Conference: Columbus, Ohio OCDS May 14, 1991. Fr. William Healy
[beginning of tape] I begin the conference tonight with the Gospel of St. John, chapter seventeen, verses, eleven to nineteen. It was the gospel that was read last Sunday:
Jesus looked up to Heaven and prayed, 'Oh, Father, most holy, protect them with your name which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one. As long as I was with them I guarded them with your name which you gave me. I kept careful watch, and not one of them was lost, none but him who was destined to be lost in fulfillment of scripture. Now, however, I come to you. I say all this while I am still in the world that they may share my joy completely. I gave them your word, and the world has hated them for it. They do not belong to the world anymore than I belong to the world. I do not ask you to take them out of the world, but to guard them from the evil one. They are not of the world anymore than I am of the world. Consecrate them by means of truth. Your word is truth. As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. I consecrate myself for their sakes now that they may be consecrated in truth.'
This is the gospel of the Lord.
Whenever you feel that you cannot pray, either because of an interior emptiness or because of distractions, or because of a heavy cross, you say, 'Dear Lord, its impossible for me to express my thoughts and words at this time, so I unite myself with the prayer of Jesus, which He gave at the last supper.'
'For, Father, he prayed not only for those at the table with Him,' each of you can say, 'He prayed for me... because, truthfully, I am one of His disciples. I became His disciple on the day of my baptism, and I renewed my discipleship on the day of my profession as a Carmelite. Therefore, Father I firmly believe your son, my brother, prayed for me, though twenty centuries elapsed since the time He uttered the pray before His apostles on the night of the Last Supper.'
And what did He pray for? He prayed that the love that the Father has for Him, and that He and the father have for the Holy Spirit might come into your heart and into your person. He thought of you in your vocation, in your profession where the Divine Providence has placed you, again, as a result of your baptism, and as a result of your profession as a Carmelite, because in that profession you do nothing else but give yourself back to God from whom you received your life, back to God from Whom you received your day, and back to God from whom you received your vocation, whatever and wherever that vocation happens to place you.
This is your own, and I'm not speaking in any pietistic way. The Heavenly Father, looking upon each of you (I'm talking to you as an individual, not as a group) must see a reflection of His own Son, Jesus Christ. The reason He sent His Son into the world in a visible form, in a human form, is that so that Son who said, 'I am the Way, I am the Truth, and I am the Life', would show you and show me that no matter what life must offer, whether it be the poverty of Bethlehem, or the death upon the cross between two thieves, life is worth living, if we can honestly and truthfully say, day by day, 'I'm seeking to do the will of God'. More than that, neither you nor I can do.
Again, I say, the Father is to see in you and to see in me a reflection of His own Son, our brother, Jesus Christ, so that whenever we have any sufferings, any temptations, any heartaches, or any disappointments, even the tragedy of death itself, where we see a dear one pass on, all that we have to do (I don't say its going to take away the pain, nor will it take away the tears) is unite the physical anguish and the mental anguish with our brother, Jesus Christ, and say, 'I'm offering the situation to the Heavenly Father through you...'
Again, I repeat, I'm not giving you any pious thoughts, but you are a Christian. The word Christian [means] is not merely a follower of Christ, the Christian is a duplicator of Christ...so that as far as possible His words become your words, His thoughts become your thoughts, and His deeds become your deeds in the progress of charity.
The first three outstanding spiritual writers to stress the humanity of Jesus Christ were, number one, St. Ignatius of Loyala, and number two, St. Teresa of Avila, and number three, St. John of the Cross. Even in our definition of prayer...its a conversation with one we know dearly loves us ... and Jesus Christ said, the love the Father has for Me, I have for you! 'My thoughts, My words, are not mine,' said He, 'they are my Heavenly Fathers' so that the closer you come to Christ in your personal prayer, speaking to Him as I'm speaking to you, the more you realize the beauty of your call and your mission in life.
