October 15, 2011

St. Teresa...

Let nothing affright thee,

Nothing dismay thee.

All is passing,

God ever remains.

Patience obtains all.

Whoever possesses God

Cannot lack anything

God alone suffices.

Excerpted from The Church's Year of Grace, Pius Parsch.

October 12, 2011

Ten Practical Prayer Tips from the Carmelite Sisters

•Take a line from the liturgy of the day and repeat it during the day – a new line every day. The responsorial psalm and the Gospel Acclamation theme are good ones to use.

•Let a spiritual thought from a hymn or a book or Mass be as background music in your mind during the day.

•Take a holy card (or picture) of Christ and place it where you can see it so that you may think of Him.

•Make a spiritual communion every hour. I set the stop watch I use.

•Fix your inward gaze upon Him amidst your occupations.

•Find a “trigger moment,” such as putting your keys on the desk; turning off the computer, or laying out clothes for the next day that can serve as a reminder to take a moment for short prayer.

•Instead of a coffee break, take a short prayer break. In the mid-morning or mid-afternoon, get up and move into a different space and think of God.

•I think of God every time I look at a watch or clock.

•I sing hymns in my heart during the day.

•Make Spiritual aspirations during the day. (See below)

What are Spiritual Aspirations?
(From the spiritual works of St. Francis de Sales)

“My child, aspire continually to God, by brief, ardent upliftings of heart; praise God, invoke His aid, cast yourself in spirit at the Foot of His Cross, adore His Goodness, offer your whole soul a thousand times a day to Him, fix your inward gaze upon Him, stretch out your hands to be led by Him, as a little child to its father, clasp Him to your breast as a fragrant bouquet.

In short, enkindle by every possible action your love for God, your tender, passionate desire for the Heavenly Bridegroom of souls. Such is prayer of aspiration, as it was so earnestly inculcated by Saint Augustine; and be sure, my child, that if you seek such nearness and intimacy with God your whole soul will imbibe the perfume of His Perfections.
Neither is this a difficult practice – it may be interwoven with all our duties and occupations, without hindering any; for neither the spiritual retreat of which I have spoken, nor these inward upliftings of the heart, cause more than a very brief distraction, which, so far from being any hindrance, will rather promote whatever you are doing. The practice of these short aspirations can supply all our deficiencies, but without a true contemplative life cannot be lived, and the active life will be but imperfect.” – St. Francis de Sales


October 3, 2011

Psalms of Comfort

In Thee, O LORD, I have taken refuge;

Let me never be ashamed

In Thy righteousness deliver me.

Incline Thine ear to me, rescue me quickly;

Be Thou to me a rock of strength
(refuge, protection);

A stronghold to save me.

For Thou art my rock and my fortress;

For Thy name's sake Thou wilt lead me and guide me....


For Thou art my strength.

Into Thy hand I commit my spirit;

Thou has ransomed me, O LORD, God of truth.


Be gracious to me, O LORD, for I am in distress;

My eye is wasted away from grief,
my soul and my body also.

For my life is spent with sorrow,

And my years with sighing;

My strength has failed...

And my body has wasted away.


Because of all my adversaries,
I have become a reproach,

Especially to my neighbors,

And an object of dread to my acquaintances;

Those who see me in the street flee from me.

I am forgotten as a dead man, out of mind,

I am like a broken vessel.

For I have heard the whispering of many,

Terror is on every side;

While they took counsel together against me,

They schemed to take away my life.

~Psalm 31:1-3,4b,9-13 NASB


Since I am afflicted and needy,

Let the LORD be mindful of me;

Thou art my help and my deliverer;

Do not delay, O my God.

~Psalm 40:17 NASB

Cast your burden (what He has given you)

upon the Lord, and He will sustain you.

He never will allow the righteous

to be shaken (to totter).

