For All the Saints, Who From Their Labors Rest: Two Carmelite Feasts

The Souls of the Just are in the Hand of God…© SalveMaterDei.com, 2012

“By Your own Blood, Lord, You brought us back to God; from every tribe and tongue, and people and nation, You made us a kingdom for our God (Evening Antiphon, All Saints’ Day Liturgy of the Hours).

Writing this at about midnight, I seem to have one foot in yesterday and the other in tomorrow. These two days, November 14 and November 15, bear significance for Discalced Carmelites. On November 14th, they celebrate the Feast of All Carmelite Saints, and likewise, the 15this traditionally celebrated as the Feast of All Carmelite Souls.

At this midpoint in November, we are again called to focus our attention on the magnificent doctrine of the Communion of Saints. We honor those men and women of heroic virtue who have persevered in faith, and with an abiding love for Christ, have kept their baptismal garments pure. Likewise we pray for those brothers and sisters in Christ who have been called from this earthly existence, yet whose imperfect character has temporarily deprived them of the glorious Beatific Vision. We are cognizant that these beloved souls are engaged in a process of purification, and that our prayers may assist them.

Scripture tells us:

“The souls of the just are in the hand of God, and no torment shall touch them. They seemed in the eyes of the foolish to be dead; and their passing away an affliction and their going forth from us utter destruction. But they are in peace. For if before men, indeed they be punished, yet their hope is full of immortality. Chastened a little, they shall be greatly blessed, because God tried them and found them worthy of Himself. As Gold in a furnace He proved them, as sacrificial offerings He took them to Himself. In the time of their visitation they shall shine. … (Wisdom 3:1-7).”

As we pray for the beloved souls in Purgatory, we are reminded of the need to remain in a state of grace for that moment when we shall meet God face to face. Thus, while glorifying God for the graces He has lavished upon both the Saints Triumphant and the Suffering Souls in Purgatory, we also contemplate the fragility of our own mortal flesh, and gaze momentarily into the vastness of eternity.

My Soul is Thirsting for the Living God; When Shall I See Him Face to Face? SalveMaterDei.com, 2012

While our All-loving God has created us with the ultimate solitary purpose of delighting in Eternal Bliss with Him in Paradise, He has also given each of us a free will. We each have the marvelous gift to choose to spend eternity with Him in perpetual joy, or to permanently sever our bond with God, and spend Eternity far from the abyss of His merciful love. Our destiny depends upon the path we take, and the choice is truly ours.

Scripture tells us:

“I call heaven and earth today to witness against you. I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. Choose life , then, that your descendants may live, by loving the Lord, your God, heeding His voice, and holding fast to Him (Deuteronomy 31:19-20).”

Fortified with the doctrine of the Communion of Saints, we realize that our all-loving God has provided us with the gift of companions on this journey. Not only are there companions who breathe the same air we do, and walk the face of the earth in the space and time that we share, but there are also companions who have already labored through life, and who now desire to assist us with their wisdom and prayers, as they inhabit an existence which transcends earthly space and time.

For those of us who are drawn to Carmelite sanctity, the companions are myriad. The life of each Carmelite saint reflects a unique aspect of the Carmelite spirituality; and studying their lives affords one the opportunity to apply their inimitable virtues to her own life. In my own life, I have discovered these Carmelite Companions to be an invaluable source of spiritual blessing.

The Holy Mother, St. Teresa of Jesus, Doctor of the Church …© SalveMaterDei.com, 2012

From the Holy Mother, St. Teresa of Jesus, I seek to learn how to pray. St. Teresa of Avila, the great Carmelite reformer, is a magnificent teacher. I turn to St. Teresa, the great Doctor of the Church, via her writings, especially her autobiography (Life of St. Teresa), The Way of Perfection, and The Interior Castle. The more time I spend with St. Teresa, the more I find my prayer life does indeed deepen. Much of St. Teresa’s writings were penned as counsel for her sisters; guides to teach them how to pray. Her approachable manner allows the reader to comprehend theologically rigorous material with refreshing clarity. St. Teresa’s wisdom and guidance on this journey are incomparable.

Though not even canonized as a Blessed, Brother Lawrence of the Resurrection (1614-1691) remains one of the most influential Carmelite companions on my journey to the foot of the Throne of the Almighty. The letters of the wise lay-brother were collected and published into a book entitled, Practicing the Presence of God. I had the grace to stumble upon this volume in college, and it profoundly impacted the way I viewed my relationship with God. Through Brother Lawrence’s eyes, I continue to develop a more intimate relationship with Christ, and strive daily to recognize His presence in my mundane life.

St. Therese of the Child Jesus and of the Holy Face …© SalveMaterDei.com, 2012

St. Therese of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face has taught me how to turn my miniscule deeds into gifts for God. The “Little Way” of this beloved Doctor of the Church is so relevant to my life! Like Therese, harsh penances scare me, and heroic deeds are well beyond my limited capabilities. However, like her, I long to give my best to God, and through her writings in The Story of a Soul, I find hope that my insignificant human struggles are actually valued by my Loving Creator. I love her passion, and resonate with her temper. Therese learned to channel those tempestuous qualities into a “Zeal for the Lord God of Hosts”. Following her example, I too hope to one day find my turbulent temperament has truly rested in the peace of Christ.

