- Our Lady's Rosary, the Holy Souls, and the Carmelite Shield
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OUR LADY'S ROSARY, THE HOLY SOULS, AND THE CARMELITE SHIELD
Dear Friends of Carmel—
You will all remember that October is the beautiful month of Our Lady’s Rosary. After the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and the Divine Office, the most effective prayer is the Most Holy Rosary. For 800 years it has been the source of innumerable miracles, conversions, and victories. The rosary brings peace; not a false peace, dishonestly gained through compromise, but a true peace, won honorably by directly opposing evil with good. The rosary, when prayed with humility and a simple confidence in the good God Who lavishes His wonders on His children, saves nations from annihilation. It is a sure means of salvation, to save us from that ultimate defeat, the only one that really matters in the end—the loss of our soul.
Who can deny that these days are some of the most violent the world has seen? And who can question the fact that never before have the immense troubles of peoples and nations, the troubles of individual souls, seemed so desperate and hopeless? The rosary then is a prayer that carries special significance for our times. Sister Lucia Santos, the soul chosen by Mary at Fatima to carry her message, said,
The Most Holy Virgin, in these last times in which we live, has given a new efficacy to the recitation of the Holy Rosary. She has given this efficacy to such an extent that there is no problem, no matter how difficult it is, whether temporal or above all, spiritual, in the personal life of each one of us, of our families, of the families of the world, or of the religious communities, or even of the life of peoples and nations, that cannot be solved by the Rosary. There is no problem I tell you, no matter how difficult it is, that we cannot resolve by the prayer of the Holy Rosary.
In preparation for November and the prayerful remembrance of the holy souls in Purgatory, please note that we are continuing our custom of receiving your loved ones’ names so they may be placed on the altar and remembered at the many Masses that will be offered here in our chapel by our priests during the month of November: Remembrance of Deceased Loved Ones in November Masses.
Now we would like to answer a longstanding and good question some of our friends and readers have had—and that is about the meaning of the Carmelite Shield. It is the first thing you see every time you visit our web site or receive our newsletter. October being a “Carmelite month” with the feasts of St. Teresa of Avila and St. Therese of Lisieux, it seems like an appropriate time to fit this into our letter. The best and most succinct explanation of this Carmelite Coat of Arms is from an old, treasured book called Carmel, Its History, Spirit and Saints, published in 1927 and compiled by Carmelites of Boston and Santa Clara:
In the center of the shield rises the holy mountain of Carmel, the cradle of the Order; and on this shield there are also three stars, which represent the three epochs in the history of Carmel. The first, as if placed in a grotto of the Mountain, signifies the Prophetic era which extends from the time of Elias, who founded the Order in a cave, to the coming of St. John the Baptist (the beginning of the Christian era).
The second and third stars rising over the mountain, signify respectively the Greek and Latin eras, when the Order spread throughout the East and the West… The cross on the summit of the mountain was added in the 16th century, as the distinctive sign of the Discalced Carmelites, and they also adopted for their crest, in memory of the Prophet Elias, the arm with the flaming sword, and the legend, “Zelo Zelatus sum pro Domino Deo exercituum,” “With zeal have I been zealous for the Lord God of hosts.” The twelve stars over the crown signify the attributes of Our Lady, the Virgin Mary, whom St. John saw in the Apocalypse under the figure of a woman clothed with the sun and crowned with twelve starts. They also signify the twelve points of the Rule, which are Obedience, Chastity, Poverty, Recollection, Mental Prayer, Divine Office, Chapter, Abstinence from meat, Manual labor, Silence, Humility, and Supererogation (to act beyond the call of duty).
We find from other sources that the crown, so central to the design of the Coat of Arms, represents Our Lady as Queen, Beauty of Carmel and the Kingdom of God to which she leads us by her prayers and example. Above, you will see a photo of the beautiful wood-carved rendition of the Carmelite Shield that was given to us by our good priests, who commissioned its carving by a talented local artist in the early years of our Carmel. We keep this cherished gift in our small oratory.
The 2012 Liturgical Calendar from The Seraphim Company has arrived and is now available. We typically have dozens of requests and orders waiting for this outstanding calendar, beginning in July! Instructive and prayerful for devotion, it is a compendium of our holy Catholic Faith—all right before you, day to day, all year long. Also arriving are this year's new Christmas cards, so be sure to take a look and check back as we add even more of them to the selection in the coming days.