~Psalm 55:22 NASB

October 2, 2011

How to recite the Holy Rosary


IN THE NAME of the Father, and of the
Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. (As you
say this, with your right hand touch your
forehead when you say Father, touch your
breastbone when you say Son, touch your
left shoulder when you say Holy, and touch
your right shoulder when you say Spirit.)

I BELIEVE IN GOD, the Father almighty,
Creator of Heaven and earth. And in Jesus
Christ, His only Son, our Lord, Who was
conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the
Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate;
was crucified, died, and was buried. He
descended into Hell. The third day He rose
again from the dead. He ascended into
Heaven, and sits at the right hand of God,
the Father almighty. He shall come again to
judge the living and the dead. I believe in
the Holy Spirit, the holy Catholic Church,
the communion of saints, the forgiveness of
sins, the resurrection of the body, and life
everlasting. Amen.

OUR FATHER, Who art in Heaven,
hallowed be Thy Name. Thy kingdom
come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in
Heaven. Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive
those who trespass against us. And lead us
not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

HAIL MARY, full of grace, the Lord is
with thee. Blessed art thou among women,
and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us
sinners, now and at the hour of our death.

GLORY BE to the Father, and to the Son,
and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the
beginning is now, and ever shall be, world
without end. Amen.

O MY JESUS, forgive us our sins, save us
from the fires of Hell; lead all souls to
Heaven, especially those in most need of
Thy mercy. Amen.

HAIL HOLY QUEEN, mother of mercy;
our life, our sweetness, and our hope. To
thee do we cry, poor banished children of
Eve. To thee do we send up our sighs,
mourning and weeping in this vale of tears.
Turn, then, most gracious advocate, thine
eyes of mercy toward us. And after this, our
exile, show unto us the blessed fruit of thy
womb, Jesus. O clement, O loving, O sweet
Virgin Mary. Pray for us, O holy Mother of
God, that we may be made worthy of the
promises of Christ. Amen.

O GOD, WHOSE only-begotten Son by
His life, death and resurrection, has
purchased for us the rewards of eternal life;
grant, we beseech Thee, that by meditating
upon these mysteries of the Most Holy
Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary, we may
imitate what they contain and obtain what
they promise, through the same Christ our
Lord. Amen.

ANNOUNCE each mystery by saying
something like, “The third Joyful Mystery is
the Birth of Our Lord.” This is required only
when saying the Rosary in a group.




On Monday and Saturday, meditate on the “Joyful Mysteries”
First Decade (Steps 9-22): The Annunciation of Gabriel to Mary (Luke 1:26-38)
Second Decade (Steps 23-36): The Visitation of Mary to Elizabeth (Luke 1:39-56)
Third Decade (Steps 37-50): The Birth of Our Lord (Luke 2:1-21)
Fourth Decade (Steps 51-64): The Presentation of Our Lord (Luke 2:22-38)
Fifth Decade (Steps 65-78): The Finding of Our Lord in the Temple (Luke 2:41-52)
On Thursday, meditate on the “Luminous Mysteries”
First Decade: The Baptism of Our Lord in the River Jordan (Matthew 3:13-16)
Second Decade: The Wedding at Cana, when Christ manifested Himself (Jn 2:1-11)
Third Decade: The Proclamation of the Kingdom of God (Mark 1:14-15)
Fourth Decade: The Transfiguration of Our Lord (Matthew 17:1-8)
Fifth Decade: The Last Supper, when Our Lord gave us the Holy Eucharist (Mt 26)
On Tuesday and Friday, meditate on the “Sorrowful Mysteries”
First Decade: The Agony of Our Lord in the Garden (Matthew 26:36-56)
Second Decade: Our Lord is Scourged at the Pillar (Matthew 27:26)
Third Decade: Our Lord is Crowned with Thorns (Matthew 27:27-31)
Fourth Decade: Our Lord Carries the Cross to Calvary (Matthew 27:32)
Fifth Decade: The Crucifixion of Our Lord (Matthew 27:33-56)
On Wednesday and Sunday, meditate on the “Glorious Mysteries”
First Decade: The Glorious Resurrection of Our Lord (John 20:1-29)
Second Decade: The Ascension of Our Lord (Luke 24:36-53)
Third Decade: The Descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost (Acts 2:1-41)
Fourth Decade: The Assumption of Mary into Heaven
Fifth Decade: The Coronation of Mary as Queen of Heaven and Earth

