About My Carmel

A devout Roman Catholic, I am a member of the Secular Order of Discalced Carmelites (OCDS). Here in this space, I would like to share in the Carmelite charisma, blogging about prayer and Carmelite spirituality.

The Context of Holiness: Psychological and Spiritual Reflections on the Life of St. Thérèse of Lisieux

In this wonderful video presentation by Fr. Marc Foley, O.C.D. about the life of St. Thérèse of Lisieux, and his book, The Context of Holiness., he explores both the psychological and spiritual dimensions of her life. As Fr. Foley tell us “that the spiritual life is not an encapsulated sphere, cloistered from the realities of our human existence. Rather, it is our response to God within the physical, psychological, social and emotional dimensions of life.”
“St. Therese did not grow in holiness apart from the human condition. Like all of us, she was emotionally scarred by the fragileness of life. She was deeply wounded by the death of her mother at the age of four, bedridden as the result of a neurotic episode when she was ten, struggled with debilitating scruples most of her life, and suffered an agonizing dark night of faith.
“St. Thérèse was no plaster statue saint. Her life was a real life. As it unfolds before us on the pages of Story of a Soul, we see a pilgrim soul who made its way home to God through many raging storms and dark nights. The specific nature of Thérèse’s trials may differ from our own, but psychological and emotional suffering are our common lot. For example, we may not have known the pain of our mother dying when we were four, but most of us have known the pain of the loss of a loved one. The sufferings that we share with Thérèse are universal—physical pain, anxiety, anger, sadness, depression, loneliness, doubts of faith, to name a few. These sufferings make doing the will of God difficult, but they are the context of our choices. They are the context of holiness.” 

I find this presentation very useful for meditation and personal reflection, especially during this season of Lent. Hope you enjoy it!

The Mountains of the Lord

Head of Christ, art by Leonardo da Vinci 1495

‘Head of Christ’ , art by Leonardo Da Vinci 1495

Innocence never lost and innocence restored—
these two went up the mountains of the Lord.
And I addressed them, glowing and intense:
under the auspices of innocence
what amid holy places did you see?
And the untarnished spirit answered me:

I saw a city gleaming on a hill,
and one triumphant road divined its site.
I saw a fire no storm could ever still,
feeding upon the branches of delight.

I heard a Harp pluck its own serenade;
I drank the Living Water from cool streams.
I breathed the Wind that blows far down earth’s shade
The scent of petals from eternal dreams.

Tables were spread on greensward and in grove
with Bread the angels coveted afar.
I walked beneath the shadow of a Dove
who made a marriage with a Morningstar.

Then I went upward where the summits glistened,
lighted by love, the unconsuming flame.
I heard a Voice, and when I stopped and listened
it was the Bridegroom’s voice and called my name.

I questioned innocence renewed by grace:
What did you see on hills beatified?
What voices heard you in the holy place?
With words of light the penitent replied:

Under the night’s impenetrable cover
wherein I walked beset by many fears,
I saw the radiant face of Christ the Lover,
and it was wet with tears.

 

~ A poem by Sister Miriam of the Holy Spirit (Jessica Powers), O.C.D. (1905-1988)

 

 

 

 

 

A Season of Rebirth

Helebores - Lenten rose

Lenten Rose in a winter garden (photo source unknown)

First Sunday of Lent,
Cycle A: Genesis 2:7-9, 3:1-7

As we hear the story of the Fall in Genesis, the same question that God asked Adam confronts us: ‘Where are you?”

In a Hasidic story, an atheist persistently tried to catch the village rabbi in theological snares but always failed. One day the atheist asked, “Rabbi, is it true that God knows everything?” “Yes, my son,” said the rabbi, “God knows everything.” “Rabbi,” the atheist continued,” is it also true that after The Fall, God asked Adam, ‘Adam where are you?’ “Yes, my son, that is also true,” the rabbi replied. The atheist smiled, thinking that he had finally caught the rabbi in a contradiction. “But rabbi,” said the atheist, “If God knows everything, then why did God have to ask Adam where he was?” “My son,” said the rabbi,” ‘Adam, where are you?’ is not a question for information but for reflection.”

“Where am I?”, a perennial question of life, encompasses many other questions. What am I doing with my life? Does it have any purpose or lasting significance? What does it all mean? These questions and those like them distill into one haunting question: When I come to die will it make any difference that I have ever lived? This question takes on a more somber hue the older we become. And if we ask ourselves what we must do for our life to have permanent significance, the answer is so simple that it evades us. We must live the one, unique life that God has entrusted to us.

There is another Hasidic story about rabbi Zossimus, who tried all of his life to be like Moses, David or one of the prophets. His inability to achieve his goal frustrated and depressed him. One night in a dream, an angel appeared to him and said, “At the last judgement, God will not ask you why you were not Moses or David but rather, why you were not Zossimus.” God wanted Zossimus to do one thing—the same thing that he had asked Adam or Eve to do—tend the garden that was given to them and not to be deceived by unreality.
“And you shall be like gods!” Tending the garden that God has entrusted to us, no matter how humble, is no mean and insignificant enterprise, for it affords numerous opportunities to love.

