“Devotion to Our Lady of Mount Carmel indicates a strong call
to the interior life, which, in a very special way, is Mary’s life.”
Dear Friends of Carmel,
The year is passing quickly, and we once again prepare to celebrate this peaceful feast of Our Lady. As is our custom, we are spending the night in silent adoration before the Blessed Sacrament, keeping vigil – in a spirit of prayerful penance, petition and gratitude. Know that we bring all of you united to us before the Blessed Sacrament, and you will be in our prayers.
What a sublime Mother and Queen we all have in Our Lady of Mount Carmel…
Devotion to Our Lady of Mount Carmel has as its particular trait dedication to the interior life. Mount Carmel is a symbol of the life of Heaven, and the ascending path up that mountain the way we must travel to get there. Father Gabriel affirms that this devotion indicates a “strong call to the interior life, which, in a very special way, is Mary’s life… (Divine Intimacy).”
Some people are uncertain and puzzled by that term, “interior life/spiritual life” – what precisely does it mean? Very simply put, it refers to our life with God! It is the life that begins with our baptism and, if we are faithful, lasts forever.
God’s presence in our lives never ceases, and we see this especially as we travel the ways of the liturgical seasons. The liturgy of the Church is truly one of the key ways Our Lord fulfills His promise, “I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world” (Mt. 28:20). Each season and its wondrous feasts, from Advent to Pentecost, bestow on us precious treasures that allow us to live Christ’s life and confirm us in our life with God. After the first part of the liturgical year, in which we have commemorated and relived the life and work of Christ on earth, the Church celebrates three important feasts in succession that set the greatest of these treasures before us: the Holy Trinity (Trinity Sunday), the Holy Eucharist (Feast of Corpus Christi), and the Sacred Heart of Jesus (Feast celebrated Friday, the week after Corpus Christi). Following closely upon the Paschal Season and Pentecost, these three mysteries encapsulate as precious fruits of the Redemption, providing sure direction for our spiritual life.
We want to speak briefly of these three treasures to encourage you to cherish them, live in them and grow in them – unto Heaven!
When we are baptized in the Name of the Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, God not only washes us clean of original sin, but bestows upon us a created share in His own life – the very life shared among the members of the Blessed Trinity. This life in us is sanctifying grace. Willing to raise us to the dignity of friends and of His Own children, God, One and Three, wills that we know something of His intimate life – and live it with Them. God, through grace, lives in us. This life is Love itself, for love is the life of the eternal Father with His Son; love is the fruit of Their love in the Person of the Holy Spirit. “God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God and God in him” (1 Jn. 4:16).
The truth of the Divine Indwelling in souls is revealed to us by Our Lord Himself:
- “I am in the Father and the Father [is] in Me” (Jn. 14:11).
- “If you love me, keep My commandments. And I will ask the Father and He will give you another Advocate to dwell with you forever, the Spirit of truth… you shall know Him, because He will dwell with you, and be in you” (Jn. 14:16).
- “If anyone love Me, he will keep My word, and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him” (Jn. 14:23).
God does not leave us without certain helps to preserve this life and live it worthily. He has provided nourishment for it in the Holy Eucharist. When Our Lord declares, “I am the bread of life” (Jn. 6:35), this is the life of which He is speaking. And further: “As the living Father has sent Me, and as I live because of the Father, he who eats Me shall live because of Me” (Jn. 6:57). Our Savior emphasizes that this is eternal life: “I am the living bread… If anyone eat of this bread he shall live forever; and the bread that I will give is My flesh for the life of the world” (Jn. 6:51, 52). The Sacraments are the signs Our Lord has established that represent hidden realities. As Baptism introduced God’s life in us, so the Blessed Sacrament containing Christ Himself, nourishes and maintains that life.
Jesus Our Lord, despite the blindness and misunderstanding of His hearers and of those in our own day who find it a “hard saying” (Jn. 6:61), persists in His declaration of the truth, telling us all, “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you shall not have life in you. He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has life everlasting, and I will raise him up on the last day… [he] abides in Me and I in him” (Jn. 6:54, 55, 57). Here again do we see that Divine Indwelling – God within us! The very term Holy Communion reveals the purpose of this greatest of the sacraments.