October 1, 2011


O my God! I offer Thee all my actions of this day for the intentions and for the glory of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. I desire to sanctify every beat of my heart, my every thought, my simplest works, by uniting them to Its infinite merits; and I wish to make reparation for my sins by casting them into the furnace of Its Merciful Love.

O my God! I ask of Thee for myself and for those whom I hold dear, the grace to fulfill perfectly Thy Holy Will, to accept for love of Thee the joys and sorrows of this passing life, so that we may one day be united together in heaven for all Eternity.

September 29, 2011

Five Finger Prayer...

 This is beautiful - and it is surely worth
making the 5 finger prayer a part of our lives.

 1. Your thumb is nearest you. So begin your prayers by praying for those closest to you. They are the easiest to remember. To pray for our loved ones is, as C. S. Lewis once said, a "sweet duty."

2. The next finger is the pointing finger. Pray for those who teach, instruct and heal. This includes teachers, doctors, and ministers. They need support and wisdom in pointing others in the right direction. Keep them in your prayers.

3. The next finger is the tallest finger. It reminds us of our leaders. Pray for the president, leaders in business and industry, and administrators. These people shape our nation and guide public opinion. They need God's guidance.

4. The fourth finger is our ring finger. Surprising to many is the fact that this is our weakest finger, as any piano teacher will testify. It should remind us to pray for those who are weak, in trouble or in pain. They need your prayers day and night. You cannot pray too much for them.

5. And lastly comes our little finger - the smallest finger of all which is where we should place ourselves in relation to God and others. As the Bible says, "The least shall be the greatest among you." Your pinkie should remind you to pray for yourself. By the time you have prayed for the other four groups, your own needs will be put into proper perspective and you will be able to pray for yourself more effectively.

If you decide to send this to a friend, you might brighten someone's day! Pass this on to someone special... I did...

August 27, 2011

My Prayer

Help me to serve thee, help me to pray,
Help me to think of you, always, each day.
Help me to be, an example for thee,
Help me share with others, what you've given me.

Thank you for mountains, with blue skies above,
Thank you for families, sharing in love.
Thank you for children, husbands and wives,
Thank you, dear Lord, for watching over our lives.

Help me be patient, help me be kind,
help me to listen when, there's much on my mind.
Help me remember, the pain you carried for me
and I'll gladly share, all of my joy with thee.

Forgive me, dear Father, for doubting in You.
Forgive me my worries that make me so blue.
Forgive my resentment, when by now I should know
these wounds that hurt me, could help me grow.

Help me to serve thee, help me to pray
help me to think of you, always, each day.
Help me to be an, example for thee,
help me love others, the way that you
have loved me...


Elizabeth Ann Stevens, OCDS

(In 1984 I was so incredibly miserable it wasn't even possible to form words to pray. My marriage was a disaster; Seth and I were in almost complete isolation day in and day out. The only real expression of my heart was to love Seth and play my guitar and sing. One day this prayer came to me in an instant and I wrote it down and began to sing. I sang it for years, not grasping the profound truth in its simplicity. Going back now, it is very clear how the Holy Spirit used this prayer to teach me about life and love and God.  -- Elizabeth Ann Stevens, OCDS)

August 26, 2011

Live, Laugh, Love

Laugh when you can...
✿Apologize when you should...
✿Let go of what you can't change...
✿Love deeply & Forgive quickly...
✿Take chances & Give your Everything...
✿Life is too short to be anything but Happy...
✿You have to take the Good with the bad....
✿Love what you Have...
✿Always remember what you Had...
✿Forgive & Forget...
✿and always remember...
LIFE on this Earth, Is TOO SHORT...
✿But Life goes on...
Even In Heaven...

