Instruction To: Carmelite Third Order- Columbus, Ohio By: Fr. William A. Healy September, 10, 1990
Three weeks ago I was in san Antonio giving a retreat to our friars. While I was there, I met Fr. Anthony Morello, who is the representative of the secular order in Rome, as you very well know...He said to me, as if he knew, eh, he thought I was going to have some sort of a secular order group, in a voice that rolled down through the ages...Teach Them The Rule ! Now, I believe that's exactly what you're learning...because our Fr. General in Rome said, of all of the countries that he's ever visited, the outstanding secular orders are in the United States of America. You have, eh, he said, we have the most numerous number, the most numerous (excuse me) amount of secular order communities, and he said, when I came over here (referring to the General, of course ), when I came over here, I expected to see little women with a black veil and a rosary...and when I came and saw how enlightened they are on the teachings of Teresa of Avila, and John of the Cross, how they recite the Office together, I myself was speechless (and if you get the General to be speechless, believe me, you're doing something). I listened to him in reverence and awe, and then added. "You are the image of Gorbachov..." [laughter, everyone.] Did you ever see him? He is...without the birthmark...So, to make up for it, I added, "a handsome version, of course".[laughter, everyone.]
Now, about knowing the Rule...it doesn't mean that you will sit down and memorize the words...I'm asking this evening to make the Rule, especially the essential part, the spiritual part, you're meditation...point by point...So that the words come up from the book, into your intellect, and into your heart..and, you actually live that Rule...as we are required to do in the monastaries. [In the back (?)-untranscriable] You remember in your Baltimore Catechism (that's going back...you can see how old I am !) in the Baltimore Catechism, the answer to the question, "Why did God make you," the answer was, "God made me to know Him, to love Him, and to serve Him in this world, and to be happy with Him forever in the next".
Now, the word "know" is very important, especially to contemplatives. It does not mean intellectually, "I believe that you are Jesus Christ, the son of the loving God." The term "know", as is used in the Bible, means a surrender of one person, a giving completely of mind, of body, of soul, and will as is done in marriage...it's a complete exchange of life, of love, and persons before Almighty God when the sacrement is received, and each time the marital intercourse takes place. So, it is in your relationship to Almighty God. It's not a question of just acknowledging His presence...it's a response to the Presence..."I want to know you, my God, as my Maker...the one who sought fit to bring me into existence...and make me the unique, singular person I am, different from any other person You ever made, ever will make, and who ever occupies a place on this planet..." for that is the honest to God and goodness relationship between the Divinity and each of you. St. Augustine lived that. He said, "My relationship to God is so personal and is so intimate, that it is exactly as if I alone existed on this Earth...and God has that interest, and that providence, and that love for me." God does nothing by halves !
So, your purpose in entering Carmel is to get to know God-to be aware of His presence, no matter where you happen to be, under any circumstance in life (of life). In joy and sorrow, sucess or failure, you acknowledge that there is a Providence there, and a Presence there, and whatever the situation may be, you share it with the Trinity who is present within you. In Carmel, as you know, our journey is inward. Its all centered around this one Truth...that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit lives in each person...as in a tabernacle: personally and individually...and that's why we say spirituality does not consist, necessarily, in going outside of yourself to find God, save by the sacremental presence, and in the use of the sacrements, but going within, for He's closer to you than you are to yourself, and to one another...and that's what we mean by knowing the Rule.
Its not simply a memorization...the learning of the words. The Rule for you, as it must be for me, is a recipe for teaching us how to come as close to God as possible in this mortal life, and to appreciate our life all the more, day by day, as God gives it to us. Each dawn is a new Ressurection; our retiring at night is a sleep of His call to us when our work on Earth is finished...and in-between that, by the power of the Holy Spirit, we're able to use our talents of mind and body for our particular professions, whatever they happen to be. So, remember, its not what you do in life that counts, what your position is...its how you do what you do...and you take this from the sacrifice if the Mass: "Through him, with Him, in Him all glory is given to you, Almighty Father, forever and ever," so that the most insignificant acts of your everyday life, as a Carmelite, you must be aware of the fact that they are witnessed by God, and they are shared by God, and that there is a Purpose, and a Reason, and a Plan for everything that happens to you...and so, you carry this over into your prayer life.
I understand from a group of very conservative and truthfully living Carmelite sisters, cloistered in every detail, that they are planning on making the Little Flower a Doctor of the Church. If this ever comes about, my philosophy professor years, and years, and years, and years ago, good grief, said he thought the Little Flower would come down in person to say, "stop the nonsense, its not my Little Way...", but they are considering it, now. If she would ever be a Doctor of the Church, in my own humble, insignificant opinion, she'll be, "the Doctor of Time"...because she's the one who wrote the poem, and you sing the song, "Lord, for tommorrow in its needs, I do not pray, but keep me, my God, from stain of sin, just for today..."
"From the age of three," she writes in her, Autobiography, "From the age of three, I have never refused the Good God anything..." and she was able to relive that philosophy, that theology, day by day. So, I get back to you...our vocations, our profession, rather, and our goals are the same: without changing your calling, your mission in life is to come as close to God as is humanly possible in your family, in your setting, in your vocation, and in your profession...to find Him, first and foremost, in yourself...and to accept Him there, not by the noise of words, such as you're listening to now...but by your deeds.
If God sees fit to witness what I'm doing, then whatever I'm doing can be offered to him as a prayer...my waking hours, my sleeping hours, my joyful hours, my sorrowful hours, my dark hours, and my light hours...all these I can share with my God...and that's the basis, of course, of our prayer life. We always hear the definition of prayer given by St. Teresa: "its a conversation with one who knows you and loves you..." but you just can't sit down and say, "I'm gonna pray, I'm gonna pray, I'm gonna pray !" It doesn't work like that...nor, is it like saying the Rosary [mumbles words, as if praying the Rosary quickly], and you lift them up to find out how many beads have been said, and how many are yet to come. The Rosary must be taken one bead at a time...slowly and deliberately, and that's the way it is with your prayer life...Do not tempt God by rushing into prayer without the preparation.