Each of us finds ourselves situated at a juncture of time, space, and circumstance unique to us alone; we are entrusted with opportunities to love to which no one else has been assigned. An old saying notes that there are many occupations in the Body of Christ but only one vocation—the vocation to love. Love is our true work no matter what our task; it is the only thing that gives our life ultimate and lasting significance. Regarding love, “Where are you?”

~ A Meditation by Marc Foley, O.C.D.

Wishing you all a very reflective and blessed season of Lent! 

Carmel…Garden Of The Soul

 

Woman and the Scent of a Rose art by Sheri Dinardi

Scent of a Rose, art by Sheri Dinardi

Carmel has been likened to a garden, a sanctuary of peace, hidden in the depths of an individual. No matter where a person is in time or in place, he or she may take refuge in the garden, to dwell in its serenity and embrace the world with prayer.
Prayer is so very good for the growth of one’s soul and for all the souls in the world. In the tranquil garden of Carmel, wisdom is cultivated into the land of the soul. Through wisdom, a thriving soul keeps body and mind together. Gifts from the soul keep elements in a person’s values, goals and activities neither excessive nor ungrounded, but sustained within a spiritual symmetry.
No one will ever completely understand or appreciate his or her Carmelite garden until eternity. At times it may be frightening inasmuch as it is a place of singular, ever-unfolding, terrible beauty. Yes, even in the summer tranquility, thunderstorms can cause unexpected delight and horror. What will be revealed when spiritual lightning strikes one’s soul? The inner landscapes change with the seasons of a person’s days and years.
The terrain is a ground of mystery, ever in transition. A pilgrim never knows what he or she will find. Beauteous foliage springs from seeds of self-sacrifice. Self-sacrifice originates from God’s love within the heart and finds expression in love for others. As the sun rises and sets in the passing of time, so do the mysterious beauties in one’s Carmelite garden.
To know the rose is to know a glimpse of the beauty of God. To know that the faded rose will bloom again is to have a glimpse of eternity. A pilgrim gazes long at cactus deserts, urban parks, pine forests, country meadows, fruited plains, rolling hills or rocky mountains. Each has a place in the garden of the soul. No matter where a person is on the road of life, he or she can wander in a garden. It is a place of retreat and repose.
A Carmelite rests in the quiet and experiences prayer as ultimate mystery. In the peace of one’s soul a pilgrim remembers people with restless, shallow or empty souls and nourishes them with silent prayer. Soul care is the most profound and essential concern for humanity. Carmelites vest themselves and their efforts into this phenomenon which will extend into eternity. It may rain or shine fiercely in one’s Carmelite garden, but both are needed for it to survive and thrive.  

~ A Meditation by Carolyn Humphreys, O.C.D.S.

      

I Come, O Mother, To Gaze On You

Our Lady of Lourdes and Saint Bernadette

At Sacred Spring, art by Domenico Tojetti, 1877

Today is the feast of Notre Dame de Lourdes and we are aware of not only her Immaculate Conception, but also the fact that Our Lady has worked many healings at Lourdes. It was between February 11 and July 16, 1858, that Mary appeared 18 times to Bernadette Soubirous in a cave near her hometown of Lourdes, France. Now this place has become one of pilgrimage and a place to bring the sick, the disabled, and those who have incurable diseases to the grotto’s spring. It has been and is the place for many cures there in the waters.
I had the immense blessing to travel to Lourdes in the summer of 2017. That experience has left in the grotto of my heart a profound joy and love for Our Lady. Here I would like to share this beautiful poem by Paul Claudel that encompasses all what I feel for this beautiful Lady and Mother of all. Totus Tuus, Maria!

“The first spiritual relationship with The Blessed Virgin is simply a glance: I come solely to gaze on you.
What sustains that glance is not an articulated prayer but the song of the heart, which is given voice by love for Mary.
Praise precedes petition—indeed the latter cannot do without the former.
Is this not the case when people truly love one another?”

I Come, O Mother, To Gaze On You

It is noon.
I see the church open, and I must enter.
Mother of Jesus Christ,
I do not come to pray.
I have nothing to offer and nothing to request.
I come solely to gaze on you, O Mother.
To gaze on you, weep for joy, and know this:
That I am your child and you are there.
I come only for a moment while everything is at a standstill,
at noon!
Just to be with you, O Mary, in this place where you are.
Not to say anything but to gaze at your countenance,
and let the heart sing in its own language;
not to say anything but solely to sing
because my heart is overflowing.
For you are beautiful, because you are immaculate,
the woman fully restored in Grace, the creature in its first honor and its final bloom,
as it issued from God on the morn of its original splendor.
You are ineffably intact, because you are the Mother of Jesus Christ,
Who is the Truth in your arms, and the only hope and the sole fruit.
~ By Paul Claudel

 

Love’s Arrow, Love’s Surrender

surrender by Janice Van Cronkhite

Surrender, art by Janice Van Cronkhite

Love, I think, is an arrow shot by the will, and, freed from every pull of earth, flying straight at God with full force, it infallibly strikes His Majesty. Once it has pierced the Heart of God, absolute Love, it rebounds with immense graces…

O secrets of God! We must silence our understanding admitting that, never of itself can it fathom the greatness of God. Let us remember here Our Lady the Virgin, how she, in her great wisdom, surrendered in this way, and to her question to the angel, ‘How shall this be done?’ , received the answer: ‘The Holy Ghost will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.’

