before His Face.’” This phrase is frequently repeated in the prayers of this chaplet. We have made more of both these chaplets than usual these past few months, so we suspect that some of you have already been discovering them on our site!
But of course the chaplet we would recommend above all others is none other than the Holy Rosary itself. October, the month of the rosary, came and went without our being able to speak about this great Sacramental. But in these days, we should remember more than ever before the plea of Our Lady at Fatima: “Pray the rosary every day in order to obtain Peace for the world.” Remember too, the promise of Our Lady made to St. Dominic: “Someday, I will save the world through the Rosary.” We have yet to see the fulfillment of that promise. But throughout history we have seen foreshadowings of that victory many times, when the praying of the Rosary saved a portion of Christian civilization that was on the brink of being defeated and destroyed. Perhaps we will see that final victory in our own days. When the Liturgy is still being denied to many, we still have – and no one can take away – our rosaries, the great gift of Our Blessed Mother, who has foreseen and taken pity on the plight of her children. Pray it often, pray it devoutly – this prayer that walks us through the mysteries of the Redemption, hand in hand with Our Mother, who teaches us to see with her eyes and love with her Heart, and who guides us and gives us her Son. You can learn more about this great Sacramental through the books we offer about the Rosary, as well as on our Doctrine and Devotions page.
And speaking of our own website rosary orders – In our last newsletter, we mentioned that the time and shipping restrictions/obstacles would likely necessitate our putting an earlier deadline order date to guarantee for Christmas. We usually set the day of December 1st as the deadline for a guaranteed Christmas delivery. However, considering the number of orders we have received the past few weeks (we are already shipping about five weeks out from the order date), the sluggish mail system, and a number of other pressing obligations we have this month, we have decided that – – we cannot make any promises at all! We apologize for this, but this means that we will not be setting a “deadline” – we will simply do the best we can with the orders we receive. If you are considering a rosary as a Christmas gift, we advise you to order now rather than later.
The long promised small profession crucifixes from Vexilla Regis LLC are now available for both individual purchase and on rosaries. These (and all wood crucifixes) have always been favored by the Church because of their tie to the actual cross of Our Lord, which was, of course, made of wood. Wood crucifixes, when blessed, can be given the Happy Death Indulgence. That means that whoever at the moment of death, fortified with the Sacraments of the Church (or contrite of heart in the supposition of being unable to receive them), kisses the Crucifix and asks pardon of God for his sins, and pardons his neighbor, will gain a plenary indulgence. When it is becoming more difficult to receive the last Sacraments, we encourage this devotion more than ever. Be sure to have your wood crucifixes blessed!
Imported from Italy
The coming season of Advent is a season of peace and prayer. In the spirit of the holy Prophets of God, and under their direction, we recall the long ages of hopeful waiting for the Savior of the world. In the few short weeks before Christmas, we are given the opportunity to reflect on all that the promised Savior will be – and indeed, has become – for us.
You will find excellent reading for the Advent and Christmas seasons here. But two special offerings are Archbishop Goodier’s The Prince of Peace and the rare and out of print Pattern Divine by Fr. Temple. Both books rely and expound on the rich passages of holy Scripture that tell of Our Lord’s Hidden Life. You will benefit both from learning the fascinating historical details surrounding the Incarnation, and reflecting on the spiritual commentary of these learned authors.
See also the selection of other Rare and Out of Print books currently available.
We have good Christmas books for children, too. Our interest is always to find books worthy of children’s growing and curious minds. You will notice that we do not offer inane, “cartoony” type children’s books. What children learn and see with their young sensibilities – that they take with them through life. If the holy Faith is presented in a dignified way, simple and truthful, they are more likely to be attracted to it, to live it and preserve it as precious!
We cannot completely overlook in this November newsletter the Holy Souls in Purgatory. We are pleased to have a fine selection of books that explain the doctrine of the purification of the soul after death, but we will only mention one here: Fire of Love! Understanding Purgatory. In very brief, meditative chapters, it is the summary of the beautiful revelation to St. Catherine of Genoa about Purgatory. A perfect little book to bring to prayer, since it inspires deep thoughts by its deep truth.
We do not have much new “news” to tell you! As ever, we have many projects in the works, but our days are quite normal. So just what is a “normal” day for a Carmelite? This is a question we are often asked, and we thought we might try to answer it in this newsletter.
