My dear little daughter, I don’t want the eve of such a beautiful day to pass by without speaking a little word to her from her Jesus. Her Jesus! He has made her a bed of lilies! “My beloved browses among the lilies!”says the spouse in the Canticle. I want to give my little daughter the only picture that is dear to me among all others… Aunt at Le Mans gave it to me, and I am attached to it,for it says much to my heart. But all for the little fiancée of Jesus! What is too beautiful for her? Oh! yes, “…happy the lily that remained without spot until the hour of reaping.”
One day, we shall reap, rejoicing!And this hour will come! And it will be a day without clouds, and the more we shall have suffered the more radiant that day will be. Then! then! Ah! I keep silent… This day will be so beautiful, it will be so sweet, this day which will have no end!! My whole heart to my dear angel, whom I adorned for Jesus on the day of her First Communion and whom I will adorn on the day of her espousals.
Marie of the Sacred Heart
This tender letter from Sr. Marie of the Sacred Heart (Marie Martin) to her younger sister and goddaughter, Thérèse of the Child Jesus, includes an interesting detail. Marie pours out her love: “my whole heart to my dear angel, whom I adorned for Jesus on the day of her First Communion and whom I will adorn on the day of her espousals.”
St. Thérèse will receive the holy habit of Carmel on 10 January 1889 and her sister Marie will play an important role on this special day. Martin family historian Maureen O’Riordan offers the following insights:
Marie was still living in the novitiate at the time and perhaps that increased her proximity to Thérèse while Thérèse was being dressed in the bridal gown. Someone wrote that Marie fussed so much over Thérèse’s long curls that Thérèse begged “Enough! enough!” One would be pretty safe in assuming that Marie and Pauline helped to dress Thérèse, although perhaps Marie of the Angels, as novice mistress, might also have been present, as well as the prioress. This would have been a role in the preparation, not in the actual ceremony.
Sister, I do enjoy peeling potatoes… I think about how the potato that I hold in my hand is one of God’s creatures, and I enjoy praising Him because He made it so perfect.
Blessed Maria Sagrario of St. Aloysius Gonzaga
On 21 December 1915, Elvira Moragas Cantarero received the habit of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in the Carmel of St. Anne and St. Joseph in Madrid, taking the name Maria Sagrario of San Luis Gonzaga. Her name was not without meaning; Maria Sagrario, in honor of the patroness of her hometown of Toledo, the Virgen del Sagrario (the Virgin of the Tabernacle) and San Luis Gonzaga, to recall the date on which she entered the monastery, 21 June 1915. It also was a nod to Doña Luisa, the sister of her first confessor, a friend who greatly helped in her vocation. You can read more details about the life and vocation of Blessed Maria Sagrario here in Spanish.
Saint Raphael Kalinowski’s last and longest stage of life is the thirty years (1877-1907) he lived in the Carmelite monastery. Consenting to the voice that called him to Carmel, Joseph Kalinowski entered formation, ready to work for God within the Church after decades of service as an engineer, military officer, prisoner of war in Siberia, professor and tutor.
On November 26, 1877, he went to Graz, Austria and was clothed in the habit of the Order, receiving at the same time his religious name: Raphael of Saint Joseph.
How did Kalinowski come to know Carmel? We turn to Father Szczepan T. Praskiewicz, OCD, for the details, referring in particular to his biography, “Raffaele Kalinowski: Tappe Fondamentali di una Vita ed Elementi di Spiritualità”, which was translated and edited as part of the book, Saint Raphael Kalinowski: An Introduction to his Life and Spirituality, published by the Discalced Carmelite friars’ Washington Province, ICS Publications. A scholar who has served on the faculty of the Discalced Carmelites’ International Theological College in Rome, the general curia of the order, as well as completing three terms as a consultant to the Congregation of the Causes of the Saints in Rome, Father Szczepan’s years of formation in the traces of Saint Raphael of St. Joseph add a unique perspective to his rigorous standards as a scholar. Fr. Praskiewicz’s 1990 biography of Kalinowski, which was translated from the Italian, edited, and published by the Washington Province of Discalced Carmelites, provides a fascinating insight into the development of the Saint’s vocation.
In his Memoirs Saint Raphael tells us that early on during his exile in Siberia he happened upon a copy of a book written by Piotr Skarga, The Lives of the Saints:
That opened up many horizons for me. There I discovered a note on the Order of the Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel and its rapid diffusion in the West. It occured to me that precisely this Order should be able to bring the schismatics back to the Church of Rome. Guided in a marvelous way by Providence, I entered this Order ten years later.
As with every vocation story, there were many graced encounters that guided his steps along the way.
