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An Eastern-Rite Carmelite Monastery

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Holy Annunciation Monastery in Sugarloaf, Pennsylvania, is the only Carmelite Monastery in the Western Hemisphere belonging to an Eastern Catholic Rite. They belong to the Order of Discalced Carmelites and have the special mission to pray for the unity of the Eastern and Western churches.

Mother Marija of the Holy Spirit, Sister Marie Helen of the Cross and Sister Ann of the Trinity (d. 2001)  inaugurated the monastery on February 23, 1977. Fr. Walter Ciszek (may he one day be canonized), SJ, encouraged Most Rev. Michel Dudick, the Bishop of the Ruthenians (Byzantine Church) of Passaic, NJ, to accept them into his eparchy.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, several Byzantine rite girls came to them from Slovakia and Carpathia. In return, in 1995 and 2002, they sent Sisters there to begin the Monastery of St. Therese in Koritnyani, Transcarpathia (Ukraine). In 1999, they accepted Sisters of the Syro-Malabar Rite from South India, now five in byz 3number, who today comprise one third of their community.

Six to seven  hours daily are devoted to prayer and sacred reading. They also operate a bakery with mail order sales (you can request a catalog for Christmas!), design gift cards and breed miniature horses. Check out their website (Carmelites Mini Corral) if you would like to purchase a stallion, mare, foal or show horse!



St.Teresa’s Walking Stick

st teresa of avila tourThe original walking stick used by St Teresa of Avila during her many journeys across 16th century Spain is on the move in honor of the 500th anniversary of her birth. St. Teresa was born on March 28, 1515, and died on October 4, 1582.

The walking stick, which began its journey on October 15, 2014, St. Teresa’s feast day, is on pilgrimage around the world to commemorate this great event. By the time the journey has ended, it will have traveled to 5 continents, 30 countries and traversed 117,000 miles. The places selected are some of sites most important to the Discalced Carmelites as well as the missions in Africa. Already it has been to the United States, Mexico, South America and the Far East. Now it is in Kenya and will travel to many more African countries before it heads back to Europe and the countries of Croatia, Italy, France (Lisieux of course!), the Czech Republic, Portugal and back to Spain.

The worldwide pilgrimage is called the Way of Light (Camino de Luz). The generosity of the Carmelite Fathers in Spain  allowed this eventful pilgrimage to take place. The walking stick is in a special container and is symbolic of St. Teresa’s own spiritual journey. Pilgrims are invited during this special year to imitate her longing for God which took her to many heights and places.

The Superior General of the Carmelites, Fr. Saverio Cansitra, says that her mission is “to remind the Church and human beings of all times that the center of man is God and the center of God is man…. Teresa shares with everyone, with anyone in any place in the world whose journey is lost on an aimless path, what she found: a dwelling and a way.

 stickSt. Teresa herself said, “If they lose their Guide, our good Jesus, they cannot find the way… Our Lord Himself tells us that He is ‘the Way'; He also says that He is ‘the Light’ (John 14,6); that no man cometh to the Father but by Him; and that ‘He that seeth Me, seeth the Father also.’ Such persons tell us that these words have some other meaning; I know of no other meaning but this, which my soul has ever recognized as the true one and which has always suited me right well.”

Rocky Mountain Carmelites

Monastery with Mt. Olympus in the background

Monastery with Mt. Olympus in the background

There is a nice write-up in a local Catholic newspaper on the Carmel of the Immaculate Heart of Mary in Salt Lake City, Utah. In the article, they talk to Mother Margaret Marie Miller who in October was named the new Mother Superior. Mother was one of the five founders who came from Alhambra, California, in 1952 to found a Carmelite monastery in the then-sparsely populated Catholic diocese.

“To be a Carmelite is a real vocation,” said Mother Margaret Marie. “The Lord gives it [the vocation] to you, but you have to be open and you have to be open to whatever he wants from you.”

Mother was inspired by St. Therese of Lisieux and like her wanted to save souls. She considered becoming a missionary but concluded, like St. Therese, that in the cloister she could reach everybody. “That was the thing that struck me. I didn’t even know what the life was going to be like, I just knew that I was going to pray for the whole world. You pray for the whole mystical body and that is what sounded really great.”

ocd utahI am reminded of a priest whose father wanted him to become a doctor. He said, “Dad, as a doctor, my patients are going to die. As a priest, I can lead them to eternal life.” Carmelites are praying people unto eternal life.

She has some practical advice on prayer. “Prayer is very simple; it’s not complicated. Prayer is a loving exchange with someone that loves you. God is all-powerful; His will is Him, so it’s pretty simple: Open your mind and He is with you all the time. It doesn’t have to be complicated; it’s simple.”

You can support the eleven Carmelites in Utah by purchasing their candy and holy cards and the like. You can also get a first-hand glimpse into their lives by watching their very appealing YouTube video.

