Come, Love, to the vineyard In the morning dew, There we’ll watch in silence, If vineyards bloom anew, If the grapes are growing, Life with vigor glowing, Fresh the vine and true.
From the heights of Heaven Holy Mother descend, Lead unto your vineyard Our beloved friend. Dew and rain let gently Drop from His kind hand And the balm of sunshine Fall on Carmel’s land.
Young vines, newly planted, Tiny though they be, Grant them life eternal A gift of peace from Thee. Trusted vintners strengthen Their frail and feeble powers, Shield them from the enemy Who in darkness cowers.
Holy Mother grant reward For your vintners’ care Give them, I beseech you, Crown of Heaven fair. Don’t let raging fire Kill these vines, we pray, And grant your life eternal To each young shoot some day.
~ A poem by St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein), O.C.D.
“The artist affirmed that this portrait was drawn during one of Bernadette’s ecstasies. While the drawing bears little resemblance to the photographs of Bernadette, the expression is clearly one of rapture. Indeed, it might have been the rapture itself that made capturing the details of Bernadette’s face difficult. The drawing bears no signature but only these words of dedication: “To the Countess of Geoffre, Lecomte du Noüy.” It was given to the Museum of Bernadette at Nevers, by the Count de Certaines.” * * An excerpt from the book: Lourdes, Font of Faith, Hope and Charity by Elizabeth Ficocelli.
Today the Church commemorates the feast of Saint Bernadette Soubirous, visionary of Lourdes, whose visions of the Blessed Virgin Mary in 1858 paved the way for the worldwide devotion to Our Lady of Lourdes. A devotion that is very close to my heart.
St. Bernadette was canonized in 1933 by Pope Pius XI. The little town of Lourdes became the site of pilgrimages, attracting millions of faithful Catholics every year. Astonishing healings began almost immediately in the miraculous water at the shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes.
Last summer I travelled to Lourdes, France and visited the Sanctuary of Notre-Dame-de-Lourdes. It was on my bucket list for a very long time. I’m so grateful that the opportunity came my way and I took it without thinking much. It was a trip filled with so many graces.
For us Carmelites, Lourdes is a very important place in the history of the apparitions.
“The Carmelite Monastery in Lourdes occupies a spiritually significant site. The 18th and final apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary to Saint Bernadette Soubirous took place on July 16th, 1858, the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. At that time the civil authorities in Lourdes had prohibitted access to Massabielle Grotto, and so instead Bernadette saw Our Lady from ‘La Ribère’, the slope overlooking the cave from the other side of the River Gave.
Despite being physically far away, the encounter between Bernadette and Our Lady was more intimate than ever. Bernadette said that on this occasion Our Lady, who appeared in silence, smiled and looked “more beautiful than ever”. One of the ancient titles under which the Carmelite Order reveres Mary is “Beauty of Carmel”.
Since that day in 1858, the site of ‘La Ribère’ has been of particular significance, linking the ‘Message of Lourdes’ and the spirituality of Carmel.
The site where Bernadette prayed on her knees before Our Lady on July 16th is now in the garden of the Carmelite Monastery. The nuns consider it their vocation to continue Bernadette’s prayer, and to pray for the millions of pilgrims who come to Lourdes today. The Grotto of Massabielle which the Carmel overlooks is reminiscent of the cave where the prophet Saint Elijah, spiritual Father of Carmelites, burned with zeal for the Lord.
When considering her vocation to the religious life, Bernadette Soubirous had wanted to join the Carmelite Order, but was told that her poor health precluded this possibility. There was no Carmel in Lourdes at the time of the apparitions.
The Carmelite Monastery in Lourdes was founded 18 years after the apparitions on 16th July 1876 by nuns from the Carmel of Tulle in central France. The Mother Foundress, coming to Lourdes to find a suitable site for the future monastery, was very attracted by the land facing the Grotto on the other side of the River Gave. However, the terrain was on a narrow band of rock where any construction would be very difficult. Despite its proximity to the Grotto, previous visitors to the site had decided against anything being built there. The Mother Foundress had the idea of transporting soil to even out the level of the slope. This idea was accepted by the building contractors, and so the Monastery was built in a very privileged location overlooking the Grotto.
