Instruction To: Carmelite Third Order- Columbus, Ohio By: Fr. William A. Healy October, 16, 1990
Instruction [a favorite prayer of Father Healy's from a card owned by a recently deceased Carmelite nun]..."So live in me that all I do be done by You. That all I think; that all I say, be You thoughts and You words this day. Amen."
So, we comment tonight on the value of your individual and your personal prayer...you see, the Lord, Jesus, taught us that everything depends on prayer. "Pray," He said, "that the Lord of the harvest will send laborers into the harvest because the laborers are few." His nights were spent in prayer. His days were spent in preaching and teaching. In that prayer, He prayed for Peter, and yet, Peter denied HIm three times. He prayed for Judas. Judas betrayed Him for thirty pieces of silver. So when it seems that your prayers are not answered, take the example of Jesus Christ to heart. Your prayers may not be answered exactly the way you want them. They may be depending upon another person who has free will, as Judas did, and can accept or reject the help that you give through your personal prayer. Whether the person accepts or rejects your prayer, every word that's uttered by you, without a willful distraction, every word in trust you make and you utter is given to the Trinity within you, and God remembers the time you took out to pray. In this sense, then, there is no such thing as unanswered prayer.
Your prayers can change the course of history! Abraham was trying to do business, if I may use the expression, with God Himself: "If I find fifty people who are just in Sodom, will you save the city?" The answer was, "I will."...and he went all the way down to ten, then the Lord God disappeared!
In the working of history again...Saint Teresa of Avila, and all of the Carmelite cloistered nuns, and the friars have this one ideas: we must offer the prayers we say, and the works we do to for Glory of the church at large. Theresa was constantly tormented by the Inquisition...the very church for which she was praying (!) was questioning her, but could find absolutely nothing wrong, so that at the end of her life she was able to say on her death bed, "After all, I am a daughter of the church."
In her cloister, away from all the world, the Litle Flower said, "I wish to be love in the heart of the Church. I came to Carmel to pray for priests, to pray for souls, to pray for the church at large. I will be the heart, and as the heart receives the blood and then sends the blood to every part of the body, I will kneel at the foot of the Crucifix, the cricified Christ, and catch the blood as it comes from His body, and I will scatter it over the whole church, and I will continue as I spend my heaven showering roses upon the earth. I will spend my heaven doing good for others.
Now I get to you...whatever you do, whether you are experiencing the greatest darkness in the spiritual life or the greatest aridity, don't give up the time. As I said, by putting the half-hour aside, you're disciplining yourself, and the half hour you take is consecrated to almighty God as you try to control youself, to give your thoughts, and to give your words to Him. Again, I'm talking to you as an individual, for the reason that God made you and called you into Carmel. The imprint of each one's hands is different. There are no two people who have fingerprints exactly alike. This is one manifestation of the uniqueness you have, different fom everyone else....The uniqueness of your personality, temperment, and character...for there are not two of you who pray alike, no two of you who could express your thoughts alike when you go to God in you own individual, and your own personal way. The first person then who is converted by prayer is yourself. I repeat that... the very first person who is converted by pray is yourself. You may pray for others and consecrate others, but the only one you can directly change, improve upon, is yourself. When you go to prayer, you are improving yourself each time you speak to god. For as the old adage puts it, "Tell me with whom you go, and I will tell you who you are. Tell me the person you converse with , and I will tell you the type of person you happen to be." That's why we repeatedly say when you go to God in your half-hour of personal prayer, which we call mental prayer, don't talk up a book! But talk to him as I'm talking to you right now. It may be difficult at first, but its like swimming-you'll have to get in the water before you can start to swim. You have to be on the bike before you can turn the wheels. That's the way it is with pray. Little by litle, as you perservere in it, you'll find it easy to talk to God. The examples ring out in the Old Testament-Abraham bargained with God...If any of you have seen the stage play, Fiddler on the Roof, there's a magnificent idea of pryaer, in which the hero speaks to God, heart to heart and soul to soul, and that's exactly what God asks. In reference to others, if you wish to convert them, you must first of all convert yourself.