It is the love of the Sacred Heart of Jesus that compels Him to be so insistent, urging souls to accept His word – and live. For “The thoughts of His Heart are to all generations, to deliver their souls from death and feed them in famine” (Ps. 32:11, 19). The Heart of Jesus is the expression, and the symbol, of God’s love for the human race – the love of all Three Persons in God. The Collect prayer for the Feast of the Sacred Heart proclaims that God “mercifully deigns to bestow on us the infinite wealth of His love in the Heart of His Son, wounded by our sins.” Who can ponder these words and not be moved by the selfless love of our God for us? In spite of our waywardness, He pours out measureless love. This love, through many means, labors to guide, teach, protect, sanctify and save us.
St. Paul writes to the Ephesians (and to Christians of all generations) of the tremendous love of God. And he prays for us. He prays for our strength and progress in this spiritual life of love, “the progress of the inner man,” he calls it: “… so that being rooted and grounded in love” we may be able somehow to comprehend as the Saints do, the love of God in all its infinite dimensions. All of this, St. Paul tells us, surpasses knowledge and our ability to understand. But! God is able to accomplish all things “in a measure far beyond what we ask or conceive,” and He Himself will complete the work of love He has begun in us through the Heart His Son and the Holy Spirit. (cf. Ephes. 4:14-20)
All that the Sacred Heart of Jesus asks is a return of His love. Returning God’s love is what the spiritual life is all about. It is a life of faith, hope and love; of joyful dedication, prayer, obedience, willing submission to the ways of Providence, generous self-sacrifice…”The Sacred Heart establishes once and for all the primacy of the inner life. It is the absolute emblem of interiority, its strength and intensity, a citadel of prayer immediately recognized as such by those who strive to worship the Father in spirit and in truth.” (S. Hertz)
We encourage you to read and learn about this dedicated interior life of the soul. Never do we stop in our endeavor always to learn more how to live for God and in God. Further on in our letter, we provide a few recommendations for “stoking the fire” of this life of love in us – “I have come to cast fire on the earth, and what will I but that it be kindled?” (Lk. 12:49) It is the love that St. Therese well named “the fire of the Fatherland.” (See The Poetry of St. Therese of Lisieux)
And should you wonder, perhaps, that we are “overlooking” Our Lady on the eve of her great Feast, we would point out that there is no better way for us to honor her than to expound on the truths that she held so dear. No one lived the life of the Trinity as intimately as she did, being the daughter of the Father, the Mother of the Son, and the Spouse of the Holy Ghost. She bore the Son of God into this world, that we too might bear Him in our bodies and souls in the Holy Eucharist. She so united her heart to the Sacred Heart in His redemptive act on Calvary, that she became a part of it. She is not only a model for our interior life. She is our Mother, our Mediatrix – mediator with Our Lord. She who possessed so entirely the richness of Divine grace, as a natural outpouring, now fosters that life in our own souls.
So we stated at the beginning of our letter, dedication to the interior life is the hallmark of devotion to Our Lady of Mount Carmel. It is she, our heavenly Mother, who can best help us in the living out of God’s life in us. As the beautiful aspiration cries out, “O Mary, make us live in God, with God and for God!”
How shall we then show our solid devotion to the Blessed Virgin? By striving to imitate her interior life, her lowly opinion of herself, her love of obscurity, of silence and of retirement; her attraction to little things, her fidelity to grace, the beautiful simplicity of her recollection and prayers, the only object of which was God and His holy will, Jesus Christ and His love, her continual sacrifice of herself and of all she loved most earnestly. Let us ask her every day that she may serve us as our guide and model in the interior life.
– Manual for Interior Souls, Father Grou
This is the only true and profitable knowledge: To know Jesus Christ. Seek Him fervently; seek Him in the tabernacle. Here you are but a step from the Master; fix your eyes on Him who is the Light; bring your hearts close to His Divine Heart, ask Him to grant you the inestimable grace of knowing Him. From this knowledge will blossom the spirit of faith and love; not a sentimental love, which so many seek, but of that “love…strong as death,” which leads necessarily to self-immolation and brings forth the spirit of sacrifice, both in matters touching our own personal sanctification and our apostolate.”
– Jesus King of Love, Father Mateo
We must take our baptism, our supernatural life, seriously: live by the life that has been established in us, behave like people who have truly received divine adoption. Once we have been given such a state, is it not demanded of us, as an absolute obligation, to live according to what has been created in us by God Himself? If baptism is what we know it to be, there is only one thing to be done: to belong entirely to that sovereign and blessed influence which is in us.”
