Sunday, July 31, 2011

Beginning of Octave to God the Father of All Mankind

JMJT! Praise be Jesus Christ! Now and Forever!

Although it is not an exclusively Carmelite devotion, these prayers to Our Heavenly Father speak greatly of His love, mercy, and provision for all mankind. The spirit of Trinitarian love and trust in Our Lady's intercession is also seen. It is very contemplative in spirit, steeped in Scripture, and one of my favorites. Here is a bit of information with a link if you are interesting in praying it:

TO MAMA CARMELA:  26 May 1971
“Now I would like to make you understand how necessary it is that everyone raise their cry, invoking from the Father again and always, through His Incarnate Son, that mercy which you require”.

The Heavenly Father revealed to
MOTHER EUGENIA RAVASIO  that He wants the first Sunday in August set aside as the Feast of God the Father. And in preparation for the Feast Day He revealed 8 days of prayer leading up to it, with a Consecration to be recited on the Feast Day.  To learn more about Sr. Ravasio, click here:

St. Teresa's favorite prayer was the 'Our Father'.  Surely, she would be pleased with such an outpouring of love for Our Creator who is infinite love, and gave us His Only Begotten Son in the spirit of His Love.

May you be blessed and grow ever closer to Our Heavenly Father, who is the Father of All Mankind. Amen.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Prayer for the Carmelite Way of Life

JMJT! Praise be Jesus Christ! Now and Forever!

Carmen Perez, our visiting member from the OCDS community in Washington, DC, sent me the following prayer. I really like this and wanted to share with everyone. A big thank you to Carmen for sharing this.
Prayer for the Carmelite Way of Life
composed in 2007 to celebrate the 8th centenary of
the giving of the Carmelite Rule of Saint Albert

Tender-hearted God,
through Saint Albert of Jerusalem
you assembled the holy hermits of Mount Carmel
as a family of pilgrim people,
seeking to live in allegiance to Jesus Christ.
Like them, inspire us to imitate the first Christians of Jerusalem,
that we may build your kingdom, the heavenly Jerusalem.
Like them, turn our hearts from conflict with others
to the spiritual fight against all that distracts us from you.
Like them, help us to draw water from the spring of Elijah,
and to live deeply our baptismal calling.
With Mary, we commit to standing alongside those who are suffering.
Help us to find you alone in the cell of our hearts,
and lead us through solitude into community.
Let our prayer inspire our service of others,
and our service show us our need for prayer.
May our silent contemplation bear fruit,
and proclaim that God lives in whose presence we stand.
Use our poverty, chastity, and obedience to be Good News for others.
We thank you for our diversity, united by a common vision.
We thank you for sustaining, reforming and transforming us over centuries,
for the benefit of the Church and the World.
We thank you for the saints, those living and those gone before,           
who have shown us an ancient path to the Mountain that is Christ.
May all we do be done in your Word.
This we ask, in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Blessings at Holy Hill

JMJT! Praise be Jesus Christ! Now and Forever!

Dear Brothers and Sisters-

In the heat of the Phoenix summer, it is always a welcome respite to escape to cooler locales! My family and I were able to travel to Milwaukee, WI for one week for a family reunion. It was a wonderful opportunity to be reunited with so many loved ones who we had not seen for so many years in some cases. In addition to reuniting with family, it provided me the chance to take some inventory and to see things from a different perspective after a year of many great blessings as well as heavy crosses. Somehow, being in a new environment tends to allow one to see more clearly, and if not to understand, then to peacefully accept.

One of the greatest blessings of the trip was our visit to the Basilica of the National Shrine of Mary Help of Christians at Holy Hill. Holy Hill is a monastery for the Discalced Carmelite Order.  With its beautiful paintings of St. Teresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross to the right and left of the central altar and above two separate tabernacles, one truly feels at home.  My first visit was on July 20th, the Feast of the great prophet Elijah, who is celebrated as a central figure and founder of the early order of Carmelites. As we arrived at the top level of the Basilica before 11Am Mass, I couldn't help but bask in the beauty of the day. Although unusually hot, the sky was a clear blue vista, where you could gaze out upon the verdant countryside for miles.

Amazingly, I observed several ravens circling around the hillside and directly above the church.  It reminded me of the story of Elijah who after telling King Ahab that severe famine and drought would strike the land due to the sins and idolatry of the people, Our Lord instructed him as follows, "3 “Leave here, turn eastward and hide in the Kerith Ravine, east of the Jordan. 4 You will drink from the brook, and I have directed the ravens to supply you with food there.”  5 So he did what the LORD had told him. He went to the Kerith Ravine, east of the Jordan, and stayed there. 6 The ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning and bread and meat in the evening, and he drank from the brook. (1 Kings 17: 3-6)

Elijah allowed Our Lord to direct his steps and journey. He was obedient to what was asked of him.  As a result, his life was put in danger, yet God's divine protection and provision was also given to him.  The food that the ravens brought to Elijah gave him strength to continue his journey and to survive the drought.  It enabled him to persevere and to keep going. How applicable to our daily lives! With so many twists and turns in life, we can sometimes question whether we have the strength to go on to do God's Will. We doubt the journey and fear the worst. But Our Lord shows us that there is always a way back to the center and core of strength, and that is the Eucharistic Feast of Our Lord. He does not leave us ill-equipped for the journey, but instead gives us the gift of His Very Self. This is the pinnacle of our existence and our true means of survival.