The young St. Teresa of the Andes is another of my favorite Carmelite companions. Through her biography, God, the Joy of My Soul, I am learning how our Lord gently calls us to love. In St. Teresa of the Andes, I see a paradox of youthful exuberance and mature spiritual depth. Reading her biography has caused me to become more cognizant of spiritual depth of others – especially the depth that is present in children and young adults. I see their innocence and joy, as they approach the omnipotence of God, and it makes me yearn to approach Him with these virtues as well. I have learned that I am better equipped to nurture the spiritual inclinations of my own children, when I view their intimacy with God in awe and wonder.

St. John of the Cross has taught me the value of suffering. Through his collected works, including the Dark Night of the Soul, I have come to realize that intimacy with God is not reflected in consolations and cozy feelings. When St. Paul tells us to “work out your salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12),” it is clear that we are not promised a warm fuzzy feeling as a reward for union with Christ. Through St. John of the Cross, I begin to grasp the essential role of the cross in my own life, and take ever-so-tiny steps to embrace that cross, and follow the Wisdom Who has wrought it for my salvation.

St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross …© SalveMaterDei.com, 2012

The extraordinary St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross is a special companion on my journey. Philosophically, Phenomenology has never been my cup of tea. I avoided it like the plague in graduate school. However, I have learned much from this learned Carmelite philosopher. Edith Stein was born a Jew, and later became an atheist. However, her unquenchable desire for True Wisdom allowed her to reason her way to God. She possessed a magnificent mind and after earning a doctorate in Philosophy, she studied with world-renowned academic philosophers. Yet, academic success did not quell the longing of her soul. One night, Edith stumbled upon a copy of St. Teresa of Avila’s autobiography- she devoured it, finishing it that very night. Finding it to be the truth, her soul found rest. Edith Stein was baptized, and she soon entered Carmel as Sr. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, and wholly surrendered her life to God. As the Nazi regime hunted both St. Teresa and her sister Rosa (who had also become a Carmelite sister) that act of total surrender would profoundly demonstrate the glory of the One to Whom she had become espoused. In the days preceding her death in Auschwitz, St. Teresa cared for the children and other inmates with gentleness and joy. She reflected Christ’s mercy even in the shadow of the gas chambers. St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross continues to teach me the value of courageous daily surrender to the Will of God.

My favorite Carmelite Saint is Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity, whose feast we celebrated just last week on November 9. Blessed Elizabeth was born in a military camp in Avor, France. She lost her father at the tender age of 7, and lived in a comfortable middle-class environment with her mother and sister. Elizabeth was an accomplished pianist, and had been sent to study music at the conservatory in Dijon when she was a mere 8 years of age. She would practice for 5-6 hours a day, and was no stranger to diligent study. Though music and laughter were abundant in her life, she possessed philosophical and theological depth. From the time of her First Holy Communion, St. Elizabeth desired to give herself completely to God. In her teens, she became mystically aware of the indwelling presence of the Most Blessed Trinity. Her entire life would become a living prayer to the Trinity, Whom she truly understood lived within the depths of her soul. Elizabeth realized that as the Trinitarian God dwelled within her soul, the door to Heaven was in an authentic way, her very heart. I love the way she expressed this reality through her letters, and highly recommend these valuable spiritual writings which can be found published in the Complete Works of Elizabeth of the Trinity.

St. Simon Stock Receives the Brown Scapular from Our Lady of Mount Carmel …© SalveMaterDei.com, 2012

The Canon of Carmelite Saints is replete with heroes, martyrs and mystics. St. Simon Stock, whose vision of Our Lady of Mount Carmel has given us the Brown Scapular as a protective garment of grace is a favorite patron to many. Among my personal favorites are the brave martyrs of Compiegne. These 16 Carmelite sisters ascended the scaffold of the guillotine in Paris on July 17, 1794 signing the Veni Creator Spiritusand professing their vows in defiance of Robespierre’s Revolutionary Government. Their pure oblation is credited with ending the Reign of Terror a mere 10 days later. The ranks of powerful celestial Carmelite companions are enormous. These intercessors have so much to teach us as we work out our salvation with fear and trembling, winding our way along the path to Eternity.

Yet while the number of canonized Carmelite saints is extensive, even larger is the number of hidden Carmelite saints; those who have labored quietly, living solely for Christ, and Him Crucified. Even greater still is the number of holy Carmelite men and women, engaged in the task of Purgatorial purification, whose prayers can benefit us greatly. Through these two days, as we celebrate their merits, and glorify God their Creator, let us endeavor to emulate their virtues in the hope of one day joining them all in Paradise. As we thank God for our Carmelite Saints, let us also petition Him for the repose of the souls of those Carmelites in Purgatory. With them, let us remain Zealous with Zeal for the Lord God of Hosts.

Blessings,

Ad Jesum per Mariam,

M.A. J.M.J.

St. Therese of the Child Jesus, Please Pray for Us! (Novena)

St. Therese of the Child Jesus and of the Holy Face, Pray for Us! © SalveMaterDei.com, 2012.

