Monday, January 23, 2012

Fr. Doug's January 2012 Homily on Contemplation

JMJT! Praise be Jesus Christ! Now and Forever!

Fr. Doug gave his most recent homily to our OCDS community when we met this past Saturday, January 21st, the Feast of St. Agnes. St. Therese was admiring St. Agnes while on pilgrammage in Rome.  She thought to herself how she would like to have some sort of momento. At that moment one small tile fell from the shrine, and she was able to take it with her.

Regarding contemplation, most people stay in contemplation. We are not in chage and we can't control this other than to prepare for it. It is a gift and reward for humility which your work should produce.  We must cultivate this.  One must aim to be humble. St. Therese de Lisieux asked Mother Gonzaga near her death whether or not she was humble. Mother Gonzaga affirned that in fact she was. St. Therese had embraced her littleness and remained small.  She defined humility as truth.

How do we prepare for contemplation?

Study it or you won't understand it when you get it. St. John of the Cross speaks of this extensively. One must know its earmarks extensively. What do you do after this? You must be open to it.

1st: Confess your pride. This is what holds us back. We are the ones who hold God away from us. We are saturated with pride and must deal with it.  One must humble oneself by getting rid of all that's not of God. Go to 'nada' that St. John of the Cross recommends. Nothingness and stripping onself of all that is not of Him.  One must be real to practice contemplative prayer. If you cannot fast or are not reasonable in your aescetical practices you are not being real with yourself and with God.  A different approach or possibility to becoming humble and being real is to recite the Jesus prayer. "Lord Jesus Christ, son of God, have mercy on me a sinner."  (See

2nd: Thanksgiving: After recognzing one's sinfulness and seeking God in humility, one should praise and thank him for all the gifts he has given you. You have not created your life. All that you have comes from Our Lord. By recognizing this, it places you in humility.

Now you're ready for silence and to be present to Him in prayer.

One can ponder the humility of St. Juan Deigo when Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared to him. After the bishop dismissed him and did not want to believe the occurance of seeing Our Lady, Juan Diego was lamenting to Our lady that she should find someone else who was of more noble birth, better educated, and generally more important. The Nican Mopohua describes him as a 'macehualli' or "poor Indian", one who did not belong to any of the social categories of the Empire, as priests, warriors, merchants,...but not a slave; a member of the lowest and largest class in the Aztec Empire. When talking to Our Lady he calls himself "a nobody", and refers to it as the source of his lack of credibility before the Bishop. I am a nobody, I am a small rope, a tiny ladder, the tail end, a leaf")  The Virgin Mary called him "Juanito, Juan Dieguito" , "the most humble of my sons", "my son the least", "my little dear". (see She told him that she had others, but she wanted him because of his humility. She also wanted the conversion of 9 million natives and needed someone they could relate to be the carrier of her message and miracle. This was all about her leading these souls to her and bringing them to her Son, Jesus.

The lesson: Humble yourself and then God can invest.


Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Fr. Marie-Eugene of the Child Jesus, OCD declared 'Venerable'

JMJT! Praise be Jesus Christ! Now and Forever!

Dear Ones-

There are so many subjects that I have wanted to write about this past week, but there is one problem - I keep running out of time. So, until that window of time arrives, I wanted to post and paste some information regarding Fr. Marie-Eugene of the Child Jesus OCD, whose cause is now moving forward to the next stage of beatification. On 2 December 1894, Marie-Eugene was born into a modest family in Gua-Aveyron, a small mining town in the south of France. From an early age he felt called to the priesthood and entered a seminary when 17 years old. Three years later the First World War broke out and he joined the army as a volunteer. He felt that he had special protection from Sister Therese of the Child Jesus (of Lisieux) while serving as a soldier. At the conclusion of the war he re-entered the seminary and was ordained a priest on 4 February 1922, at the age of 28.

He had felt God’s call to Carmel during his seminary years and, 20 days after his ordination, entered the Discalced Carmelite Noviciate in Avon, near Paris. He took the religious name Marie-Eugene of the Child Jesus.

There he intensified his prayer life and immersed himself in the teaching of the Carmelite masters. From the very outset of his ministry, through his writings and retreats, he dedicated himself to sharing the deep spiritual experiences of the Carmelite saints and of the practice of prayer. 

