Saturday, December 22, 2012


The Virgin, weighed
with the Word of God,
comes down the road:
if only you'll shelter her.
St. John of the Cross


Will you shelter her?

"In the history of the Church, the Order of Carmel has come to be known for its dedication to a life of prayer and to Mary, the Mother of Jesus."

This quote is from Fr. Emmanuel J. Sullivan, O.C.D. from his work entitled, Mary and the Holy Spirit in the Writings of St. John of the Cross.
As we reflect on this quote by by Fr. Sullivan, let's keep this theme in mind: shelter.

Fr. Sullivan tells us that Carmel is known for its life of prayer, but not just a life of prayer, but dedication to a life of prayer. As Secular Carmelites, we can ask ourselves these questions: Are we dedicated to our life of prayer that the church has called us to? Are we dedicated to imitate the Virgin Mary who pondered the Word in her heart. Do we look forward to the time of mental prayer?

We can be assured that if we make a place for Mary in our lives, we are creating a holy shelter for Christ as well. Because wherever Mary is present, Christ is present.

"You are an enclosed garden, my sister, my bride." Songs 4:12

The image of the enclosed garden (the monastic cloister or enclosure) has come to represent the life of Carmel, the life of intimate prayer with the Beloved, where we remain with Him in the shelter of our heart. We often say that we have chosen Carmel, but is it not the Lord who first chose us to follow this path?

He asks us and all men to find a shelter of rest in Him. "Come to me all you who labor and are heavily burdened, and I will give you rest." Yes, holy rest of contemplation; His gift to us in which we do not have to labor with our intellect or imagination during the time of prayer.

We can turn to our Holy Father Elijah to see the symbolism of shelter in his life. In the book of Kings we read that Elijah took shelter in a cave. But the Lord cried out to him, "Why are you here?" He responds with the famous anthem of the Carmelites, "I have been zealous for the Lord, the God of hosts." He was asked a second time, "Why are you here?"

Elijah took shelter in fear for his life, but because he listened to the voice of God, and was intent on doing his will, the Lord fed him with bread for the journey (a prefigurement of the Eucharist) and sent him on mission. Carmelites continue the mission of Elijah in the world today. By our prayer life, regular reception of the Holy Eucharist, our dedication to the Mother of God, and to the Church, we provide a holy witness to the world. A deep prayer life is a powerful witness against secularism, materialism, and individualism. These are the idols worshipped today that we must denounce with our promises of chastity, poverty, and obedience.

During this Advent season, Let us meditate on this same question that was asked of Elijah. Why am I here? Why am I in the family of Carmel?

The vocation of prayer in Carmel is not for ourselves alone, but for the Church and the world. We have to leave the shelter of our prayer life to attend to daily duties. This can be extremely difficult. St. Teresa tells us it is painfully difficult for people who are given to prayer to attend to duties of business. But we know, too, that the Lord sends the Holy Spirit to help us and we may be given the type of prayer that we can go about our daily duties while being in deep communion with the Lord. Sometimes, we may find that it is a mystery and an especially delightful one as to how this takes place.

Our local Secular Carmelite community is named after the Holy Family. In these remaining days of preparation and waiting for the Lord, let us meditate on the theme of shelter. How do we shelter the Holy Family in our spiritual life? How do we shelter and keep company and find rest in the Holy Family of the Most Holy Trinity?

Let us look to Our Lady, the Daughter of the Eternal Father, the Mother of the only-begotten Son, and the Spouse of the Holy Spirit, she who is caught up in the mysterious love of the Holy Family of the Trinity. Mary will obtain for us the grace we need to become holy Carmelites, to be holy dwelling places of God.

The tabernacle is a holy shelter for our Eucharistic Lord. We are living tabernacles where God is ever-present in our soul!

If we provide a place for Mary in our lives, we welcome the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit as well.

Peace be with you!

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