“In order that Love may be fully satisfied it must needs

stoop to very nothingness and transform that nothingness into fire (Story of a Soul, Chapter XI).”

St. Therese of Lisieux, or St. Therese of the Child Jesus and of the Holy Face, remains one of the most beloved of all the saints. In 1888, this young sister entered the Carmelite Cloister (with the special permission of the Holy Father himself) at the tender age of 15; she died a mere 9 years later. Therese longed to be a missionary, an apostle, and a prophet,- to travel to each of the continents spreading the Gospel of Christ, yet her plans were not God’s plans. She would indeed travel to the five continents, and spread the love of Christ, but it would be after her death, in the hearts of those who sought Christ through her “Little Way.” I was present in October of 1999 when her relics arrived at the Basilica of the National Shrine of Mary at Holy Hill, as they continued in pilgrimage around the world. Hundreds of thousands of faithful were introduced to her unique path to sanctity during this world-wide tour, and the shower of grace continues.

Young Therese petitioning the Pope Leo XIII for entrance to Carmel at the age of 15. This beautiful stained glass window is one of a series on the life of the saint that will soon grace the St. Therese Chapel at the Basilica of the National Shrine of Mary at Holy Hill. © SalveMaterDei.com, 2012.

As her life in the Carmel of Lisieux unfolded, St. Therese soon realized that her ultimate vocation was a call to love within the heart of the Church. In her short time in Carmel, she perfected her “Little Way,”- a path of love which leads right to the Door of Heaven. St. Therese found that offering her weakness and littleness to God was as mighty and heroic as magnificent deeds beyond her call.

In Chapter 4 of her autobiography, The Story of a Soul, St. Therese states:

“Jesus made me understand that the true, the only glory is that which will last forever; that to attain it we need not perform wonderful deeds, but rather those hidden from the eyes of others and self, so that the ‘left hand knoweth not what the right hand doth (Matthew 6:3).’”

St. Therese states, “I am a very little soul who can offer only very little things to the Good God. . . (The Story of a Soul, Ch. X).” The Little Flower realized that mighty heroic deeds as a missionary were not what had been planned for her from all eternity. No, her daily sacrifice of the mundane, her authentic humility, and unwavering love brought the Little Flower into full communion with her beloved spouse. “Love alone have I ever given to the good God, and with love He will repay me (Story of a Soul,Chapter XIII).”

St. Therese of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face, Stained Glass Window from the Chapel in the Carmelite Monastery in Denmark, WI. © SalveMaterDei.com, 2012.

Therese discovered the intense mystery of Love in the simplicity of daily duty. As St. Therese made an “Act of Oblation to Merciful Love,” she completely abandoned herself to the merciful love of Christ. She lived, suffered, and died, united to her beloved spouse. She became little so that the Almighty might reveal His glory through her humility.

Pope Pius X called St. Therese: “the greatest saint of modern times.” In 1927, Pope Pius XI named St. Therese the patroness of the missions, and in 1944 Pope Pius XII placed her beside her beloved St. Joan of Arc, in naming her co-patroness of France. On October 19, 1997, Blessed Pope John Paul the Great declared St. Therese to be one of the thirty-four doctors of the Universal Church, in his Apostolic Letter Divini Amoris Scientia(The Science of Divine Love).

Among her ardent admirers have included such souls as: Pope John Paul I (Cardinal Albino Luciano), Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta, St. Padre Pio of Pietrelcina, St. Guiseppe Moscati, and St. Maximillian Kolbe. This remarkable young woman, and her “Little Way” have greatly influenced a myriad of souls. As St. Therese predicted, a shower of roses, a plentitude of grace, is often granted to those who earnestly seek her intercession with the God whom she loved and served so well while on Earth.

St. Therese statue at the Basilica of the National Shrine of Mary Help of Christians at Holy Hill. © SalveMaterDei.com, 2012.

In preparation for her Feast Day, celebrated on October 1, please consider joining me in the following novena, which begins today:

Eternal Father, I thank you for the graces you have bestowed upon St. Therese of the Child Jesus and of the Holy Face. I offer you the Precious Blood of Jesus in gratitude for the beauty of her soul. Thank you for preserving her baptismal innocence and instilling in her a burning love for You. Thank You for calling St. Therese to the sweet sacrificial life of Carmel. Thank You for giving her the grace to live as a beloved and faithful spouse of Christ, and a spiritual mother to many souls.

Please fill my heart with the grace of a humble child-like love, so that like the Little Flower, I may live in Your friendship and enjoy the gift of everlasting bliss in Your Heavenly presence. Please grant me the spiritual and temporal graces that I need to live in imitation of this saint whom I so deeply admire, especially the grace which I request in this novena, if it be for the good of my soul and in accord with Your Divine Will (mention your request here). I place my petition in the hands of the Little Flower, and the Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin. Amen. (One Our Father, One Hail Mary, One Glory Be).

May St. Therese of Lisieux, intercede for us and send a shower of roses upon all those who invoke her intercession.

Blessings,

Ad Jesum per Mariam,

M.A. JMJ