Fr. Marie-Eugene founded Notre Dame de Vie as a secular Institute founded in 1932 in France and approved by Rome.  The Notre Dame de Vie community belongs to the Carmelite family and strives to live in the spirit of the prophet Elijah and the Carmelite Saints. The vision of this community is to form comtemplative apostles who work in any professional environement and witness to the living God. (See

He was elected General Definitor in 1937 and had to assume the role of General in 1954, when Fr. Silverius of St. Teresa died tragically. It was precisely during his years in Rome that he wrote his masterly synthesis of the teachings of the Saints of the Order: I Want to See God.  He died on 27 March 1967 in Notre-Dame de Vie (France), at the age of 73


Members of Notre Dame de Vie consist of consecrated laywomen, laymen and priests (mostly diocesan), who combine consecration with professional activity or priestly ministry, putting daily contemplative prayer and the Eucharist at the heart of their lives. They strive to bear witness to the Living God and to the primacy of the spiritual at work, in their involvement in parish life, especially in catechesis, and in the organisation of retreats for adults and young people.  They are present in 20 countries throughout the world. Associates and families share the same charism. (see
Venerable Fr. Marie Eugene is the author of the spiritual masterpiece I Want to See God (Fides, 1955) which has sold 100,000 copies in six languages, Under the Torrent of His Love: Therese of Lisieux, a Spiritual Genius (Alba House, 1995) and Where the Spirit Breathes (Alba House, 1998).  He wrote extensively about St. Therese of Lisieux and her Little Way, and personally knew her blood sisters.  One beautiful article about her spirituality of hiddenness, spirituality, and the presence of God in all moments is below for your enjoyment. Let me know your thoughts and may it enrich you as you live your daily lives.  see

God is Love

by Fr. Marie-Eugene of the Child Jesus

 French Discalced Carmelite priest, now in process of beatification

God is Love: certitude in times of darkness
A little later her sister, Mother Agnes, now Prioress, gave her to Mother Marie de Gonzague as an assistant in the formation of the novices,28 among whom in 1894 was her sister Celine. Assigned to the novitiate, Thérèse found an opportunity to explain her teaching, which otherwise she would never have formulated. Obliged to speak to her sisters, she told them what she felt and experienced. When they questioned her, she quoted by heart passages from St. John of the Cross - as she often did at recreation - for that was her life.

Thérèse thus explained a little of her doctrine, but always in the midst of distress, because of the opposition of her surroundings and the sermons she had to listen to. Her teaching was quite different from all this. In her obscure contemplation she had made the discovery of the God who is Love, an obscure discovery but one which she grasped almost by second nature and which created certitude in the depths of her soul. God is Love. She could say:
"I contemplate and adore the other divine perfections ... through Mercy. All of these perfections appear to be resplendent with Love." There was nothing but this in God.

The searching went on in darkness. Thérèse only explained what she had to explain, either for the novices or when asked to write the story of her life later. Habitually she lived in the dark. We might say that she found herself bogged down in what is often called the purification of the spirit. This consists far less in keen sufferings marked by distinct stages - some of these there were indeed - than in a muddled fog or kind of quicksand in which one becomes enmired and unable to move." This trial continued in anguish, but with upward thrusts toward God and convictions that she had found him. There was an apparent contradiction between her progressive discovery of sin and of sinful tendencies in herself and others, and her discovery of God.

The God whom Thérèse discovered was the God of Love. At the same time she saw that around her, and even in her Carmel, God was not known. The God who is Love was not known! They knew the God of justice, quid pro quo, and they tried to acquire merits. But, thought Thérèse, this was not the way to win him. God is Love, God is Mercy. But what is Mercy? It is the Love of God which gives itself beyond all demands and rights.

The Council of Trent declared that God bestows his gifts in two ways: out of justice, that is, as a reward for merits, and out of Mercy, that is, surpassing all merit. Thus he is true to his own nature, for he is Love, Goodness which pours itself out. He has a need to give. Therein ties his joy.

Thérèse read the Gospels. What did she find there? Mary Magdalen: God had forgiven her much, and therefore she loved much." Thérèse also contemplated the prodigal son and the fathers joy in receiving him back: joy, for this was his opportunity to give himself. There will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner repenting than over ninety-nine upright people who have no need of repentance. What glorifies God and "delights him' is to be able to give himself, and give himself freely. This was Thérèse's discovery: what gives God joy is the power to give more than what is required by strict justice, freely, based on our needs and the exegencies of his nature which is Love, and not on our merits.