St. Teresa of Avila

This picture is too wonderful not post on the Feast of St. Teresa of Avila. It shows two Carmelites Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, Sister Mary Scholastica and Sister Inez, with a very young aspirant.

St. Thérèse of Lisieux wanted to enter at age 14 but this may be pushing it a little too far!

ocd la

Thérèse’s sisters Pauline, Marie and Céline all became Carmelite nuns. Thérèse wrote that she too was destined to great things, like St. Joan of Arc, whose exploits “filled her with delight.” However, instead of calling her to combat in the world, she heard “in the depths of my soul a voice that was gentler and stronger still: the voice of the Spouse of virgins was calling me to other exploits and more glorious conquests, and in the solitude of Carmel I understood my mission was not to crown a mortal king but to make the King of Heaven loved, to conquer for Him the kingdom of hearts.”

God bless all of the Carmelites in the world today. May their prayers and good works bring under the standard of Christ many souls.


Giving Their All To God

ocd oaklandA year ago, I wrote about a new cloistered Carmelite community that was being established in the Diocese of Oakland. A daughter house of the Carmel in Valparaiso, Nebraska, the Carmel of Jesus, Mary and Joseph is the only contemplative community in the Oakland diocese.

On October 1, the Feast of St. Therese of Lisieux, Bishop Michael Barber, S.J., of Oakland celebrated Mass with the nuns. He told them that their vocation is similar to the Beloved Disciple, Saint John, saying, “You are the ones who recline next to Christ at His breast at the table at the Last Supper, you are the ones who have that intimate place with Him, by giving your life to Him and coming into the walls of this monastery. You are the ones that people, priests and bishops come to.”

The bishop spoke from the heart for his association with the Carmelites goes way back.

When he was a little boy, his grandmother and aunts would take him to the Carmel of Cristo Rey (an IRL Affiliate community in San Francisco). There he noticed a bowl next to a statue of St. Teresa of Avila in which petitions were placed. Later, as a young man hoping to be accepted into the Jesuits, he wrote out his own petition. Twelve years later another prayer request went in, asking that his ordination to the priesthood be approved. Finally, as a chaplain going to Iraq, he asked the sisters to pray that he and his 3000 marines would be safe during the deployment. Not one of his men was killed.

In a beautiful article in The Catholic Voice, it states that the sisters normally have six lit candles on the altar during Mass. The seventh is lit when the bishop comes. What a beautiful tradition. According to the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, 79: “On or near the altar there are to be candlesticks with lighted candles, at least two but even four, six, or, if the bishop of the diocese celebrates, seven.”

The Carmelites, said the bishop, are looking for “land on which to build a new monastery or an existing building that could be converted.” They try to be self-sufficient and simple, growing their own vegetables and raising farm animals for milk and eggs. The sisters are vegetarians.

Mother Sylvia Gemma has welcomed their first postulant with another expected within the next few months. Said the bishop: “There are women, 500 years after St. Teresa of Avila, who are still giving their all to God.”


The Cross and the Guillotine

In this month of July devoted in particular to the Precious Blood of Jesus Christ, it is fitting that the Church honors today the Martyrs of Compiegne in France. In 1794, sixteen members of the Discalced Carmelite community offered themselves as a holocaust, poured out their blood, to end the bloodshed of the French Revolution, in particular the Reign of Terror.

Their Superior, Blessed Teresa of St. Augustine, said, “Having meditated much on this subject, I have thought of making an act of consecration by which the community would offer itself as a sacrifice to appease the anger of God, so that the Divine peace of His dear Son would be brought into the world, returned to the Church and State.”

Fr. Richard Veras said that these were not melodramatic women. “This was a Christian community who prayerfully and painstakingly discerned and verified a vocation to martyrdom.”

On July 16, 1794, on the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, the 16 women (13 nuns, 2 externs and 3 lay sisters) were brought before a court in Paris, accused of treason, sedition, etc. for holding fast to the ancient Faith of France. Sentenced to death, they were led one by one to the guillotine. As each sister was helped up the steps by Bl. Teresa of St. Augustine, they kissed a small statue of Mary hidden in the palm of her hand (still preserved by the Carmelites). The Reign of Terror lasted only 10 more days after this sacrifice. As Warren Carroll, founder of Christendom College, so beautifully put it in his book on the subject: “The Cross had vanquished the guillotine.”

O blessed Martyrs of Compiegne,

you were offered the choice of life versus death, and you chose life eternal!

We too are asked to make sacrifices big and small for the sake of the Kingdom.

Help us to courageously stand with Christ no  matter what the cost.



“With zeal have I been zealous for the Lord, God of hosts.”