August 13, 2011

A Prayer Tip:

Set aside a time every day for prayer.

Be very still. Do not say anything.

Simply practice thinking about God.

This will make your mind receptive to His will.

August 12, 2011

A Carmelite has...

Carmelite Charism

Jesus Christ gave his disciples the gift of the Holy Spirit and the mission to proclaim salvation to the whole world.
To live out the full dimension of this command is to pursue the "spiritual life." The Church is called by the Holy Spirit to embody and proclaim union with God because the Church is the Body of Christ: a Body that is still in the process of
formation, and sees its fullness in the future. The spirituality of the Church is many-faceted because the Church is composed of countless persons and groups. While each person receives the spirit of Christ, that spirit is lived out in
various ways. The truth about Jesus which Carmelites are called to live out is Christ's prayerful union with His Father while in the midst of the world.

Carmelite Spirituality

Strictly contemplative orders are characterized by their emphasis on the inner life: the life of prayer and physical solitude.
They imitate the hidden, inner life of Christ's union with His Father.
Thus, the Rule of Carmel commands us to "meditate day and night on the law of the Lord." The external precepts of the Rule are attempts to show how this continual state of contemplation can be achieved: through finding a suitable place to live; through silence; through prayer and celebration of the Liturgy; through poverty and detachment; through living out the virtues and through work. If our Carmelite presence in the world is to reflect Christ's union with His Father, then the primary task of the Carmelite is to realize this presence of God within himself. This is acquired through what is called "inner solitude."

Inner Solitude

For centuries Christians have resorted to solitude in order to find the presence of God within. The desert, the cave, the lonely uninhabited places have offered themselves to those who yearn to leave all things to find God. In the Old Testament, the prophet Elijah, our spiritual father, went to the wilderness of Horeb to find and speak with his God.
It was in his footsteps that the first Carmelites gathered on Mount Carmel over 800 years ago. Ultimately, the heart is
the desert, the wilderness that must be entered in order to find God. And it is the solitude that the Carmelite recognizes in order to live with God.

In the Midst of the World

Christ did not come into the world to be a solitary mystic. The world was created in order to find and love God. So, too, the Carmelite is called, not only to the simple private life of contemplation, but to share that experience of God with a world that is blindly seeking His face in all the wrong places. In so doing, the Carmelite testifies to the boundless love God has for the world. Prayer is not undertaken as a private task of personal meditation, but solely to reflect and share the God which he finds living within himself.
Active religious orders, on the other hand, are called to imitate Christ's concern for people, especially the poor and defenseless. Their spirituality is founded in their authentic call of service in Christ's name.

The Carmelite is called to live amid the tension of these two ideals: the abiding presence of God, and the call to be present in the world. Our life is not simply one of service, but especially a presence in prayer. Not only did Jesus come to serve the world, but he make His Father present wherever He was present.
Thus, the Carmelite disposes himself to the service of the Church. Our Rule does not specify what work the Carmelite shall do, for any form of service fulfills the vocation of Carmel if it is lived in the presence of God. The Rule does not restrict or limit how or where the Carmelite serves the Church, because his vocation is precisely to share that contemplation with the world.

The spirituality of Carmel is a dynamic, life-giving tension. Neither private prayer not public service by themselves fulfill the Rule of Carmel. Rather, to be present to God in the midst of His people, to bring to the world flames from the divine fire burning within our hearts, is the Carmelite vocation and spirituality.

August 11, 2011


My Father-in-law needs prayers said for him... He has had an infected wound for 8 weeks now & things do not seem to be getting better... My Mother-in-law is REALLY Worried... This same thing (different wound) happened around 25 years ago & the doctor now is saying the same thing the doctor back then said... ...We're trying the last antibiotic, if this doesn't work, I don't know how much time... Oh Mom is sooo Worried... All this that they are going through & she knows what we are going through... She has so much on her shoulders... Please pray for her too! Thank you so much...