Thérèse felt acutely the tension of her surroundings, the opposition between her light, her needs, and what she saw being practiced around her . People kept score with God. When you stood before the eternal Father who was to judge you, he would look at your list of merits. You would have obtained so many indulgences, you would have so many merits, and your place would be assigned. For her part Thérèse said: I shall take care not to present any merits of mine, but only those of our Lord. As for me, I shall have nothing, I do not want to present anything, I prefer to let God love me as much as he wants." Then she added, "It is because of this that I shall get such a good reception." Here we have the heart of her teaching.

Surrender to Love
Seeing that God was not loved, she, Thérèse, would 'make reparation' too. The Love of God, Merciful Love, was not known. So seldom did people have recourse to Mercy; everyone appealed to Justice. They kept accounts with God, while he wished to give himself according to his own exigencies. Thérèse said to herself. "God has so much Love to give, and he can't do it; people present only their own merits, and these are so paltry." She therefore presented herself before God, saying: "Give me this love; I accept to be a victim of Love that is, to receive all the Love which others do not receive because they will not let you Love them as you wish. Such was her confidence in the Mercy which exceeds justice.

She then dreamt of making her offering to Merciful Love. But it was not directly in order to receive Love, it was 'to please God"-, it was so that God might have the opportunity to give himself as intensely as he desired. She would be a victim of Love, she accepted to be consumed by Love, if only God could have his way. Her object was to please him, no to be a saint; it was not even directly to give him to others, but only to please him. Her offering was God-centered. Thérèse looked only at God and she lived by this Love. She wanted to delight God, to give him joy, to let him Love.

In the Gospels she also pondered the scene with the children. To enter God's kingdom, one must be a child. True, one must also be a saint. But who is greater? The smaller, because it is the weaker. Not by reason of any merits, but because the child, in its weakness and poverty, offers God the widest vessel, capable of holding all. Here we have the essence of St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus' mystical theology.

She also found in St. John of the Cross the most distant horizons of Love, In the Living Flame and the Spiritual Canticle he describes in a rich and comprehensive way the working of God's Love in the soul. These descriptions correspond clearly to Thérèse's experience"

God is Love, Goodness pouring itself out.  

A new spirituality

The teaching of St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus was based on this central experience. The greatest grace of her life was her understanding of Mercy. The theology she elaborated flowed from a personal insight, something which came naturally to her. At times she experienced suffering so intense that she said, "When I am in heaven, if I have been mistaken about this, I will come and let you know. But in the depths of her being she was certain. Her entire teaching flowed from this light in the next talk I shall try to enlarge on this, but now I should like to show how this doctrine has changed our spirituality, so to say. She was not the only one, there had been other messages of Love through the ages, but I believe that Thérèse's is still the most important one from a theological and spiritual point of view.

In the years following her death Pius X recommended frequent Communion, which points us toward positive holiness. The holiness and asceticism of the 19th century were negative: people sought above all to purify themselves and make reparation to God. The characteristic note of spirituality in our times is the positive aspect of love which has become a part of our way of life. This is why it succeeds. in each era we follow the grace and light God gives us. Formerly the stress was more on sacrifice; today it is on presence and contact. There was a grandeur about former times, but people did not have the same understanding of Love and Mercy. Their spirituality did not appeal to the majority, since few were strong enough to live by it. Now, on the other hand, as the concept of divine Mercy has been brought to the fore, it has been a powerful influence in opening up the mystical life to the many.

Two periods can be distinguished here. I believe St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus is the herald of the new one. She has exemplified and modernized, in a certain sense, the spirituality of St. Paul, who said, "Through the grace of God I am what I am, and the grace he gave me has not been without result"

Thérèse's greatness lay in her discovery of Mercy. On one occasion she said to her infirmarian, "You know well that you are taking care of a little saint." They cut her finger nails. 'Keep them,' she said, "some day someone will treasure them." She also  remarked: 'They say I have virtue but that isn't true; they are mistaken. I do not have virtue. God gives me what I need at each instant. I have only what I need for the present moment. These paradoxes are extraordinary and disconcerting. There is a certain quality of greatness in St. Thérèse. I assure you that I have studied her in depth for forty years and her greatness has often overwhelmed me. She has renewed our understanding of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, as we see them operating in her contemplation. It harmonizes with the teaching of St. Thomas. It is not a matter of sentimentality or of novelties. It is a rediscovery, an illustration of the traditional doctrine. I believe this is one of the great graces granted to our times.

