“Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor has it entered into the heart of man, what things God has prepared for those who love him.”
– 1 Corinthians 2:9
Dear Friends of Carmel,
Once again, we find ourselves at the closing months of the year. And again this October we have been blessed with colorful autumn days. Like a lively party outside, trees, shrubs and vines are all decorated and glowing. During the day when the sun shines on those colorful trees, the glow even comes indoors through windows, making chapel, cells, kitchen and other rooms of the Monastery varying shades of pink, orange, gold. More about all of this later in our letter, but first to share a special day of spiritual blessings in Carmel.
We have mentioned in our letters over the years that according to Carmelite custom, we renew our holy Vows twice each year: on January 6, the Feast of the Epiphany of Our Lord, and on September 14, the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. The simple ceremony of renewal begins with a brief exhortation from Our Mother Prioress, which may be liturgical thoughts, or reflections on the different religious virtues, or perhaps consolation in times of sorrow or encouragement in times of intense and important Community labor and works, etc. Last month, in the face of all the “bad news” that confronts us every way we turn these days, Our Mother urged us all to raise our sights from the things of this earth and consider our goal: Heaven, eternity and the everlasting possession of our God. She read to us from Father Arendzen:
God is a world, a wide universe, which none of the Blessed has ever totally explored… no one shall exhaust the greatness of the divine majesty. It is an ocean on which the little craft of created intelligences can forever press forward in all directions, for it is a sea without a shore…[W]e shall stand spellbound, and even eternity shall never break the spell. The novelty shall never wear away. The freshness of His glory shall never pass. God, so old, shall always be new… “Behold, I shall make all things new (Apoc. 21:5).”
We know from our faith that Heaven surely exists and is truly “the dwelling of God with men.” Heaven is for us our destiny, rest, reward and homeland. It will be – and must be – answer to all the woes of life that God’s Providential plan held for each one of us. We are told by the Beloved Disciple that God will wipe away all tears from our eyes, and that death shall be no more. “Neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore,” for when we have reached that glorious abode, the former things will have passed away forever. (Apoc. 21) Heaven is all beauty, joy and bliss; all purity and truth.
Heaven is both the solitude of personal union with God alone and companionship with all the souls of the Blessed who have won the victory and who possess and glorify God. Yes, we will know and live in the company of our Blessed Mother, the Angels and all of the wonderful Saints of God. The upcoming Feast of All Saints celebrates this surpassing joy and splendor. In Heaven, we will recognize one another’s victories over the enemy, and we will discern the wondrous graces God gave each one in order to get us there. It will be the festive Great Reunion among the redeemed of Christ – all of us marked with His Precious Blood and Wounds, all of us marked with the Cross and wearing the immaculate wedding garment.
St. Teresa, our Holy Mother, whose feast we so recently celebrated, contemplated and wrote of this truth about Heaven:
Among the many other joys, the principal happiness of heaven appears to me to consist in a disregard of all earthly things and in a peace and glory that dwell in a soul which rejoices in the bliss of its companions. It lives in perfect peace and feels supreme satisfaction in seeing that all those around it honor and praise God and bless His name, and in knowing that they never offend Him. In heaven everyone loves Him; the soul cares for nothing but loving Him: it cannot cease to do so because it knows Him as He is. If only we really knew Him we should do the same in this world, although not so constantly and so perfectly as in heaven; yet very differently from what we do now. (Way of Perfection, Ch. 30)
Many other aspects of our heavenly home will contribute to our eternal happiness, but we could not possibly intend this newsletter to be a thorough dogmatic presentation! However, from all we have mentioned above, we know the goal, at least in our faith and hope. But we might find ourselves sometimes asking, “So how do we get there?” echoing the apostles who asked Our Lord, “How can we know the way?” And Jesus answered them in a manner that must have startled them in its simplicity and depth: “I am the way…” Yes, He is the way – and the truth and the life in eternity – He is our eternal Heaven – and He is our life even now while time is still passing.
