My Peace…I give to you..

(The beautiful chanted Salve Regina, with which my Carmelite Community always ends our meetings.)

Today was my monthly meeting for the Secular Discalced Carmelites, of which I have been a member for 16 years.

It is hard to believe that it has been that long since I nervously walked into my first meeting, not knowing anyone, but feeling called there by a desire which had long been in my heart. It is fascinating to look back and see how God begins preparing us for the future, even though we are completely unaware.

I had been taught by Carmelite sisters, of the Order of Ancient Observance (O.Carm.), from first grade all the way through highschool. I remember receiving my acceptance letter into Mt Carmel Academy.  It began, “Dear Carmelite..,” and that especially delighted me for some reason.

Years later, I read The Story of a Soul, and immediately fell in love with St. Therese and sat at her feet imbibing her wisdom and her science of love, as I read every available book I could find about her.  I have a personal collection of at least fifty such books, and have read more besides, in addition to countless articles in Carmelite publications throughout the years.

And then, in God’s timing, I learned that there was a community of Secular Discalced Carmelites in my area, and after a retreat and much prayer, I gathered the courage to attend that first meeting.

This morning, I was rushing as usual, praying not to be late, and trying to shake a migraine which had awakened me before dawn.  During the past few years, it is always that way. I have come to expect that meeting days will be a challenge.

In the beginning, it was quite the opposite. I looked forward to these special days and always arrived a bit early to talk and laugh with my formation companions. I loved my formation classes and never fell behind in the required reading and other assignments. LIke the first steps in the spiritual life which are usually strewn with much spiritual joy and many consolations, so also were my first steps in Carmel.

Now it is different, as there are always challenges just getting out of the house. I am not one to see the devil behind every bush, but I do believe he is always at work trying to grind us down, and discourage us from anything which will enable us to progress in our love for and union with our God. 

My current journey in Carmel also reflects the spiritual desert I have been living in for some years now. It is hard to pray, impossible to meditate … a spiritual existence devoid of any sweetness or consoling feelings.  As I walk through day after day like this, I also greet my monthly meetings in much the same way. My closest friends have left Carmel, and other beloved members have passed away. There are many new members I hardly know, as they joined during the two years before my parents died, a period when I had to miss many meetings. There was a certain disconnect, as I was not present for some clothings and professions and not available to participate in discussions about implementing changes, etc.

So now, I tend to sit in the back, quietly listening and observing, and endeavoring to be faithful to my current assignment as infirmarian, which makes me responsible to see that our sick and homebound members are not forgotten.

But, as on the spiritual journey, no matter which stage one may be in…no matter how dark and dreary and dry as a bone one’s soul feels, yet, deep within, there is that Peace which the Savior promised, a peace the world cannot give. It is in the center of the soul, where the King dwells with His treasures.

This peace is not so deep in the beginning, and can still be disturbed when especially painful crosses fall upon us, but as time passes, it penetrates more deeply into our hearts, and like a welcome anchor, is not easily shaken. And joy too remains…not the sunny bursts of joy which once made our souls dance and sing, but a quieter joy which comes from being absolutely certain that God is always with us, and will never abandon us. We have learned that He does not leave when the consolations go, and that is such a comfort. We have not lost Him because we no longer feel His Presence. We continue to trust, and that is much more reliable evidence than feelings.

For a Carmelite, it is now living what we once only learned about in formation, from our spiritual masters and Doctors of the Church, St. John of the Cross, and St. Teresa of Jesus.

And so I thank my Almighty King Jesus, that the Peace and Joy which lit up my soul on meeting days in my early years in Carmel, are still with me today, although now they are more like a gentle breeze, wafting across my heart, ever so gently, and reassuring me that: Yes, the vocation I embraced 16 years ago was indeed God’s Will for my life.

Thirty-third Sunday of Ordinary Time
Evening Prayer II
Responsory:

The whole creation proclaims the greatness of Your Glory.
-The whole creation proclaims the greatness of Your Glory.
Eternal ages praise,
-the greatness of Your Glory.
Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit,
-The whole creation proclaims the greaness of Your Glory.

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Tuesday Adoration – perfectly timed

Just the other night I was thinking about how life has been pretty much humming along for the past year or so.  A bump or two in the road here and there, but otherwise, pretty peaceful — especially in contrast to the past dozen or so years.

Those were loaded with some heavy-duty crosses, like my husband losing his job -right after we’d built a brand new house, and having to work 5 hours away from home for three years (commuting back and forth on weekends.) 

This happened in the midst of my sister and me moving our parents out of their home of fifty years in New Orleans, to a house in our town so that we could look after them.  We did so for five years, until they both died in 2008, only 13 days apart.

I won’t go into the many other humdinger crosses that fell upon me during those years.  I know everyone has similar stories to tell.

However, as I mentioned above, it has been uncharacteristically serene around here for way longer than usual.

Now, be careful what you think about.  You see, God was listening.  God also knew that I had recently written a post entitled:  Suffering, get it while you can.

He wasn’t about to let me get away with that one.  So this morning I had some news that is really quite devastating.  It is a situation out of my control, and yet I feel the blows keenly. 

I can only watch and pray.  And that is why I was so very grateful that God sent this cross today, when I knew I would have two precious hours in His Presence, followed by Holy Mass and Communion.

Today at least, I have had a wonderful sense of peace, and even joy, in spite of the circumstances.  I don’t know if those gifts will endure or not.  But I feel strong.

A few years ago, I saw a movie about warriors back in ancient times.  It was some obscure movie my husband found.  These men had no fear.  They plunged right into battle without hesitation.

I wondered how they did it, how they managed not to be afraid.  Then it occurred to me that they had gone into battle so many times and survived, that they didn’t think about dying.  They expected each battle to end like the last.  They would be victorious.

The battle-ready warriors taught me something about suffering.  When you have suffered many things, and still came though it all with joy and peace in the end, then you don’t fear the next time as much.  You know Who your Strength is; Who your Rock is; Who comforts you; Who knows your limits; you know the One Whose Love carries you through to the other side –to the green pastures and the still waters.

You learn that you don’t have to be strong, because He is Everything.  And you won’t die, because the only death is to lose HIM.