Discalced Carmelite Friars

Province of St. Therese

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New Apostles Sent Forth

carmelite-nuns-monastery-little-rock
They come from near and far; from within the state and outside of state. Each has a different journey, varying educational background. Some were raised in another faith heritage. They appear at the monastery door each August at the outset of their annual retreat. They come with the director of vocations and his formation team. They are a dynamic group of young men aspiring to the priesthood. A few may be discerners living at the House of Formation located in our parish. Others may be finishing a college course to obtain accreditation prior to theological studies. Some have just completed summertime ministry in one of the parishes and are eager to share their experiences. They join with our bishop and concelebrants for Mass in our monastery chapel.

We nuns behind the grate to the side of the sanctuary provide the music program and instrumental accompaniment. On a few occasions some of the hymns are in English and some in Spanish and likewise the selected readings and homily. As our Vietnamese seminarians and priests increase in the diocese, a first or second reading may be spoken in this language. Joining in the Eucharist with our seminarian brothers binds us together in unity and reinforces the nun’s special hidden apostolate of a life of prayer given us by our mother, St. Teresa. Located in the extern sacristy on a side bulletin board is a poster with pictures and name of each diocesan seminarian. Below this, can be seen a typed list with month and day on which that particular seminarian and priest is specially remembered. During the first gathering of the community at Morning Prayer and leading off the intercessions, the prioress calls by name those listed for that day. This provides an apt reminder to the community to be mindful of those mentioned and to be spiritually present to them as we go about our daily tasks and gather for other community acts.

As spiritual sisters to our seminarians and priests, it is one way of laboring alongside of them as together we seek to grow in holiness and wholeness for his kingdom. Gradually, over a period of several years, it has become a community custom to have this Mass followed by a shared luncheon in the monastery reception room. At a given signal from the director of vocations, we each rise in turn for brief introduction, providing name and present status. It is interesting to see the growth and maturation as they continue their journey on the way to priesthood. Interacting across the tables, the room is soon filled with laughter while the volume swells. Before departing, a new group picture is taken in our chapel and soon they are making their way to the chapel entrance to board buses for their week long retreat before returning to studies.

This year there were a number of changed assignments among the priests and deacons due in part to the great blessing received as gift, eight newly ordained priests! Gradually, a culture of priestly and religious vocations is permeating the whole diocese. Together, priests, deacons, religious and laity in numerous and creative ways endeavor to send laborers into the harvest for the building up of the kingdom. The breath of the Spirit is sweeping across us!

Ghanders-rhapsody-tulipWritten by a Carmelite Sister | August 12, 2018
Email – rhapsodee17@gmail.com
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Surprise Visits

Easter resurrection

Among the joys of Eastertide, I find delight in reflecting on and as it were reliving the surprise visits of the Risen Jesus. Being surprised at eventful times in our lives can reside for a long time in the memory and be conjured up and rehearsed whenever desired.

In the gospel accounts read during the Easter octave there is the surprise of finding the stone rolled back from an empty tomb, two white clad angels and a grieving Mary of Magdala whom the Risen Lord calls by name. Jesus’ sudden appearances to the apostles huddled together in the upper room behind locked doors is also startling…and he even asked for something to eat! Not to be passed over, is the mysterious traveling companion joining two distraught disciples on the way to Emmaus and his sudden vanishing act at table upon being recognized. The invitation to Thomas, personally called forth to see, touch and believe is both joyous and humbling. By the time of the lavish catch of fish and prepared charcoal breakfast by the Sea of Galilee, no one dares to question the reality of his presence. Each surprise visit holds an array of nuanced emotions and questions enveloped in mystery. The disciples themselves, must have recalled and spoken numerous times as they shared together their experiences and feelings. Later, they would recount these experiences to others as they preached and gave witness to Jesus risen.