Saint Raphael Kalinowski had wanted to find a way to become a Carmelite friar, which is why he became a tutor to Gucio, the young son of the noble Czartoryski family residing in Paris. But in God’s providence and unbeknownst to Saint Raphael, one of his pupil’s aunts was a Discalced Carmelite nun in the Carmel of Krakow.
In true Teresian spirit, this aunt, Sr. Mary Xavier of Jesus was seeking young men to renew Carmelite life in Poland. When the Saint accompanied his young pupil on a trip from Paris to visit his aunt at the monastery in Krakow, Kalinowski made a profound impression upon the nun; but it was the Holy Spirit that spoke to her spirit, impressing upon her the fact that her nephew’s tutor was sent by Divine Providence.
Without saying a word, Sr. Mary Xavier of Jesus began a prayer crusade for the family tutor and his vocation to the Discalced Carmelites; further, she began to correspond with him.
Saint Raphael explained what had happened in a letter to his family back home in Vilnius, Lithuania:
I have a sign of the mercy and goodness of the Lord, which brought me hope and consolation through people consecrated to him. Gucio’s aunt, the Reverend Sister Mary Xavier of Jesus… whom I met only once at the grilles and who hardly knows me, only a few days ago—exactly when I least expected it—sent me the following poem of the seraphic Saint Teresa: Let nothing trouble you, let nothing frighten you…
Fr. Praskiewicz tells us that St. Teresa’s famous Nada te turbe became Kalinowski’s motto. Soon after he received Sr. Mary Xavier’s letter, he wrote to his parents:
Each day I take strength from Saint Teresa’s words about which I wrote to you, my dear parents, in my last letter.
In the end, these very words were the source of divine inspiration that induced him to join the sons of St. Teresa, the Discalced Carmelite friars. He wrote to his parents on 4 November 1876:
A year ago there came to me, like an echo, a voice from the grilles of Carmel. This voice was clearly addressed to me and I have accepted it; it was a salvific voice from the infinite mercy of God commanding me. I can only exclaim, ‘I will sing the mercies of the Lord forever.’ The only thing that now remains for me to do is to ask your parental blessing.”
Kalinowski attended to the details, the housekeeping of his life as anyone aspiring to enter religious life would do: prepare to leave a job, a home, to travel and pray. On 5 July 1877, he left the Czartoryski family in Paris and traveled to Linz, Austria to meet the Discalced Carmelite provincial superior.
God rewarded Kalinowski for the steadfast pursuit of his vocation at such a mature age—Raphael of St. Joseph was 42 years old when he received the holy habit of Our Lady of Mount Carmel.
Praskiewicz OCD, S 1998, Saint Raphael Kalinowski: An Introduction to his Life and Spirituality, Translated from the Italian by Coonan, T, Griffin OCD, M and Sullivan OCD, L, ICS Publications, Washington, D.C.
The grace of the Holy Spirit be always with your majesty. While much afflicted and praying to our Lord about the affairs of this holy order of our Lady and considering the great need there is that these initiatives God has taken in its regard not crumble, it occurred to me that the best safeguard for us would be that you realize what giving a solid foundation to this edifice entails; even the calced friars would benefit from the increase in numbers.
I have lived among them for 40 years
and, considering everything, I know clearly that if a separate province is not made for the discalced friars—and soon—great harm will be done, and I think it will be impossible for them to move ahead. Since this lies in your hands and I see that the Blessed Virgin, our Lady, has chosen you to support and protect her order, I have dared to write and beg you that for the love of our Lord and his glorious Mother you give orders that this separate province be formed…
Your majesty’s unworthy servant and subject,
Teresa of Jesus, Carmelite
On the 2nd of November 1535, Saint Teresa entered the Carmelite monastery of the Incarnation at Avila when she was twenty years old. The Lord had been preparing her for that moment by a long and circuitous route; even after she said “yes” to Him, there was no straight path to her goal:
My fondness for good books was my salvation. Reading the Letters of St. Jerome so encouraged me that I decided to tell my father about my decision to take the habit, for I was so persistent in points of honor that I don’t think I would have turned back for anything once I told him. So great was his love for me that in no way was I able to obtain his permission or achieve anything through persons I asked to intercede for me. The most we could get from him was that after his death I could do whatever I wanted. I was afraid of myself and my frailty and of backing down; and since I could not wait so long, I tried to do it by another way… (Book of Her Life, 3)
Her “other way” was so secretive, one would think that St. John of the Cross had her story in mind when he wrote the first stanza of his poem, ‘The Dark Night’:
One dark night, fired with love’s urgent longings – ah, the sheer grace! – I went out unseen, my house being now all stilled.