In her surroundings, Thérèse was unique. I have known Mother Agnes since 1927. I loved and revered her deeply. She was a very holy soul, and the same was true of Sister Genevieve. But St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus was a giant in comparison and far surpassed them. She is the only one, we could say, to have read and perfectly understood St. John of the Cross. In spite of her superior intelligence and spiritual knowledge, however, she showed perfect submission - a sure proof that her understanding was indeed supernatural.

To be practical, we should exploit this theological knowledge of God, of Mercy. St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus has left her mark on our times. She has, so to say, popularized contemplation and sanctity itself.

(c) 1997 Discalced Carmelite Friars/Oklahoma-USA
Reproduced with Permission  (taken from:, retrieved on 1/18/12)

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Following the Light of Christ on Epiphany and Beyond

JMJT! Praise be Jesus Christ! Now and Forever!

Today we celebrate the Three Wise Men who journeyed across the deserts of Arabia to present gifts to the New-born King.  These three kings represented the opening of salvation for all of mankind, beyond the Chosen People, the Jews.  One can only wonder what sort of journey this might have been for these astronomers who exhibited such faith and courage to follow the unknown. What an inspiration for us as we face our peaks and valleys of life, and Our Lord asks us to take His hand and trust Him in faith. He reminds us that He is our life and our salvation. He is our guiding light, our star, our Good Shepherd. 

In 2005, World Youth Day was held in Cologne, Germany, where Benedict XVI set time aside to pray at the tomb of the Three Wise Men, which was an integral theme. During his speech, the pope talked about what really motivated their journey to Bethlehem.

"The Magi set out because of a deep desire which prompted them to leave everything and begin a journey. It was as though they had always been waiting for that star. It was as if the journey had always been a part of their destiny, and was finally about to begin. Dear friends, this is the mystery of God’s call, the mystery of vocation." Pope Benedict XVI

Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein), in a lecture delivered on 13 January 1931, speaks of those who were drawn to the manger. The shepherds were drawn by the message of an angel, while the wise men followed a star. Each in their own way responded to the call to entrust themselves to this small child and in doing so found peace. This is a short excerpt from her reflection, The Mystery of Christmas:

The star of Bethlehem remains a star in the dark night even today…Darkness covered the earth and the Christ child came as light to illumine the darkness, but the darkness did not comprehend him. To those who received him, he brought light and peace…a deep interior peace of the heart. The dark night of sin stands in stark and sinister contrast with the Light which came down from heaven.

The Child in the manger extends his little hands and his smile seems to be saying what would come forth later from the lips of the man: ‘Come to me all you who are weary and heavy burdened’; and the poor shepherds out on the hills of Bethlehem, who heard the good news of the angel, follow his call and make their way with a simple answer, ‘Let us go to Bethlehem’. Also upon the kings from the orient lands, who followed the star with like simplicity, there dropped from the Infant hands the dew of grace and ‘they rejoiced with great joy’. These hands give and request at the same time: you wise men, lay down your wisdom and become like children; you kings, give up your crowns and your treasures and bow down meekly before the King of kings; do not hesitate to take up the burdens, sorrows and weariness which his service demands.

St. Teresa Benedicta again wrote of the special place Epiphany holds for the Church in her essay entitledThe Hidden Life and Epiphany. I hope you enjoy it! 