The gospels also relate other accounts of his appearances to Peter himself, the rock and subsequently, to James. On no occasion does he proceed to scold or dwell on their flight after the betrayal in the garden leaving him all alone to face the fearful ordeal of trial and crucifixion. Instead, he only chides them for their disbelief. After displaying his wounds in hand and feet, he even asks them for something to eat. It is easy to imagine their amazement and steadied gaze as they watch him take each bite of a morsel of baked fish or whatever. And the interior questioning stirring their minds like, “can one who passes through closed locked doors and also vanishes from sight really be eating, swallowing food?” This whole new way of presence is both admirable and mysterious. Only after the descent of the Holy Spirit on each of them will the whole of it come together in their minds. Then they will be transformed and readied to proclaim the message.

As we share meals together with family, community and friends there is or can be that warmth and glow of presence, of support, of shared experiences. On special occasions this becomes even more memorable. Although the externals of time and place differ now, we too can know personally the real presence of the Risen Lord in his glorified body when we receive him in the Eucharist. And what joy it is to know that each one of us is called personally by name. Fittingly, St. John of the Cross in his Spiritual Canticle, (stanza 15) has the bride soul call her Beloved - The supper that refreshes and deepens love.



Ghanders-rhapsody-tulipWritten by a Carmelite Sister | April 20, 2018
Email – rhapsodee17@gmail.com

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Cousins in the Family – Reflections for Advent 2017

Albertinelli_Visitation-e

First cousins can form closely knit family ties when living in the same neighborhood and growing up together with frequent interaction. If one is fortunate to have amicable first cousins, family outings and planned celebrations provide memorable childhood memories.

In St. Luke’s account of the announcement to Mary that she is chosen to become the Mother of God, the archangel Gabriel also brings word of her cousin Elizabeth. She too, is to bear a child and is six months pregnant. Stepping out in faith, Mary freely gives her consent to God’s plan for her. She then prepares to journey quickly to her aged cousin that she might be of assistance. In the light of such unusual happenings, one can admire the remarkable act of self-giving on Mary’s part! At the exchange of greetings between the two women, the infant John is stirred in Elizabeth’s womb and sanctified in preparation for his own mission as precursor. He will grow in wisdom and knowledge and will prove faithful to the end of his unique role. Elizabeth claims our attention for the joy of motherhood is hers also. Of particular notice is her deference to her young cousin Mary, whom she joyfully recognizes as the one chosen to be mother of the Messiah. Elizabeth, the elder and wife of the priest, Zachary, defers to Mary, the younger. These two cousins both upholding each other will continue to pray and work together for the next three months. We are not told whether or not Mary remained for the happy occasion of the birth of John the Baptist.

The scriptures tell us little of the childhood of both Jesus and John. One wonders how Elizabeth and Zachary managed to hide baby John from the slaughter of the Innocents while Mary and Joseph are instructed to flee into Egypt.

The Renaissance artist, Murillo (1677-1682), depicts the scene of the two young cousins, each roughly clad and interacting. Jesus handles a shepherd’s crook while gazing at a full grown sheep close by. He, himself, will later be pointed out by John as the Lamb of God. However, in this scene, Jesus is slightly bent forward while drinking from a shell held by John. Both the shell and shepherd’s crook permit the viewer to identify each cousin. The picture is entitled “Children of the Shell” and one might suppose they are age three to five years old. Such a tender pastoral image is in markedly contrast to the actual violent death awaiting both.

Both cousins leave the family shelter to begin their distinct ministries. John, the precursor, takes up residence in the wilderness resembling Elijah, the prophet. All this to better focus on his mission and free himself from trivialities and unnecessary distractions. St. Mark opens his gospel account used on the 2nd Sunday of Advent, with the ruddy appearance of John coming forth in full view to announce the coming of the kingdom. Fully aware of who he is as precursor, he calls to repentance and invites one and all to conversion of heart through a ritual baptism of water signifying cleansing and change. When Jesus presents himself for Baptism, John, like his mother, Elizabeth, defers to Mary’s Son. The two cousins meet in humble deference to each other. Both are given confirmation of the role of Jesus through the appearance of a dove and the voice of the Father.