Indeed, Teresa went out unseen from her house, or rather, from her father’s house:
I remember, clearly and truly, that when I left my father’s house I felt that separation so keenly that the feeling will not be greater, I think, when I die. For it seemed that every bone in my body was being sundered. Since there was no love of God to take away my love for my father and relatives, everything so constrained me that if the Lord hadn’t helped me, my reflections would not have been enough for me to continue on. In this situation, He gave me such courage against myself that I carried out the task. (Book of Her Life, 4)
Teresian scholar Fr. Kieran Kavanaugh, O.C.D. notes that her father did, in fact, come to “accept it all with resignation, gave her a dowry that was more than substantial, and acquired for his daughter a private room of her own in the monastery.” (Book of Her Life, Introduction)
Exactly one year later, on the 2nd of November 1536, Saint Teresa received the habit of our Lady of Mount Carmel. Father Kavanaugh notes that the prioress was Doña Mencía Cimbrón, “a distant relative of Teresa’s”.
The lessons that Saint Teresa learned on November 2 can serve us well:
As soon as I took the habit, the Lord gave me an understanding of how He favors those who use force with themselves to serve Him (…) When I recall this, there is no task that could be presented to me, no matter how hard, that I would hesitate to undertake. For I have already experienced in many ways that if I strive at the outset with determination to do it, even in this life His Majesty pays the soul in such ways that only one who has this joy understands it. (Book of Her Life, 4)
Saint Teresa of Jesus, pray for us.
Teresa of Avila, St. 1985, The Collected Works of St. Teresa of Avila, translated from the Spanish by Kavanaugh, K; Rodriguez, O, ICS Publications, Washington DC.
It happened that while I was here [at St. Joseph’s monastery in Toledo] a fatal illness struck one of the Sisters. After receiving the sacraments and being anointed, her happiness and joy were so great that, as though she were going to another country, we were able to talk to her about how she should recommend us to God when in heaven and to the saints to whom we were devoted. A little before she died, I went to her room to be with her, for I had just gone before the Blessed Sacrament to beg the Lord to give her a good death. And when I entered I saw His Majesty at the head of the bed. His arms were partly opened as though He was protecting her, and He told me that I could be certain He would protect all the nuns that die in these monasteries and that they should not fear temptation at the hour of death. I was left very consoled and recollected. After a little while I began to speak to her, and she said to me: “O Mother, what great things I am going to see.” Thus she died, like an angel.
And I have noticed that some who have died since this occurred have done so with quiet and calm as though they were in rapture or in the prayer of quiet, without showing the least sign of any temptation. Thus I hope in the goodness of God that He will be merciful to us at the moment of death through the merits of His Son and those of His glorious Mother whose habit we wear. Therefore, my daughters, let us strive to be true Carmelites, for soon the day’s journey will end.
May Our Lord be pleased, Sisters, that we live our lives as true daughters of the Blessed Virgin and keep our vows so that He may grant us the favor He has promised us. Amen.
Saint Teresa of Avila The Foundations: Chapter 16
Acaeció, estando yo aquí [Carmelo de San José de Toledo], darle el mal de la muerte a una hermana. Recibidos los sacramentos y después de dada la Extremaunción, era tanta su alegría y contento, que así se le podía hablar en cómo nos encomendase en el cielo a Dios y a los santos que tenemos devoción, como si fuera a otra tierra. Poco antes que expirase, entré yo a estar allí, que me había ido delante del Santísimo Sacramento a suplicar al Señor la diese buena muerte; y así como entré, vi a Su Majestad a su cabecera, en mitad de la cabecera de la cama. Tenía algo abiertos los brazos, como que la estaba amparando, y díjome: que tuviese por cierto que a todas las monjas que muriesen en estos monasterios, que El las ampararía así, y que no hubiesen miedo de tentaciones a la hora de la muerte. Yo quedé harto consolada y recogida. Desde a un poquito, lleguéla a hablar, y díjome: “¡Oh Madre, qué grandes cosas tengo de ver!”. Así murió, como un ángel.
Y algunas que mueren después acá he advertido que es con una quietud y sosiego, como si les diese un arrobamiento o quietud de oración, sin haber habido muestra de tentación ninguna. Así espero en la bondad de Dios que nos ha de hacer en esto merced, y por los méritos de su Hijo y de la gloriosa Madre suya, cuyo hábito traemos. Por eso, hijas mías, esforcémonos a ser verdaderas carmelitas, que presto se acabará la jornada.
Plega a nuestro Señor, hermanas, que nosotras hagamos la vida como verdaderas hijas de la Virgen y guardemos nuestra profesión, para que nuestro Señor nos haga la merced que nos ha prometido. Amén.