"The complete manuscript for this meditation for the Feast of the Three Wise Men from the East is found in the Archives under the label DI 16. The text is neither signed nor dated. Since Edith Stein came to Echt in 1938 and since there are two additional reflections for the Feast of the Three Kings in the Archives, one for the year 1941, the other for the year 1942, the present manuscript can be dated January 6, 1940 with certainty" (Volume XI of Edith Steins Werke,
The Hidden Life and Epiphany 1
"The complete manuscript for this meditation for the Feast of the Three Wise Men from the East is found in the Archives under the label DI 16. The text is neither signed nor dated. Since Edith Stein came to Echt in 1938 and since there are two additional reflections for the Feast of the Three Kings in the Archives, one for the year 1941, the other for the year 1942, the present manuscript can be dated January 6, 1940 with certainty" (Volume XI of Edith Steins Werke,
When the gentle light of the advent candles begins to shine in the dark days of December a mysterious light in a mysterious darkness it awakens in us the consoling thought that the divine light, the Holy Spirit, has never ceased to illumine the darkness of the fallen world. He has remained faithful to his creation, regardless of all the infidelity of creatures. And if the darkness would not allow itself to be penetrated by the heavenly light, there were nevertheless some places always predisposed for it to blaze.

A ray from this light fell into the hearts of our original parents even during the judgment to which they were subjected. This was an
 the visible Church grows out of this invisible one in ever new, divine deeds and revelations which shed their light ever new epiphanies. The silent working of the Holy Spirit in the depths of the soul made the patriarchs into friends of God. However, when they came to the point of allowing themselves to be used as his pliant instruments, he established them in an external visible efficacy as bearers of historical development, and awakened from among them his chosen people. Therefore, Moses, too, was educated quietly and then sent as the leader and lawgiver.
As were the hearts of the first human beings, so down through the ages again and again human hearts have been struck by the divine ray. Hidden from the whole world, it illuminated and irradiated them, let the hard, encrusted, misshapen matter of these hearts soften, and then with the tender hand of an artist formed them anew into the image of God. Seen by no human eye, this is how living building blocks were and are formed and brought together into a Church first of all invisible. However,
 instruments of God without their knowledge and even against their will, possibly even people who neither externally nor interiorly belong to the church. They would then be used like the hammer or chisel of the artist, or like a knife with which the vine-dresser prunes the vines. For those who belong to the church, outer membership can also temporally precede interior, in fact can be materially significant for it (as when someone without faith is baptized and then comes to faith through the public life in the church). But it finally comes down to the interior life; formation moves from the inner to the outer. The deeper a soul is bound to God, the more completely surrendered to grace, the stronger will be its influence on the form of the church. Conversely, the more an era is engulfed in the night of sin and estrangement from God the more it needs souls united to God. And God does not permit a deficiency. 
Not everyone whom God uses as an instrument must be prepared in this way. People may also be

 Sister Teresa Benedicta of the Cross Discalced Carmelite [Edith Stein], "The Hidden Life and Epiphany" in Volume IV of the Collected Works of Edith Stein, The hidden life: hagiographic essays, meditations, spiritual texts, ed. Dr. L. Gelber and Michael Linssen, O.C.D., (1992, Washington Province of Discalced Carmelites, ICS Publications),
  The greatest figures of prophecy and sanctity step forth out of the darkest night. But for the most part the formative stream of the mystical life remains invisible. Certainly the decisive turning points in world history are substantially co-determined by souls whom no history book ever mentions. And we will only find out about those souls to whom we owe the decisive turning points in our personal lives on the day when all that is hidden is revealed.

Because hidden souls do not live in isolation, but are a part of the living nexus and have a position in a great divine order, we speak of an
 kings at the manger represent seekers from all lands and peoples. Grace led them before they ever belonged to the external church. There lived in them a pure longing for truth that did not stop at the boundaries of native doctrines and traditions. Because God is truth and because he wants to be found by those who seek him with their whole hearts, sooner or later the star had to appear to show these wise men the way to truth. And so they now stand before the Incarnate Truth, bow down and worship it, and place their crowns at its feet, because all the treasures of the world are but a little dust compared to it.
In the people who are gathered around the manger, we have a analogy for the church and its development. Representatives of the old royal dynasties to whom the savior of the world was promised and representatives of faithful people constitute the relationship between the Old and the New Covenants. The kings from the far-away East indicate the Gentiles for whom salvation is to come from Judea. So here there is already "the Church made up of Jews and Gentiles." The
 And the kings have a special meaning for us, too. Even though we already belonged to the external church, an interior impulse nevertheless drove us out of the circle of inherited viewpoints and conventions. We knew God, but we felt that he desired to be sought and found by us in a new way. Therefore we wanted to open ourselves and sought for a star to show us the right way. And it arose for us in the grace of vocation. We followed it and found the divine infant. He stretched out his hands for our gifts. He wanted the pure
 Sister Teresa Benedicta of the Cross Discalced Carmelite [Edith Stein], "The Hidden Life and Epiphany" in Volume IV of the Collected Works of Edith Stein, The hidden life: hagiographic essays, meditations, spiritual texts, ed. Dr. L. Gelber and Michael Linssen, O.C.D., (1992, Washington Province of Discalced Carmelites, ICS Publications),
But this admirable exchange was not a one-time event. It fills our entire lives. After the solemn hour of bridal surrender, there followed the everyday life of observance in the Order. We had to "return to our own country," but "taking another way" and escorted by the new light that had blazed up for us at those solemn places. The new light commands us to search anew. "God lets himself be sought," says St. Augustine, "to let himself be found. He lets himself be found to be sought again."

