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September 2012 Newsletter

  Solemn Chanting of the Salve Regina September 2012  


In this edition:        

  • St. Therese as She Was
  • Website News
  • Community News

St. Therese
"Let us go forward in peace, our eyes upon heaven, the one goal of all our longing."

Pax Christi!

Dear Friends of Carmel,

As September draws to a close, Carmelites all over the world recall with fraternal love and admiration the generous life and holy death of St. Therese of Lisieux, "The Little Flower". In many monasteries, ours included, her feast day at the beginning of October is anticipated with a special novena of prayers (A beautiful novena may be found in the Carmelite Devotions book). But we know this dear and great saint of God has the friendship of more than just Carmelites, though she lived over a century ago. Young and old, saints and sinners alike, have found in her an ally, a wise counselor, a teacher of virtue... a true spiritual sister.

But as we know and have remarked in a past newsletter, St. Therese can be misunderstood. The Way of Spiritual Childhood, as she called her "Little Way," has often been mistaken to mean childishness. And childishness is the strange, cowardly, self-willed misinterpretation that has led quite a few people on a path quite the opposite of what the Saint taught. Her simplicity was far from ignorance and removed indifference. Her "littleness" and humility were far from the wallflower, weakling behavior that often is nothing but withdrawal from responsibility. No, St. Therese was generous, strong and courageous. "His Majesty," writes St. Teresa of Avila, almost in prophesy of what her namesake and Carmelite daughter would be, "desires and loves courageous souls if they have no confidence in themselves but walk in humility." And so, Father Gabriel explains, "Christian fortitude is neither rashness nor presumption... To become generous, we must first learn to forget ourselves, our own interests, our convenience, our own rights, making no account of weariness or pain. We must have but one thought: to give ourselves entirely to God and to souls... Such is the program of the generous soul. It desires nothing but to spend life, strength and talents in serving God, knowing that it is in the total gift of self that the greatest love consists." (Divine Intimacy) St. Therese herself said, "To love is to give all—and to give oneself." And when asked how she was able to reach, near the end of her life, such unchangeable peace, her answer was short and to the point: "I forgot self, and I was careful to seek myself in nothing."

Another misinterpretation of St. Therese has tried to place her in the defiant age of the mid-twentieth century, and has thus construed odd notions about what she wrote and said about herself. For example, about her exuberant expression of her desire to be all for God, including a priest and preacher, they say, "Oh! She thought women should be priests!" But no. St. Therese did not rebel against the laws and traditions of Holy Church. The only rebellion in the heart of Therese was directed against herself; against her oversensitive nature, her self-love and self-will. Truly, this was the "rebellion" of all the Saints. One is reminded of the clever quip of St. Francis de Sales, that great spiritual director who knew human nature so well, "Our self-love and self-will only die 15 minutes after we die." And here we face once again the salutary reminder that the struggle for perfection is a lifelong endeavor, the constant effort to fulfill the loving commandment of Christ Our Lord: "Be perfect, even as your heavenly Father is perfect." St. Therese came to the end of her own struggle, knowing basically two things: her own poverty and God's wealth, her own misery and His great mercy. "I am happy to come to the end of my life so imperfect and so in need of God's mercy!" Aware of God's gifts and graces to her all her life, she could say in her last days to those who tried to praise her virtue, "It is to God alone that all value must be attributed; there's nothing of value in my little nothingness... What pleases God better than the most generous aspirations is to see me love my littleness and my poverty; my blind trust in His Mercy. This is my only treasure." How good the good God is to give us such friends to help us on our way to Him! He is truly wonderful in His Saints!

The Little Flower Prayerbook: A Carmelite Manual of Prayers

30 Days with Saint Therese of Lisieux

Another of our unique Christmas cards

St. Therese is so loved by the faithful that there are forever new books being published about her. We don’t really like to use the word "popular" for God's magnificent creation of His Saints, but in this world that is the word that fits: St. Therese is popular. Not all books about her are good, having some of the faulty interpretations mentioned above. But we are very pleased to offer two new publications that represent the Saint well. One, originally published in 1926 and now faithfully re-typeset, is an introduction to the time-honored Carmelite prayers and devotions that St. Therese herself practiced during her lifetime. Like our Carmelite Devotions book, but more specific to St. Therese and including some of her own spiritual writings, is the book The Little Flower Prayerbook: A Carmelite Manual of Prayers. The other book, 30 Days with Saint Therese of Lisieux, is a small volume that places together, for each day’s reading, passages from Holy Scriptures and the wisdom of Saint Therese for a 30-day devotional, perfect for carrying wherever you go.

