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MOUNT CARMEL MAGAZINE
 

A QUARTERLY REVIEW OF THE SPIRITUAL LIFE
by
The Teresian Carmelites of the Anglo-Irish Province
AIMS
To help people in every aspect of their lives by sharing and exploring
with them the rich sources of Carmelite teaching on prayer
within the broad perspective of Christian spirituality and life experience.

EDITOR
James McCaffrey, OCD

Assistant Editors
Joanne Mosley

Editorial Advisers

Iain Matthew, OCD Margeret McLaughlin, OCDS
Mary of St Philip, OCD Craig Morrison, O.Carm.
Peter Tyler, PhD. Martin Wray, MA

Cover Design
Joshua Horgan, Oxford

Editorial Enquiries, Articles, Letters to: THE EDITOR,
Mount Carmel Magazine,
Carmelite Priory,
Boars Hill, Oxford, OX1 5HB
United Kingdom
Phone: 01865 730183 Fax: 01865 326478
e-mail: Mount Carmel Magazine

website: www.carmelite.org.uk
ISSN 0307 - 5958

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MOUNT CARMEL MAGAZINE

VOL 66. NO.1 JANUARY - MARCH 2018

 

IN THIS ISSUE

FOCUS
James McCaffrey

Fully Human and Fully Divine: Temperament and the Saints of Carmel
Carmelites of Dysart

Celebrating St Teresa: Messages from our Father General
Saverio Cannistrà

St Maria Maddalena de' Pazzi: A Flame of Living Love
Paula Moroney

John the Baptist: A Witness to Discipleship
James McCaffrey

Voices of the Heart

Consumed by Love: Understanding St Thérèse's Offering (2)
John Udris

Fr Lucius Cary: Carmelite Spirituality and the Sisters of the Love of God
Sr Rosemary

What St Teresa Means to Me: An Apostle of Friendship
David Ellington

St Teresa of Jesus: Contemplation of the Church
Pope St John Paul II

Food for the Journey - Books

 

 

******

 

 

FOCUS

 

James McCaffrey

 

The Church invites us, during the Christmas season, to reflect on the mystery of the Holy Family. And it is a mystery, just as every human family is a mystery - a reflection of the inner family life of God, the family of the three Persons of the Blessed Trinity. At any rate, that is the ideal. And we must never lose sight of it. Paul captures this beautifully for us when he prays for the vast family of the Church and for every family within the Church. Writing to his first converts, he links his teaching with the inner life of the Trinity - Father, Son and Spirit - and with the unifying bond of love:

This, then, is what I pray, kneeling before the Father, from whom every family, whether in heaven or on earth, takes its name. Out of his infinite glory may he give you the power, through his Spirit, for your hidden selves to grow strong, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith and then, rooted in love and built up in love, you may be able with all God's faithful people to grasp the breadth and the length, the height and the depth; so that, knowing the love of Christ that is beyond all knowing, you may be filled with the utter fullness of God.

This is the holiness of the Church and of every Christian family. It is a reflection of the inner life of the Blessed Trinity, and it is for the glory of God. Paul concludes his prayer for the Ephesians:

Glory be to him whose power, working in us, can do infinitely more than we ourselves can ask or imagine; glory be to him from generation to generation in the Church and in Christ Jesus for ever and ever. Amen.

No wonder St Paul speaks to us repeatedly of love when he reflects on the bond that unites every family, be it human or divine:

You are God's chosen race, his holy people. He loves you, and you should be clothed in sincere compassion, in kindness and humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with one another; forgive each other as soon as a quarrel begins. The Lord has forgiven you; now you must do the same. Over all these, put on love to keep them together and to complete them. And may the peace of Christ reign in your hearts, because it is for this that you were all called together as parts of one body. Always be thankful.

Pope Paul VI also points to the ideal of every Christian family, reminding us of the family in Nazareth as a lesson on family life and as a school of prayer, which is so important, he tells us, in our noisy world:

May the silence of Nazareth teach us recollection, inwardness, the disposition to listen to good inspirations and the teachings of true masters. May it teach us the need for and the value of preparation, of study, of meditation, of personal inner life, of the prayer which God alone sees in secret…

May Nazareth teach us what family life is, its communion of love, its austere and simple beauty, and its sacred and inviolable character. Let us learn from Nazareth that the formation received at home is gentle and irreplaceable.

I am reminded of what St Thérèse once said: that in order to know how the saints prayed, she had only to look at the face of her own father absorbed in prayer. Many others have also learned to pray in the same way: prayer is caught, not just taught.