St. Paul tells us frankly that eye has not seen or ear heard, nor has it entered into the heart of man, what things God has prepared for those who love Him. But this great Apostle to the nations fulfilled well his task of instructing souls for “how to get there”:
Wherefore we do not lose heart. On the contrary, even though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For our present light affliction, which is for the moment, prepares for us an eternal weight of glory that is beyond all measure… Always full of courage, then, and knowing that while we are in the body we are exiled from the Lord – for we walk by faith and not by sight – we even have the courage to prefer to be exiled from the body and to be at home with the Lord. And therefore we strive, whether in the body or out of it, to be pleasing to Him. For all of us must be made manifest before the tribunal of Christ, so that each one may receive what he has won through the body, according to his works, whether good or evil (2 Cor. 4:16-17, 5:6-10).
Let us all continue our striving for such a great purpose, end and goal – truly our destiny! And let us pray for one another to attain it without fail.
Purgatory and Heaven – Father Arendzen is one of the best teachers of theology in his writings – straightforward and easy to read. Although strictly doctrinal, he never fails to communicate his joy and wonder over the truths he explains. A small book, ideal for unhurried consideration, meditation and mental prayer.
The End of the Present World and the Mysteries of the Future Life – The French Father Arminjon also reveals his immense love of our Holy Faith and its mysteries. His book was originally a series of sermons in which he was able to expound deeply and at length on his topics. Four separate chapters deal with Heaven, and they are all instructive and inspiring. As many of you will remember, this book was a key influence in the life and spirituality of St. Therese of the Child Jesus, and the chapter that most moved and guided her was “Eternal Beatitude and the Supernatural Vision of God”.
In Heaven We’ll Meet Again – Originally titled, In Heaven We Will Know Our Own, the book is Fr. Blot’s letters of consolation and guidance to a mother who had lost children and other loved ones in a short interval. His emphasis is really on the that rich and consoling doctrine, the Communion of Saints. The subtitle of the book reveals its emphasis: The Saints and Scripture on Our Heavenly Reunion. Beautiful thoughts, also, on praying for our beloved dead.
It is still the month of the Holy Rosary, and what an important sacramental it is to have in our hands during these days! We hope that you visit some of the information on our website and past newsletters about the rosary, including the talk we posted about how to pray it. It is a difficult, but lofty and most efficacious prayer, one that is second only to the Liturgy in uniting us with the life, intentions and Heart of Christ, through the heart of His most Blessed Mother.
We had hoped to be able to announce to you that by this time the new “Build a Custom Rosary” feature is up and running. But website construction, so we have learned, is the same as any other type of construction – it always takes twice as long as you hoped and is most definitely running behind schedule! The new version is still located in some mysterious part of the web called “the sandbox,” undergoing final testing as the Sisters format the last of the options. But everything, God willing, should be completed and working in time for Christmas gifts.
In the meantime, we have remained dedicated to making all of the other “rosary ordering options” on our site fully available and welcoming, re-structuring a few areas for ease and simplicity. The new Partly-Custom Rosary feature is full of different bead options, and we have even been able to stock up on Ready-Mades Rosaries that can ship immediately. We have designed many new gallery rosaries, including ones designed with a specific theme. The “Queen of Heaven” rosary, “Christ the King” rosary and “Heavenly Host” rosary have already become customers’ favorites, but we have designed others for Our Lady of La Salette, Our Lady of Lourdes, Our Lady of Guadalupe, the Infant of Prague, Holy Family, and one that includes all of the major Carmelite devotions.
Another piece of Rosary news is our discovery of a source for beautiful and unique new rosary parts and medals. This interesting company takes old antique pieces and re-produces them in bronze. The pieces are cast using the traditional wax casting technique and are made right here in the United States. We were astounded at the detail and devotional beauty of some of these old/new pieces! They are true works of Catholic art – and Catholic faith.
One of our favorites is a beautiful cross of St. Therese. The front is decorated with the image of the Saint holding a crucifix, while the reverse features the Carmelite shield with her famous promise: “I will spend my heaven doing good on earth.” Another large medal has a very detailed image of Our Lady of the Rosary with St. Dominic and St. Catherine of Siena. On the reverse of this special medal is inscribed the phrase in Latin: “To restore all things in Christ through Mary.” Is there any better phrase to capture the mission and goal of the rosary than this!