Although a figure of importance and sought out by the people, John remains true to his role as precursor and rejects any notion of messiahship. He gladly leads his own disciples to Jesus. The words, “He must increase and I must decrease” echo in the heart for this season of Advent and on into Christmas. Repeating this sentence often can serve to prepare one to celebrate Christ’s coming into our world of darkness. John the Baptist, his cousin, proves a fine companion along the way pointing to Light Himself.


Ghanders-rhapsody-tulip
Written by a Carmelite Sister
Email – rhapsodee17@gmail.com

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Saving God's Word

Holy Bible

One of the great joys of my life in Carmel is moving through the cycle of the liturgical year as we relive the great mysteries of salvation history. Following the cycle of designated readings deepens within me such a relish for God’s word. Our Carmelite way of life with its focus on meditation day and night on God’s word stands in relief and flows into a natural rhythm like breathing. As a Carmelite, one might say that it becomes con-natural.

Sacred Scripture is filled with character studies of real people sharing the same dynamics of human existence as ourselves. Mysteriously, inspired by the Holy Spirit, a whole library of literature provides both structure and diversity as the pen of some sacred writer scrawls across a piece of parchment. This remarkable account of the formation of salvation history is my story and I do well to claim it daily!

Admiring the lyrical beauty of poetry and becoming versed in the metaphorical and symbolic language clothing the word of God came become euphoric while at other times quieting, calming and reassuring. The kingdom of God makes its presence felt, recognized touching the immanent and obvious or soaring to transcendent spheres in invisible mystery; that “ruah” (Hebrew) breath of the Holy Spirit in mighty wind or delicate whispering breeze. For the famished Christian, a whole banquet is spread; wisdom and insight to the willing listener and avid learner. Spirit searches the breadth and scope of creation anxious to abide in such a one when humbly solicited. There within He quietly without utterance, takes delight forming and shaping us to mirror the Incarnate Word so that the Father can truly say this one in all uniqueness is formed to our image and likeness. In the words of Ps 119:160, “Your every word is enduring; all your righteous judgments are forever.”


Ghanders-rhapsody-tulip
Written by a Carmelite Sister
Email – rhapsodee17@gmail.com

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Reflections - Mary’s Assumption or Dormition - August 17, 2017

Titian's Assumption of Mary

Reflecting on Mary’s Assumption into heaven or Dormition (Eastern Churches) meaning her gentle falling asleep, I always feel a little bereft or left behind as it were to continue on without her in this pilgrimage of faith. Her Assumption into heaven, now a dogma of faith, seems only fitting to one so faithful. Perhaps, it was her own yearning to be reunited with her Son that drew forth her last breath. Renowned artists have set forth their best efforts to capture the scene with touches of majesty. The liturgy climaxes with her coronation one week later. Throughout the week following this solemnity, in the liturgy of the hours, the final antiphon at night prayer may change to Hail Queen of Heaven. Is this Queen Mother honored by being received at the right hand of her Son? In the first book of Kings (2:19) Bathsheba, the mother of King Solomon sits at his right on the throne he provided for her. Would that the two brother apostles, James and John, together with their mother been a little reflective on this past event before making their request for obtaining for themselves honored places in the kingdom! However the audacious request was made, the surprising answer of Jesus to them and subsequent instruction to all his disciples is weightier in gold than all that Solomon was able to amass for his magnificent palace and throne. (Matt.20:20-28) The words of the Magnificat placed on Mary’s lips in St. Luke’s account of her visit to her cousin Elizabeth, is for her as Queen, Mother and Sister and ourselves as well, a timeless and fitting refrain of praise and thanksgiving for the gift of her glorious bodily Assumption into heaven and subsequent feast of her Coronation on August 22nd.

