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THE END OF THE WORLD
Dear Friends of Carmel,
It is Thanksgiving Day as we begin our letter to you. As the weeks have passed since we sent our last news to you and since the onslaught of the financial crisis and presidential elections, scores of letters and emails have poured into our monastery. Never before have we received so many messages of dismay, worry, anxiety—pleas for prayers for Gods help. The world is truly suffering under the burden of trouble and fear, and apprehension for the uncertain future nearly overwhelms souls now. And once again, we send out the message of trust in God!
At Holy Mass on Thanksgiving Day our priest spoke a few words to the people who attended, encouraging them to be thankful not only for the signs of prosperity in our lives, but for the providential adversities that keep us humble and mindful of our need for the Good God. No one can deny that the sufferings of life, if seen and accepted with the light of faith, do bring us closer to God. No one who is old enough to have suffered even a little can look back and not see that it did him good.
But people are not only wondering about tomorrow, but about the last tomorrow—the end of time, the end of all things, the day when God sends His angel to announce, “Time is no more!” For in world events, do we not all hear the echo of Christs own words? There will be “wars and rumors of wars … nation will rise against nation…there will be pestilences and famines and earthquakes…But all these things are the beginnings of sorrows…iniquity will abound, the charity of the many will grow cold…” “The day of the Lord” and when it will be is a secret of Divine Providence, and we do not suggest the day is immediately upon us; but in two Sundays of the liturgical year, the first and the last, Holy Church urges us to be mindful of these important prophecies of Christ. The early Christians had these things ever before their eyes, as is evidenced in most of the Epistles of St. Paul and all the Apostles.
An excellent book has been published recently dealing with these mysterious and vital matters: The End of the Present World and the Mysteries of the Future Life. It was of this book that St. Therese of Lisieux, the Little Flower, said, “Reading this book was one of the greatest graces of my life.” Its author is Father Charles Arminjon, an esteemed preacher and spiritual director in St. Thereses time. Not until now has this book been available in English, and a welcome publication it is, for it reminds us of St. Pauls injunction: “We have here no lasting city!” Surely, all things pass, and the day of the Lord is coming. We recommend this book as a beneficial instruction about that last day, the signs that will precede it and the circumstances that will accompany it. Father Arminjon teaches, with earnest zeal for souls, the truths of our Holy Faith concerning our great and happy destiny in God. Although some of his references regarding Purgatory are more severe than customary Church teaching, his important lessons for preparing for eternal life are invaluable. He reinforces the hope of believers, the hope that rests in the certainty of God as our Father, our Protector, and our very great Reward.
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Daily life in Carmel continues, and little “events” brighten our days as winter begins. In late October, we had another outdoor shrine blessed—this time Our Lady of Fatima. She stands in a small clearing of the pines, where the Sisters may stop and pray on their silent walks and during retreats. From that rather sublime and peaceful setting, we go to the corner of our enclosure grounds, where, much to our chagrin, a skunk took up residence some weeks ago. She settled herself under the garden shed at first, and we noted her distinguishing mark through our clothes dryer vents! We made a fuss in the area, frequenting it, stomping around in the shed, etc., which only induced Mrs. Skunk to move…to underneath one of our hermitages (our small, separate buildings used for prayer). It was time to seek out the help of a professional (who ended up being the sort that reminded us of a mountain man), and this good fellow set his traps in both areas. It took a few weeks more, but after trapping and releasing three squirrels, two cats and one rabbit, Mrs. Skunk ventured forth one night to meet, not the traps (which she seemed to know just how to avoid), but a hungry owl. The poor creature must have fought her way to safety, but not without serious injury. We noticed her out and about in broad daylight, slowly and painfully wandering around the hermitage area. The mountain man came to take her away, and now only a residual “scent" reminds us of our smelly resident.
Carmelite recreations are often a time when Sisters share family news with the Community—whos getting married or graduating or having troubles and needs prayers, etc. But the past few months have had frequent reports from our Sister whose father has become Santa Claus! No, neither Sister nor her father is imagining things; her father, “Santa Dave”, has joined “Naturally Santa, Inc.”, an organization of men who actually look the part to play the part. Sisters dad does look just like good old Santa, as the picture shows: no fake whiskers or makeup for rosy cheeks! But as a former teacher, principal and school administrator, he loves children very much and has kept himself busy with them in some sort of way since retiring from school life a few years ago. So he has a little mission as he goes about his ho-ho-ho-ing—and that is to have a gentle and memorable impact on the hundreds of children who come to sit on his knee over the next few weeks. The Carmelite daughter of this Santa is a convert to the Catholic Faith, so it was her joy to explain to her father a bit about the heroic bishop, St. Nicholas of Myra, in whom some of the origins of Santa are found. Having new knowledge of this aspect of the character he is assuming will enrich his and his little visitors experience. An added “special feature” is that his wife, Karen, also an educator for many years, makes an excellent natural Mrs. Claus and is joining Santa Dave in his December adventure.
Needless to say, as we close this letter, it is no longer Thanksgiving Day. A fine little penance in Carmel is that we are never able to write a letter in a single sitting! But we close with our promise of prayers for you this Holy Advent, the time during which Holy Church puts before our minds and hearts the very things we discussed earlier in our letter—the end of time, the happy destiny of man in God. May our united prayer of hope during this blessed season be that of Holy Mother Church:
Stir up our hearts, Heavenly Father, to make ready the paths of Thy only-begotten Son, that through His coming we may become worthy to serve Thee with purified minds…
And to that beloved Son, Our Lord, Who is mercifully to come again…liturgically at Christmas, and definitively when “time is no more”:
O Emmanuel, our King and Lawgiver, the expected of the nations and their Savior, come to save us, O Lord our God!
Your Carmelite Sisters
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