So far we have considered the beautiful ideal and the holiness of family life. But the gospel also reminds us of yet another aspect of family life: its trials, its difficulties, its challenges, its disruptions, its pain and its conflicts. In a word, the many ways in which families can be tested and asked to carry the cross. 'Get up, take the child and his mother with you, and escape into Egypt and stay there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.' No details of this wearying journey are given. It is just one more of the many eloquent and tantalising silences of the Gospels. But this passage significantly evokes again the story of the exodus of the people of God when it speaks about the life of the Holy Family: 'Out of Egypt have I called my son.' This flight of Jesus, Mary and Joseph into Egypt, and their exile there before returning to their homeland, is a kind of cameo - a short sketch designed to evoke the desert experience of the people of God, a re-enactment of their exile from home and their wandering aimlessly in search of the promised land. It has a universal lesson for the whole Church and for every Christian family.

The life experience of the Church and of every Christian family can be a painful and difficult journey in times of adversity. It resembles the exodus experience of the people of God: 'Remember how the Lord your God led you for forty years in the wilderness, to humble you and to test you in order to know your inmost heart.' We hear of the many uprooted and displaced families in war-torn countries today. We have only to think of Sudan, Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq and Egypt. We have seen the images of countless orphaned and neglected children, abandoned children exiled from their native lands and from their family homes, pleading for food with hungry eyes through the lenses of our television screens. There are many families worldwide, bereft of a father or a mother through the ravages of war, and countless children bewildered by their parents' separation or divorce. There are families torn by divisions, jealousy and violence. We have heard the stories of innocent children abused.

We remember these victims of broken families in our prayer - that out of the slavery of their inner Egypt, God may call them to the freedom of the children of God as he called his Son, who was once a weak and vulnerable and innocent child, and who now is one with the hungry, the poor, the abandoned, the imprisoned, the lonely, the wounded, the sick and the dying. And so we pray: Lord, call your Son out of Egypt once again, with all who form part of his wounded body today. Release them; set them free.

'For freedom Christ has set us free.'

 

FULLY HUMAN AND FULLY DIVINE:
TEMPERAMENT AND THE SAINTS OF CARMEL

This article is a compilation by six nuns from the Carmel of Dysart, who recently gave presentations on the temperaments of the Carmelite saints, which is all the more engaging and enriching as these saints were so different from each other in personality. As the article illustrates, the seeds of personality are already evident in childhood, are cultivated throughout life, and ultimately come to fruition in holiness - for, as the article concludes, it is through surrender to God that transformation will come.

CARMELITES OF DYSART

The temperament God gave…
When Edinburgh University Catholic Chaplaincy requested some input from the sisters for their retreat day here in Dysart, they mentioned that the topic they were studying was 'The temperament God gave me'. This gave us the idea of giving short talks on the temperaments and personalities of some of our Carmelite saints. Different sisters prepared these talks, and the following article draws on them with gratitude. This is merely an introduction to a topic which hopefully others will take up in greater depth.

In 1950, a national health survey in Scotland assessed the personalities of twelve hundred school children aged fifteen. In 2012, over six hundred of these people, by now seventy-seven, were tracked down and once again assessed. Two traits - stability of mood and conscientiousness - showed signs of having lasted a lifetime, but other traits had changed. Generally, it seemed the changes had taken place gradually, not overly affected specifically by major events.

With that in mind, we turn to five Carmelite canonised saints. Sts Teresa and John of the Cross of the sixteenth century, Sts Thérèse of Lisieux and Elizabeth of the Trinity of the late nineteenth century, and St Teresa Benedicta (Edith Stein) of the twentieth. Two of these had minimal formal education and died young. Two were intellectual giants and highly educated. And St Teresa led the way for them all in the Carmelite Order, each of them finding their particular path of holiness.

All five suffered the loss of a parent at an early age. Can we say that this early introduction to profound suffering marked each one with an early maturation, a deepened capacity to reflect, a compassion that widened young hearts as they absorbed the loss experienced by their remaining parent as well as their own loss? Perhaps, unbeknown to them, God began to fill the void and they allowed this to develop. So, while the national survey indicated that major events did not specifically change people, I think the roots of life choices can often be traced to such events; and these life choices, in turn, marked our saints powerfully.

Teresa of Avila - a vivacious extrovert
St Teresa of Avila, our foundress, who lived five centuries ago in Spain, was a vivacious extrovert who loved people and wanted to be liked. She devoured the books her mother savoured, as they fed her romantic nature. She was grief-stricken when her mother died when she was fourteen. She then turned more to Our Lady as her mother, a devotion that eventually led to her putting Mary at the heart of her Order. She did not enter a convent very happily. She had sicknesses that may have been, at least in part, psychological, brought on by the stress of not living wholeheartedly her commitment. She was being torn apart, pulled this way and that. Eventually she experienced what she called her second conversion, when she saw a graphic image of 'the much wounded Christ' (L 9:1), and determined to follow him totally and give herself wholly to him. Now, she said, she no longer trusted in herself, but in him (cf. L 9:3). And that is why, this time, her resolution became effective: the centre of her trust had changed.