A particularly unique medal shows Our Lord giving a blessing with the words “My Peace I give to you.” On the back the Holy Names are engraved with large letters, making the medal a silent proclamation and prayer. Several Holy Face crosses are extraordinary original designs from both France and the Eastern Church. There are fine pieces depicting The Eucharistic Heart of Jesus, Our Lady of Perpetual Help, Our Lady of Mount Carmel, St. Francis, and the most exquisite “Our Lady Star of the Sea” that we have ever seen. The list goes on!
We have started a gallery of vintage rosaries with many of these pieces (including car rosaries), and are offering some of them for individual sale, but we have only scratched the surface with all the different bronze vintage medals we hope eventually to offer our site. However, we have already uploaded some of our favorites for your personal use and devotion. Check back for more!
As you know, we promote and encourage the Church’s devotion of the blessed St. Benedict medal. This is an important sacramental, especially in our day, since its special blessing/exorcism is particularly powerful against the devil and all evil spirits. Another sacramental with similar power is Holy Water! Many years ago, we composed an entire page on our website to describing Holy Water and its history, use, and power. We invite you visit this page of our Doctrine and Devotion section to recall, be informed, and be more aware of all the benefits at your fingertips through this wonderful sacramental. All of us should have ready access to holy water in our homes. Holy water bottles are an excellent way to store it. It is also a traditional Catholic custom in imitation of our churches, to keep holy water fonts near doorways: a constant reminder to use this cleansing, sanctifying substance when either entering or leaving one’s home, or even ones’ own room. As children, we learned the comfort of being blessed with holy water before sleep at night. Each evening after Compline, here in Carmel, each Sister is sprinkled and blessed with holy water while we recite the prayers of the Asperges. With all of this in mind, we like to keep adding to the collection of holy water fonts we offer on our website, so that all might find something appeals to their devotion.
From long experience I have learned that there is nothing like holy water to put devils to flight and prevent them from coming back again… so holy water must have great value. For my own part, whenever I take it, my soul feels a particular and most notable consolation. In fact it is quite usual for me to be conscious of a refreshment which I cannot possibly describe, resembling an inward joy which comforts my whole soul. This is not fancy, or something which has happened to me only once, it has happened again and again and I have observed it attentively.
I often reflect on the great importance of everything ordained by the Church and it makes me very happy to find that those words of the Church are so powerful that they impart their power to the water and make it so different from water which has not been blessed..
I will only describe something that happened to me one night of All Sous Day. I was in an oratory: I had said one nocturne and was repeating some very devotional prayers which follow it – they are extremely devotional: we have them in our office book – when actually the devil himself alighted on the book, to prevent me from finishing the prayer. I made a sign of the cross and he went away. I then began again and he came back. I think I began the prayer three times and not until I had sprinkled some holy water on him could I finish it.St. Theresa of Avila
St. Teresa said she would die for one drop of holy water, since what gave it its power was the Precious Blood of Jesus. She believed this because of the ancient custom of making this short prayer when blessing oneself with holy water: “By this holy water and by thy Precious Blood wash away all my sins, O Lord.”
The 2024 liturgical calendar is now available! This calendar, besides being the perfect way to keep track of the Church’s Feast Days and Liturgical Seasons, it is also full of beautiful devotional pictures and information about the Catholic Faith. At the back of the calendar, there is a treasury of prayers and essential truths of the Faith, as well as a Patron Saint index. This is the perfect calendar for those attending the Latin Mass.
We will be writing again in a few weeks with updates on some of our new Advent and Christmas items for this year. But Christmas cards and Advent candles are already flying off the shelves. So for those of you who like to be one step ahead – you can view this year’s selection here. We have added many new designs and re-stocked many of the all-time favorites.
October has been a busy month! But do you really ever expect us to say anything different? As quiet and peaceful as our life is, being secluded from much of the world’s mad rush, we still share in the sentence passed in the garden of Paradise: “Through pain and toil shall you eat of it [the ground] all the days of your life.”
This summer that was more literally true. While our gardens and little 6×6-foot corn field would be considered by most a very modest attempt at growing food (and correctly so), it was more expansive than in past years, mostly because of the greenhouse. It has definitely been an education! Keeping that greenhouse warm during the cool Colorado nights, but not sweltering during the very hot summer days was probably our main problem this first season. Those hot days were killing, not growing plants! We had run-ins with aphids and really had to get our bearings about watering the greenhouse plants: from setting up a system just to get the water there, to how much and how often.