 After each great hour of grace, it is as if we were but beginning now to understand our vocation. Therefore an interior need prompts us to renew our vows repeatedly. That we do so on the feast of the three kings whose pilgrimage and affirmation are for us a symbol for our lives has a deep meaning. To each authentic, heartfelt renewal of vows, the divine Child responds with renewed acceptance and a deeper union. And this means a new, hidden operation of grace in our souls. Perhaps it is revealed in an epiphany, the work of God becoming visible in our external behavior and activity noticed by those around us. But perhaps it also bears fruit that, though observed, conceals from all eyes the mysterious source from which its vital juices pour.

Today we live again in a time that urgently needs to be renewed at the hidden springs of God-fearing souls. Many people, too, place their last hope in these hidden springs of salvation. This is a serious warning cry: Surrender without reservation to the Lord who has called us. This is required of us so that the face of the earth may be renewed. In faithful trust, we must abandon our souls to the sovereignty of the Holy Spirit. It is not necessary that we experience the epiphany in our lives. We may live in the confident certainty that what the Spirit of God secretly effects in us bears its fruits in the kingdom of God. We will see them in eternity.

So this is how we want to bring our gifts to the Lord: We lay them in the hands of the Mother of God. This first Saturday

2 is particularly dedicated to her honor, and nothing can give her most pure heart greater joy than an ever deeper surrender to the Divine Heart. Furthermore, she will certainly have no more urgent petition for the Child in the manger than the one for holy priests and a richly blessed priestly ministry. And this is the petition today's Saturday for priests bids us make and which our Holy Mother has enjoined on us so compellingly as an essential constituent of our vocation to Carmel.
gold of a heart detached from all earthly goods; the myrrh of a renunciation of all the happiness of this world in exchange for participation in the life and suffering of Jesus; the frankincense of a will that surrenders itself and strains upward to lose itself in the divine will. In return for these gifts, the divine Child gave us himself.
invisible church. Their impact and affinity can remain hidden from themselves and others for their entire earthly lives. But it is also possible for some of this to become visible in the external world. This is how it was with the persons and events intertwined in the mystery of the Incarnation. Mary and Joseph, Zechariah and Elizabeth, the shepherds and the kings, Simeon and Anna all of these had behind them a solitary life with God and were prepared for their special tasks before they found themselves together in those awesome encounters and events and, in retrospect, could understand how the paths left behind led to this climax. Their astounded adoration in the presence of these great deeds of God is expressed in the songs of praise that have come down to us.
illuminating ray that awakened in them the knowledge of their guilt, an enkindling ray that made them burn with fiery remorse, purifying and cleansing, and made them sensitive to the gentle light of the star of hope, which shone for them in the words of promise of the "protoevangelium," the original gospel.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Solemnity of Our Lady

JMJT! Praise be Jesus Christ! Now and Forever!