In the years following the foundation, the number of vocations grew considerably. The community swelled to such a size that in 1893 a number of sisters went to found a Carmel at Le Havre in northern France.” *
*Retrieved from The British Province of Carmelite Friars website: http://www.laycarmel.org/index.php?nuc=content&id=367
Prayer of St. Bernadette
Dearest Mother, how happy was my soul those heavenly moments when I gaze upon you. How I love to remember those sweet moments spent in your presence, your eyes filled with kindness and mercy for us! Yes, dear Mother, your heart is so full of love for us that you came down to earth to appear to a poor, weak child and conveyed certain things to her despite her great unworthiness. How humbled she is. You, the Queen of Heaven and Earth, chose to use what is weakest in the eyes of men. O Mary, give the precious virtue of humility to she who dares to call herself your child. O Loving Mother, help your child resemble you in everything and in every way. In a word, grant that I may be a child according to your heart and the heart of your dear Son.
~ Bernadette, 1866
“Note: This prayer is from Bernadette’s journal, dedicated to the Queen of Heaven and written during her days as a member of the Sisters of Nevers. This is not the personal prayer that Bernadette received during the fifth apparition.”
Courage my soul, through prayer we can do all that is asked of us.
The heart of Jesus is there, let us knock!
~ St. Bernadette Soubirous
It is an art to be able to start over, to be able to let go completely of what has been. Perhaps something decisive happens in our lives, and we are forced to leave the old and habitual. This can be an occasion for us to deepen our relationship with God.
Joy and sorrow, grace and sin, have entered our lives. We must be thankful for God’s grace; for our sins we must repent. Everything that God has bestowed on us is a grace, and has an everlasting value. We are God’s beloved children, and God is faithful to us without fail. This we must keep as a precious treasure.
We cannot carry our sins into the new. They must be placed at the mercy of God, and he erases our sins so they are no more. When God forgives, he does it thoroughly. We will have no burden of sin when we enter the new; the Lamb of God carries that burden to the Father, who receives it with joy. It is a joy for the Father to be able to show us his mercy.
During Advent you may be looking forward to all the beautiful experiences of Christmas. But Advent is not meant as a waiting period for this. Rather, you are awaiting someone who will come closer to you than you are to yourself. Advent is like a portal you have to walk through to enter the sanctuary of Christmas. The portal is flanked by two figures who guard the sanctuary and ask you why you want to enter, and at the same time teach you how to do it. Both figures are very dissimilar. One is big and strong, a man clothed in camels’ hair. But in spite of his size, this man wants only to be a voice calling out in the desert: “Prepare the way of the Lord.” The other is a vulnerable woman expecting a child. She doesn’t cry out, she is silent, total attention to what is happening within her. The only thing she quietly whispers is: “I am the servant of the Lord.” They both know who they are waiting for. They are not awaiting better times, or nicer experiences. They are waiting for God, and they know that nothing can hinder his arrival if they are open to receive him. If you also know who you are waiting for, if you are sure about his arrival, then you are celebrating Advent in the proper way.
~ An Advent meditation By Wilfrid Stinissen, O.C.D.
The Lord is coming; I place myself in His presence and go to meet Him with all the energy of my will…
“The Name of the Lord cometh from afar…I look from afar, and behold I see the power of God coming…Go out to meet Him, and say, ‘Tell us if You are He who shall rule…'” These words are taken from today’s liturgy, and in reply, it invites us, “Come, let us adore the King, the Lord who is coming!…”
This coming was expected for long ages; it was foretold by the prophets, and desired by all the just who were not granted to see its dawn. The Church commemorates and renews this expectation with each recurring Advent, expressing this longing to the Savior who is to come. The desire of old was sustained solely by hope, but it is now a confident desire, founded on the consoling reality, renewed in ever deeper and fuller reality in every Christian soul. The spirit of the Advent liturgy, commemorating the age-long expectation of the Redeemer, will prepare us to celebrate the mystery of the Word made Flesh by arousing in each one of us and intimate, personal expectation of the renewed coming of Christ to our soul. This coming is accomplished by grace; to the degree in which grace develops and matures in us, it becomes more copious, more penetrating, until it transforms the soul into an alter Christus. Advent is a season of waiting and of fervent longing for the Redeemer: “Drop down dew, ye heavens, and let the clouds rain the Just One!”