Today, on the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, we reflect on this title of Our Lady as the patroness of the Carmelite order, under which she appeared to St. Simon Stock and presented to him the brown scapular. The Carmelites, who began as a community of hermits on Mount Carmel, Israel, in the 1200s and who point back to Elijah (hermit and prophet) as the first to be fired with the zeal of Mount Carmel, have spread throughout the world and continue to live the charism of seeking a direct and intimate experience of God.

But this kind of intimate union is purely a gift from God, which raises the question, how do we go about seeking it? How do we attain it? The answer is that we simply ready ourselves for it, so that if God seeks to give it, we are there with open hands. St. Teresa of Avila explained our hearts as a garden, which we weed and seek to water, so that if God wishes, He may come into it and take His delight. Carmelites characteristically have a deep-seated desire to be touched by God in this way, and so they accept many purgations and challenges of growing in virtue, that their hearts might become a beautiful and inviting dwelling place for the God Who placed this desire within them.

This union with God is the end goal of all of our lives, although most of us will experience it only in heaven. But St. Teresa tells us that many of us are called to experience it to varying degrees here on earth too. Our Lady of Mount Carmel, pray for us, that we might also desire interior intimacy with God and be willing to do what it takes to be receptive to it!

A Technology Leap of Faith

Not much has changed for the Carmelites over the past 900 years. Their priorities remain unchanged – prayer, solitude and work to support the community. But for the Carmelites of Santa Fe, New Mexico, a new era has dawned – they have a website! www.carmelofsantafe.org

This IRL Affiliate community of 8 nuns was established in 1945 by Mother Mary Teresa who was forced to flee Mexico in the face of the terrible persecution suffered by Catholics in that country. She died in 1997 in Jefferson City, MO, at another Carmel that she also had founded.

The Santa Fe Carmelites are situated in the foothills of the Sangre de Cristo (Blood of Christ) Mountains, on the high desert of northern New Mexico.  They are a part of the Spanish Catholic legacy that has been present in Santa Fe for more than 400 years. Santa Fe means Holy Faith!

The charism of the sisters is guided by their foundress, St. Teresa of Avila, and by St. John of the Cross, another Carmelite. They live in the presence of God, in imitation of Mary and the prophet Elijah, who awaited God in his hermitage on Mount Carmel, 900 years before Christ.

See a story about the Santa Fe Carmelites in the Santa Fe New Mexican

We Are All Carmelites

The Discalced Carmelites from Lafayette, LA, recently sent us some brochures which included some fascinating vocational stories. Two that were very interesting were the stories of  Sr. Joseph of the Eucharist and Sr. Camille of Jesus. Both sisters are from the Hue Carmel in Viet Nam and came to the US at the urging of Father Marion Joseph Bui, a Discalced Carmelite Friar who came to the US himself as one of the “boat People” in 1981 in order to become a priest. He was ordained by Bishop Xavier Labayan, OCD, in the Lafayette Monastery Chapel in 1995.

At the solemn profession of the two sisters, Father Marion Joseph said that being a Carmelite means being ready to sacrifice all, including family and country, for the needs of the Carmelites and the world.

In a meditation on “The Priesthood, Mary and the Carmelite Nun” which I am sure that you can order from the Carmel, it says that the Carmelites have a special relationship with priests, in union with the Blessed Virgin Mary whose life was “inseparably interwoven with the priesthood and sacrifice of her Divine Son.” While the priest carries the doctrine, she multiplies sacrifices; he casts the seed, she waters it with her tears. He is an apostle by his words, she is an apostle by her immolation; and both save souls.

Sr. Camille was in the first group to enter the Hue Carmel after the Communists returned the monastery to them. The sisters have a true missionary spirit and have willingly chosen to come here. “For us, it is not a matter of being Vietnamese, Filipino or American. We are all Carmelites.”


Philadelphia Carmelites Launch First Website

The Discalced Carmelite Nuns of Philadelphia have launched a new website that is quite unique. The information included is primarily videos on their spirituality and heritage.

The order was originally founded in 1593, and in 1902, a monastery was established in Philadelphia by four Carmelites from Boston, with permission from their superior. Eight years later, the monastery was moved to the location where it stands today. Four foundations eventually evolved from this monastery.

St. Teresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross inspire the nuns to live holy lives true to their founders. The spirituality of the order is rooted in prayer, silence, and solitude, which serve to foster growth towards Christian sanctity. Enclosure is also a foundation of the order, and is viewed by the nuns as a safeguard for prayer.

Prayers and sacrifices are offered for the service of the Church and the salvation of the world. Although St. Teresa was never a missionary, she held priests and missionaries in a special place, praying for the clergy, the spread of the Gospel, those who had left the Church, and those needing spiritual assistance. The vocation of the nuns is at its heart apostolic and missionary. It is not an active ministry, but one mystically rooted in prayer.

The stories of this order, and videos, can be found at the new website. A Triduum in honor of St. Therese of Lisieux will be held September 29 – October 1, 2012,  with Vespers, Benediction and Mass.