Sunday, November 10, 2013

Stained-Glass Scapulars-Reflections on the Rule of the Secular Order of Discalced Carmelites

The Rule: #16
The beatitudes are a plan of action for life and a way to enter into relationship with the world, neighbors and co-workers, families and friends. By promising to live the beatitudes in daily life, Secular Carmelites seek to give evangelical witness as members of the Church and the Order, and by this witness invite the world to follow Christ: 'The Way, the Truth and the Life" (Jn 14:6).

In the above excerpt from the Rule our Superiors instruct us to have a "plan of action" for life: the beatitudes. A plan of action takes study, preparation, discipline and commitment. How many people plan and prepare for their day spiritually before they leave the door and enter the world: the spiritual battlefield?  Our one opponent, Satan, seeks to destroy the progress we are trying to make as we grow in charity.  This plan of action is the "marching orders" from the King: Jesus Christ!  He has given a Rule for every human being to follow:

*How blest are the poor in spirit: the rein of God is theirs.
  The Carmelite is called to live a life of detachment-seeking to abide in that blessed state of soul where Christ is all we have and all that we need.

*Blest too are the sorrowing; they shall be consoled.
  A life of prayer and contemplation bring self-knowledge, the painful truth of how we have sinned against God and neighbor. This knowledge should bring us to repentance of heart so that we have true sorrow for sin. Each day we must make the choice of turning away from sin and being faithful to the Gospel.

*Blest are the lowly; they shall inherit the land.
  The Carmelite is called to walk this earth in humility. St. Teresa is very stern when it comes to people (Carmelites) seeking to steal the honor and glory that belongs to God alone-seeking honor among people, by looking for affirmation and compliments and seeking credit for one's virtues.

*Blest are they who hunger and thirst for holiness; they shall have their fill. 
  In today's society, it seems difficult to find a soul that is truly desperate for God. Of course, we cannot discern someone's interior life, but how many people speak as if they were hungry and thirsty for God?  The person who is seeking the "Bread of Life and the "Living Water" is a rare creature, indeed. This person is the "voice crying out in the desert" of our wicked and depraved society.  His voice is drowned out by the world telling us to eat and drink and be merry!  Being faithful to prayer makes us desire the bread of holiness. Prayer with the Beloved, the Living Water, quenches our spiritual thirst.

*Blest are they who show mercy; mercy shall be theirs.
  When we began this discussion on the Rule, we mentioned that these beatitudes are "plan of action." The Carmelite, by being faithful to prayer, creates an interior dwelling place for the Living God. When we go out into the world we take this most Merciful Savior with us. He is the bread of mercy that we offer to others. Mercy is not conditional, we do not dole it out when we feel like it.  A merciful person, is a blessed person. He is a person in a holy state of being-"not far from the reign of God."  This is the heart of all the beatitudes.  If you possess mercy, you will not find it hard to live a life of beatitude.

*Blest are the single-hearted for they shall see God.
   Carmelites are called to quiet prayer on behalf of the Church.  Many things distract us and keep us from our purpose and mission.  St. Teresa teaches us that self-indulgence and prayer do not go together. When we get "comfortable," when we start giving in to every whim of the body, little room is left for the difficult discipline of prayer. Our mind rebels, our body rebels, and our spirit rebels. We lose our focus of "God alone."  The heart that is divided is not in a blessed state of union that we are seeking as Carmelites.  This 
spiritual affliction reflects in our daily lives. We say one thing and do another. We profess to be merciful, but are far from it. We profess to be peacemakers, but within, we are far from it.  When Jesus saw Nathaniel, he said, "...There is no guile in him."  God is calling us to purity of heart, a state of being in which our thought, words, and actions are in a spiritual marriage pleasing to God.

*Blest too the peacemakers; they shall be called sons of God.
  Being a peacemaker requires great effort and the daily dying to our ego. Whether at work, home, or in the marketplace we have many opportunities to foster peace.  We can be peaceful people by the words we choose. We can be peacemakers by the tone of voice we choose. We can be peacemakers by having a peaceful countenance. True peace emanates from the heart. True peacemakers are known by their very presence.  Peace is not a matter of  an absence of conflict. It's the way we approach difficult situations; keeping charity in mind, keeping mercy in mind, keeping humility in mind. 

*Blest are the persecuted for holiness' sake; the reign of God is theirs.
How many of us are really persecuted for our faith?  Perhaps people don't agree with our chosen lifestyle: praying, attending Mass daily, performing works of charity. But these are things we can suffer and offer up.  Many people in our day are truly persecuted for their faith. Their churches are burned, the Gospel is burned, priests are silenced and imprisoned and martyred. Let us pray for all those who are persecuted and killed for the sake of the Gospel. 

*Blest are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of slander against you because of me... 
If you've ever been given a tongue-lashing because you were a Christian, well, you've suffered a little. Perhaps it was from a member of your own family!  Some Christians, some Carmelites, are insulted by the ones who claim to love them, simply because they want to live a godly life. Think of the person who goes to work faithfully each day and suffers the ridicule and comments from others because they know they are Catholic. Day after day they have to endure the comments. Think of the religious, the priest or nun who is falsely accused of some awful crime by someone who hates the Church. They are removed from ministry, they are falsely imprisoned...these are the martyrs of today.

Let us pray for each other, that we take our plan of action, the Beatitudes, seriously each day.  If we are faithful to prayer, they will become a part of us and flow from the heart-the heart of God dwelling within us.

Peace be with you!
Rosemarie, OCDS

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