You have no reason to envy anyone else in any other state of life. Simply be yourself, for that's why God made you. And to put on yourself the thoughts of Christ...the words and the deeds. Isn't that what our scapular is supposed to symbolize? It symbolizes first, the baptismal garment the priest placed on you when you made your entrance into the church. 'Receive the robe and wear it unspotted back to your Heavenly Father.' It [the scapular also] represents the seamless garment Mary made for Jesus, and Mary, as you know, is your mother as well as His. Sandwiched between to pieces of cloth, a seamless garment, is your person. And so, its not just a symbol. It represents for you your whole mission and vocation in life. "God, I'm clothed in this habit because I am to represent or duplicate in my own simple, humble way, my brother, Jesus Christ.
If anyone asks you what is the pivotal point of our Carmelite life, what we mean by the Teresian Charism, we hear that word so many times, this is what its all about. The word Charism means a grace, a gift . When we speak of your being in a state of grace, we don't mean there's just a badge of approval put on, but honestly and truthfully, the blessed trinity lives in every part of your person, your body ,your soul, your mind and your spirit, without taking away anything of your personality, temperament or talent, and within you (I'm talking to your as an the individual) there's a magnificent love story taking place...the love of the Father for the Son, the love of the Father and the Son for the Holy Spirit...and this goes on in you! So, when John of the Cross speaks of a state of grace he speaks of the relationship between you and the Trinity. You actually share in the love story of God, Himself. How close could you possibly get to God...by this divine indwelling, and by your reception of Jesus Christ in visible form, in the sacrament of the altar! That's why I say, that if there's a group of people on the face of the Earth who should appreciate life, who should see a providence and a meaning in every moment of it, its yourself and myself as Carmelites, for we carry God within us, and as Elizabeth of the Trinity so beautifully put it, 'Where God is, there is Heaven. I have found my heaven on Earth' she said, 'for God dwells within me.'
That's the way it works with each one of you. There is a Providence which shapes our ends, rough hewn them as we may. There's a reason, and a purpose and a plan for everything that happens to us...Not that God wills it directly, for if we can't change the circumstances or the circumstances do not depend upon us, [but] we will at least say, 'God, I accept it as if it were your will. I give it back to you.' That's the meaning of life, and that's what Jesus said: I have one meat to consume, to eat, and that's the will of my Father. I came to fulfill His will, day in and day out. And he reiterated it in the Our Father... 'Thy will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven.'
Despite all of the evil that exists on this earth of ours, the confusion, the injustice, you and I are not to hate the world, for its very vividly expressed in the Gospel story...God so loved the world, that He sent His only Son, that those who believe in Him may have life everlasting. Therefore, you and I are to love the world because it's a product of God's creation. All we do, instead of losing our peace over the events that take place is to say, 'God, may I fulfill Your will in my limited way in the following of my vocation as I live it, as Jesus fulfilled His. Then, as insignificant as I seem to be, I am an instrument for bringing Your will to others, rather than curse at the darkness.' That's what your life, and that's what my life has to be about on this earth.
All of this comes about when you go to God in your half-hour of personal prayer. I repeat, not giving Him pious thoughts, but talking to Him about yourself, about the characters that make up your life and your vocation. God accepts each word that you offer, each word that you utter, each moment of time that you give Him. And that strengthens the relationship between the divinity and each of you. As the little old adage puts it, 'Tell me with whom you go and I'll tell you who you are.' Do you feel free to speak to Almighty God in personal prayer, word for word, about your honest to goodness concerns in life? Why do you doubt that He heard you? Did not Jesus say, ' I am with you, always,' so don't take your vocation for granted.
There comes this, 'midlife', they usually say about forty (if such be the case then I have seen mine some thirty some years ago...I never measure age in years. Its your spirit, because it does depends on your mental attitude towards life, which makes all the difference in the world...if I went on with that theme I'd keep you here for another hour, which I will not!).
I will give you two examples to illustrate my point. There's a little book which came out recently printed in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Its called Life's Simple Blessings. It was written by Sue Mt. Kitt who often writes for Guidepost Magazine. The term, Mt. [Mount], happens to be her own, but she loves it because of her association with the Trappist monks at Gesthsemene. She often makes her retreats there. She used to go there and listen to Thomas Merton over and over again.