Santa Teresa de Jesús Las Fundaciones: Capítulo 16
SCRIPTURE II Corinthians 5:1-10
For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this tent we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling—if indeed, when we have taken it off we will not be found naked. For while we are still in this tent, we groan under our burden, because we wish not to be unclothed but to be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.
So we are always confident; even though we know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord—for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we do have confidence, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. For all of us must appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each may receive recompense for what has been done in the body, whether good or evil.
O most beautiful Flower of Mount Carmel,
Fruitful Vine, Splendor of Heaven,
Blessed Mother of the Son of God,
assist me in this my necessity.
O Star of the Sea, help me and show me
herein that you are my Mother.
O Holy Mary, Mother of God,
Queen of heaven and earth,
I humbly beseech you from the bottom of my heart
to succor me in this necessity.
There are none that can withstand your power!
O help me and show me herein
that you are my Mother.
Our Lady, Queen and Beauty of Carmel,
pray for me and obtain my requests!
Sweet Mother, I place this cause
in your hands!
The book called The Way of Perfection written by Teresa of Jesus, a nun of the Order of our Lady of Mount Carmel. This book is intended for the discalced nuns who observe the primitive rule of our Lady of Mount Carmel.
This book deals with the advice and counsel Teresa of Jesus gives to her religious Sisters and daughters who live in the monasteries that, with the help of our Lord and the glorious Virgin Mother of God, our Lady, she founded. These monasteries follow the primitive rule of our Lady of Mount Carmel. She directs her counsel particularly to the Sisters at St. Joseph’s monastery in Avila, which was the first foundation and the place where she was prioress when she wrote this book.
In all that I say in this book I submit to what our Mother the Holy Roman Church holds. If there should be anything contrary to that, it will be due to my not understanding the matter. And so I beg the learned men who will see this work to look it over carefully and to correct any mistake there may be as to what the Church holds, as well as any other mistakes in other matters. If there should be anything good in this work,may it be for the honor and glory of God and the service of His most Blessed Mother, our Lady and Patroness, whose habit I wear despite my being very unworthy to do so.
Saint Teresa of Avila Foreword to the Way of Perfection
While I was in this town of Beas waiting for the license from the Council of the Order of Knights for the foundation of Caravaca, a Father from the discalced of our order named Maestro Jerónimo Gracián de la Madre de Dios came to see me. A few years before he had received our religious habit while in Alcalá. Throughout his life, he has been a man of much learning, intelligence, and modesty along with other great virtues. It seems, while he was in Alcalá, that he was chosen by our Lady for the good of this primitive order without his having the remotest idea of receiving our habit, although he had considered entering the religious life. His parents had other intentions because of his great talent and their good standing with the king, but he was far from being inclined toward their plans for him. From the time he began school, he was urged by his father to take up the study of law. Yet, while still very young, he felt so strongly the desire to study theology that by force of tears he got his father to allow him to do so.
After graduating with a master’s degree, he took steps to enter the Society of Jesus, and they had accepted him. But for a certain reason, they told him to wait several days. He tells me that he was tormented by all the enjoyments in his life and that he didn’t think they constituted a safe path to heaven. He always set aside the hours for prayer and was extremely recollected and upright.
At this time a close friend of his entered the monastery in Pastrana to become a friar in our order. This friend’s name was Fray Juan de Jesús, and he, too, had a master’s degree. I don’t know how the interest began, whether it did so because of a letter Fray Juan wrote about the greatness and antiquity of our order or in some other way; for Father Gracián enjoyed very much reading everything about the order and verifying, through important authors, what was asserted. He says that he often had scruples about failing to study other things because he was unable to set these studies aside, and he occupied his hours of recreation in this way. O wisdom and power of God! How impossible for us to flee from His will! Our Lord truly saw the great need there was for a person like this to carry on the work that He had begun. I often praise Him for the favor He granted us in this matter. Had I very much desired to ask His Majesty for a person to organize all the things pertaining to the order in these initial stages, I would not have succeeded in asking for all that He, in fact, gave in Father Gracián. May the Lord be blessed forever.
God brought him there in order to give him the habit
Well then, while not having the slightest thought of taking the habit of this order, he was asked to go to Pastrana to speak to the prioress of our monastery there— for it had not yet been abandoned —that she might accept a nun. What means the divine Majesty takes! For had Father Gracián decided to go there to take the habit, he would perhaps have met with so much opposition that he might never have done so. But the Blessed Virgin, our Lady, to whom he is extremely devoted, wanted to repay him by giving him her habit. So I think she was the mediatrix through whom God granted him this favor. And this glorious Virgin was the reason he received it and became so fond of the order. She did not want one who desired to serve her so much to lack the occasion for putting this desire into practice. It is her custom to favor those who want to be protected by her.