~ Saint Teresa of Avila, ‘Conceptions of the Love of God’

Your Heart…The Mirror of God

Heart by Janice VanCronkhite

Heart, art by Janice Van Cronkhite

Seeing God does not necessarily have to do with visions or extravagant gifts of grace. It can be a simple and quiet consciousness of God’s presence and reality. It can be an unshakable confidence in him who gives you a solid grounding.
To see God can also be an insight and conviction that your whole life rests in the hands of God, and everything that happens is a message from him. Or it can be a deep insight into the human longing for an infinite love which only God can fill.
The pure heart can see God already in this life, since he reigns in our midst. God wants to be mirrored in your heart. But if the mirror is stained and soiled, it can’t reflect God’s image. And so it is not God’s fault if you don’t see him.
If you want to see and experience God, you must let your heart become what it was meant to be from the beginning: a clear and pure mirror for the one who is love and who loves all that is.
To let your heart recover its originality, you must first discover and admit that you are an abyss crying out for God’s infinity, and then you must empty your heart of all the surrogates with which you have tried to fill it.

~ A Meditation by Wilfrid Stinissen, O.C.D.

 

A Dark Night In My Garden

The night garden by Emily Winfield Martin

The Night Garden, art by Emily Winfield Martin

My Beloved is night time in my garden.
I feel so weary. I come here to be with You. To be in your presence.
I need to rest in your precious heart, a place where I find all consolation and peace.
I need to be wrapped around your arms and feel whole once again. Oh Blessed Jesus,
thank You for coming to be with me in my garden at night.

Beloved, at times the path gets so foggy and it seems uncertain where I’m stepping.
It is so dark sometimes, that I can hardly see. I guess the way towards light and truth is filled with some dark spots, and that is why I need to be close to You in those moments.
Oh my Beloved friend and teacher, at times I feel tired and hopeless in this narrow path towards holiness. It is an arduous road till I caught a glimpse of You along the way and everything transforms and becomes new and alive in me. Your peace fills me and brings me trust and consolation.

Lord, why do I feel so discourage if I know that You are my faithful companion along the way? Why is so difficult Blessed Lord? This path is difficult but knowing that I’m walking by your side, all fog and confusion is dispelled.
Oh my Blessed Jesus, giver of life and love, allow me to be as close as I can to You.
When darkness sets in, your light is a refreshing balm of peace and assurance that all is well and will be well. Lord, I know this is part of growing into You. All those growing pains are making me whole. I can go on in this journey only if You meet me here and instruct me and encourage me on the way. Sweet Jesus, strengthen my mind, body and soul to continue in my journey towards wholeness and inner freedom, a journey that You invited me to trod next to You long time ago.

My Beloved, you transform my night into day. My inner noise into quiet calm. You bring hope and light into any difficult moment. Your presence is all healing. Your gentleness is all I need. Divine friend and lover of my soul, stay with me, I pray. 

May your light and inspiration be always within me. May your love and peace filled me
day by day, night by night.

My Rabonni, my God and my all. Thank You for coming to our meeting place,
is night but soon will be day.  

~ My Personal Reflection 

 

 

Seeking God

Uniting with Spirit

Uniting with Spirit, art by Liane Collot D’ Herbois

Soul, you must seek yourself in Me,
and in yourself you must seek Me.

Love was so able to portray,
dear soul, inside Me your likeness,
that no skilled painter could display
in such a lovely, artful way
your image formed with such finesse.

It was for love that you were made
with beauty, oh so perfectly,
within Me deep your form portrayed,
my love, if you are lost, dismayed,
soul, you must seek yourself in Me.

How well I know that you will find
yourself within my heart portrayed
so very lifelike there displayed
that seeing it will please your mind
to see a painting so well made.

And if perchance you do not know
where you must go for finding Me,
do not walk here or there to see,
but, if you wish to find Me, go
deep in yourself to seek for Me.

~ A poem by Saint Teresa of Avila

 

 

 

My Beloved Is For Me

 

The Transverbaration of Saint Teresa

Transverbaration of the heart of Saint Teresa of Avila, by unkown artist

I gave myself so totally,
and the exchange has thus been done
that my Beloved is for me,
and I’m for only my Loved One.

When that sweet Hunter from above had wounded and o’erpowered me,
and left me in the arms of love, my soul abiding languidly;
new life came in recovery, and the exchange has thus been done
that my Beloved is for me,
and I’m for only my Loved One.

The arrow used in wounding me with his love he had deigned to fill,
and so my soul was made to be at one with its Creator’s will.
No other love could e’er fulfill,
since to my God surrender is done,
and my Beloved is for me,
and I’m for only my Loved One.

~ A poem by Saint Teresa of Avila, ‘Flame of Love’