Like that beautiful morning at Holy Hill, His Body and Blood enable us to get glimpses of the direction we are traveling in and sometimes to even be able to peer out into clear vistas, where we can see the pathway before us.  These are special moments when Our Lord clears the fog surrounding us, parts the dark curtains that obscure our intellect, memory, and will and provides a momentary respite.

By, in and through the Holy Eucharist, the Holy Trinity imparts the grace we need to continue to run the race, whether we be in joy or sorrow, consolation or desolation, in order that we may eventually be transformed into the 'new man'.  One in which we can truly say that, "it is not I that live, but Christ that lives within me.' (Gal 2:20)

May it be so! Amen.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Let Freedom Ring!


Praise be Jesus Christ! Now and Forever!

OK. So I am about a week overdue, from when we celebrated our nation's independence.  The theme of true freedom has been on my mind for some time.  I am not just referring to the political freedom that we are blessed to enjoy in our country, despite its flaws and failings.  As someone who teaches the US Constitution, I do not want to even begin that discussion! There can be no doubt that no matter our political leanings, we are all very blessed to live in America and to be in a nation that was founded on the principles of Our Creator, on the notion that all are granted the innate, God-given rights of freedom to 'life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.'

Within this well-known quote, I see the desire for freedom that is deeply enmeshed in each individual soul.  This is the stirring that every human being has to be truly free to be the person God created them to be.  It can really sound so trite, yet it is precisely what I believe most are searching for, many times in all the wrong places.  We see the desperation for happiness that many pursue through material possessions, careers, the newest fad, idol worship, and even personal relationships that turn up leaving one less than satisfied.  We observe the countless lost souls who try to numb the pain of so much disappointment with addictions to substances, as well as to shopping, pornography, etc. in a desperate attempt to try yet again to fill the nagging void.

As Carmelites, we have already heard the whistle of Our Good Shepherd and been invited to pursue the pearl of great price. What mercy and love Our Lord has shown us through the prayers and sacrifices of so many others that have gotten us to where we are today and have enabled us to turn our eyes away from these false gods, to the One Alpha and Omega who can truly satisfy every longing in our hearts.  This, of course, is just the beginning for us. This is why I chose my presidential motto to focus on this theme of freedom within the context of Our Triune God, whose plans for us are perfect: "“Carmel: Becoming the person God created you to be in faith hope, and love…in goodness, beauty, and truth.”

I look at St. Teresa of Jesus as a perfect model of the freedom we are called to realize through increasing conformity to the Divine Will of God. We know that St. Teresa was torn between her religious life, and a more worldly existence. She had many attachments to the world and others, that kept her from realizing a deeper union with Our Lord. It was only after her conversion when meditating on Our Lord's Passion before a statue of Him, that she understood interiorly that there is no substitute for Him. He cannot be outdone with any other person, place, or thing.  Thereafter, she experienced true freedom to become who Our Lord had destined her to become and was then free to obediently spearhead the reform of the Carmelite Order that was placed before her by God.

It is interesting to note that when she become free from such attachments to people, she became more free to love them perfectly for exactly who they were. St. John of the Cross speaks of such freedom from attachment with the following memorable image to express this in the following quote from his classic The Ascent of Mt. Carmel, "The soul that is attached to anything however much good there may be in it, will not arrive at the liberty of divine union. For whether it be a strong wire rope or a slender and delicate thread that holds the bird, it matters not, if it really holds it fast; for, until the cord be broken the bird cannot fly.” 
As Carmelites, I think that most of us want to fly to God. We want to be alone with the alone, and one with Him. We must let go and begin to let Him mold us. It is not easy. We must pray moment by moment to allow the Holy Spirit to do this within us, and to imitate the ways of Our Lady, who perfectly mirrored God's will.

To realize this true freedom and to become who God created each of us to be is sheer gift. There is nothing we can do ourselves to refashion our interior lives other than to say 'yes' in each individual moment. It is in the sacrament of the present moment that this can happen. It is by desiring it, that He can begin to work within the confines and cracks of our hearts. He wants us to fly in order to realize complete freedom. This is when genuine beauty, truth, and goodness within us will come to fruition and become apparent, because it will be all Him that has consumed our old selves, the 'old man'. We will reflect the virtues of faith, hope, and love perfectly.

As we journey towards this freedom to fly with God, let us continue to ask Him to whisper in our ears and to show us the way. Let us ask for the intercession of Our Beloved Mother and our Carmelite saints to assist us. Each has shown us their own unique ways of reaching union with God, and the beauty and individual qualities within each of their souls. We are each called to this as well. God does write straight with crooked lines. He is calling us to true freedom. Let us renew each day our fiat to allow Him to shape and mold us, and to cut any strings that bind us. 

As St. Paul reminds us, "For you were called for freedom, brothers. But do not use this freedom as an opportunity for the flesh; rather, serve one another through love. For the whole law is fulfilled in one statement, namely, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. (Gal 5:13-14)

I say, let true freedom ring. Amen!