– Dom Paul Delatte
The reception of the Eucharist unites us, in the first place, to Christ’s holy humanity… [But] we do not unite ourselves only to Christ. Christ is but one with the Father: “I and the Father are one,” one in unity of the Holy Spirit. Communion unites us at the same time with the Father and Holy Spirit. “And not for them only do I pray, but for them also who through their word shall believe in Me; that they may be one, as Thou, Father, in Me, and I in Thee; that they also may be one in Us” … If we ask Our Lord what we can do that is most pleasing to His Sacred Heart, it is certain that He will tell us, before all else, to be like Him, the child of God. If then we want to please Him, let us receive Him every day in the Eucharistic Communion.
– Christ in His Mysteries, Abbot Marmion
Without interior life, we will never have strength to persevere in sustaining all the difficulties inseparable from any apostolate, the coldness and lack of co-operation even on the part of virtuous men, the calumnies of our adversaries, and at times even the jealousy of friends and comrades in arms . . . Only a patient virtue, unshakably based upon the good, and at the same time smooth and tactful, is able to move these difficulties to one side and diminish their power.
– St. Pius X
But above all bestir yourself not so much by working hard… as by storing up in your soul the life of prayer; for be sure of this: the extent to which you first of all live the life of Our Lord, will be the exact measure of your ability to kindle the fire in others…. Ah! If the majority of priests, religious, and lay people too, who are engaged in good works, if they knew the power of the lever they have at hand, and took it as their fulcrum the Heart of Our Lord, and life in union with that Heart, they would transform our country. Yes, they would do so in spite of the efforts of Satan and his followers.
– The Soul of the Apostolate, Dom Chautard
As promised earlier in our letter, we offer suggestions for helpful spiritual books to guide and keep you steadfast in your life with God. You know well by now that the only books we offer are those that reliably teach the Catholic Faith in all its fullness and tradition. While many of the best spiritual books are no longer in print, more and more small Catholic publishers are carefully choosing wonderful titles to reprint/republish. We rejoiced to learn that two particularly loved titles are back in print, both illustrating and teaching far better than we can, the doctrines we have tried to explain above. The Dominican Father Bernadot’s classic, From Holy Communion to the Blessed Trinity, is a little summary of the stages of the spiritual life, with the special emphasis of making progress through reception of the Holy Eucharist. We love this book!
The other is the deeply devotional Only Jesus by Archbishop Luis Martinez. The writings of the Mexican Archbishop, who died in 1956, have become well known for their strong but tender devotion to Christ and His Church. Only Jesus is a beautiful testimony to the love of the Sacred Heart, offering many lights for meditation and loving prayer, but also practical considerations to advance our interior life in God’s presence.
Other recommended reading:
- Father Gabriel – Divine Intimacy – Chapters 200-225 – all three of the mysteries we discuss in our newsletter
- All Abbot Marmion titles, but especially Our Way and Our Life – Christ in His Mysteries – the sacred Liturgy and our spiritual life
- Jean-Baptiste Chautard – The Soul of the Apostolate – one of the best books on the spiritual life and its purpose
- Elizabeth of the Trinity – The Praise of Glory –Carmelite saint’s teachings on the Divine Indwelling
- St. Peter Julian Eymard – How to Get More out of Holy Communion; Eucharistic devotional and prayer books
- Father Mateo – Jesus King of Love – one of the very best books on the Sacred Heart devotion and spiritual progress
- Devotion to the Sacred Heart – both book by Fr. Croiset and the booklet by Father Etlin
- Pope Pius XII – Haurietis Aquas – The definitive Papal encyclical on the Sacred Heart
We cannot let this great feast of Our Lady pass us by without at least mentioning the Brown Scapular. We have written about the Scapular over many years, and our website carries much helpful and interesting information. But Father Gabriel, who well understands the Scapular devotion and Carmelite Marian spirit offers us a beautiful meditation:
The Blessed Virgin is a Mother who clothes us with grace and takes our supernatural life under her protection, in order to bring it to its full flowering in eternal life. We can truly say that the garment of grace was woven by the blessed hands of Mary, who day by day, moment by moment, gave herself entirely, in union with her Son, for our salvation. Legend tells of the seamless robe which the Blessed Virgin wove for Jesus; but for us – and in reality – she has done much more. She has cooperated in obtaining the garment in which we shall enter the banquet hall of heaven. How she longs that this robe be imperishable! From the moment we received it at Baptism, Mary has never ceased to follow us with her maternal gaze, to safeguard within us the life of grace. The scapular, the little habit, that our Lady of Mount Carmel offers us, is only the external symbol of her unceasing, maternal care. “My beloved son,” Mary said to St. Simon Stock, “take this scapular…whoever dies clothed in it will not suffer eternal fire.” “Those who wear the scapular,” said St. Pius XII, “profess to belong to Our Lady.” Because we belong to Mary she takes special care of our souls. – Divine Intimacy
Many of you have for a long time asked us to carry a framed print of the Immaculate Heart as well as the Sacred Heart Prints we carry. We finally have added one to our selection that is available in two sizes.