“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord;
my spirit rejoices in God my savior.
For he has looked upon his handmaid’s lowliness;
behold from now on will all ages call me blessed.” (Lk1:46-48)

Ghanders-rhapsody-tulip

Written by a Carmelite Sister
Email – rhapsodee17@gmail.com



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Marian Reflection

Mary-and-Jesus

The pleasing ability and nonchalant manner of making excuses characterizes some of the free flowing, familiar style of our holy mother, Saint Teresa. This is particularly noticeable in her early chapters of the Way of Perfection. I find this trait crops up in my own life occasionally. Thus, the long absence of entries for Rhapsodee was due to some personal health issues and the challenge of meeting and dealing with new assignments in community. Some of these latter necessitated spontaneous ingenuity, creative organization and an ongoing prayerful plea for a share in Teresa’s determined determination; and this, with a dash of audacious perspicacity to add a little spice. In following the Lord wherever he leads, one finds the courage and grace to move on in trusting blind faith because “the love of Christ impels.”

Some Marian echoes of our recent evening novena to honor Our Lady of Mount Carmel are tingling in the background as we return to live our ordinary schedule. They come to each of us in as many and varied ways as we ourselves are unique and in different phases of our earthly pilgrimage. Some graces and insights are like thunderbolts and strike suddenly and unexpectedly; others like falling snowflakes, obvious but noiseless. In whatever way these penetrate our daily round of the routine and commonplace, it behooves one to pay attention and open up to reflection and possible change. Far as someone has aptly said, “the unreflective life is a disaster.”

Mary as our sister in Carmel is that which plays in the background like a melodious refrain gently enticing me to live in union with her as she unveils herself as a real sister, teaching and mentoring. I want to imitate her poised compliance of surrender to whatever he asks. The real Mary steps forth in our everyday happenings and reveals herself in numerous ways as the first disciple of Christ. What a joy and privilege to have by experience a little taste of this companionship; yielding the spirit within, one is never wholly satisfied and yearns for more of the same. Hail Mary, full of grace. Come into the life of each of us and accompany us in our desire to please him alone.

Ghanders-rhapsody-tulip

Written by A Carmelite Sister

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A Springtime Retreat – Carmelite Style 4/30/16

toad sitting on a lily pad with purple water lily in the background

Among the many blessings coming my way this Eastertide has been the time apart from community life by way of a solitary retreat. This is a special time offered each sister should she so desire. This time of solitude is separate from our preached community retreat with retreat master and specially prepared conferences.

At the beginning of the year, the prioress posts a list of scheduled two week slots commencing with January and continuing on through early December. Choices are made according to one’s preferences for a particular time of the year, anniversary or simply as one’s assigned tasks permit.

As my own time approached, I considered among options the availability of one or the other of our hermitages on the property and also composed a hasty list of duties where my willing companions might sign up to supply in my absence. Some of these included answering the phone on a given morning, selecting and intoning the hymns for the daily liturgy. Then there were two evening meal preparations to provide and one Sunday dinner. I was asked to keep my sacristy duties and so took advantage of the sacristy workroom. Lest any sister imagines herself to be indispensable, the willing volunteers who come forth prove otherwise. Even at such times, new and undisclosed talents of others have been discovered!

Interior preparations included a mental perusal of some temptations that might erupt both bothersome and annoying. In the past these have included:

The possibility of a wild use of so much free time, (normally being rather scheduled as we are);
The opportunity to read novels and eat chocolates;
Shore up on snacks and savor gourmet jelly beans;
Cram with spiritual conferences so as to escape personal reflection by of way of listening to audio tapes or CD’s;
Use of the same for a whirlwind of musical intoxication of sorts;
Work ceaselessly to get things done building a pyramid of achievement status;
Over indulgence in one’s favorite thing, hobby or craft;
Review past wounds and doctor them up with a dose of self-pity;
Engage in an imaginary “make- over” of community members and strategize ways and means to “straighten everyone out”;
Leave private mental prayer and obligatory liturgy of the hours to the end of the day (usually recited with only one eye open).

On the eve of retreat, taking leave of my community at the end of recreation, I said farewell to each and requested their prayers. Before a favorite image of Mary in my cell, I renewed my offering to her and placed the whole retreat in her care. Taking a few necessary items to the hermitage, nothing remained but to set out into the deep, go forward and trust.

