Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Stained Glass Scapulars-Reflections on the Secular Carmelite Rule




From Poustinia by Servant of God, Catherine de Hueck Doherty:

If we are to witness to Christ in today's marketplaces, where there are constant demands on our whole person, we need silence. If we are to be always available, not only physically, but by empathy, sympathy, friendship, understanding and boundless caritas, we need silence. To be able to give joyous, unflagging hospitality, not only of house and food, but of mind, heart, body and soul, we need silence.

True silence is the search of man for God.

True silence is a suspension bridge that a soul in love with God builds to cross the dark, frightening gullies of its own mind, the strange chasms of temptation, the depthless precipices of its own fears that impede its way to God.

True silence is the speech of lovers...

What wonderful words of wisdom from Servant of God, Catherine.  As Secular Carmelites,  we should exclaim, "spoken like a true Carmelite, Catherine."  Although her book was published in 1975, her writings are certainly prophetic in nature. She understands clearly the spiritual problems that can arise in a technological society. She understands the current age; the attachment to materialism, individualism, relativism and a deep lack of desire for solitude and prayer.  The first line of the excerpt above speaks right from the heart of St. Teresa of Jesus who teaches us that prayer and contemplation are gifts given to strengthen us for service.

She is also very Carmelite in nature when she writes of the desert and the poustinia as a state of being. She writes that poustinia is a condition of the heart and soul of a man or woman. How do we find this place of the heart where God dwells? Her teaching is that we need to stand still. "Stand still, and allow the strange, deadly restlessness of our tragic age to fall away like the worn-out, dusty cloak that it is...the restlessness was considered the magic carpet to tomorrow, but now in reality we see it for what it is: a running away from oneself..."

We can now turn to our Carmelite saints and their teaching for more on this "standing still" spirituality. Who, but Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity, the holy Carmelite of the "indwelling of the Trinity," speaks of this "chapel of the heart" where we can enter anytime and find intimate friendship with God. It is the the chapel that is always available to us through prayer and contemplation.  It is the place where we enter to adore the living God present in our soul. 

She writes: I think that in Heaven my mission will be to draw souls by helping them to go out of themselves in order to cling to God by a wholly simple and loving movement, and to keep them in this great silence within which will allow God to communicate Himself to them and to transform them into Himself.

"To keep them in this great silence..." this is the teaching of Catherine also, at first such silences will be few and far between. But if nourished with a life of liturgical prayer, mental prayer, with the sacramental life of the Church, slowly, slowly, like a seedling of a mighty tree, silence will grow and come to dwell in a soul more and more often. Then suddenly, it will come to stay one day.

Yes, this is what we are seeking: union with God. The union of Martha and Mary. The union of the active and contemplative life. We are called to be missionaries in the marketplace while possessing the silent heart of a contemplative. These two are joined by the Holy Spirit to go about their daily activities united with the Beloved, so that all things are done through Him, with Him, and in Him.

Secular Carmelites are called to a little "poustinia" each day. We are called to 1/2 hour of mental prayer. Many followers of Carmelite spirituality will confess that they have a difficult time being faithful to the time of prayer that is required of us.  We need to stop looking at this requirement as an obligation (although it is) and look at it as a joyful entrance into silence where God meets us face-to-face, where we can, in Catherine's words, "shed the cloak of restlessness" and experience the peace of heart that God offers to us in prayer.

Let us pray for each other, that we be faithful to our commitment to prayer. Remember, this gift is not for ourselves alone, but for the entire Body of Christ.  It is our gift to our brothers and sisters in Christ. Please, let us be generous givers of God's gifts.

Catherine Doherty is the founder of Madonna House.  Here is a movie about this foundation entitled "The People of the Towel and Water:






Peace be with you!
Rosemarie, ocds



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