While still a boy in Madrid, he often went to pray before an image of our Lady to whom he had great devotion. I don’t remember where it was; he called her “his love,” and his visits were very frequent. She must have obtained for him from her Son the purity in which he always lived. He says that sometimes it seemed to him his eyes were swollen from weeping over the many offenses committed against her Son. As a result, there arose in him a strong impulse and desire to help souls, and he felt it very deeply when he saw offenses committed against God. He has so great an inclination toward the good of souls that any hardship becomes small to him if he thinks that through it he can produce some fruit. I have seen this myself in the many trials that he has undergone.
Well, the Virgin brought him to Pastrana as though by tricking him into the thought that he was going there in order to request the habit for a nun. And God brought him there in order to give him the habit. Oh, secrets of God! But how true that without our desiring it, He disposes us so as to give us favors. And this soul was repaid for the good deeds that he did, for the good example that he had always given, and for his great desire to serve the Lord’s glorious Mother. His Majesty must always repay this latter with wonderful rewards.
Well, when he arrived in Pastrana, he went to speak to the prioress that she might accept the nun; and it seemed as though he had asked her to pray to the Lord that he himself might enter. For he is a very pleasant person so that generally he is loved by those who have dealings with him — it is a grace our Lord gives — and thus he is extremely loved by all his subjects, both friars and nuns. Yet he doesn’t let any fault go by, for he is extraordinarily careful in looking out for the welfare of the religious life. In his actions, he is so gentle and pleasant that it seems no one is able to complain about him.
Well, when this prioress saw him, that which happened to others happened to her; she felt a strong desire that he enter the order and told the Sisters how important it was to get him to join, for at the time there were very few, or almost none like him. And she told them all to beseech our Lord not to let him go without his receiving the habit.
This prioress is a very great servant of God. By her prayer alone I think she would have been heard by His Majesty; how much more would the prayers of nuns as good as those that were there be heard. All of them took the matter very much to heart and with fasts, disciplines, and prayer begged His Majesty continually. Thus He was pleased to grant us this favor. For since Father Gracián went to the monastery of the friars and saw so much religious observance and opportunity to serve our Lord and above all that it was the order of the Lord’s glorious Mother whom he so much desired to serve, his heart was moved not to return to the world. The devil set before him many difficulties, especially the pain this would bring his parents. They loved him very much and had great trust that he would help provide for their children, for they had many daughters and sons. He left this care to God for whom he left all, and decided to be a subject of the Virgin and take her habit. So they gave it to him amid the great happiness of all, especially of the nuns and the prioress. The nuns gave much praise to our Lord, thinking that His Majesty had granted them this favor through their prayers.
Father Jerónimo Gracián of the Mother of God (1545-1614) was an important figure in Teresian history. He was born in Valladolid, the son of one of King Phillip II’s secretaries. He studied at the University of Alcalá and was ordained a priest in 1570. Exceptionally gifted, he entered the novitiate in Pastrana on 25 April 1572. After meeting Teresa in 1575, he worked closely with her until her death. Later, falling into disfavor with Superior General Fr. Nicolas Doria, he was expelled from the order. He died in Brussels.
The Bridegroom sends you the little wreath of myrtle with which your love decorated him, him as well as the bridal candle, the candles on the table, the napkin, cutlery, etc. The Bride wore a wreath of white roses. I was very happy to hear where the adornments came from. Heartfelt thanks for them. We have not yet finished discussing what else I am to receive from you. I thought of an emblem and lining for a vestment since the silk of the bridal dress has not yet been used and has been waiting for the necessary accessories since the Clothing Day. But perhaps our dear Mother [Mother Josepha, the prioress] will think of something more urgent.
When you visit us again — after all, we’ve been anticipating it with joy all winter — we will recount everything that happened from the first hours of the morning until night on this beautiful Easter Sunday. One cannot write about it in such detail. The Veiling ceremony will come only three years from now, after perpetual profession. For us, the preparation consists primarily of a ten-day retreat made in total silence and solitude. During that time we are allowed to live like hermits. I will tell you about the daily schedule when I see you.
The Bride wore a wreath of white roses
For my meditation, I had our Holy Father John’s Dark Night and the Gospel of John. Usually, on the day before Profession, before dinner, one makes a public admission of one’s faults. I was allowed to do that at noon on the Wednesday of Holy Week so that it would not interrupt the silence of the Holy Triduum. I found it especially good [to comply with that custom] before the first of the Tenebrae offices — once they begin one wants to leave off all occupation with oneself. On Saturday evening I was called [to come for a few minutes to see the community] during recreation time; I received from each Sister the promise of a spiritual bouquet and a commendation of intentions.