Here's a photo of Greg's parents
taken last year at their:
50th Wedding Anniversary...

Matthew 18:19...
(¯`♥´¯) .♥.•*¨`*♫.•♪♫•*¨*•.¸¸ ¸♪ •.♫♪♪♫•*¨*•.¸¸ ¸♪ •.♫♪
´*.¸.•´♥ "Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth
¸.·´¸.·´¨) ¸.·*)about anything they ask, it will be done for
(¸.·´ (¸.·´ .·´ ¸¸.·¨¯`·☆. them by my Father in heaven."
Holding Hands & Praying!!!
☻/ღ\☻˚ •。* ♥ ˚ ˚✰˚ ˛★* 。 ღ˛° 。* °♥ ˚ • ★ *˚ .ღ 。
/▌*˛* ▌\˚ღ • ˚Our Father Who Art In Heaven... ˚ ✰* ★
/ \ ˚ . / \ . ★ *˛ ˚♥* ✰。˚ ˚ღ。* ˛˚ ♥ 。✰˚* ˚ ★ღ ˚ 。✰
✰ ღ˚ •。* ♥ ˚ ˚✰˚ ˛★* 。 ღ˛° 。* °♥ ˚ • ★ ˚ .ღ 。
Together!!! ˚♥* ✰。˛★* 。˚ ˚ღ。* ˛˚ ♥ 。✰˚* ˚ ★ღ

Father, You formed us in our mother's womb and established the number of our days before there was even one of them. You are intimately acquainted with all of our ways, and nothing escapes Your notice. Jesus, You are the Great Physician, and there is nothing too difficult for You. So I bring Bill before You now, and ask that You would touch him with Your almighty power. Your word says that "You hear the desire of the afflicted; you encourage them, and you listen to their cry." Hear Bill & his family now, as they cry out to You and answer him in this time of need. Touch his body Lord, with the strength he needs to fight this infection, that he may recover quickly. Your Word declares that it's by Your stripes that we are healed, so I take hold of that promise for Bill right now, and I proclaim your provision for his healing. Let Your peace overshadow him, and Your presence be his comfort at this time. I pray in Jesus' mighty name, Amen!

August 9, 2011

Crest & Shield of Carmel...

Different branches of Carmel

As well as consisting of different forms of life, the Carmelite Family is made up of different organisational branches.

It is common to refer to these various branches of Carmel under the general heading of "The Carmelite Order", though technically the "Carmelite Order" is the Ancient Observance and other groups are autonimous congregations. Since they share a uniting spirit or 'charism' they are often grouped together under the term "The Carmelite Family", and we speak of one family consisting of various branches. The two main branches are the 'Ancient' and 'Teresian' Observances. They share much in essence, and really differ only in small matters of emphasis.

There have been several explanations of the design and they are all connected with the Prophet Elijah of the Old Testament. The Carmelites trace their origin to the hermits who lived in the spirit of Elijah on Mount Carmel in the twelfth century.
The peak or point in the centre of the shield is taken to represent Mount Carmel, the scene of the Prophet’s greatest triumph over the false prophets of Baal, and the dwelling place of the followers of Elijah. The star in the lower part symbolises Elijah while the two stars above it represent Christ and Mary. Many saints and early writers have seen a symbol of Our Lady in the cloud which Elijah saw arising from the sea to bring rain to the parched land of Israel (see 1Kings 18:44). The early hermits built an oratory in honour of Our Lady on Mount Carmel and chose her as their patroness. Later they become known as the Brothers of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel. Others have seen the lower star representing us and the upper stars representing Elijah and Mary, the two great models for the Order, guiding us up the Mount towards Christ. Another interpretation sees the lower star representing Elijah and the Prophetic Tradition while the two upper stars represent the Greek (Eastern) Tradition and the Latin (Western) Tradition.