How do you prepare yourself, then, for your prayer life? First of all, Teresa of Avila says, "When your are going to pray, take the most relaxed position." The Little Flower said, "I got the holiest thoughts and inspirational thoughts when I had a few minutes before the bell would ring in the morning, and I was in bed...then God would speak to me, and I would speak to God." What I'm trying to emphasis here...we always put the thrust at your going to God to speak to Him...sometimes poor God doesn't get a chance to answer. Its a monologue, just as your listening to right now [laughs], you poor things. Its a preparation...this is what we mean to getting to know God: its a surrender of yourself-a peaceful surrender of your whole person-mind, body, and spirit...a complete giving of yourself...and letting Him come to take possession. It sounds so easy and peaceful as I'explain it to you, but, oh, when you try to put it into practice, it is very difficult !
I love the example of Paul Tournier, the outstanding spiritual writer. He said,
"When I made up my mind to meditiate for one hour each day, I sat down, placed a watch on a table beside me...then I waited for a thought...nothing came. All I could do for the hour was to look at the watch, hope that the time would pass...but, in so doing, I began to realize I was overcoming myself by the discipline of waiting for the clock...waiting for the watch. I was surrendering my own will...and whether there was any response or not, I was consecrating my time."
So, if it seems to you you're not getting any thought or any response, then you are giving to God, until you take it back, the consecration. You're giving yourself, and you're giving your time...and if all you can do is repeat that sentence, "my God, I give you myself and my time," but do it slowly and deliberately, not impatiently, and He accepts the offer, and then you have the same philosophy as you do it as a cloistered monk(s) and nun(s). We firmly believe that the most hidden acts in the monastery, even in the secret recesses of the heart, the most menial task that could be performed, unseen by anyone else, all these things can be offered to the Trinity within, and God takes the offer, and by the Doctrine of the Mystical Body of Christ, and the Communion of Saints, the offering is applied to the Church, to the world-at-large, and to the sanctification of the one who makes the offer. You have everything to live for !
Going on then, as a Carmelite, you are convinced, relying upon the words of Jesus, "If you love me, my Father will love you, and we'll come to you and we'll make our home with you." So, you carry that within, and you firmly believe it... it is an article of Faith...but you are asked to look upon each person, I repeat, you are asked to look upon each person as a carrier of the Blessed Trinity...and to offer that love, and to offer that respect for everyone you meet. Jesus took bread in His hands one night, and said. "This is My body." He took the cup one night and said, "This is My blood," and we adore. Its the center of our Catholic Faith. Open your Scriptures, and find out how many times He identifies Himself with your fellow man.
Therefore, I say, the Rule has to sink from the head, to the heart, into the hands, so that you represent the crucified Christ...and you give whatever you receive, and you pass that on to others without the noise of words, but by your example. That's what our life happens to be all about. Theresa of Calcutta puts it this way: she remarks, of all the countries she visited, which one was the most disappointing? The answer was, the United States, or rather, I should say, North America. The next question, of course, was, "Why"? She said. " because of all the wealth that's there, and all the material goods that are possesed, the people place their joy on the material, fleeting, passing things...and [but] Joy is to be found in service of persons. That's why I find my joy in of Calcutta," she says. "Jesus Christ became incarnate or the son of God became incarnate, to be one of us, and to embrace our human nature...and identified himself with human nature... so that whatever I do for the poor people of Calcutta, I'm doing with Him and for Him. I find my God in each one of them..." and to emphasize this point, once a week, she, her brothers, and her nuns, all have one day of absolute silence in which they'll contemplate one thing: the presence of God in each person...that's what you do.
Don't go back and say what a miserable world we're living in: how dirty, and filthy, and contaminated, how confused it is...and rub up your hands in absolute despair...The words of Scripture must ring out for you, "God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that he who believes in Him will have life everlasting..." and instead of condemning, you're to encourage. As John of the Cross puts it, "Where there isn't love, put love, and you'll find love."
God is a personification of love. Share what God-given gift you possess in your own person with each you meet, and in your own little way you're making Heaven on Earth for others.
...and so, in closing, (I love to say that do you know there's an end in sight !), the whole synopsis of what I tried to say can be expressed in just three letters: J-O-Y. Joy: "Jesus"-all for Jesus-through HIm, with Him, and in Him. "O," is for other-find His image and likeness in each one you meet. "Y," is for yourself-that you'll accept the Truth that God is with you at all times...and if He's with you, as you know yourself, don't doubt that He's with each person that you meet.
I always admired looking at the Papal flag, the gold and the white...the two keys over the tiara...but if they wanted a banner that would go beneath that, it'd be a simple kitchen towel, T-O-W-E-L...because on the night of the Last Supper, Jesus Christ, True God and True Man, knelt at the feet of His apostles, and took out a towel, and dried those feet which had been marked with dirt from their long and tedious journey...and in so doing, the washing of the feet always signified, "as your feet are cleaned, may all worries and anxiety be removed from your mind and from your heart." Therefore, as Carmelites, we accept the Truths: the Truth of His Presence predominating-in our mind, in our heart, in our hands...and we do not divorce the active from the contemplative. Whatever we do, we do with Him, through Him and for Him, in time, that by the sharing, He may share Eternity with us.
God Bless you.
This transcript is Copyright, 2001, OCDS Community, Columbus, Ohio.