Pope Francis officially closed the Door of Mercy ending the Jubilee year of Mercy on Nov 20th 2016.

After closing the Holy Door in St. Peter’s Basilica – the last one open in the world – the Pope processed to the square outside, where he celebrated Mass with the 70,000 pilgrims present, according to Vatican security.

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Joint Letter from the O. Carm. Prior General & O.C.D. Superior General on the occasion of the Jubilee of Mercy

OCD & OCarm cross threshold of Holy Door of Mercy in St Peters

Click to Listen to the official hymn of the Year of Mercy

For resourses on the Year of Mercy click here>>

Carmelite Words of Mercy

Bl Marie Eugene of the Child Jesus

Fr Marie Eugene of the Child Jesus was beatified in Avignon on November 19th 2016.  The discalced carmelite priest & founder of the secular institute Notre Dame de la Vie whole life was marked by the powerful influence of the Holy Spirit and Our Lady.  He had a great devotion to St Therese whom he said protected him by her intercession during his time in the trenches of World War I.  He discovered the writings of St John of the Cross which inspired him to enter Carmel after finishing the seminary.  His love of the writings of St Teresa of Avila are evident in the 2 great treatises of her works which he wrote - 'I want to see God' and 'I am a daughter of the Church'.  To read more about his life click image.

To watch the mass of Beatification in full

 

 

St Teresa of AvilaFather General Saverio Cannistrà, OCD
Homily, Solemnity of St. Teresa of Jesus
October 15, 2016
Pontifical Institute of Spirituality Teresianum, Rome
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A year ago, on October 15, 2015, the celebrations of the fifth centenary of the birth of Saint Teresa were concluding. With a year’s hindsight, a question spontaneously arises: have the preceding years of preparation and the year of the centenary, with all the events that occurred within it, changed anything in our lives? Personally, with all the prudence required by that question, I would say, yes: the year, or better said, those Teresian years, have almost forced us to listen to her voice anew, with that unmistakable tone born of simplicity, sincerity, and a passion for what was discovered. Let us admit it: it is difficult to remain indifferent in the face of this woman’s style of communication that is capable of sounding deep chords in our hearts, our humanity, our Christian and religious being.

It is precisely this close proximity and this open trust in her, our Holy Mother, that leads us to question ourselves about the way in which we are living and witnessing to her charism. As many of you know, after the General Chapter held last year, the Order has begun rereading our Constitutions. At the moment, we are working on the chapter dedicated to prayer and communion with God. For at least the past fifty years, we have been living through a prayer crisis in our religious family. I ask myself if we are already accustomed to or resigned to living with it, to the point of not considering it a problem or difficulty that requires us to work at it on the personal and community levels. Naturally, I believe and hope it is not that way in the majority of cases, and that this crisis continues creating within us a healthy preoccupation and a need to strive harder to find that which we have not yet been able to find.

St Teresa of Avila

Speaking of prayer crisis, I am not only referring to infidelity to external acts of prayer. The crisis is deeper than that and touches on the motivations for and meaning of prayer, just as Saint Teresa taught us. Sometimes infidelity to prayer is justified claiming a lack of time and too many occupations. That is true in some cases and sometimes, no doubt. However, in general, I have the impression that cause and effect are being confused; that is: we prefer to fill our time with activities that seem to be evidently and truly useful. The trouble is not lack of time for prayer, but rather the time we dedicate to prayer. Let us not forget that Teresa also experienced this problem, and not for a short time, but for twenty years, during which praying was so troublesome for her that she would have preferred to endure the harshest penance instead (cf. Life 8,7).

In a series of meditations on prayer, Cardinal Martini speaks of three phases or states of prayer: spontaneous prayer, laborious prayer, and prayer that is a gift of grace. In its simplicity, it seems to me to be a good point for reflection. All men, even nonbelievers, experience spontaneous prayer. Spontaneous prayer springs from the heart as a plea for help or a petition for forgiveness or an act of thanksgiving. Life seems to make itself into prayer, needing, in order to be fully alive, to unfurl itself as prayer, perhaps not even pronounced, such as simply a heartbeat or an imperceptible breath. There are experiences that open themselves and open us instinctively to an Other, an interlocutor able to embrace our pain, joy, guilt, and gratitude in all their infinity.