Richly laden I then returned to the choir. Of course, out of the great riches of grace on this Easter day, I let all those have a share who have given me something of their heart to take along into Carmel.
Once more, sincere thanks for all your goodness and love. In caritate Christi, your Sister
Teresa Benedicta a Cruce, OCD
Saint Edith Stein’s Letter 198 to Mother Petra Brüning, OSU Self-Portrait In Letters, 1916-1942 (The Collected Works of Edith Stein, vol. 5)
It was customary to place a small statue of the Infant Jesus on the head table in the refectory where the newly-professed is seated next to the prioress. Myrtle is used to create a small wreath for the statue of the Infant, the “Bridegroom”, who faces his “Bride”, wearing a garland of white roses. Edith sent the myrtle wreath that had been used on the statue to Mother Petra, who had provided it and all the flowers and decorations for the celebration.
Edith refers to the Chapter of Faults, where even to this day in many Discalced Carmelite monasteries, nuns will gather in the Chapter Room of the monastery to listen to the prioress give a brief spiritual reflection on an aspect of community life and how it applies to the Carmelite Rule and their Constitutions. The nuns then take a spiritual and moral inventory, reviewing their life together; each one admits her public faults and begs forgiveness of her sisters. On occasions like religious profession, a nun will individually and publicly admit her faults and ask for forgiveness outside of the community Chapter of Faults. Since her profession rite took place on Easter Sunday, Edith made her public admission on Holy Wednesday; she gives the reasons why.
During the retreat days prior to her profession on Easter Sunday, Edith would have assisted at the Mass and the Liturgy of the Hours in the nuns’ choir. However, she would have veiled her face with her great veil (grand Voile) when in the presence of the community so as to maintain the spirit of solitude where the Discalced Carmelites “are allowed to live like hermits,” as Edith describes above. In the photo below, the veil that you see extending over her shoulders is the great veil, while the small veil (petit Voile) tucks inside her scapular. In her hermit days while on retreat, we see that Edith preferred to spend extra hours of solitary prayer in the choir near Christ in the tabernacle while the rest of the community was occupied at recreation.
[Sources: Leuven, Stinissen & Gelber; Carmel of Haifa]
Before I go into holy silence, I feel compelled to send you heartfelt thanks for the charming Easter package. Our dear Mother <M. Josefa>, Mother Subprioress <Teresa Renata> and I happily unpacked it together, and on Holy Saturday night, an Easter rabbit and an Easter candle were stationed in every cell of the novices. I received the beautiful wooden candlestick with the large Easter candle, although I surmise this large light was intended for the Novice Mistress <Teresa Renata>. It will burn for me now during my retreat, when I make my meditation in the solitude of my cell, away from the community. Our holy Father John of the Cross will be my guide: the Ascent of Mount Carmel.
Probably I will be allowed to begin early on Friday. I would like most of all to remain in solitude until the morning of the Clothing, but there is a possibility that I will be called out the day before at the request of guests from out of town. I look forward with so much joy to the silence. As much as I love the Divine Office and as loath as I am to be away from the choir even for the shortest of the Hours—the basis of our life, after all, is the two hours of meditation provided by our schedule. Only since I’ve been enjoying this privilege do I know how much I missed by not having it outside. Our Reverend Mother will surely be glad to send along [with this letter] the ritual for the Clothing ceremony. It will be so much better if you can read it before it takes place—even though you cannot be present yourself.
May I beg you, together with your community, to help us with a very important intention? On the 11th, the General Chapter of the Congregation of Beuron will begin in Gerleve. We know there are very important questions to solve. Will you join us in prayers to the Holy Spirit for a successful outcome? I am also a bit interested in it personally. If Father Archabbot <Raphael Walzer> can close the Chapter on the 14th, he will be on time here to conduct the Clothing. But that, of course, is a small matter compared to all that is at stake there. I hardly need to say that I tell you this in confidence. I believe you will be happy to help because of your love for the Benedictine way of life.
Particular thanks for the Easter Prefaces: they are helping me celebrate the beautiful octave. And above all, thank you again for your love that I have in no way earned.
Always faithfully mindful of you, your grateful
Letter 168 to Mother Petra Brüning, OSU, Dorsten Original in Convent Archive of Ursuline Sisters, Dorsten
It behooveth thee to grant a favor and confirmation to my holy and devout Order of Carmel
For centuries the faithful who held a pious devotion to the Brown Scapular of Our Lady of Mount Carmel believed in an apparition of the Blessed Virgin to Pope John XXII in Avignon. Based on that supposed apparition, the sovereign pontiff issued a Papal Bull, Sacratissimo uti culmine, dated 3 March 1322 from Avignon; it is in the text of the Bull that the pope mentions the apparition. The historical difficulty with this document lies in the fact that the Bull is mentioned nowhere prior to 1752, according to Joseph Hilgers.