We rise early, at least what is considered early for most people, at the “crack of dawn,” as the saying goes. Or as one of our postulants once said, “Before dawn has even thought about cracking!” All are awakened by the clappers (two flat pieces of wood tied to a wood handle) and the call chanted by the bell Sister for that week: “Praised be Jesus Christ and the Virgin Mary, His Mother! Come to prayer, Sisters, come to praise the Lord!”
The first thing we do upon rising is to kiss the floor, an act of adoration and thanksgiving to God and a silent prayer for His aid and direction as we begin the day. With no makeup, hair or what-to-wear decisions, we don’t need long to get dressed and be downstairs: a mere fifteen minutes. We assemble in the Choir for an hour of silent mental prayer.
The mornings are especially sacred to us. All is quiet, still, and peaceful. It is still the time of the Great Silence which began the night before, a time dedicated especially and most formally to silence with, for and in God. Charitably, the nuns do not disturb one another, unless in case of great need or emergency, during this sacred time of prayerful, quiet communion with God.
After an hour of mental prayer, we begin recitation (simply sung on one note) of the Divine Office – Lauds, Prime, and Terce, followed by a short break. After this 10-minute break, we return to the Choir the last of the “Little Hours,” Sext and None, finishing at about 7 O’clock. Mass begins at about 7:20, and Thanksgiving after Mass is about 15 minutes. Following a small, short breakfast taken alone, we go about our daily duties.
How short the morning hours seem with all that we have to pack into them! Of course, all the Sisters need to be clothed and fed, and the Monastery grounds and building to be taken care of. We all take turns cooking in the kitchen. Though we eat simply, it is no small feat to put on a meal for fourteen Sisters in the space of a few hours. Moreover, there is one Sister who “heads” the “kitchen department,” monitoring leftovers and food so that nothing goes to waste, ordering groceries, and keeping our refrigerators, freezers and pantry stocked. Each morning, the Sister Cook gets her instructions with a brief meeting with the Kitchen Sister. A special liturgical feast day might mean a simple but scrumptious dessert to fit into the dinner preparations.
The “sewing department” keeps three of our Sisters employed full time, and the rest of us schedule our days to help wherever and whenever we can. Even if you can’t sew a straight seam, you can always hold a seam ripper! Besides our Community habits, we make linens and vestments for the altar, as you already are familiar with. Of course, we also have a Sister Sacristan, who does the regular washing and ironing of the linens, as well as repair work.
Then there is “the website department,” the small website business which has evolved and grown with the Community, and has helped us to support so many Sisters. We will be honest – sometimes it feels like riding an unruly, runaway horse! How much we have had to learn, and how much we honestly do not know about the internet and e-commerce. St. Joseph is our website manager – of this we are convinced. There are always emails from customers to be answered, orders to pull, package and ship, items to be ordered, inventory to be updated – all of the things you would, of course, expect with a small business. The “rosary department” employs several Sisters all by itself, keeping track of the hundreds of small, different rosary components there are to choose from, tracking down high quality beads – and then the actual work of making the rosaries. In fact, nine Sisters are involved, at least part time, in this last and most beautiful part of the “rosary department” – the skill of beading and bending wire for the love of God and Our Lady!
With so much yet to do, the bell for Vespers at 12:30 rings all too soon. But leaving our work behind, we all gather once more in the Choir for the Divine Office, followed by the few vocal prayers which we say every day together as Carmelites, including the Litany of Loreto.
After Vespers, dinner is taken in the refectory. It is our main meal of the day, and it is customary to read from some spiritual book while the Sisters are eating. Then comes our “favorite” part of the day – clean up! We sometimes say we would save so much time if we could just eliminate the cooking, eating, and especially clean up part of our day – but the body has its demands as well as the soul! We have a large kitchen, lots of kitchen counters and cabinets, and many dishes – but also many hands to make short work. With the kitchen spic-and-span at last, we go to gather for recreation.
Recreation is a happy time, when we share news of the day, give Community and family updates, and have a good deal of sisterly teasing and laughter. While we recreate, our hands are always busy, making rosaries, crocheting relic badges, sewing scapulars. Our Sacristan frequently sets up an ironing board along the side of our work tables to tackle some of her pressing. Occasionally during recreation, the sound of small clappers stops conversation, and all the Sisters pause for a brief moment of silence and Spiritual Communion. Recreation ended, we all kneel on the floor for a silent Our Father and then take an hour of siesta. If Sisters do not/cannot sleep at that time of the day, they may read, pray or work, but strict silence is observed nonetheless – almost like a mid-day Great Silence.
