Monday, July 23, 2007

Our Lady of Grace



Today is the Carmelite feast of Our Lady, Mother of Divine Grace. Actually, I found out only yesterday that the feast has recently been transferred to July 19. Oh, well....

Several people have asked me about my spiritual journey and how I got involved in Carmel. In 1986 I had just received my Master's degree when I visited the cloistered Carmelite nuns in Schenectady, NY. I was fascinated with their austere, radical way of living the Gospel. I began reading the works of the Carmelite saints and going to daily Mass. However, there was also someone I wanted to marry, but I was not sure about him. So I prayed for guidance.

Every day after 8 am Mass at St. John's in Frederick, Maryland I would stay after and pray and I noticed one other lady who did the same. One day, the lady came up to me and introduced herself. Her name was Mrs. Quinn and she had eight children. I told her about my interest in Carmel and my discernment struggles. She told me that she and her husband were both "Third Order Carmelites" and she invited me to attend a meeting with them in Baltimore some Sunday. I loved the community and joined it.

The Third Order or Secular Discalced Carmelites are composed of lay people who make promises of poverty, chastity and obedience according to their state in life. They can be married but try to live the Carmelite charism of prayer in the world, in the spirit of the Holy Mother St. Teresa of Jesus. They commit themselves to saying parts of the Divine Office, including Morning and Evening prayer, as well as spiritual reading and at least a half an hour of mental prayer a day. Daily Mass is also encouraged, and devotion to Our Lady. Monthly meetings are required and an intensive formation period, too. There are certain days of fast, such as the vigils of some Carmelite feasts. The "habit" of Teresian Carmelites is the small brown scapular which symbolizes consecration to the Mother of God. Carmel is "Mary's order."

Being a tertiary has been a great mercy to me, for it has given a discipline and compass to my spiritual life. I have received much help, guidance and support over the years from my brothers and sisters in Carmel. It is a challenging but joyful vocation, of which no one is worthy, for like any vocation it is a gift from God. Share

9 comments:

Terry Nelson said...

I had no idea the feast was transferred, I wonder why? Since this is the old octave of the feast of Mt. Carmel. I don't like that.

elena maria vidal said...

I know; it is annoying. A Carmelite priest told us yesterday at our meeting that it was changed because today is the feast of St Bridget of Sweden, a patroness of Europe, and Europe needs prayers.

Terry Nelson said...

I just checked - in Europe it is celebrated on the 19th - the Discalced Carmelite calendar still lists it on the 23rd - and my local monastery continues to celebrate it on this date. So we are fine.

elena maria vidal said...

Thank the Lord! I am so glad to hear it!! The priest who told us is wonderful but he is Calced and they are not always up on what the Discalced are doing. Thanks, Terry, for finding that out for me!!!!

Rachi said...

I have been thinking about investigating the Carmelite order...I have been asking people about it. My great-grandparents were 3rd order Carmelites- I didnt realise the connection it had to St Elijah until Grannan's funeral in March. I wish I had been able to talk to her about it.
I am doing some light reading, but the real investigations will begin in 3 months- when I have finished uni! (I can then devote more time to it)
thanks for writing about your experiences in the order :)

God Bless
love Rachel xoxo

Wendy WaterBirde said...

So glad i read this post after you and Terry figured out it really is today....this really is a lovely feastday.

And i loved hearing your story of how you came to the Carmelites. I used to check out the books on the Carmelite saints in my library so much in grade shool they ended up giving one to me lol (it was my favorite one on St Therese the little flower). I couldnt help it, i was/am so drawn there. But im really not sure i'd have what it takes to actually join the order though, even secularly, i think that takes a rare soul. But i do get drawn. I'd really love to hear more of your journey here...

Paix,

Wendy

elena maria vidal said...

Dear Rachi, I am so delighted you are drawn to Carmel. Definitely, read about the Carmelite saints and visit a Carmelite community.

Dear Wendy, anyone who is drawn to prayer, silence and solitude, who loves Our Lady and St Therese, should certainly investigate the Carmelite order. Sometimes it can be tricky to find the right community; they are all different. Our Lady will guide you if this is meant for you!

Wendy WaterBirde said...

Hi Elena,

Well i do have to admit a lifelong draw, that likely means something. But I tend to be kind of undisciplined and unscheduled and wonder if that sort of personailty does well in any sort of order really. I have definitely thought about it though, even talked about it with my partner, and he'd be supportive of me doing secular orders if that was chosen. Hmmm, maybe i should explore this more.... where does one start in exploring deeper really?

Paix,

Wendy

elena maria vidal said...

Hi, Wendy, I would discuss it with a trusted priest/confessor. Meanwhile, just keep praying.