Those same gifts that had been problematic for her, keeping her tied up with people and their opinion of her, were now turned to the service of the Lord. Her great charm enabled her to found many monasteries and overcome huge difficulties, and her love for people now became a great desire to bring Jesus to everyone, through her prayer. Even her prayer reflected her expansive temperament as she saw God as a friend and related to him in an intimate communion. Although she had visions and other extraordinary experiences, Teresa always came back to saying to her daughters in Carmel that such things were not important: that what was important was loving each other, serving each other, being humble in the sense of living in truth - the truth that we are totally dependent on God - and being detached from what others think of us. Her love for people also led her to say that she wanted all her sisters to be friends with one another - very unusual in that era - and she described prayer as friendly conversation with the one who we know loves us (cf. L 8:5).

Teresa always remained the person that she was, with a capacity for enjoyment, and she ensured that recreation was an important part of the day for her nuns. Also in keeping with her temperament, she continued to involve herself in people's lives, especially that of one of the friars, Jerome Gracián, young enough to be her son. She worried about his health, his strength, the bad weather he had to endure, and she generally mothered and fussed about him. Her temperament continued to influence her behaviour. But Christ was her 'first, fast, last friend', as Hopkins expresses it in one of his poems. And this 'undaunted daughter of desires' could come to say, and live, her words: 'God alone suffices'.

John of the Cross - a gentle introvert
By a different route, forged by a different temperament, John of the Cross, like Teresa, came to union with God - to where there was nada, nada, nada, except God. A gentle introvert, John lost his father when a very young child. His mother, cut off from his father's financially secure family, now suffered near-destitution. His response to the experience of extreme poverty can be glimpsed in his writings and exhortations. Was this the basis of his famous teaching, which he wrote on his sketch of Mount Carmel: 'To come to where you do not possess, you have to go where you do not possess'; 'To come to be what you are not, you have to go by a way in which you are not.' John's experience led him to an inner freedom - from everything. This working towards freedom permeates his works; his asceticism was for freedom to love. And having nothing, he possessed all things, and could write:

The heavens are mine and mine is the earth…
The Angels are mine - and the Mother of God.
And all things are mine, and God Himself is mine.
And all are for me because Christ is mine and all for me. (cf. SLL 27)

John loved to pray in places of natural beauty. He would also take the brethren outdoors so that they could relax and enjoy the wonders of God's creation. Not only did he find God in nature, but he also found all the beauty of creation in God.

In his life, there is no sudden conversion or outward change in behaviour, but the inner resolve and choices for love must have been great during very dark experiences. He spent months, for example, in the horror of a dank prison, yet during that time wrote the 'Spiritual Canticle', full of light and beauty. He was by nature calm and reflective, rooted in deep inner springs. At all the stages in his life, from childhood through adolescence to maturity, one can discern his courage, his compassion, and his ability to cope with opposition from others. All were aware of his deep spirit of prayer and inspired by it.

Wherever he served as Prior, John was loved as a father by his community. He learned to know himself and was able to understand and be compassionate as he guided others on the path to holiness. It is said that his face used to radiate joy and peace. His equanimity was undisturbed by the bad treatment he received from less sainted friars, and he calmly advised in a letter: 'where there is no love, put love, and you will draw forth love' (Lt 26). He lived what he wrote, his temperament secure in God.

Thérèse of Lisieux - born to love
Thérèse Martin was born in 1873 into a very fervent religious family, and from an early age learnt to love Jesus. At age three she was described as very precocious. She was full of mischief, very lovable, very emotional, but she was also self-willed and proud, prone to impatience and tantrums if she did not get her own way. Her mother described her as extremely stubborn - nothing would make her change her mind. Although she was loved by everyone and adored by her father, she was not spoilt. Thérèse was four and a half when her mother died and the family moved house. Her whole world changed - and so did her temperament. Now she was shy and over-sensitive and very easily moved to tears, and she did not enjoy socialising. All this reached a climax when she was ten years old and had a serious illness that was thought to be psychological, from which she was cured by Our Lady's smile.

Her continuing melancholy and ill health brought about an end to her formal schooling when she was thirteen, and she then had a governess for lessons. From around this time she was also plagued by scruples about her thoughts and actions that she considered to be sinful. In Carmel she received help and guidance from her older sisters and from wise confessors, but the scruples only really ended when the word of a priest enabled her to set sail on a sea of confidence.