The young artisan who crafts our 100% beeswax candles is always brainstorming for more ideas and coming up with new designs. In last spring’s newsletter, we introduced the votive candles and tea lights. In June, we added a new short pillar candle with a wax white, raised cross design. We think it makes a really lovely First Communion or wedding gift – but people are getting them for many occasions.
If you have visited our site in the past few months, you will have noticed that we are no longer accepting orders from the United Kingdom and European Union countries. In January of this year, the UK government started requiring online stores to collect a value added tax (VAT) on their behalf. We are not registered to collect the VAT, and while we spent several weeks trying to register with no response from Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs Dept., we finally gave up on the idea. Talk about red tape, with no way to contact a real, live human being to sort it all out… On July 1st the European Union followed suit, and we had to remove all the countries under the EU from our shipping list.
Carmelites are not tax collectors! But we have a solution in the works. Though not perfect, it is workable, and we will be trying to develop it further as time goes on. The simplest way to go is to integrate with a third party seller as a platform that can collect the VAT for us and allow us to continue offering our products to our UK and European customers. We have settled on eBay – which in a way brings us full circle! Long before we had a website, with the encouragement and huge help of good friends, we started auctioning handmade rosaries on eBay, then a relatively new platform, in an effort to support our Carmel. We have revived that old eBay account, bringing it up to date and integrating it with our regular website store. So the new eBay storefront is now open!
The selection of items is limited, so if there is something in particular you want to purchase, please let us know and we will see what we can do to add it to the eBay Sisters of Carmel site. It will not be possible for us to offer everything on eBay that is on our website, but our hope is to add things little by little, as need arises and as we receive requests.
You can also send a snapshot of your shopping cart with your shipping address to firstname.lastname@example.org, and we will set up a custom eBay link for you to check out.
It feels like ages have passed since our last newsletter, indeed entire seasons! We have passed from Lent, through Paschatide, into the time after Pentecost. We have passed from deep winter into blistering summer. Shortly after we last wrote, we were shoveling 6-foot snow drifts in order to get into our work building; now we are pulling weeds and enjoying our gardens and flower pots. Time certainly does not stand still!
We have been busy with many ventures and projects these past few months. Besides the many website changes that we spoke of above, we have tackled two vestment projects, raised a litter of puppies, and experimented with other new technologies such as sublimation and 3-D printing (thanks to a generous donor who thought the technology would be of help to us). All of this we incorporate into our work for the altar as well as the Sacramentals we make.
Ever experimenting and delving into ideas and methods for making more beautiful vestments for the Divine Worship, with the constant endeavor to recapture old art with new techniques, we stumbled upon “sublimation” quite by accident. As we are sure is the case with all of you, our favorite button when sifting through the endless list of email advertisements is “delete.” But one particular email didn’t make it immediately into the trash bin, the title of it catching our eye: “Combining printing and embroidery.”
While we have digitized and machine embroidered faces and other details in our appliques, we have not been able to match the beauty of the old silk handwork done by nuns in years past. Taking apart and examining closely many old appliques, we found that the shading was not done with thread, but was “painted” or “dyed” somehow onto the fabric, with very light embroidery over it in only one or two different shades of thread. This gave the appliques a “stitched” look with spectacular shading and dimension. We had often wondered if there was a modern way of imitating this technique, and so were intrigued by the idea of being able to use a printer in conjunction with an embroidery machine. Would this finally be the answer?
We consulted with an embroiderer friend with whom we have shared ideas, techniques and trials. This wonderful lady has given us modern day tips in the past, and she educated us into the art of sublimation. It is a method using special printing dyes, heat and pressure to apply images to a variety of surfaces, including fabric and thread.
We experimented with two appliques (pictures or patterns that are often seen on the back of vestments), which we wanted to use for rather plain chasubles – one of Our Lady of the Rosary, the other of St. Michael. The method is interesting! First, we digitized and sewed out the entire shape of the figures in white embroidery thread, adding texture and stitch direction to give the images a 3-D look. Next, we used a sublimation print (a colored picture of the subject) to dye that thread the colors of the image. Lastly, after it was sublimated, the applique went back into the embroidery machine, where we sewed out all of the fine details and flourishes in light-catching metallic threads. Quite a process! Quite exciting results!