But prayer is not limited to only that, just as living is not only breathing and loving is not only tasting the inebriation of falling in love. The prayer that Teresa talks about is not only that of “childhood” (Life 3,5). It is a life of prayer and as such experiences all the fatigues and difficulties of our earthly journey. A few days ago, a brother was telling me: “But, in the last instance, prayer is a means, not an end.” I have thought about that a bit and must conclude: I am sorry, I do not agree. Prayers may be a means, but prayer, as understood by Teresa, is an end. How could it be otherwise, if prayer means taking time frequently to be alone, as with intimate friends, with Him who we know loves us (cf. Life 8,5)? Or if it happens “like the experience of two persons here on earth who love each other deeply and understand each other well; even without signs, just by a glance, it seems, they understand each other” (Life 27,10). But this, it must be said, is the third phase, prayer as gift, in which the simplicity of spontaneous prayer is revisited, albeit reinforced and founded on the solidity of a relationship of intimate, reciprocal knowledge of the other.

St Teresa of Avila

That is it. Between them certainly, is laborious prayer, troublesome prayer, the one that costs us. But this is also true of love: between falling in love and the peaceful, familiar confidence between old lovers, are struggles, storms, infidelities, and reconciliations. In the same way, there is always an uninterrupted dialogue that leads two people to know each other deeply, descending even into the most hidden, painful creases and wounds that are the most difficult to reveal and accept. This is the difficulty of prayer: the difficulty of faith, or better, of confidence in the other, the difficulty of believing in love, the too great love with which God has loved us, as Elizabeth of the Trinity liked to say, citing Saint Paul (cf. Eph 2,4). Someone defined Teresian prayer as a “story of friendship.” And effectively, if it is friendship, it cannot but be a story, a long story, with its lights and shadows, its dry and tired moments and those others in which we drink with full hands from the fount: nevertheless, a story which we want to live together, never without the light of his gaze, never without the consolation of his forgiveness.

 

Sr Cecilia Maria of the Holy Face died on June 23rd 2016 at the age of 42.  She entered Carmel after completing her nurses' training.  She was diagnosed with cancer of the tongue which spread to her lungs and died after 6 months of intense suffering, smiling throughout.  It is her holy death that has brought her to the fore in media circles, (her pictures went viral).  Photos of her smiling face in the midst of great suffering have touched hearts worldwide.  This is her vocation testimony, in her own words.

Source - Carmel Santa Fe - For those who have asked us about Sister Cecilia Maria of the Holy Face’s Testimony to her Vocation in English here it is: This testimony was published in the magazine “De Posta!” of the Christian Encounter Movement of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe, Argentina, in the year 2009

“Lord, I am happy In the shadow of your wings”

Sr Cecilia Maria of Santa FeMaybe some people are asking themselves how anybody, how a woman could become a nun, a Discalced Carmelite (to top it off, cloistered), those kind that lock themselves up for life!

What must have gone through her head and through her heart for her to make such a decision? I tried to explain it to my parents, my brothers and sisters, my grandmother, my relatives and friends, with all the knowledge that I had and all the knowledge that I didn’t have. After spending 10 years as a Carmelite, I’m inspired to tell it to all of you…

Every story of how God calls a soul is marvelous. It’s like when we climb a mountain and discover unique landscapes that remain engraved in us. And no matter how many beautiful photographs we take, it’s not the same when showing them to someone who has been there. The more that one wishes to tell about it, there still remain a thousand nuances between the soul and God.

Since I was a child, I dreamed of getting married. As I was growing up, I used to think, “either a nun, or married, but never a spinster!” When I was 15 years old, I was even in love with a young man, but the Lord was blocking my path, always making me desire something more, some kind of “I- don’t - know -what.” Just so you can have a laugh, in my Fifth year, I had the chapel picked out, but I was lacking the “specific raw material.” God used a Theology professor, whose classes completely spoke to me of God. Everything was making me desire heaven. I started to go to daily Mass. I went especially with one girlfriend. We always found a lot of friends when we set out. I was really happy that there were so many of us.

I started to have my prayer times. I began to say the Rosary (which I found extremely boring), but I really wanted to love the Virgin!

St Teresa of Jesus (Avila)This same professor introduced us to Saint Teresa of Jesus, the one from Avila, and helped us get to know and love her. I was fascinated by her intimacy with Christ, because in the book of her Life, she was making me pray with her, even though I didn’t know how to pray. She was making me gaze upon Christ. She was teaching me how to pray, which as she said was “an intimate sharing between friends, to take time frequently to be alone with Him who we know loves us.” And here’s a phrase that’s very characteristic of her, that I really liked, that in order to be with the Good Jesus, it’s not necessary to split our heads, because he’s not partial to us breaking our heads, He simply delights in our affection and company.

I dreamt about going to Europe with another girlfriend of mine. One time we even played the Lottery or Quini 6.