How blessed we are to begin our new year and end the Octave of Christmas honoring Our Lady, as the Mother of God, or the Theotokos ("God-bearer") as the Eastern Church refers to Her. The history of this Feast day is an interesting one and has changed over time. According to EWTN, "the solemnity of the Mother of God, which now coincides with the octave-day of Christmas and the beginning of the new year, was probably assigned this day because of the influence of the Byzantine Church, which celebrates the synapsis of the most holy Theotokos on December 26. This is in accordance with the Eastern practice of honoring secondary persons on the day after the feast of the principal personage (in this case, the birth of Christ). The Coptic Church celebrates this feast on January 16, but in the West, as early as the fifth century, the feast was celebrated on the Sunday before Christmas, although in France it was celebrated on January 18 and in Spain on December 18. Even before Pope Sergius introduced four Marian feasts in the seventh century (the Birth of Mary, the Annunciation, the Purification and the Assumption), the octave day of Christmas was celebrated in Rome in honor of the Maternity of Mary. Later, in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, the feast of the Circumcision was added, although it had been introduced into Spain and France at the end of the sixth century and was later included in the Missal of Pope St. Pius V. The recent liturgical reform has restored the original Roman practice, which replaced the pagan feast of the New Year, dedicated to the god Janus, with this feast honoring the Mother of God.

A popular movement began in Portugal in the eighteenth century for a feast honoring Mary's maternity, and in 1914 the date of the feast was fixed at October 11. It was extended to the entire Latin Church in 1931, the fifteenth centenary of the Council of Ephesus. The restoration of the feast to January 1, which falls in the Christmas season and has an ecumenical significance, coincides with other anniversaries; for example, the octave day of Christmas, the circumcision of the Infant Jesus (assigned to the first Sunday of January); the feast of the Holy Name of Jesus (which dates back to 1721); and the day for peace, introduced by Pope Paul VI."

For Carmelites, we have always revered Our Lady as Mother. All Carmelite images depict Blessed Mother with Jesus in her arms. The order has always celebrated the special familial ties between Carmelite members and our heavenly mother.  I found a fascinating website that shows the first images of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel under the title of 'La Bruna'. I am pasting this information and its artwork here for your enjoyment.  Please note also the devotion to honor 'La Bruna' on Wednesdays by caring for those in special need. Perhaps this is something we can pray about doing as we begin the new year. 

La Bruna: The Virgin of Tenderness

The first Image of the Virgin venerated by the Carmelite Order. The Virgin of Tenderness, or Eleousa in Greek, is the prototype said to have come from the hand of the Evangelist, St. Luke, who, according to tradition, was also an iconographer. Forced by the Islamic invasion of the Holy Land in the 13th century to leave their beautiful homeland, the Carmelites traveled for safety from Mt. Carmel to Europe, carrying with them the precious icon.
It was enshrined above the high altar of their church in Naples, and there, because of the dark skin tone of the Mother and Child, it came to be known as La Bruna.  It remained in this place of honor for over 100 years, and many miracles took place until the icon was removed to a side altar by a royal decree. In the jubilee year of 1500, pious citizens of Naples carried the icon in procession to Rome. During the pilgrimage, people were again miraculously cured. Skeptical of these miracles, “King Frederic II of Naples conceived a plan to test the power of the Heavenly Mother. He ordered that all the sick and infirm [of the city] assemble before the image with written documentation of their maladies. High Mass was celebrated and special hymns were sung, and when the miraculous picture was unveiled, a ray of light fell upon the face of the Madonna, reflecting its brilliance on the assembled sick. The instantaneous healing of each person was authenticated” Summary and quotation from ~Joan Carroll Cruz Miraculous Images of Our Lady. Rockford: TAN, 1993. 
Even though it was not until the 19th century that La Bruna was  Crowned by the decree of the Vatican Council, 11 July 1875,  these joyful 17th and 18th century engravings depict the return of the icon to its place of honor in the Church:

17th century engraving by V.G. Huberti (1619-1684) 
the icon is jointly held by the iconographer, St. Luke the Evangelistand a priest clothed in the Carmelite habit.   

"The Church Once Again Has the Icon of Mary"
Prague Joh Pachmayer 

Notre Dame du Mont Carmel  
Small original hand colored engraving. France 1700's. 
Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Pray for Us
K. van de Vyvere - Petyr Brugge

(retrieved from on 1/1/12)

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A few Carmelites still observe a special day of devotion to "La Bruna" on Wednesday of each week with a liturgy, devotions, and the commitment to show Christian love towards those who are in need.

Illustrated here is a 20th. century Italian holy card with westernized depiction of the ancient icon; note added details of the the Scapular as revealed to St. Simon Stock in the 12th cent. and the 19th century crowning of the icon. How easily the past is rewritten and its true beauty all but forgotten.