Thursday, February 1, 2007

Mother Elias (con't)

Mother Elias had long feared that the dangers to the nuns would force the Carmelite community at Aguascalientes to flee the country. In her monastery there was a young nun of singular beauty whom, it was rumored, the local revolutionaries were planning on kidnapping. At night Mother would hide the young sisters in chests and cupboards and would herself keep vigil until dawn, guarding the door of the enclosure. She knew she had to get them all to safety, somehow. The hair of the nuns was shaved or cut very short so Mother Elias had made wigs from the novices' hair. In 1914, disguised in wigs, bonnets, and secular clothes over their wool habits, Mother Elias and the younger sisters escaped to Cuba, enduring many perils en route.

After establishing the young nuns safely in Cuba, Mother Elias returned to Mexico to rescue the older nuns of her community who were in danger of starvation and imprisonment. Traveling with a young novice, she was apprehended by the authorities and placed under arrest. The two nuns stood for stood for three days and three nights in a prison cell with twelve inches of water on the floor. In desperation, Mother Elias prayed to the Little Flower, promising to establish a Carmel in her honor if she were delivered from prison.

After a brief interrogation, in which Mother refused to divulge the hiding place of her other nuns, she and her young companion were marched before a firing squad. Shots rang out; the nuns were left lying motionless on the ground. Some hours later, Mother Elias regained consciousness and found that there were no wounds on her body. Both women were unhurt and a mysterious stranger showed them how to slip away from the prison unseen.

After many more narrow escapes, Mother Elias made it to the rest of her community. They managed to flee to Cuba, and then to New Orleans. In 1915, they were invited to Grand Rapids, Michigan, where Mother Elias founded the Carmel of Our Lady of Guadalupe, a community still thriving in Ada-Parnell, Michigan. In 1919, Mother Elias fulfilled her promise to Saint Therese by establishing the Carmel of the Little Flower in Buffalo, New York. In 1923, she founded the Carmel of Saint Teresa in Schenectady, New York, now removed to Rochester, New York.

Eventually, Mother Elias returned to the Grand Rapids Carmel and died there on February 28, 1943, leaving behind her a heritage of heroic determination to please God in all things. Many stories of prodigies surrounding Mother are told in the monasteries which she founded, even to this day. She had great devotion to the Infant Jesus, and a beautiful, life-like statue which is now at the Ada-Parnell monastery. Once, during her travels through Mexico, trying to avoid arrest, Mother was on a train, dressed as a housewife. She had the statue of Baby Jesus in her arms wrapped in a blanket, like a real baby. There were revolutionary soldiers on the train. One of them, vigilant for escaping religious, noticed Mother Elias and her little bundle. "That baby is being awfully quiet," he said, and started over towards Mother. At that moment, the statue of the Infant came to life, and began to wail like a living child. The soldiers left Mother alone.
(See The Dove With The Scarlet Collar by Mother Teresa of Jesus, OCD and Dr. Jose L. Morales) Share

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

Such an extraordinary person! We who live in comfort and find commuter traffic overwhelming......Thanks for relating her story.

Anonymous said...

Does a Carmel exist in New Orleans and Cuba, or was she just sojourning in those places until setting up permanent houses in Michigan, Buffalo and Schenectady? Who established the Carmel in Mexico where she was nun? How did she end up establishing the Carmel in Schenectady? She ended up in such cold climates!

elena maria vidal said...

Hi, Alice, I don't know anymore who founded the Carmel in Mexico. Mother E. stayed at the Carmel in New Orleans, which is still there. There also was a Carmel, probably several once upon a time, in Cuba. The nuns always stayed with other nuns, when possible. She went to Schenectady and the other places in the USA because she was invited there by the Bishop of the Diocese. Yes, I heard that the cold was hard to deal with!!!

Anonymous said...

What a fascinating and exciting story! Surely she is a saint in heaven! I had never heard of her before, thanks so much for the information and beautifully written post.

elena maria vidal said...

Yes, she is a little known saint. a very strong-willed woman, she had some clashes with bishops, and the Carmelite fathers, too, I think.....

Anonymous said...

What an incredible story! What perseverance and fortitude Mother Mary Elias possessed, virtues so lacking in our society today. Thank God for giving us such examples of inspiration. SST