A modern-day spiritual descendant of St. Simon Stock, former Carmelite prior general Father Joseph Chalmers, O.Carm. writes, “In any case, the symbolism of the scapular as a sign of consecration to Mary, the Mother of Carmel, was and remains very important.” Citing the Carmelite friar, Mathias of St. John, Father Chalmers adds one important qualifier: “It would be far better to have holiness under a worldly habit than a worldly heart under a holy habit.” He concludes, “wearing the scapular is intended to be an outward reminder of what should be going on within.”
The recently deceased Discalced Carmelite scholar Father Kieran Kavanaugh, O.C.D. discusses the historical problems head-on in his article, Brown Scapular: a Silent Devotion. He reviews the scapular as the habit of the Carmelites from their humble beginnings in the Holy Land to their spread through western Europe. In particular, Father Kieran describes the painstaking research undertaken by the Discalced Carmelites in defense of Carmelite Marian devotion following the Second Vatican Council, and how their careful documentation led to the restoration of the feast day of Saint Simon Stock to the Church’s liturgical calendar in 1979 (God reward you, Father Nilo).
But more important, Father Kieran explains with great precision where the Church stands today in regard to the Brown Scapular devotion: “No mention is made of the vision of St. Simon Stock or of that of Pope John XXII in relation to the Sabbatine privilege, which promises that one will be released from Purgatory on the first Saturday after death.”
Fr. Kavanaugh continues: “Nonetheless, the Carmelites have also been authorized to freely preach to the faithful that they can piously believe in the powerful intercession, merits, and suffrages of the Blessed Virgin, that she will help them even after their death, especially on Saturday, which is the day of the week particularly dedicated to Mary, if they have died in the grace of God and devoutly worn the scapular. But no mention is made of the “first” Saturday after their death.”
One particular reflection that this great Discalced Carmelite scholar offers is rather consoling: “If some day an historian were to prove beyond any reasonable doubt that there are no grounds to the Marian apparition to St. Simon Stock or the scapular promise, the scapular devotion would still maintain its value. The Church’s esteem of it as a sacramental, her appreciation of its meaning and of the good that has come about through its pious use on the part of the faithful is all that is needed.” Thank you, Father Kieran.
Perhaps Saint John Paul II summarized the Church’s teaching and the Carmelite scapular catechesis best in his 2001 Message to the Carmelite Family. The saint wrote, “the scapular is essentially a habit.”
For our readers who are history buffs, we have researched the Bull Sacratissimo uti culmine and found the text in Satolli’s Dictionnaire de Droit Canonique, which we present to you sans scrupule. An English translation is found here.
SACRATISSIMO UTI CULMINE
JOANNES EPISCOPUS SERVUS SERVORUM DEI, Universis et singulis Christifidelibus, tam praesentibus quam futuris, praesentes literas inspecturis, salutem et apostolicam benedictionem.
Sacratissimo uti culmine Paradisi angelorum tam suavis et dulcis reperitur melodia, modulamine visionis, dum paterno Jesus Numini circumspicitur adumatus, dicendo: Domine, Ego et Pater unum sumus, et qui videt me, videt et Patrem meum, et angelorum chorus non desinit dicere: Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus; ita Synodus non cessat laudes effundere celsæ Virgini, dicendo Virgo, Virgo, Virgo, sis speculum nostrum pariter et exemplum. Quoniam munere munitur gratiarum, sicut sancta cantat Ecclesia: Gratia plena et Mater misericordiae. Sic ille mons reputatur de Carmelo Ordine cantibus extollendo, et hanc gratiarum Genitricem commendando et dicendo: Salve Regina, Mater misericordiæ et spes nostra.