As days succeeded one another with intervals of rain and sun, the self-chosen solitude and quiet bore down serving a purposeful interior spring housecleaning. After early morning Eucharist, I decided to let the activities of the day be punctuated by the Liturgy of the Hours. Gradually, my initial long list of “to do” jobs begin to melt down, with some disappearing altogether. They had been like a weighty suitcase dragging along. Being alone with Him appeared as the one thing necessary. Meals were kept simple and nutritious. Attuned with nature in its verdant growth and beauty was a delight. Even brother toad at one of the ponds in the courtyard captured my fancy. I was never sure if he was protesting my presence or warning of an approaching storm.

As the time drew near for completion of the retreat and as a prelude to stepping back into ordinary community living I sought some means to relish and stabilize the fruitful insights gleaned. These I gathered together to place under the watchful gaze of Mary, Seat of Wisdom. With heartfelt gratitude I sing with her, “The almighty has done great things in me and holy is his name.” As one can see, the cloister provides no surety against secular values gradually seeping inside unawares. However, the shepherd’s voice is gentle and persistent; his rescue sure.

Ghanders-rhapsody-tulip
Written by a Carmelite Sister
Email – rhapsodee17@gmail.com

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St. Teresa’s 500th – Fruits and Reflections

Rhapsodee took a little sabbatical to relish the overflow of world-wide celebrations of St. Teresa’s 500th centenary. Not the least was our own community’s triduum, a real festival with participating friars, nuns, seculars and Carmelite Missionary Sisters from Mexico. The seemingly short winter season nonetheless, provided time to reflect and savor graces gleaned from the five year preparatory reading and study plus the highlights of the events themselves. The mercies of the Lord continue to flow offering renewal and strength as we journey together to the summit of Mt. Carmel.

When the general chapter opened in May of 2015, I found refreshment and new insights as I thoughtfully reread St. Teresa’s Life. This soon became a way of daily accompanying in spirit those of our Carmelite family actually present at the chapter in Avila. Teresa’s candor and manifest humility blazoned across the pages. With gratitude, I relished the thought of being among her daughters and the opportunity to grow in awareness of her presence as teacher and mentor. Other fruits of the 500
th trickled through my mind as I observed the wide platitude of diversity present in my own community and recall her words in Chapter thirty-six of the Way exhorting us to be affable and agreeable among ourselves. This has surged my awareness to new and creative ways of expressing humility, detachment and sisterly charity.

Jesus Christ

Her apostolic heartbeat still compelling, seems to press us onward for the wellbeing of so many groping in shadows of darkness and hindered by hurdles of false values – their destiny unknown. Would that Christ might be the mirror of truth for each of us as he became for her, this woman of “undaunted desires.”

If one is yearning for some teresian reading both relaxing and informative, “The Divine Adventure” from ICS will amply satisfy. The narrative is well written and researched; the pictures stunning. It serves as a worthy companion for those of us unable to travel to Avila and traverse the roads of St. Teresa’s journeys and seventeen foundations.

As spring unfolds and I follow the Master onto Calvary, St Teresa’s strong spirit and determined “determination” spurs me on with guidance, encouragement and fidelity to the hope of encountering the Risen Christ and being personally called by name. Joyful and Blessed Easter tide!

Ghanders-rhapsody-tulip

Written by A Carmelite Sister

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Reflections on the Visit of Pope Francis

Pope_Francis
Photo taken during Pope Francis' visit in Washington, DC
courtesy of Loretta Gallagher, OCDS of Boston, MA

Who would not want to reflect on and savor in the memory the recent visit of Pope Francis to America? I am reminded of the words in St. Luke’s gospel in chapter 7:16b, “A great prophet has arisen among us! And God has visited his people!” In the Old Testament are we not reminded that there are true and false prophets? The Vicar of Christ in his very person has been proclaiming the message of the gospel long before his now historic visit. How joyfully, with determination, he takes to heart St. Paul’s exhortation to become all things to all men. Pope Francis embraces the old, young, sick, and marginalized and every race, color and creed just like Jesus. The gracious composure of his person in the presence of recognized dignitaries whether at the podium of the joint House of Congress or later at the UN assembly is most impressive. Yet in route on parade he could with insistence summon a shy child of five to come forward to receive her staunch request by way of letter. As one among my community members commented: “Sounded like something that St. Therese would do as a young child in her simple bold manner.”