The sword symbolises the power and zeal of Elijah. In the Scriptures Elijah appears again and again as God’s Prophet, speaking out boldly against abuses and reminding the Israelites of their special calling to live as God’s people. The sword is sometimes shown as flaming, to suggest the ardent and zealous spirit of the Prophet; moreover it recalls the fire which he called down from heaven upon the mountain of Carmel to confound the false prophets of Baal (see 1Kings 18:38). Elsewhere in the bible we are told, Then the prophet Elijah arose like a fire, his sword flashing like a torch (see Ecclesiasticus 48:1).

Around the crest are grouped twelve stars. The number is meant to refer to the crown of the woman in the Book of Revelations (or the Apocalypse), who has always been taken as a figure of Our Lady, And a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet and her head a crown of twelve stars (Revelations 12:1).
The motto or legend consists of the words of Elijah taken from the First Book of the Kings, 19:10: With zeal have I been zealous for the Lord God of Hosts. In Latin the phrase reads: Zelo zelatus sum pro Domino Deo exercituum. These words express the whole life of the prophet Elijah and the very spirit that moved him. The crest or coat of arms stands as an emblem of that tradition and is associated with Carmelite spirit which has been handed down to us.

The Ancient Observance

The oldest continuous branch of the Carmelite Family is sometimes referred to as the 'Ancient Observance'. It is the original 'Carmelite Order', abbreviated as "O.Carm.". The term 'Calced Carmelites' (to distinguish from the 'Discalced Carmelites') is not actually used by the Ancient Observance itself.

The British Province of Carmelites is part of the Ancient Observance.
The crest of the Ancient Observance of the Carmelite Order is usually shown without a cross at the summit of the mountain.


The Discalced Observance

The 'Discalced' or 'Teresian' Observance has its origins in the reforms of the Carmelite Order undertaken by Saint Teresa of Jesus (of Avila) in the sixteenth century. After her death the Discalced Carmelites requested to split off from the Carmelite Order and formed a distinct congregation. 'Discalced' literally means 'shoeless', because wearing sandals (rather than shoes with uppers) was a sign of poverty and thus of reform. The Discalced Observance is numerically the largest branch of the Carmelite Family today, and is present in Britain and worldwide.

The crest of the Discalced Carmelites is exactly the same as that of the Carmelites (O.Carm.), with the addition of a cross at the summit of the mountain. This version of the crest is often associated with reform movements within Carmel. It was first used within the Carmelite Order (O.Carm.), and is sometimes still used by the Ancient Observance, but generally it is associated with the Discalced Carmelites.

Other Congregations There are various other congregations and communities that use the name "Carmelite" in their title that are distinct from both the Ancient Observance and the Discalced Observance, but which share something of their history and charism. They too are part of the 'Carmelite Family', drawing inspiration from the Rule of Saint Albert and the saints of the Order.

Examples include the Carmelites of Mary Immaculate (the CMIs) who are very active in India, and were originally an off-shoot of the Discalced Carmelites. In Britain there are the Carmelite Missionary Sisters in London. In America there are communities such as the Carmelite Monks in Wyoming who represent a new innovation (historically Carmelite men were hermits or friars, but only the women were monastic).

When people ask "What is the difference between the different observances?", it is sometimes hard to give a precise answer. In essence their spirituality is the same, with slightly different emphases (for example, the Discalced Carmelites would stress the teachings of St. Teresa whereas the Ancient Observance would reflect more regularly on the figure of Elijah, though both are important in each tradition). When discerning which 'branch' of the Family to belong to, it is usually a question of a candidate deciding where he or she feels most at home. Whatever branch a candidate opts for, his or her formation will almost certainly include contact with the whole breadth of the Carmelite Family, including both the major branches.

Division and unity within the Carmelite Family
The following information comes from Johan Bergström-Allen, (ed.), Climbing the Mountain: The Carmelite Journey, (Faversham & Rome: Saint Albert's Press & Edizioni Carmelitane, 2010), pp. 176-78.