Sic mihi flexis genibus supplicanti Virgo visa fuit Carmelita, sequentem effata sermonem: 0 Joannes, o Joannes, vicarie mei dilecti Filii, veluti a tuo te eripiam adversario, te Papam facio solemni dono Vicarium, meis coadjuvantibus supplicationibus, a dulcissimo meo Filio petens, quod gratiose obtinui, ita gratiam et amplam meo sancto ac devoto Carmelitarum Ordini confirmationem debeas praeconcedere, per Eliam et Eliseum in Monte Carmeli inchoato. Quod unusquisque professionem faciens, Regulam a meo servo Alberto, patriarcha, ordinatam observabit et inviolatam obtinebit, et per meum dilectum filium Innocentium approbatam, ut veri mei Filii Vicarius debeas in terris assentire, quod in cœlis meus statuit et ordinavit Filius; quod qui in sancta perseverabit obedientia, paupertate et castitate, vel qui sanctum intrabit Ordinem, salvabitur; et si alii, devotionis causa, in sanctam ingrediantur Religionem, sancti Habitus signum ferentes, appellantes se Confratres et Consorores mei Ordinis prænominati, liberentur et absolvantur a tertia eorum peccatorum portione, a die quo præfatum Ordinem intrabunt, castitatem, si vidua est, promittendo; virginitatis, si est virgo, fidem præstando; si est conjugata, inviolati conservationem matrimonii adhibendo, ut sancta mater imperat Ecclesia. Fratres proféssi dicti Ordinis supplicio solvantur et culpa, et die quo ab isto se culo recedunt, properato gradu accelerant purgatorium, ego Mater gratiose descendam sabbato post eorum obitum, et quot inveniam in purgatorio liberabo, et eos in Montem sanctum vitæ æternæ reducam. Verum quod ipsi Confratres et Consorores te neantur Horas dicere Canonicales, ut opus fuerit, secundum Regulam datam ab Alberto; illi, qui ignari sunt, debeant vitam jejunam ducere diebus quos sacra jubet Ecclesia, nisi, necessitatis causa, alicui essent traditi impedimento ; mercurio ac sabbato debeant se a carnibus abstinere, præterquam in mei Filii Nativitate. Et hoc dicto, evanuit ista sancta visio.
Istam ergo sanctam Indulgentiam accepto, roboro et in terris confirmo, sicut, propter merita Virginis Matris, gratiose Jesus-Christus concessit in coelis. Nulli ergo omnino hominum liceat hanc paginam nostræ Indulgentiæ, seu statuti, et ordinationis irritare, vel ei ausu temerario contraire. Si quis autem hoc attentare præsumpserit, indignationem Omnipotentis Dei, et Beatorum apostolorum Petri et Pauli se noverit incursurum.
Datum Avenione, tertia die Martii, Pontificatus nostri anno sexto
I praise the Lord, because he guides me, and in the night my conscience warns me. I am always aware of the Lord’s presence; he is near, and nothing can shake me. And so I am thankful and glad, and I feel completely secure, because you protect me from the power of death. I have served you faithfully, and you will not abandon me to the world of the dead. You will show me the path that leads to life; your presence fills me with joy and brings me pleasure forever.
Reading – Brother Lawrence of the Resurrection, O.C.D., Spiritual Maxims on the Presence of God
The [practice of the] presence of God is an application of our mind to God, or a remembrance of God present, that can be brought about by either the imagination or the understanding.
I know someone who, for forty years, has been practicing an intellectual presence of God to which he gives several other names. Sometimes he calls it a “simple act,” a “clear and distinct knowledge of God,” an “indistinct view,” or a “general and loving awareness of God.” Other times he names it “attention to God” “silent conversation with God,” “trust in God,” or “the soul’s life and peace.” This person told me that all these forms of God’s presence are nothing but synonyms for the same thing, and that it is at present second nature to him. Here is how:
This person says that the habit is formed by the repetition of acts and by frequently bringing the mind back into God’s presence. He says that as soon as he is free from his occupations, and often even when he is most taken up by them, the recesses of his mind [esprit] or the innermost depths of his soul are raised with no effort on his part and remain suspended and fixed in God, above all things, as in its center and resting place. Since he is generally aware that his mind, thus held in suspension, is accompanied by faith, he is satisfied. This is what he calls “actual presence of God,” which includes all the other types of presence and much more besides, so that he now lives as if only he and God were in the world. He converses with God everywhere, asks him for what he needs, and rejoices continuously with him in countless ways.
It is important, however, to realize that this conversation with God takes place in the depths and center of the soul. It is there that the soul speaks to God heart to heart, and always in a deep and profound peace that the soul enjoys in God. Everything that takes place outside the soul means no more to it than a lit straw that goes out as soon as it is ignited, and almost never, or very rarely, disturbs its inner peace.
O Most beautiful Flower of Mount Carmel,
Fruitful Vine, Splendor of heaven,
Blessed Mother of the Son of God,
Immaculate Virgin, assist me in this my necessity.
O Star of the Sea, help me
and show me herein that you are my Mother.
O Holy Mary, Mother of God,
Queen of heaven and earth,
I humbly beseech you from the bottom of my heart
to succor me in this necessity.
There are none that can withstand your power!
O help me and show me herein that you are my Mother.
Our Lady, Queen and Beauty of Carmel,
pray for me and obtain my requests!
Sweet Mother, I place this cause in your hands!