O sweetest Jesus, You come to me with Your infinite love and the abundance of Your grace; You desire to engulf my soul in torrents of mercy and charity in order to draw it to You. Come, O Lord, come! I, too, wish to run to You with love, but alas! my love is so limited, weak, and imperfect! Make it strong and generous; enable me to overcome myself, so that I can give myself entirely to You, Yes, my love can become strong because “its foundation is the intimate certainty that it will be repaid by the love of God. O Lord, I cannot doubt Your tenderness, because You have given me proofs of it in so many ways, with the sole purpose of convincing me of it. Therefore, trusting in Your love, my weak love will become strong with Your strength. What a consolation it will be, O Lord, at the moment of death to think that we shall be judged by Him whom we have loved above all things! Then we can enter Your presence with confidence, despite the weight of our offenses!” O Lord, give me love like this! I desire it ardently… My poor soul needs You so much! It sighs for You as for a compassionate physician, who alone can heal its wounds, draw it out of its languor and tepidity, and infuse into it new vigor, new enthusiasm, new life. Come Lord, come! I am ready to welcome Your work with a docile, humble heart, ready to let myself be healed, purified, and strengthened by You. Yes, with Your help, I will make any sacrifice, renounce everything that might hinder Your redeeming work in me. Show Your power, O Lord, and come!
Come, delay no longer!
~ An Advent Meditation by Father Gabriel of St Mary Magdalen, O.C.D.
What is faith? What does it mean to have it or lack it?
Faith is a profound mystery that we can never adequately explain. It is an interplay between divine grace and the human mind and will. We are speaking of Christian faith, and that is faith in Jesus Christ as the incarnate Word of God. The object of our Christian faith is the God revealed in Jesus Christ.
Faith is never a mere intellectual assent but always involves commitment. It is always in action, more a verb than a noun. Faith cannot be one facet or a particular aspect of my life, but my whole life. As St. Paul says, “My real life is the faith I have in the Son of God who loved me and delivered himself for me.”
It is the Holy Spirit who enables us to believe…”No one can come to me except the Father draw him”… but we must cooperate with all our powers. And this means we must “labor for the food which endures to eternal life” (John 6:27). “This is the labor of God that you believe in him whom he has sent” (John 6:29). What can be more important?
Many people think they have no faith because they feel they haven’t. They do not realize that they must make a choice to believe, take the risk of believing, of committing themselves and setting themselves to live out the commitment. Never mind that they continue to feel that they do not believe. Under cover of being “authentic” we can spend our lives waiting for the kind of certainty we cannot have.
What, then, is doubt?
I do not see how we can talk of faith if we eliminate the possibility of doubt. We cannot have the certainties that our nature craves and finds in the evidence of the senses. Perhaps most of the time we do not advert to doubt, but at times it can press heavily. As far as I am concerned, troublesome feelings of doubt seem a matter of the imagination failing to cope. Although we have no scientific verification for what we believe, there is nothing irrational in Christian faith but an enormous amount of data to support it.
In times of difficulty my anchorage is the Gospels. There I encounter Christ, “Light most beautiful,” who overcomes the darkness of doubt. My faith is essentially faith in Jesus Christ: “You are truth. Your word is truth and what is troubling me is a lie.” I believe that there comes a point when a person is so held by God that, no matter how assaulted that person may be, faith stands firm, for “no one can snatch them from the hand of my Father” (John 10:29).
~ A Reflection by Sister Rachel of the Carmelite community in Norfolk, UK