Conference: Columbus, Ohio OCDS November 12, 1991. Fr. William Healy
[beginning of tape] ...understanding of what the charisms, the gifts and the graces you receive and are seeking to obtain in Carmel will come your way.
So, I begin with the first thing...your faith and your confidence. In one of the readings of the Mass for the last few days, in fact, it was Sunday, you read about Elijah, who came across the widow. He asked her for food.
She said, "I just have a little flour and a little oil. My son and I will have bread, and then we will prepare to die, because we have nothing else."
Then, said Elijah, "Make a cake for me, then take care of yourself, and you will find that the oil will not diminish, nor will you loose the flour until rain has come. You will have sufficiency."
Put yourself in the place of the widow. The faith that was demanded of her (!)...and yet, she did it...she sacrificed her all...and the promise was fulfilled.
[Also] You take the little woman with the coin...two coins she put in the tax collector's casket. The Lord called his apostles together, and He said,
Did you see this little woman? Others have given some of the surplus of their wealth. She, in giving those coins, gave her all. Therefore, I say unto you, she has given more than anyone else in this place.
As a clergyman I'm always interested in collections...the point: you may not be asked to show your faith as in the two stories I just told. The greatest act that you can give is the offering of your will to God, each day, as you fulfill your vocation. Many times, things happen that you never, never realized would happen. You didn't expect them. If they are beyond your control then your prayer is: "Oh, Dear God, I don't understand why things turned out the way they did, but I can honestly and sincerely say its not my fault that things turned out the way they did. So, I accept the events, I accept the characters, as if You, my God, put them into my life, and I unite myself with Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemene and on His Cross." [for] The thing that makes Heaven, Heaven, the place of everlasting joy and peace and complacency, is the unity of wills of all the angels and saints up there with you, whose presence fills it with love.
"By my faith I give You [God] the compliment that, without seeing You, I face each situation as it arises, day by day, and unite myself with Your son and my brother, Jesus Christ, under the influence of the Holy Spirit in fulfilling the prayer he taught us: Thy will be done." Greater offering you cannot possibly make because you are identifying yourself with Jesus Christ, who said: I came to do the will of Him who sent me, even though it meant undergoing His agony and carrying the cross.
Now, in your Carmelite charism...the word charism is nothing else but a gift or a grace [in this case] given to Teresa of Avila. This gift or grace is the ideal that you and I have as Carmelites. Our vocations are different, but nevertheless we are united in mind, heart and spirit in fulfilling the gifts, the ideals [which] the Divinity revealed to our Holy Mother, yours and mine, St. Teresa of Jesus.
The first thing she said was that "I'm asking you to have an intimate conversation with Jesus Christ, whom you know loves you." You cannot have a conversation with a person you do not know. That is the reason why you have your half hour of personal prayer: "My God, teach me to know You better, and to accept the love You have for me."
There's a little booklet called, The Practice of the Presence of God, by Brother Lawrence, OCD. Brother Lawrence was asked by his superiors, "How did you ever develop this intimate relationship with God? Of finding Him in every event of your life, and in every person that you meet?" His answer [is the one] I have given to you.
"In my novitiate," he said, "when I went to pray, I didn't take up any book. I just thought of the name, 'God', and repeated that He is a Creator who makes something out of nothing! I extended this to His providence and goodness in everything He made. That was the subject of my meditation, day by day, in my novitiate, so that I became familiar with God, recognizing His goodness, His providence and His interest. So, I came to the conclusion that where I am, there is the presence of God. He is the witness of every act that I perform. When I prepare the work in the kitchen, I pray first, then I sort the food and make the menu, and any time that's allotted in between I go to my God, and I thank him for assisting me in whatever I've done, for He's with me in the kitchen."
If anyone asks you, then, what is the first part of the Teresian ideal, or the Carmelite gift or grace you are seeking, its the ability to talk to God in your own words and in your own way. Each one of you is totally different from anyone else in this room, and God wanted it that way. He wanted you to express yourself to Him as only you can do it with your particular temperament, personality, and character. He was seeking, if I may use the expression, seeking an intimate relationship with you, the individual, heart to heart, and soul to soul.
To do this - the second part of the Teresian explanation of prayer [comes into practice]: speaking, having a conversation, with One whom you know loves you. In that last part, what I'm speaking to you individually,is not a sentimental thing. It means coming down to the basics...of all the graces and the lights and the signs of Providence you have received unto this very night. If you would only consider all of the signs of love that people have shown you, as far [back] you can remember...as long as you can try to remember the signs of love, the sacrifices, the prayers that have been offered for you, and you can put them all on one table...all these things happened and were permitted by God so that you might get just a shadow or a glimpse of the love that the Divinity has for you. Each beat of your heart, each moment of your person, each breath that you draw is witnessed by the Divinity.
We use the expression, "put yourself in the presence of God." The expression is wrong. You are always in God's presence. Its just up to you to be mindful of the presence and to accept it. The way of accepting it first and foremost is by accepting His love.
In my hometown of Minneapolis, Minnesota, a child is not permitted to go from kindergarten to the first grade without taking an intellectual test from the state, and a social test [as well]. If the child fails in one or the other, he is not permitted to go to the first grade. The reason? Because we believe that a child accepts himself at the age of six. He either accepts love and accepts himself, or he reject [them]. You cannot explain love to the child. The child has to see love in action: by the thoughtfulness of he parents, by their advice, by their help...not merely by their gifts. The child has to accept this love, and in accepting it, he accepts himself: I'm worth something to my parents because of all that they're doing for me. He 's assure of his own person, and once he's assured of his own person then he feels secure with himself because of the love that's shown to him...and he'll be able socially to help others, in play, and in other activities. Remember the words of Jesus Christ: Unless you become as little children, you shall not enter into the kingdom of Heaven.