The new Seraphim Liturgical Calendar is now available. The best liturgical calendar is now even better, with color illustrations. Devotional and inspirational, it is just a perfect calendar.

No one likes to admit that time is passing quickly and soon December and Christmas will be upon us. We only bring it into focus for the purpose of reminding you about our Christmas cards. With each year, we find that the unique cards we offer are more in demand, and last year, some folks who shopped late were disappointed not to be able to get the quantities they had hoped. So be sure at least to order your Christmas greeting cards—and save the other shopping for later!

Ancient illuminated Nativity art Christmas card  Special embossed Christmas card

Before leaving "Website News" we wanted to update you on the website itself. In our last letter, we told you how our faithful web administrators continue to work out the "bugs" for the new website system. Well, the bugs continue to challenge their endeavors—but only for one aspect of our site. It is probably the most frequented part of our site. It is the monster we ourselves have created over the last 12 years. It is that interesting and quite amazing thing that has so often taken on a life of its own through all the wonderful people who have used it. It is our "BCR"—our Build a Custom Rosary feature. Pretty much any website software can handle individual items, but this unique feature of our website requires powerful tools to make everything work out well for personal rosary designing. Careful, expert attention is going into this important work to make sure that the software can handle the many detailed elements and choices of a special rosary that will last a lifetime and beyond.


Ripening fuji apples

Sister lifting a jar of bubbling pears from the canner

Sister on retreat

Retreat Sister enjoying the fall garden colors

Enough fellow gardeners have written us about the fruits of our labors that it seems fair enough to give a little report and an apple update, at least. We have enjoyed bowlfuls of green and yellow beans for the last two months, and we have cucumber and cherry tomato plants that won’t quit! The apples have grown to full size and are ripening nicely. The Sister who knows about pruning obviously doesn't know about ripeness, since she had to go for advice to the Ohio farmer's daughter to ask, "Well, when do we pick them?" Sister farmer's-daughter patiently responded that apples are not ripe until they start falling off the tree. Which means the rest of us have to be patient, too. But we are doing our regular round of canning of other fruits and vegetables from the local farmer's market, and that keeps several Sisters plenty busy through most of August and September. During winter, we know ourselves to be blessed to have God's delicious harvest served up generously at our simple meals.

Sister dating jars of the beets she canned earlier this month  Keeping plum dumplings warm in the oven before dinner

Don't family traditions so often center around food? One of our community's fall traditions is for two of our Sisters to make plum dumplings. They both knew a dear old Bohemian lady who taught them how to make these juicy wonders and shared her family recipe. Now, the recipe calls for Italian prune plums, and for some reason these plums are not available each year in our area. But this year they were, so we all enjoyed plum dumplings at dinner one day, which always includes carefully cutting into the treat and watching the purple juice squirt out! Our Sister who was once a licensed dietitian assures us that this is a nutritious treat, since it has milk and eggs and butter and potatoes...

Sister doing another repair on the Requiem vestmentThe Sewing Sisters continue in our never-ending venture to produce beautiful Mass vestments. There is research involved in this quest, since we always look back to the experts to see what masterful designs were created in the days when liturgical art was a dedicated prayer. There is no word but exquisite to describe the handwork holy Religious once did making vestments. We hope someday in the future to reproduce a Requiem Mass vestment with a weeping willow design. The silver stumpwork is now tarnished with age on this old black velvet vestment, which has been the object of many painstaking repairs in its 100+ years. But we hope to carry on its legacy with our embroidery. The symbolism of the willow draping over an iron-work cross evokes both sorrow and hope of eternal life. All of this reminds us to remind you that November will soon enough be upon us and with it special remembrance of our departed loved ones. Once again, we invite you to send soon—and anytime through the month of October—the names of your dear ones to be remembered at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass on November 2nd, All Souls' Day, and throughout the days of November. (Donations given are not for the Carmelite Monastery, but are passed on as stipends to the priests who will be offering the Masses for the souls whose names are submitted.)

As always, please know of our prayers for you. May Our Lady of the Rosary bestow her motherly love and peace to all!

Your Carmelite Sisters

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