Harvesting on time all of the different vegetables – not too soon, not too late – was another issue, especially with our full life in other areas of the Monastery. We didn’t quite get it right with the corn – a day or two late – but the Sisters still enjoyed several meals with our imperfect corn on the cob. These and other challenges will help us know how better to confront next year’s growing season. Despite our struggles, we had a variety of vegetables make their way into our kitchen and onto our table. Even the little lemon tree blossomed and is doing its best to bring three little inch long lemons to maturity before the deep freezes set in; we are cheering it on!
The abundant rains in early summer were a blessing for the rest of the yard. Some of the trees exploded in size, the rose bushes were at their best, and Easter lilies from the altar re-bloomed in the various areas of the yard where we either re-planted or placed the pots. The beehive thrived, and before we knew it, it had tripled in size. But there were down sides to all the rain as well. The ground cover we planted around a couple of trees near the house turned into a breeding ground for slugs, which would cover our sidewalks by the hundreds when it rained.
Our biggest and happiest news was that on the Feast of St. Therese in early October, our postulant received the Carmelite habit. It was a beautiful occasion! We thank all who have sent their prayers and good wishes for her, at this, the beginning of her religious life. Now begins her earnest study of the vows and Constitutions of the Order in preparation for Profession.
The Investiture Ceremony is one of the few of the Carmelite Order. It is a simple ceremony, but one rich with meaning and reminders. For one, the habit is imposed by the Priest (and not the Prioress), since it is Christ Himself that calls the Sister to religious life and gives her the habit. The imparting of each portion of the habit – tunic, cincture (long leather belt), scapular, and mantle – is accompanied by significant and beautiful prayers. These prayers will echo in the new Sister’s mind and on her lips, as she recites them each time she puts on the habit the rest of her life. The prayers remind her of the importance and symbolism of the habit. Since the habit and its parts are blessed sacramentals, they offer graces and helps to live the religious life fervently and holily.
After receiving the habit, Sister prostrates on a cross of flowers to the chanting of the Veni Creator Spiritus. The youngest Sister of the Community then sprinkles rose petals on the prostrate Sister. She is united to Christ on the cross, but the sacrifice is a sweet one: “Take my burden upon you, which is light.” After the prostration, Sister receives her new religious name. Just as at her Baptism it was Christ, through the Priest, who gave her her Christian name, so now it is the Priest that imposes the religious name, by which she will be known for the rest of her life and in the courts of Heaven. The ceremony ends with the new novice receiving the embrace of peace, kneeling, from each of the Sisters, while the Community chants the hymn Ecce Quam Bonum: “How good and sweet it is where brethren dwell as one.”
Mother Prioress also places a crown of roses on the new Sister, who then afterwards briefly greets her family and friends who come in the speak room. It is one of the only times visitors may see the Sister without the curtain at the grille. Then, with a new and loving joy, Sister takes her place to celebrate the rest of the day with her new religious family.
You can view the entire recorded ceremony and Mass here.
As we close this newsletter, we share with you one more thought from Our Holy Mother St. Teresa, whose thoughts so beautifully conclude this newsletter on Heaven, the goal and end of all of our labors, sorrows, and burdens here on earth:
“In sum, my Sisters, what I conclude with is that we shouldn’t build castles in the air. The Lord doesn’t look so much at the greatness of our works as at the love with which they are done. And if we do what we can, His Majesty will enable us each day to do more and more, provided we do not quickly tire. But during the little while this life lasts – and perhaps it will last a shorter time than each one thinks – let us offer the Lord interiorly and exteriorly the sacrifice we can. His Majesty will join it with that which He offered on the cross to the Father for us. Thus even though our works are small they will have the value our love for Him would have merited had they been great. May it please His Majesty, my Sisters and daughters, that we all reach that place where we may ever praise Him.” – Interior Castle
Be assured of our continued prayers for you – for safety, good health and God’s precious graces for each day’s labors, joys and sorrows.
Our Lady of the Rosary, pray for us all!
Your Carmelite Sisters
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