We already have more projects brewing, and are eager to bring this technique to the table as a way to enhance the beauty of the vestments we create in the future. St. John Vianney spared nothing in effort or expense when it came to the altar – our dear God deserves the very best we can bring Him! And isn’t it a wonderful thing that modern industry can be utilized to glorify Him?
We have found other uses for our sublimation technology. When we couldn’t find the right color blue cord to finish a pall, we “dyed” the cord blue by wrapping it in printed blue sublimation paper and pressing it – a bit “avant-garde,” but it did end up working! And remember our last newsletter all about the image of the Holy Face? We could not find any prints from any of our main sources really worthy of offering for the devotion of the people. But using this technique, we were able to “print” our own on maple and wooden plaques, which we have been pleased to see appreciated by many of our visitors and customers.
In our last newsletter the puppies were only a few weeks old. How fast they grew! Going from walking, to running, and chewing, and fighting, and getting into things, and making mayhem as only puppies know how to do. It was a wonderful experience to raise them, even if somewhat difficult to send them off to their new homes.
The first two females left early on, near Easter time. Stella (our favorite feisty female) went to her new home just a couple of weeks ago, and Buddy (the only male) is still with us. Sixty-five pounds at five months with a head that is already bigger than the mamma dog, he is a soon-to-be giant cuddly lap dog. He’s laid back (except when it comes to food), but has a fierce and protective side when he sees something new or out of the ordinary. His bark and growl are already quite ferocious-sounding.
The puppies (we had two, Buddy and Stella, at the time) loved our garden days, having all the Sisters outside with them digging in the dirt, playing with hoses, and chasing wheel barrels. They loved it so much, that when the Sisters took a break and went inside for supper, they decided to keep up the “garden work” on their own. They had a particular affinity for Our Mother’s little patio garden, which she had spent all evening planting: they “re-planted” many of the flowers, especially one particular little rose bush. More than once they pulled up all the plants (especially that rose bush) in that little patch of earth and left them scattered on the grass, and more than once did Mother patiently replant the plants and teach the puppies the stay away from them… a lesson they learned most grudgingly. For once, when Mother went to check and see if they were still behaving themselves and not ripping up plants, she found Buddy had indeed done what he was told and not torn out the rose bush, but rather he had climbed over the fence and was sitting on the poor little bush, staring at Mother. One could not help imagining that there were all sorts of defiant thoughts going through his little head: “You never said I couldn’t sit on it!” Much to the delighted surprise of us all, the beleaguered rose, after a month of looking miserable, has new growth all over it where Sister Gardener pruned the ruined branches.
How many other projects are keeping our days long and full! Maintenance projects (a new garden shed and garage), sewing projects (more new habits for the Sisters), sacristy projects (vestment work). Life here continues on with all its small, seemingly insignificant tasks, when put into the context of the need in the world.
We are not unaware of what goes on beyond our walls – the chaos and seeming hopelessness enveloping much of society. Beyond the big picture, we know there are those personal struggles, the crosses each of you must bear, the sacrifices you must make, the battles you must fight every single day to hold on to your Faith and onto “the Good, the Beautiful and the True” in a world that is progressively more alien to God and His love.
Our plea in this newsletter to “turn within” is not a retreat from the battle, but rather a rallying cry around the source of all life and grace. For if we wish to “fight the good fight” and “keep the faith,” we must do all in our power to strengthen the life and union with God in our souls. This must be our impenetrable fortress. Only in this will the life of grace overflow from our souls (as it did for Our Blessed Mother) into our every deed, which, united to the power of God, will have the power to change the world. We cannot hope to share a life that we barely possess ourselves, so we must help to convert and sanctify the world by laboring for our own conversion and sanctity, day by day.
A very Happy Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel to you! You are all in our prayers.
Your Sisters in Christ
I shall unite myself to the soul of the Blessed Virgin when the Father overshadowed her with His power, while the Word became incarnate within her, and the Holy Ghost came upon her to work the great mystery. It is the whole Trinity in action, God yielding, giving Himself…. During the period between the Annunciation and the Nativity, Our Lady seems to me to be the model for interior souls: those whom God has asked to live within themselves… In what peace and recollection did Mary live and act! The most trivial actions were sanctified in her, for through them all she constantly adored the Gift of God. Yet that did not prevent her from spending herself for others when charity required it.
– Elizabeth of the Trinity