On Christmas Eve just before her fourteenth birthday, Thérèse received a special grace, and this proved to be a total conversion. Her tears dried up, and childish ways and reactions were replaced by maturity on every level. She became lively, happy, with a good sense of humour, and very much at ease in company again. With her natural temperament restored, and with the grace of God, the stubbornness of her earlier years became the fortitude that brought her to Carmel at an early age, overcoming various obstacles. In the years to come, she was not healed of her oversensitivity or her great dependence on her sisters and authority figures, but her choices enabled her to rise above the enslaving elements and gave her an inner freedom in her dealings with others and in all her relationships. Her writings spell out to us the struggles she went through in her determination to love truly, and her greatness lies here. Gradually she came to see her vocation as love in the heart of the Church. Love for others reflected her love for God.

Elizabeth of the Trinity - a passionate nature
'Elizabeth, with her temperament, will be either an angel or a devil,' declared a priest friend of the family of our most recently canonised saint, Elizabeth of the Trinity. Elizabeth Catez was born into a military family in July 1880, so she was a contemporary of Thérèse. She lost her father at the early age of seven. She had good parents who taught her to love God and try to please him. But she had an extremely ardent and passionate nature and could fly into the most terrible and violent rages. Her early photographs show a stubborn and self-willed expression. There is a delightful letter written to her mother at the age of eight in which she expresses her determination to be a good girl. It was a struggle, but the big change came at the age of ten when she made her First Communion, and she would say, of this exchange with Jesus: 'we gave ourselves to each other completely' (L 178).

There is a dramatic softening of her expression in photographs taken after this. With determined efforts to control her temper, she gradually became a calm and sweet-tempered girl. She had been told that her name meant 'house of God', and this made a big impression on her - the grace of her life was to live and proclaim that God dwells within us. Her ardent passionate nature became single-mindedly focused on loving her God within. While Thérèse chronicled her own journey in love largely through her relationships with her sisters in community, Elizabeth reveals, through her letters and retreat notes, that her prayer and intercession were bound up with living with the Trinity dwelling within her. She desired to be a 'Praise of Glory', to radiate God - to be 'a living smile that radiates [Jesus] and gives Him' (L 252).

Edith Stein - interiority and strength
Closest to us historically is Edith Stein, St Teresa Benedicta, who died in Auschwitz in 1942. She spans the roles of Jewish woman, non-believer, Christian, scholar, teacher, philosopher, Carmelite, martyr and saint. Her father died of sunstroke when Edith was under two years of age. Edith confesses that she was a headstrong child. At times merry and saucy, she was at other times wilful. In fact, she became infuriated when she could not have her own way. Her mother took charge of the family lumber business, and the elder sisters took turns caring for Edith and her sister Erna who was also quite small. At times her sister Else resorted to locking a naughty Edith in a dark place. Edith writes that, when lying in her tantrum on the floor, she would deliberately make herself rigid, and once locked in, did not submit to her fate but lay screaming and kicking the door until she was liberated, usually by her mother. She was a precocious child who absorbed everything.

Edith writes of herself as a seven-year-old experiencing a secret, inner life that she was unable to express. Reason had taken hold and her disposition changed. Temper tantrums stopped, for she felt shame on seeing others lose their tempers. This inner life, which she kept quietly hidden, is what she developed so beautifully in her vocation as a contemplative. She could not readily talk about this interiority, even when she was older; she was known to be reserved.

As an intellectual, philosopher and phenomenologist, she had a critical, even caustic, bent. After her conversion and her growth into Christ, this was replaced by the spiritual maternity she was to consider woman's greatest gift, whether married or single. Her colleagues and students describe her as gentle, patient, modest, loving, humble, happy, lovable, serene, balanced, charitable and holy. She taught that Christ is the perfect model of all personality, and on this model she was formed.

In Carmel she gave herself to the humble daily tasks, she who had walked in the highest circles of academia, and the above qualities were evident to her sisters in Carmel. When the SS came for her, she said calmly to her sister: 'Come, Rosa, we are going for our people.' Edith remained true to her roots and her faith, a strong-minded person rounded by the love of Jesus and his cross, in which she found the source of all good.

The landscape of God's garden
Each of our saints recognised the value and capacity of prayer to change the world - to release love into the world - and saw it as a sharing with Jesus who 'came that we may have life, and have it to the full' (cf. Jn 10:10). That is his desire, his longing for us, and each one of us can have life to the full if we embrace our particular set of gifts with their light and shadow, their potential for good or bad. 'I set before you life or death…; choose life then', advises the book of Deuteronomy (Dt 30:19).

The personalities of each of these saints would have developed very differently, had they not consistently chosen to love. To do this ourselves, we need to be honest, truthful, determined, and to work sincerely on our flaws. But it is only in surrender to God that transformation will come. The saints we have looked at are very different from one another, and together they help provide a little of the landscape of God's garden. What matters is to be fully the person he has created us to be. As St Irenaeus says: 'The glory of God is the person fully alive'; and again: 'The Christian is called to be fully human and fully divine'.

 

MOUNT CARMEL VOL 66. NO.1
JANUARY - MARCH 2018