She writes these little excepts from her life, and I've always found in the true stories she tells some relation to our Carmelite or Theresian outlook on life. For she writes:
' I was facing the midlife, the burning out years of our marriage, Sandy and I, it seems, were not on speaking terms anymore, so we decided to go down to the beach together, perhaps to relax. I was resting on one of the beach towels; he was resting on the other, with no indication whatsoever that there was anything wrong.
I was feeling sorry for myself, wondering whether or not the marriage itself were actually going on the rocks.
I said , 'Lets make a sand castle over there.'
Reluctantly, he obliged. We made a magnificent sand castle, if I may say so, forgetting of course, about the tide. No sooner was it completed, than the tide came in and washed it away. That took me back to my loneliness.
That night, before I retired, Sandy came out and said, 'what is it that's bothering you?'
I thought my next statement would certainly put the marriage on the rocks. I said, 'the monotony of doing the same things over and over again. It seems we have lost interest in one another. We can't express our thoughts and our views differently', and as the tears flowed, he took his fingers and wiped them away, and my feeling of sadness rose.
He said, 'don't you understand, that this comes in every vocation. Why don't we renew the vows of our marriage, right now?'
I said, 'I don't remember the form.'
'The form makes no difference, right now. Express before God and me what you feel in your heart.'
I said, 'before God, I feel the monotony, the duties, but let me acknowledge, God, You witnessed my promises.'
Sandy took my hand. It was as if literally we had held hands for the first time, and he repeated his vows. Then I realized that there's not time in life we cannot relive our vocation.'
And that's the way it works with me and you, whether it be the married state or the single state from which you're coming or your duties as a Carmelite...because if life, it seems, is becoming monotonous, difficult with the passage of time, give God your honest consecration, and you'll find out He who said, ' I am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life,' will be with you every step of the way, every moment of the journey.
Finally, in this Carmelite way that I've been describing to you, you not only find God in yourself, but you look upon each person with whom you meet, each person with whom you associate in the fulfillment of your profession, and you must come to the conclusion that, without taking away any of the love He has for you, He has that love for each one. He opens your heart to give love to all, excepting no one from your interest as God excepts no one from His. It gives you an appreciation of each member of your family, because you see the presence of God in each one, and the providence which places all of you under one roof.
I am certain at some time or another you've seen this little placard, or you have it in your home:
Christ Is the Head of this house, the Guest at every meal, the unseen Listener at every conversation.
That the way it works. Find God within yourself, and you'll find Him within everyone else, individually, as a person.
So in closing, I turn back to little Sue Mt. Kitt. She said:
'It was on hot summer evening, and I was busy preparing things for our vacation. I told the children they could stay up to see the Purides (the Purides are meteors). I was busily engaged, of course, getting the things ready, as I said, for the vacation, but the two of them came in, Bob and Nan, and they said, 'aren't you coming out, just to watch the Purides?"
I said, "No, I have got too much work to do.'
They said, 'but you promised to watch the Puridies...you've got to watch the Purides...we stayed up so you could join us this evening.
I said, ' I've got too much work to do,' but they literally pulled me out, and before I knew it, I was on the back lawn, flat on my back, with one on either r side of me. As we looked up in the sky it was as black as a theater without any lights on it, just a blank screen.
I said, I am wasting my time, I could be doing so much for the family, and for the vacation, and here I am looking at an empty sky. All of a sudden, from one end of the heavens there came a magnificent white- colored ball that shot across the screen. All of us said, 'ahh...'
And we hardly got the first, ' ahh' out when a second ball flashed. We repeated the, 'ahh...isn't it beautiful.'
The third time we were so overcomes we couldn't say a word. Finally, there was a dead silent among us You could hear a pin drop. All I could do was repeat Jacobs prayer in the old testament after he awoke from his dream: God was in this place, and I knew it not.
That's the way it works with you and I. God is in that place...and you know it now...He's the Head of the house, the Guest at every meal, the unseen Listener at every conversation, and He dwells in every person you come in contact with in the fulfillment of your Carmelite vocation.
God bless you.
This transcript is Copyright, 2001, OCDS Community, Columbus, Ohio.