We never let a newsletter pass without at least one book to recommend. Having recently celebrated St. Therese’s Feastday, our community enjoyed re-reading together portions of My Sister, St. Therese, by the Saint’s own sister, Celine (Sr. Genevieve). If you think you know St. Therese’s “Little Way” to heaven and have not read this little classic, think again. No one gives as much insight into the evangelical aspect of St. Therese’s message as Celine, who, in order to help other souls, candidly tells of her own stumbles along the way to loving God well and serving Him faithfully. The other excellent and favorite book like this one is Thérèse of Lisieux and Marie of the Trinity, which is the reminiscences of another of the Saint’s novices. But after St. Therese’s own writings and sayings (Story of a Soul, Letters, Last Conversations), what best conveys her salutary wisdom, is a collection of the testimonies given during the process of her beatification. The witnesses of her life and holiness, those who knew her best, could best pass on her example and guidance for reaching Christian perfection. We once offered this valuable book, but since it is now out of print, we have been searching among our good rare book sources to do a little stockpiling—for people like you. If you have interest in this incomparable little volume, from which we here in Carmel have gathered so many lessons in simplicity and loving abandonment to the good God, drop us an email.
St. Joseph’s protection and intercession continues to bring blessings upon the work and apostolate of our sacramentals and gift website. We are grateful to all who support Carmel through our website and express their interest and encouragement. We have shared with you how hesitant we were, 11 years ago, to involve ourselves with websites, Internet, and email at all! For cloistered nuns who have left the world and all its attractions and involvements, to have literally “the world at our fingertips” seemed quite contrary to our purpose and vocation. However, encouraged by the friends who told us that a web site would actually assist in keeping the silence and enclosure, we took the leap. And as a dear priest friend told us, “You cannot expect to do the work of today with the tools of yesterday! Be at peace, then, and use it as a tool for God’s work.” The far-seeing wisdom of these friends has shaped and directed our work—and helped us persevere in difficult times. As the years pass, our web administrators and friends advise us that our website must keep up with the fast-paced world of technology and its changes. In the coming months, we will be working with these good friends to update our site, helping to make it yet more of an instrument to accomplish God’s work. But don’t worry! There won’t be anything missing, nor anything drastically changed. Rather, the “update” will enable us to bring in more of the wonderful Catholic sacramentals, books, devotions and doctrine for which so many come to our site. So in the coming months, please keep us in your prayers as we work toward this goal.
Of course, we never let the grass grow under our feet. The snapshots included here may best tell the story of the last 5-6 months. Another First Profession of one of our novices rejoiced our community on July 20th, the day Carmelites celebrate the feast of the Prophet, St. Elias. These first vows are taken for three years, and the novice continues in a deeper way to live the cloistered religious life, relying now ever less upon self, ever more upon God’s grace to sustain her in her vocation. Your prayers for our young Sisters are most appreciated.
The little bit of “farming” we took up, as we wrote last spring, brought forth some happy results through the summer. What a treat to have several varieties of fresh lettuce, Swiss chard and spinach, along with plenty of healthy parsley and other herbs. And now we’re enjoying the early harvest of the late-season plantings that grow better in cooler weather. The little cold frame greenhouses are working for us! And besides, the Sister who tends least to get outside, so often being buried in rosary orders, was the logical choice of Mother Prioress to take on this project—a motherly choice that worked for Sister’s good health—and everyone’s!
A few landscaping projects fit into our early summer. We finally solved the problem of one hopeless, little slope near the house that would not grow grass. Two Sisters who have experience with stones and cement put in small stone steps, and we planted a small shade garden around a pleasant fountain. Sewing projects never end, and making new habits for some of the older Sisters at last made it to the “priority list” in the sewing room. Canning of fruits and vegetables from the farmer’s market has been keeping the kitchen Sisters up to their elbows in pots, steamers and other canning equipment. The outdoor statues all needed cleaning and re-painting, so Sister Painter has spent the last week puzzle-piecing in time to take care of this, amid her other duties. With colder weather on the way, she had to work with speed and as early in the day as possible—and the results are that we have these images looking beautiful and new again. The Gospel teaching about being good stewards urges us always to keep up on regular house and yard work around the monastery. Soon enough, it will be time to rake the aspen leaves again, as they are just beginning to turn their annual shimmery gold.
We close with assurance of our prayers. Despite the peace of Carmel, we are not unaware of the very great lack of peace in the world at large. Following in the footsteps of the Saints, let us all take up the arms of prayer and sacrifice, especially through the Holy Rosary, to obtain hope and peace for this troubled world—the peace Jesus Christ Our Lord promised to those who follow Him in faith.
God bless you!
The Carmelite Sisters
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