You're asked to assimilate, to bring before your mind's eye, the signs of providence you have received and see in them a glimpse of the love that the Divinity has for you. Then, you [are able to] accept yourself. The gratitude that you express is humility. Pride is the acceptance of things without saying thank, or [instead] believing that they come from yourself. Humility is the ability to accept and express your gratitude, as a result of this personal contact.
That is the reason for the insistence of the half hour. Give God that half hour, and He'll give you the rest of the day! Because as a result of it you'll see His presence in every event and in every person, and most of all, you'll find Him in yourself.
The second point is, that every thought that you give God, and He is closer to you than you are to one another because He dwells in every part of your person-every thought, every word, and every deed that you give Him, no matter how significant, remember that He's the Maker of the whole world-every thought, word, and deed affects the world. By the Doctrine of the Mystical Body of Christ, and by the Doctrine of the Communion of Saints, every good thought word or deed enables thoses who are in a state of grace to come closer to God, through you, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, and those who are not in a state of grace, as you remember them in your prayer of consecration, like the thief on the cross may say, "Lord, remember me," and come to His kingdom.
This month we will have the canonization of Saint Raphael Kallinowski who will be the first friar to be canonized since John of the Cross (we have may blesseds, but not canonized, made a saint). Raphael was born of the nobility in Poland and became an outstanding teacher, especially of engineering. He became an official in the Russian army, highly respected by all who knew him. When the Polish rebellion took place against Russian he asked to be dismissed from the army of Russian to take the side of Poland. As a result, he found himself in Siberia in a prison for ten years. Here is what he says: there is no situation in life, and there's no event in life, when we cannot converse with God. So he received the title, while he was [still] alive, of being the Living Prayer.
And that's his message to you. There's no situation that's hopeless as long as the Divinity and you are together. As Teresa of Avila put it, "Let the world be against me, but if God is for me, I shall be successful." Again, this is not a selfish spirituality, because when you don't feel like praying, you go ahead and pray. You give God yourself and your time, and you're offering it for others by the Doctrine of the Communion of Saints and by the Doctrine of the Mystical Body of Christ. You're affecting the whole church.
As I said before, you and I are no to condemn this confused world of ours, evil as it may seem. We're to consecrate it, for God made each person on earth, and each person is a temple of the Holy Spirit. If the person is in deliberate mortal sin, the Trinity cannot operate. You then, by your fidelity, in your own home, to prayer, may be the instrument for their coming forth and saying, "I accept the grace of God." You have everything going for you. That's why I honestly say, if there's a person who should be happy and persevering, its yourself as a Carmelite. You don't dodge life, you face it, in the realization that you're not facing it alone, but with the Trinity who dwell within you. That's what your life and mine are all about.
Finally, Theresa says you do it in the spirit of Mary and Joseph. Joseph didn't utter one word that's recorded in Scripture. All that he did was to serve. To serve as carpenter. To carry out whatever God wanted: the flight into Egypt, the loss of the Child in the temple (which he didn't understand). He didn't understand the situation. All he could do was say, "I offer it." There's nothing more that you can do [either].
Its the same with the life of Our Blessed Mother. Few prayers are recorded, outside of the sentence, "They have no wine." The marriage banquet was not turned into a failure, but a tremendous sucess-the best wine they ever tasted.
So, I get to you. If anyone asks you what you are seeking, its the reality of God in conversation for the benefit of the church and in the spirit of Mary and Joseph. In this you have joined a community which you gather here tonight. Whenever you get discouraged, open your Bible to the prayer of Jesus at the last supper in John ['s gospel]. Coming from the Lord Himself, that prayer is of infinite value: Father, that they may be one as I am in You, and You are in Me so that the world may know that I have sent them. That's the way you accepted your vocation as a Carmelit. You were sent into the world with a definite message: to come as close to God as possible, and in coming close to Him you are to draw others. Prayer then, for us, can be your source of encouragement, day by day.
The spirit of detachment, which is mentioned, does not mean, "I'm going to hate this or hate that," this material thing. [rather] The presence of God comes in...The food that's on your table and the roof that's over your head, if they come because of your talent or because of your initiative, thank God for giving you the health of mind and body to fulfill your vocation.
Everything, as far as you and I are concerned, is a sacramental, because through this material thing we come to the Giver, and recognize His providence in everything we have and everything we use. So, on your Thanksgiving day, you're asked to see that Providence in everything that's on that table, and in each of the persons around that table. In the Bible, especially the Old Testament, every meal that a Jew had was considered sacred because [it was] eating the fruits which came from God expressed in the brotherhood of mind, heart, and spirit of those who were at the table. So, while you are having your Thanksgiving, I shall remember you at a different table: the table of the Lord, which I can address the Sacred Host, and ask Him to bless you that each guest that you have and each one with whom you dine will be received as another Christ. This is the communion that comes as a visit that someone gives you for which you prepare, and above all you're opening the door no only of your home but most of all heart for Jesus Christ, His Majesty, as St. Teresa called Him, the Founder of the Church who blesses you and brings people into the Church, because of you.
God Bless You.
This transcript is Copyright, 2001, OCDS Community, Columbus, Ohio.