Among other fruits gleaned from his visit has been and continues to be the graced awareness of his intense focus during any liturgical function. At other times, he appears so cordial and jovial, but preceding and during a sacred function his countenance assumes a serious demeanor. The intensity of his recollection is profoundly stirring. It presupposes a well-trained habit of conscious self-discipline, one which I greatly aspire to with the help of God’s never failing grace. How blessed we are to be acquainted with our holy Mother’s teaching on the prayer of recollection in the Way. Hers also, was a very active life and this chapter merits special attention in our very sensate culture.

Indeed, this historic visit will no doubt be indelibly printed in the hearts and minds of many. I am looking forward to reading and viewing other impressions and anecdotes of one kind or another drawing us to enter more deeply into our prophetic calling to love and be loved by our compassionate Father. Christ, indeed has walked among us in the person of Pope Francis. Our gratitude to all the faithful and civil servants who handled arrangements for his trip.

Ghanders-rhapsody-tulip

Written by A Carmelite Sister

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The Gift of September

landscape-autumn

Awakening to the September skies is a delight and one is thankful for the change in weather. Light and shadows play intermittently on the green lawn and a few large oak leaves have begun to fall. In the patio pond, the Koi fish quietly make their way in and out of pieces of drift wood and emerald green water ferns. Occasionally, they stop to play among themselves.

Our community’s attention to the natural surroundings on the property has been greatly enhanced by the reading of the new encyclical, “Laudato Si” given to us by Pope Francis. Care for the creation is much more of a communal concern than previously. We found the document very informative and diffused with Christian ethics. Couched in terms of wholeness, it raises awareness of the dignity of each member of humanity and appreciation for our environment. How readily stanzas four and five of the Spiritual Canticle of St. John of the Cross come to mind:

O woods and thickets,
Planted by the hand of my Beloved!
O green meadow,
Coated, bright, with flowers,
Tell me, has he passed by you?

Pouring out a thousand graces,
He passed these groves in haste;
and having looked at them,
With his image alone,
Clothed them in beauty.
(ICS Translation-1991)

For the World Day of Prayer on the first of this month requested by Pope Francis, we chose to have a special Mass offered for this intention and exposed the Blessed Sacrament in our choir during the morning. Several hymns from the community’s collection in praise of creation were chosen and woven into the Mass program and Liturgy of the Hours. Dinner was more festive and picnic fare appeared on the serving table. Managing our ordinary duties in the afternoon plus the times for prayer, enabled us to free up the evening for a viewing of a segment of the fine BBC CD series, “Planet Earth.” This was a lovely gift given to us by a nature-loving benefactor some years ago. Through it one travels the globe to view the various segments of creation to mountain tops, deeps of the ocean floor, caverns, tropical forests, deserts and the various creatures that inhabit therein; an amazing means of travel for cloistered nuns! This seemed the perfect choice for the day. Of course a tray of popcorn always accompanies such an event! The day closed with night prayer. Our Lady’s final antiphon seemed such a fitting closure as we knelt singing in unison to the Queen of heaven and earth.

Since this special day and the reading of the encyclical, Laudato Si, both Psalms 8 and 104 dance in my memory when they occur in the Liturgy and as I go about ordinary duties. No less memorable is the beautiful orchestral piece of Aaron Copeland, “The Grand Canyon Suite,” which portrays so aptly the four seasons of the year. “May the glory of the Lord endure forever, may the Lord rejoice in his works.”
(Ps 104; 31)

Ghanders-rhapsody-tulip

Written by A Carmelite Sister





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