If anyone of you belongs to the Ala-non Society, which has for its purpose the betterment of someone who is addicted to alchohol...the whole society does not deal with the individual who's "guilty", if I may use the expression, it deals with the innocent party...extends your love, extends your understanding, extends your interest, and through you example, the other one may come back...but you must preserve your sanctity, and your sanity, and your physical health by being mentally alert and atuned to God by being the person you are. And that's why I say, it is impossible to over exaggerate or to over-emphasize the value of of your personal contact with God. If all you can do is to offer Him the dryness when you cannot form a thought, if all that you can do is to offer Him the distractions which seem to be deterring you from your interior peace, give Him yourself, and give your time, and by the Doctrine of the Mystical Body of Christ and by the Doctrine of the Communion of Saints, every moment of that time, every thought that you express, and every word that you utter goes far beyond the room by the power of God, and the whole world is consecrated... though you. Those who are in a state of grace become holier, and it is though you that someone who is not in a state of grace may come back, like the thief on the cross and say "Remember me" and steal the kingdom of heaven.
That's the whole object of the Carmelite life. Hidden away from the world in the cloisters the nuns offer their poverty, chastity and obedience. Its not only first and foremost that the individual will see in everything a sacramental, will see the presence of the Holy Trinity in every part of the body, and will express love in service to the community. Although the world doesn't see it, the consecration is made...for people in other walks of life who are so engulfed in materialistic things that they practically adore them, and make their happiness depend completely upon them: the vow of poverty. The vow of chastity-for those who are given to immorality, and the vow of obedience-to those who are given to pride. And that's precisely why the nuns are called "sister" and why you are called brother and sister, that the world may become better because you're in it, and through the prayer that you offer in you profession and in your state of life . You and I are not to condemn the world, I repeat, we're to consecrate it...because it says so vividly in the Bible, "He sent His only begotten Son, that those who believe in Him may have life everylasting." And it is your wish and my ideal that in each person with whom we come in contact we will find the presence of God, not condemn...not stand in front like the pharasee and say "I'm praying for you," as if the other party happens to be benneath you. The little Flower put it this way in her autobiography...you'll remember it... there was a nun, humanly speak, and I'm saying humanly speaking, that she couldn't stand. And when she saw the nun she felt revulsion, but each time she came in contact with her she gave her a beautiful smile. So the nun responded, "Therese, what is it you see in me that's so fascinating? That make you love me as much as you do?" The Little Flower said, "I'm always happy to see you..." which is the truth because it gave her a chance to practice mortification!
I recall a business man who couldn't get along with his boss His boss, it seemed to him, was constantly condemning him, so he went to the spiritual director and asked what he should do. And the advice of the spiritual director? Pray for him, and pray for yourself...for yourself that you may open the door by giving to the other person of your Christian charity. Pray for the other person that as a result of your effort there may be a change of heart. This when on for two months. Finally his boss called him into the office and said, "What has changed you so much?" He didn't say, "I was praying for you!" But it does work.
When I use the term convert for the individual "prayer", I do not mean it in the broad sense of one who's turning from sin, one who's changing a way of life...conversion means a turning to. Now through the time you take off to pray, and though the expression of your thoughts in your own words, you're turning yourself mentally, physically, and spiritually to God. Your going to him directly. More than that...you cannot do.
I recall one more business man. He ruled the office. He was the authority. There wasn't any authority outside of him. When he was at home, it was quite different. He was completely subject to his wife. The only joy he got was having her sit at one part of the room sewing. He would read his paper, but in the silence there was a communication. For when they went to bed, they knealt down beside the bed. He would put his hand on the bed. Her hand would go over his, and he asked her to, "pray outloud for the two of us,and for our marriage-as God witnessed our marriage, may we keep it sanctified. And you express it as only you can, and I'll listen." The angel of death took his wife and he was absolutely devastated. He wondering if life were worth living. Again, he went to the spiritual director who advised him to continue...to pray aloud as if his wife were really there, for she is. "I am the Ressurection and the LIfe. He who believes this, yet shall live." Do you believe this? So that night he put his hand on the bed, and he began to sob asking God to accept his silence. It seemed to him that a light hand rested on his, then that hand was removed and a strong, firm hand that could only come from Jesus Christ rested on his. So I get to you. I cannot exaggerate the importance of pray. In pray you get to know yourself. You'll be absolutely surpised at what you can express to God and how you can express it when you're at home with Him. It comes gradually, but I repeat, your self- knowledge grows until at last, His words become your words, His deeds become your deeds, as the dear nun had it in her favorite pray...carrying through the life and interest of the Blessed Trinity in your thought, mental pray, in vocal pray, and in your deeds. That is your goal and mine as Carmelites. What a beautiful vocation Gid gave to us. Its just up to us to appreciate it each day of our mortal lives.
God bless you.
This transcript is Copyright, 2001, OCDS Community, Columbus, Ohio.