Discalced Carmelite Friars

Province of St. Therese

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Zelie and Louis Martin


Unavoidable Weakness

What unavoidable weakness in yourself do you struggle to accept?

This question for reflection in our parish’s weekly newsletter caught my attention, with its specific attention to unavoidable weaknesses. Like most, I struggle mightily (or often not so mightily) against the sinful dispositions which sabotage my desire for holiness of life. But it has helped especially in my more mature years to recognize and accept the natural limitations I bring to the table of work, relationships, vocation as a Discalced Carmelite living in the world. First and foremost has been the challenge of being woman, wife, mother and Christian disciple in the home, while struggling with ‘disorderly conduct’! Those up close and personal relationships in which my primary vocation is lived are the most constant mirrors of my unavoidable weaknesses. By nature I love silence and solitude. Family Life by its own nature provides obvious challenges to those essential elements of my
natural inclinations. I used to feel guilty that I would be upset by my children’s demands on my attention when I was immersed in a good book, or The Good Book! I would be lost in thought when that most common word in our family’s lexicon sounded: Mom! Yet even then, by the grace of God and the silent voice of my own Mom - the Blessed Mother - and the Holy Spirit of God within me - I would be able to respond more often than not as they needed.

Recently, however, I have been diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder. At age 72. ADD simply names an unavoidable weakness I have lived with all my life, without knowing there was a reason for my inability to manage life and work as others seemed to do with so little effort. I had named it myself - Scatterbrained - and used it as an excuse, but always with frustration, embarrassment, and simply living in the messes of its effects. We never had a housekeeper in the years when I was raising our four children; as much as I loved being a homemaker, I was never an orderly or skillful housekeeper. Now our children are grown and living their own lives, we have a housekeeper come every other week to bring order to my messes. I am so grateful for the gift she brings of good order.

Strangely, to me, I look back over my 72 years and see how often, in groups of all sorts, I was chosen for a leadership role by my peers. I still puzzle about what they saw in me that I knew I could not possibly have - from my perspective, organizational skills and competence to carry out long-term projects / business, to keep the group going. I used to acknowledge readily that “I hate Roberts’ Rules of Order!’ The truth is I could not function according to Mr. Roberts’ Rule. They had no meaning for me. Always, I recognized the need for others to assist me where I fell short of resources. Secretaries, treasurers, parliamentarians (smile) ... and friends who would pray for me. I came to see that I did best in short-term projects, and in initiating creative ideas for others to carry out! Vacation Bible School and Families For Prayer, when our children were young, are good examples. We had good success under my leadership, but all sorts of people brought their gifts and resources to the table in order for that to happen. There was never a danger of presuming to take credit for the success myself. And soon I could hand the business over to the next leader.

Attention Deficit Disorder is, for whatever physiological mystery of a reason, an unavoidable weakness in my life through which God has trained me up in the fine art of ‘fraternal communion’ - community life among my brothers and sisters - along the way. We need one another to be fully ourselves. This is obviously a truth of the Discalced Carmelite Secular vocation. It is evident, too, in the stories of our Saints. Reading the Letters of Saint Teresa of Jesus, we see clearly how, as clever and strong and mostly sensible she was, she depended on others to carry out the projects, to do the work with her. And Saint Teresa bequeathed to us, her sons and daughters, the great Marian gift of believing the Word of God and acting on it, in humility, detachment, and charity . no matter what unavoidable weakness we bring to the task. ... I wonder how many Carmelites have ADD.



Written by A Carmelite Friend
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Other Blogs by Secular Discalced Carmelites:

  • Bethany Hang Out – a blog by Shawn Chapman, OCDS. Shawn is a member of the Austin community of Secular Discalced Carmelites. She also writes regularly for ATX Catholic online.
  • Elizabeth Explores Writing – a blog by Elizabeth Ogilvie, OCDS. Elizabeth is a Secular Discalced Carmelite of the U.S. Central Province.
  • Gray Rising – a blog by Tim Bete, OCDS. Tim is a member of the community of the Secular Discalced Carmelites in Dayton, OH.
  • Hearth Cake and a Jug of Water – Mary Bellman, a member of the Dallas OCDS community, sends out a daily Carmelite quotation by e-mail. Send her an email at bellman.mary@gmail.com if you would like to be added on her mailing list and receive these Carmelite quotations.
  • Illumina, Domine – a blog by Pat Enk, a Secular Discalced Carmelite of the U.S. Central Province.