Oh, how many postulants are a bit skeptical at first about this period of rest in the afternoon, which comes directly from Our Holy Mother St. Teresa. But after only a few days of rising “before dawn even thinks about cracking,” most do accept it quite readily! Our Holy Mother was quite the psychologist and carefully experimented in her community to see just how much recreation, work, sleep etc., the Sisters needed. She was concerned that they maintain a balanced life, physically, mentally, and emotionally, as well as spiritually. St. Teresa was a wise mother, teacher and governor!
Siesta is followed by a half hour of spiritual reading, then Matins and Compline. The Divine Office for the day completed, we usually have a good part of an hour to squeeze in a bit more work, before we meet for another hour of mental prayer at 6:30.
Supper (called “collation” during the Carmelite fast, September 14th until Easter) is at 7:30, after which we meet for the Community’s second recreation (also prescribed by St. Teresa).
Following the evening recreation, we meet in the Choir one last time for our examination of conscience and the night blessing from the Prioress. Three strikes of the bell announce the beginning of the Great Silence, and the Sisters go about getting ready for bed and closing up the Monastery for the night. The bell for “lights out” rings at 10:45.
And so ends a “normal” day at Carmel. As we have said before, our active duties and tasks throughout the day are not all that different from those that people perform out in the world – sewing, cooking, cleaning, working: But we “find Our Lord among the pots and pans,” as St. Teresa would say. The progress of these works and activities, as well as the adventures they sometimes bring about, often are the topics that fill our recreation conversations – and our newsletter Community news. What we do not often speak of are the more important hours we spend in prayer – mental prayer, the Divine Office, and of course Holy Mass. Who but God alone shares this part of the “conversation” – and the work of the Holy Spirit? In these grave times that the whole world is now experiencing, how urgent are the prayers, the intentions, we bring before Our Lord. Our Holy Mother the Church, the upheaval in society, the struggles in every one of our families and personal lives: here we see how high are the stakes, and the real battles being waged. And it is these intentions that carry over into our daily works, so they become not just tasks being accomplished, but meritorious acts of love and obedience. For us as consecrated religious, the vows make each thing we do an act of worship if done with love – even something as apparently insignificant as washing a pot. But we would encourage all to this practice. How often have we spoken of daily duty and of the importance of making great use of the smallest and most trivial acts? In these days, we cannot afford to waste any of the spiritual weapons in our arsenal! We have shared with you these words before, but encourage you again to “divinize your day.”
“My Heart is all love and it embraces all souls, but how can I make My chosen souls understand My special love for them and how I wish to use them to save sinners and so many souls who are exposed to the perils of the world? For this reason I would like them to know how much I desire their perfection, and that it consists in doing their ordinary actions in intimate union with Me. If they once grasped this, they could divinize their life and all their activities by this close union with My Heart… and how great is the value of a divinized day!”
“I will tell My chosen souls that My love for them goes further still; not only shall I make use of their daily life and their least actions, but I will make use of their very wretchedness… their frailties… even of their falls, for the salvation of souls.”
“I ardently desire My chosen souls to fix their eyes on Me and never turn them away.”from Way of Divine Love,
Revelations of the Sacred Heart of Jesus
to Sister Josefa Menendez
As we close this last of our 2020 newsletters, we realize that everyone looks on this past year with mixed emotions – frustration, horror, fear, grief, anger, regret, despondency… But one of our priests recommended in the midst of all this turmoil to see the “silver lining” in all the deep, dark clouds. Find peace by searching out and remembering those “silver linings” – the ways in which you know that the good God has protected and helped and saved you. And look forward to all that He will do for us, His own children, in the coming days. The Child that was born at Christmas was the Prince of Peace!
With our prayers for peace in your hearts and in your homes,
Your Carmelite Sisters
I often ask for you from Our Lady that deep and sweet peace which comes from an undivided love. That is the hundred-fold promised to those who have left everything to follow Jesus Christ. Keep that peace bravely within yourself, and watch that the enemy never takes it away from you, even for a minute. That peace is the element in which those who belong to God dwell, but if possessing it is a grace, preserving it is a virtue. That is why I often ask God to give it to you; He is so good that He rewards you for preserving your peace. As if peace were not the greatest happiness!
– Dom Prosper Guéranger