In the silence of the hills Mary came at Lourdes, and so much of the story of her visits is wrapped in a mysterious silence. The apparitions began and ended in silence "In the silence of the soul" said St. John of the Cross, "God makes himself heard." In the soul of Bernadette there was a calm peace that never deserted her, and made her utterly receptive of the Lady's word...
Prayer begins with listening, and Bernadette was a good listener. Every word of the message she received resounded in the depths of her soul. Not a detail of those words was lost. After the Lady had gone, this child moved into a world of deep unbroken silence; she went her way treasuring and pondering the words in her heart.
A pilgrimage is an invitatin to silence. "Try to maintain silence in your souls, "said Pope Pius XII, "and you will be able to contemplate the splendours realized in Mary."
Immacualte Virgin, grant me something of that silence full of love and peace which always filled your soul. Make my ear always attentive to God's word, and may your message to Bernadette resound in the silence of my heart so that I may be drawn by prayer and penance close to your Divine Son. Amen.
When I want to rest my heart fatigued by the darkness which surrounds it by the memory of the luminous country after which I aspire, my torment redoubles; it seems to me that the darkness, borrowing the voice of sinners, says mockingly to me: ' You are dreaming about the light, about a fatherland embalmed in the sweetest perfumes; you are dreaming about the eternal possession of the Creator of all these marvels; you believe that one day you will walk out of this fog which surrounds you! Advance, advance; rejoice in death which will give you not what you hope for but a night still more profound, the night of nothingness'...Ah! my Jesus pardon me if I have caused Him any pain, but He knows very well that while I do not have the joy of faith, I am trying to carry out its works at least."
I desire no longer either suffering or death, and still I love them both; it is love alone that attracts me...abandonment alone guides me. I have no other compass!
...Saint Germanus of Constantinople considered that it was in keeping not only with her divine motherhood but also with the unique sanctity of her virginal body that is was incorrupted and carried up to heaven: "In the words of Scripture, you appear in beauty. Your virginal body is entirely holy, entirely chaste, entirely the house of God, so that for this reason also it is henceforth a stranger to decay: a body changed, because a human body, to a preeminent life of incorruptibility, but still a living body, excelling in splendor, a body inviolate and sharing in the perfection of life."
(From the apostolic constitution Munificentissimus Deus by Pope Pius XII)
Almighty God, you gave a humble virgin the privilege of being
the mother of your Son, and crowned her with the glory of
heaven. May the prayers of the Virgin Mary bring us to the
salvation of Christ and raise us up to eternal life. We ask this
through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and
reign with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
St. Bernardine of Siena calls the heart of Mary a treasury and a furnace. It is a treasure-store from which Mary, Seat of Wisdom, dispenses the riches of her knowledge of God to us. It is a furnace of divine love from which the words she spoke penetrate human hearts, and set them on fire with love for her Divine Son...
Mary's words were few but they are sufficient to guide our lives to her Son.
(Pilgrims With Mary, John Moloney P.P.)
Seat of Wisdom, your Son revealed his Heart as a treasure of wisdom and knowledge. You lived his life and were close to the secrets of his heart. Show me how to do his will; give me words to sing his praise; help me to keep his commandments. Amen.
The central object of the process of formation in the Secular Order is to prepare the person to live the charism and spirituality of Carmel in its following of Christ, and in service to its mission.
(VI, No. 32)
This point of our Rule brings us back to the heart of our formation: preparing those called to Carmel to be open to the gift of contemplation, and to bring the fruit of this intimate friendship with God into our homes, workplace, and in our local communities. Sometimes, those of us who have been involved with formation for new members concentrate on the other aspects of the candidate. I think we have a tendency to focus on the personality of an individual-will they "fit" into our community. Although this is an important point of discernment, even according to St. Teresa, we must be careful about this aspect of discernment. We must get passed personalities and discern if the person has a gift of quiet prayer and if this person will be faithful in practicing mental prayer and living out this gift in their state of life.
The person in formation needs to challenge themselves by being honest during their discernment time with the community. They can ask themselves some questions:
*Do I read the assigned materials?
*Do I seek the assistance of the Carmelite Saints. Am I attracted to them?
*Do I share my discernment process with others, or am I embarrassed to let others know I am seeking entrance into Carmel?
*Do I seek to spend time in quiet prayer, forsaking other worldly
*Do I possess humility in seeking help when I am struggling with prayer, with trying to live the Beatitudes?
These are questions all of us in Carmel need to keep asking ourselves.
We come to community to help each other in striving to be faithful to our promises of chastity, obedience, and poverty. We are all on pilgrimage together. Let us be kind and patient with those who are weak or struggling. May the Lord help us to lead each other gently by the hand up Mt. Carmel. May we be ever-thankful that he has called us to follow him in Carmel.
Let us pray for each other!
Peace be with you!
Photo:R.Massaro(c)2011SpiritSinging Cathedral of the Incarnation Nashville, TN
An excerpt from "Pilgrims with Mary" by John Maloney, PP:
Of all the flowers the rose has been acclaimed as the fairest. We stand back lost in admiration before its sheer beauty. In fashioning it the Divine Artist seems to have put into it something of his own perfection. It has a fragrance all its own.
No wonder it became the emblem to describe Mary, the Mystical Rose, the one fair flower in the garden of God that had not been blighted by sin. She was the only flower that responded to all the watering and sheltering He lavished on his garden. The fragrance of the first creation had faded; sin had tarnished the bloom But she alone remained fresh , unsullied and lovely as in the moment she came from the hand of her Creator She was the rose planted by the rivers of water who bore fruit. To compare her to the fairest of flowers was the effort of human imagining to describe what made her the fairest of women.
Her Immaculate Conception gave her a beauty and fragrance that filled the world...
...Even though I walk in the dark valley I fear no evil; for you are at my side...
Most of us are familiar with these words of Psalm 23, usually read during a Funeral Mass.
I recently heard this psalm proclaimed at a funeral for a close family member. I was thinking, yes, seeing someone you love suffer illness and death is truly traveling a spiritual path in the valley of darkness. However, we know through the teaching of St. John of the Cross, that this "dark night" is about purification and trusting in the gift of faith, even though through this intense purification of the night of the spirit, it may seem that God has abandoned us.
We can ask ourselves, what is my "Valley of Darkness" in my current state of life? Is it serious illness? Is it a feeling of abandonment by God? Is it a broken relationship? Family problems? Temptation to sin?
In God's great mercy, he gives his people who are struggling to keep hope alive, his own Mother, Our Lady! She comes to help us when we cry out to her. She never fails her children! In that famous prayer, "Hail, Holy Queen" we ask her to help us on our pilgrimage, we, who are 'mourning and weeping' in this valley of tears. Let us get to the root of our mourning and ask God to purify our sadness. Is it a true mourning-longing to see God face-to-face? Is it a real heartfelt sorrow for our sins? Or is our sadness based on pride and the effects of a wounded ego and resistance to detachment?
Let us pray for each other, that we assist each other with our prayers as we travel in the dark night of faith together, a valley of darkness, if you will. We are not the 'blind leading the blind' as Our Lord speaks of when we take Our Lady's hand. We follow Christ through Mary. She will not lead us astray. And when we experience fear and trepidation, let us return to that beautiful ancient hymn of the Church and of the Carmelites, the beautiful supplication prayer "Salve Regina" (Hail, Holy Queen). Let us sing with full voice to our loving Mother, Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, and echo with St. John of the Cross: "For I know well the spring that flows and runs, although it is night." (Excerpt from Song of the Soul that rejoices in knowing God through faith).