Maybe my grandmother guessed my desires, because that year she invited me to travel over to the “old country” and she paid for me to join a tour. Nothing in the world would have kept me from going to Avila (even though it wasn’t on the tour destinations). I wanted to go where Saint Teresa lived – the Mother of Discalced Carmel – but as for the nuns, nothing had occurred to me about them.

It was December 31st. Some friends offered to drive me. First we were going to go to Segovia. I didn’t know that that was where Saint John of the Cross (the father of Carmel) was buried. When “just by chance” I saw the sign, I asked them to please let me out so I could take some pictures. And there, besides his tomb, I begged with all the fervor and yearning of my soul, that he would give me light about my vocation. Well, to tell the truth, I didn’t feel that he responded to me at all. When we arrived at Avila it was six in the evening, in the middle of winter, practically night time. We went to the Monastery of the Incarnation. I bumped into the girls in charge of the museum, who were going to return the keys to the nuns. The doorkeeper, seeing my affliction at having arrived so late, made signs to me that I could go after them.

St Teresa's foundations

They entered into a room made totally of stones (because it was built very long ago, in 1500-and-something) and it was cold enough to freeze yourself in! They were speaking through something wooden – later I learned that it was called a Turn – with a very approachable nun. But you couldn’t see her, you could only hear her voice. I said to the girls would they please ask her if she could stay, because I wanted to talk with her. For me, it was like I was talking to Saint Teresa herself. All I could do was cry and cry. The two girls who came in with me, left me there alone.

The nun who was named “Teresa of Jesus” told me that she saw in me “a vocation as clear as day, and not to wait for an angel to come and tell me in my ear…”

As I was crying, I felt interiorly that the infinite love of God was being offered completely to me. It’s as if when you become aware suddenly of all the love that a person has for you, who you have loved very much – but you never could have imagined HOW MUCH love that was. I felt very small, and as if ashamed to feel myself loved in this manner, but at the same time I felt a tremendous, sweet happiness, the kind that you can’t describe.

Now with the passage of time, as I become more and more aware of my defects and limitations, which I didn’t know about then, I’m even more moved by the love of God. That He could love me so much, even just as I am!

I confess that even with all these signs and graces, it wasn’t enough for me to feel secure. I enrolled in courses for Phonoaudiology praying that they wouldn’t accept me; later I changed over to Literature. Despite my doubts and uncertainties, I never questioned whether I was meant for the active apostolate, or contemplative. I wanted to belong completely to the Virgin Mary (and they had told me that “Carmel was all Mary’s” and all Saint Teresa’s). Finally I entered in the Carmel of Buenos Aires. I was there 5 months. I really liked the life, but I didn’t feel like I was in my right place. When I left, my soul was in complete darkness and full of pain, thinking that Carmel had just been an illusion and not a true call from God. Despite all my efforts, I couldn’t get Carmel out of my thoughts. In the meantime, the night began to get clearer, and even with so much suffering, peace started to come to my soul. The Lord granted me strength, He gave me the firm and peaceful certainty of His call. This dark night only lasted for 3 months, but I had to wait for 3 years to arrive safely at port. With this certainty in my soul, I knocked at the doors of the Carmel of Santa Fe, where I had always felt attracted. By what I knew from word of mouth, I was attracted to its poverty, its radical style, and the joy; but above all, the Lord had made me desire it.

My parents asked me to enroll in the courses for a professional career, and to graduate, before I tried to enter Carmel again. The Sisters also thought it seemed more prudent for me to wait, as did my spiritual director, who followed the wishes of my parents.

Studying Nursing was another gift from the Lord, as well as being at the bedside of so many sick and dying patients. But just in case, I went every year to Carmel to ask again to enter, to see if the Sisters were relenting. My obedience wasn’t very perfect!

During this whole waiting period, the poem that Cardinal Newman wrote before his conversion was my song, here abridged:

“Lead, kindly Light, amid the encircling gloom,
Lead thou me on!
The night is dark, and I am far from home –
Lead thou me on!
Keep thou my feet, I do not ask to see
The distant scene – one step enough for me.
…And with the morn those angel faces smile
Which I have loved long since, and lost awhile.”

St Teresa Benedicta of the CrossAt last, I got my diploma, and on the 8th of December, the Virgin Mary received me into her house. Our most sweet Jesus has granted me perseverance for all these years, and the deep happiness of belonging to Him, of being His spouse, despite my poverty. Of being able to help, in my littleness, to save souls won by His passion, of helping His ministers, the priests, and the Holy Father and the Church, the local Church in Santa Fe, and to help our poor, suffering country. Now Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, another great Carmelite saint, would say to me:

“You are not a doctor, or a nurse.
You cannot tend the wounded. You are shut up in your cell
and cannot go to them. You hear the anguished cry of the dying
and wish you were a priest, to be at their side.
Look at the Crucified. United with Him, you become
omnipresent like Him…Owing to the power of the Cross,
you can be present on all fronts, in all the places of suffering.”

