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A NEW LENT
“O God, every year You purify Your Church through the observance of Lent; grant that Your children may lead better lives, and so obtain the graces they are striving to acquire by doing penance.”
Dear Friends of Carmel,
Such is just one of the prayers of Holy Church as we begin another Lent, the time of uniting ourselves with the redeeming work of Our Savior by a spirit of penance. We should remember that Lent is not an isolated personal affair of our own. On the contrary, there is a holy solidarity among us: a solidarity of sinners who have received abundant mercy and grace. We willingly enter the battle we must wage against the evils of this world, against Satan, and against ourselves. Our entire life is the Christian warfare. The victory depends, after Gods grace, upon our perseverance and fidelity. In union with the sufferings of Christ, the whole Christian army begins the holy “Forty Days”, setting out for Easter with the glad certitude of sharing in His Resurrection.
God has called us to a supernatural destiny, and we must humbly admit that we cannot achieve it of ourselves. Lent is the time to “go apart awhile” to learn and re-learn the lessons and truths of our Faith, to reflect on Gods goodness—and our own failures to be good! It is the time to do penance—that is, to make satisfaction for those failures. That word penance should not frighten us. Holy Mother Church helps and instructs us, telling us the ways to go about our penances with a joyful spirit, putting before our minds Christs own words in the Gospel: “When you fast, be not sad…” Holy Church reminds us that the voluntary sufferings we undertake not only work to the remission of our sins, but also to being more closely united to our Divine Master and Redeemer. There are three main ways of doing penance: fasting, almsgiving, and prayer. Perhaps one of the oldest and most honored prayer devotions during Lent is the Stations of the Cross. This is the prayerful meditation on the sufferings of Our Redeemer that paid for our guilt and merited our salvation. Learn more about this revered Catholic devotion.
Let us perform our Lenten prayers, fasts and alms humbly and generously—from the heart—recalling that God does not regard so much the greatness of the deed, but the greatness of the love with which it is done.
Since the liturgical seasons are a guiding light and principle for our web site, we prepare for seasons like this, offering sacramentals that will assist in the life of prayer for each time of year. For this reason, we are especially pleased to have Stations Crucifixes now available. Through a good friend of our Carmel, a Franciscan Brother in Australia, we discovered these wonderful German-made crucifixes. The benefit of these crucifixes is that they may be used to pray the Way of the Cross, even if alone and not in a church where the Stations are formally erected. Our German crucifixes have the required wood for gaining the holy Indulgence for this fruitful and prayerful devotion. They also have depictions of each Station in exquisite detail. As is mentioned in the link given above, the Holy Father attached the same indulgences to this type of crucifix, duly blessed for the purpose, for the use of the sick, those at sea or in prison, and others lawfully hindered from making the Stations in a church. One of our Sisters was a nurse before entering Carmel, and she assisted at many sickbeds in her time. She was always anxious to help her patients in prayer at those difficult moments—sometimes, indeed, the last moments—of their lives. Sister cannot recommend these crucifixes enough, knowing first-hand just how much sacramentals like this can give much-needed spiritual support to those who seek a way of prayer. Others who may profit from use of these crucifixes are the elderly and those in the military, far from home. Remember, any wood crucifix, “duly blessed for the purpose” suffices, but these are especially made for the praying of the Way of the Cross. (Please note, also, that the Church still retains the privilege of this special blessing to Franciscan priests.) We have also added two booklets to our site that have meditations and prayers for praying the Stations or Way of the Cross.
Since meditation on the sufferings, Passion, and Death of Our Lord is so important and fruitful during Lent, we might also suggest devotion to the Holy Face of Jesus, which has origins in the Carmelite Order. The book, The Golden Arrow by Sr. Mary of St. Peter, is a perfect introduction to this devotion, which is given honor by Holy Church through numerous popes. We also make the chaplet of the Holy Face, as well as a relic badge in honor of the Holy Face, which has a cloth touched to the Holy Cross.
Our spiritual director always says that the season of Lent should be a time devoted to study and learning. He recommends extra time spent in relevant spiritual reading—not only books about Our Lords Passion, but writings that encourage zealous progress in the spiritual life. We invite you to peruse again our book offerings to find suitable reading for this holy time. Several of the Sisters recommend highly a new book on our site called What Jesus Saw from the Cross, which gives unique insights into the thoughts of Our Lord while enduring His sufferings, and The Imitation of Christ is required daily reading in Carmel during Lent.
We still remember with a smile the recreation at which one of the Sisters told of the visit she had that afternoon with a relative who was patiently trying to explain something called “e-mail”. Now, six or seven years later, we know e-mails very well indeed! Answering questions and correspondence, vocations, and prayer requests fills a significant portion of our time allotted to work each day. But we see in it the Hand of God, Who sends souls to us for His own sake and purposes, and we marvel at His work in these souls. We have a dear friend in Florida who regularly keeps us informed and praying for the progress of his business, which for the love of God and St. Joseph is selling real estate. Other friends write asking prayers for sick loved ones, for good marriages for their children, for rescues from drug problems and bad friends. A teacher friend has us daily help her in her history classroom, praying for her students, many of whom are troubled and unhappy. We regularly receive prayer requests from an abortion counseling group in England, from an orphanage in India, and a thousands-strong Catholic group fighting the legalization of abortion in Brazil. The list goes on and on… We post these emails on the door of our “mantle closet”, where we go just before Holy Mass, and take these many and important intentions to Our Lord in the tabernacle. That is where the real work of Carmel is done!
Far from e-mails and computers, our sewing room at the other end of the monastery is busy, too. Our privileged work of making vestments is never-ending! Our present list for vestment projects prevents us from taking more requests for this work. Each project is special to us. We are presently working on one in honor of Our Lady of Sorrows for use during Lent. All of us can have a hand in it, even the Sisters with five thumbs and no vision for sewing! There are pattern pieces to help cut, pins to remove, tassels to hand-sew, tidying up at the end of the day... When it comes to helping with something so close to the Divine Sacrifice, it is an honor to do even these small duties.
Our weather sometimes keeps us busy, too, shoveling snow from the front path for visitors—and a path out back to the birdfeeders! God has blessed us with a few good snowstorms this winter, and we appreciate the moisture in our dry climate. We appreciate too the added silence that settles around the monastery when the snow falls. But watch out! Springtime in the Rockies is the real wintertime here, and the storms that come then are usually somewhat noisy blizzards. Time will tell...
Before closing, we wish to address ourselves to all of you who have sent messages with requests and suggestions for these newsletters. So many ask to know more about our daily life and schedule. We promise our next newsletter will answer some of these interested questions, as well as tell you about Holy Week customs observed in Carmel. But to answer one frequently asked question, “What is the Lenten fast in Carmel?”, we will pass on the response given us as young postulants many years ago by one of our elderly founding Mothers: “Well, one day we will have beans and rice; then the next, rice and beans. The third day, beans and rice; then rice and beans...”
Until later in Lent, then, please be assured of our prayers for you and with you during the Holy Forty Days. We remember you gratefully each day.
In Christ Crucified,
Your Carmelite Sisters
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