I hope you will forgive me for not having known how to say all this in fewer words. May they count as a thanksgiving for the prayers of so many people to whom I owe my vocation. Starting with my “great-grandmother” Josefina, and my dearest Mothers at the Incarnation, so many priests and friends, especially my parents, my brothers and sisters, and my Mothers and Sisters of this community which is God’s gift to me.

A poor, happy Carmelite,
Who desires to be able to sing each day
With a stronger, more ardent voice,
The mercies of the Lord!

Homily of Fr Eugene McCaffrey given at St Teresa's Church Clarendon St at a mass celebrating St Elizabeth of the Trinity's canonization on the 16th Oct 2016

I remember once I was giving a talk on Elizabeth of the Trinity in our Retreat Centre in Preston when three ladies arrived at the last minute having come all the way from Manchester. I presumed they had a special devotion to Elizabeth and were already very familiar with her life and teaching. Afterwards I spoke to them: they told me they knew absolutely nothing about her but had seen her photograph on a poster in the parish church and said to themselves, ‘That’s a face that speaks about God, we must find out more about her.’  

St Elizabeth of the Trinity I imagine many of you this morning may be in the same position as the ladies from Manchester.  And so I invite you to look at the photographs here on the altar this morning, to look into the face of Elizabeth and let her speak to you; her words are more important than anything I will say.

I’m not going to try to cover all the details of her life but I think it’s important to have a few dates just to place her in some historical context.

She was born Elizabeth Catez in 1880 and lived for the first twenty-one years of her life within the confines of her own family until she entered the Carmelite convent in Dijon where she died of Addison’s disease five years later at the age twenty-six.  

During her life she was unknown to the world at large, highly conditioned by her French cultural background, hidden away for last five years of her life practically unrecognised even within her own community. Yet today she is seen as one of the great spiritual writers of twentieth century and her influence is increasing and expanding all the time, and this morning, even as I speak, thousands have gathered in Rome for her canonisation.

St Elizabeth of the Trinity Elizabeth was not a born saint and we do her no favours if we think of her as some kind of spiritual icon. If anything she was a born rebel; she had, as we say in Ireland, ‘a fierce temper’, and sometimes boiled with rage and fury, so much so that her mother threatened to pack her off to a ‘house of correction’ for unruly children! But she gradually learned to overcome her ‘tears of rage’ and soon blossomed into a bright, intelligent, lively girl who made friends easily, loved music, dancing and was very fond of hiking and travel.   

Elizabeth was a gifted pianist; she often spent four or five hours a day practising at the piano and at an early age began to play at public concerts. She won many prizes for her piano-playing, including first prize in the Dijon Conservatory of Music when she just thirteen. She obviously had a great future ahead of her if she wished to pursue it. But Elizabeth had other thoughts:  already she was tuning into a different voice and a deeper kind of music.

From an early age Elizabeth felt a personal call to prayer and become more and more aware of God’s presence in her life. When she was nine years old she made her First Communion and was given a picture card which explained to her the meaning of her name: Elizabeth ‘house of God’. A small gesture indeed yet one that had a profound effect on her. From that moment she was determined to make that house a ‘home’, a place where God would be welcomed, honoured and loved, where she would always try to be attentive and aware of his presence, a presence that, she gradually realised, was nothing less than the indwelling presence of the Trinity.    

From the age of fourteen Elizabeth wanted to become a Carmelite but her mother strenuously opposed the idea and even forbade her to visit the convent. Though disappointed she accepted the decision and waited another seven years before her mother relented and she was able to fulfil her dream.

Her five years in Carmel were indistinguishable from that of the other sisters, apart from the unseen workings of grace and the action of the Spirit in her heart. In 1904, she composed her beautiful Prayer to the Trinity, one the best-known and best-loved prayers of contemporary spirituality, which has even made its way into the Church’s Catechism.   In spring of 1906 she was diagnosed with Addison’s disease and began a long nine-month descent into suffering, her frail body ravaged with pain and exhaustion, her spirit plunged into darkness and turmoil, and her life distilled drop by drop, sharing, as she had longed to do, in the passion of the one who loved her even to the folly of the cross.

 

Such, in broad outline, is the life of St Elizabeth of the Trinity. But what we may ask is her message and the significance of her life? Has she any relevance for us today, living in the postmodern world of twentieth-first century? 

Elizabeth was born in one century and died in another. Yet in some ways she belongs to neither. Like every saint, she transcends time: she belongs to every age and her message is universal.  Saints do not grow old; they are never just figures of the past; they speak to every age and witness to the world to come.  Elizabeth is no exception. 

It has been said that her message is not always be easy to grasp – if so, it is not because it is difficult but because it is so utterly simple.  Elizabeth is a simplifier, just as Jesus was. Simplicity must be intuited whole, it cannot be taken piecemeal.  The contemplative gaze sees things in their fullness. It offers a vision of the greater reality and of the essential truths that give meaning and purpose to our lives.   Elizabeth’s spirituality, like the musical compositions she played so well, revolves around one major theme: her passionate love for and her joyful surrender to, the Triune God hidden in her soul: ‘God in me and I in Him’, she exclaimed, even before she entered the convent, ‘that is my life.’

 Elizabeth saw all life flowing from and returning to God. For her the Trinity was not a ‘mystery’, a dry dogmatic statement but a truth to be lived and shared, a free gift, a loving presence that we receive at baptism. For her, God was a Lover, a Friend and a Companion.

John Paul II said of her that she speaks ‘with a prophetic force’ and that she is ‘a brilliant witness to the joy of being rooted and grounded in love’. She reminds us of the greatest truth of all: the reality of God and the centrality of love.  One of the last words Elizabeth spoke to her sisters was, ‘Everything passes... in the evening of life love alone remains’.

During the week there was is a large gathering here in Dublin, focusing mostly on the development and wellbeing of young people. It was called Zeminar because, in case you don’t know, we now live in what’s called generation Z!  In a world of ever increasing noise and activity Zeminar acknowledges the stress, anxiety, tension, cyber bullying and the increasing risk of suicide under which so many of us – young and not so young – live out of our fragile lives. Many contemporary movements and concepts were explored: meditation, mindfulness, awareness, the power of the now – all very worthwhile ideas and helpful supports as we try to hold a balance and cope with the pressure and confusions of the world about us.  

Yet, there are other voices we should not ignore: the saints and spiritual guides of every age that carry a wisdom and a sacred tradition as old as time. The   reality is we live in a world where God seems so often to be absent or ignored, a world, in fact, where God is not only missing but not even missed. And then the God of surprises, who so often writes straight with crooked lines, sends us someone like Elizabeth, someone who speaks from her own experience, reminding us that God is eminently present in the world, and his love is real, personal and intimate, despite all appearances. 

We carry within ourselves a rich treasure that cannot be accessed through iPad, Face book or Twitter or from the vast overload of social media that surrounds us. We need to stop and listen. We need silence, we need stillness, time to stand back and open ourselves to the still small voice of the Spirit within. Success isn’t about being rich or famous, but about finding meaning, peace and a sense of who I really am. Peace of heart, true peace is the one thing that can never be counterfeited. It comes from within. And what lies within is much more important and precious than what lies without.

To our disconnected, lonely world, desperately seeking love and friendship, Elizabeth invites us to discover the companionship of God, a God who dwells within each human heart and loves each of us with what she called ‘an exceeding great love’. We carry within ourselves a little heaven where the God of love has fixed his home: ‘I have found my heaven on earth’ she tells us, ‘since heaven is God and God is in my soul’.

Her message is clear and simple, as simple as the Gospel itself: believe in love, a love that is a free gift of the Beloved, given before the world was made. Shortly before she died Elizabeth wrote a short farewell letter to her Prioress. ‘If you only knew’, she said, ‘how much he loves you and how every passing moment he wants to give himself to you’. Six times in that brief letter she repeats the same phrase ‘Let yourself be loved’. I feel she is saying the same thing to us this morning.

Elizabeth was a contemporary of Thérèse of Lisieux, ‘Sisters in the Spirit’, they have been called. Shortly after Elizabeth entered the convent in Dijon they sent a photograph of the community to Lisieux. The Prioress added a few lines: ‘you’ll notice, she said, we have a new novice; her name is Elizabeth of the Trinity. I have no doubt that she is a saint’.

Today that prophecy has been fulfilled. The child with fire in her eyes, the virtuoso pianist with rhythm in her head, the teenager who lived life to the full, the lay contemplative at ease in a world of travel, parties and dance, the nun wrapped in silence, the lover of Christ pouring out her life for the Church and the world, now belongs to all of us – a sure and trusted guide and perhaps, most of all, a friend, a friend who whispers to each of us today: God is love: He loves you today as He loved you yesterday and will love you tomorrow. Receive the free gift of his love: Let yourself be loved.