Carmel has a long tradition of reform movements, all working as part of the Order to bring about renewal from within. The Discalced reform began in this way, but soon the movement caused division amongst the friars and sisters which wasn't helped by the outside intervention of Church and Civil authorities. Attaching themselves to Teresa's reform movement and using the protection of the Spanish court, a number of friars from the province of Andalusia rebelled against the Prior General and the heavy-handed Carmelite superiors in Spain. Each side of the debate held visitations (inspection tours of the provinces) and chapters (meetings) that the other declared invalid. The Papacy, the King of Spain, and other religious orders (notably the recently-formed Jesuits) became embroiled in the debate. The Carmelite friars of the Discalced movement were led by the charismatic Jerome Gracián (1545-1614). Teresa was deeply saddened by the divisions growing within Carmel.

During Teresa's later life (and after her death), disputes continued within the Carmelite Order about the way in which the Discalced Reform should be governed. An upshot of this dispute in 1577 was the removal of Brother John of the Cross from his house near The Incarnation Monastery. He was placed in prison (commonly found in Carmelite houses at that time for the detention of wayward friars!), where he remained until his escape in August 1578. During this time, he wrote a number of poems including most of The Spiritual Canticle and The Dark Night.

Despite Teresa's desire for unity within the Order (she was friends with both Gracián and the Prior General), the political strains were too much and the Discalced movement asked for independence from the Carmelite Order. Within a decade and a half of the death of the Prior General John Baptist Rossi in 1578 there were effectively two autonomous branches of the Carmelite Family in Spain, each recognised as independent by the Papacy: the Carmelites ('O.Carm.', sometimes called the 'Ancient Observance' to distinguish them from the Discalced), and the Discalced Carmelites ('O.C.D.'). Eventually the Discalced Reform itself split between its Spanish and Italian congregations.

It is said that history is written by the victors, but in the case of the split in our family it is hard to see whether anyone won! Both sides of 'the divide' have traditionally interpreted the Spanish reform differently, and this has sometimes led to painful distrust on both sides, although there have been many examples of close collaboration between the two branches of the Order since the very first days of their formal division. In the Ancient Observance Teresa is regarded as one of the great saints of Carmel, and as our sister. In the Discalced Carmelite Order it is traditional to refer to Teresa as 'La Madre' ('our holy mother'), and until relatively recently many Discalced Carmelites regarded her as not only the founder of the Teresian Reform, but indeed the forunder of 'the true Carmel'. However, this is changing, and as James McCaffrey, O.C.D., observes in his book The Carmelite Charism, Teresa and John did not found a new Order but rather reformed a three hundred year-old tradition that traces its roots back (at least spiritually) to Elijah and Mary, and the first Carmelites in the Holy Land.

The result of the protagonists' unwillingness to listen to the other parts of the Carmelite Family - a fault on both sides - has been that traditionally many Discalced Carmelites have tended not to know very much about the three hundred years of Carmelite spirituality and history before Teresa, and tend to read Carmelite history through the eyes of Teresa and John. On the other hand, some Carmelites (O.Carm.) have been slow in appreciating all there is to learn from the great saints of the Discalced tradition, not only Teresa and John but also later saints such as Lawrence of the Resurrection, Elizabeth of the Trinity, and Edith Stein. There has also been a mutual suspicion that Discalced Carmelites are more given over to prayer and asceticism whilst Carmelites of the Ancient Observance are more given over to the active apostolate. Today most accept that these are false distinctions and caricatures based on prejudice.

Thanks to the call of the Second Vatican Council for religious orders to return to their roots, both branches of the Carmelite Family have been united in their renewed appreciation of the Rule of Saint Albert as the text that unites all Carmelites, and equally committed to the honest reappraisal of Carmelite history. Since the 1970s regular talks have taken place across the Carmelite Family at every level. Of particular note are the discussions between the Prior General (O.Carm.) and the Prepositus General (O.C.D.), and the letters they have issued together since 1992 (printed in the collection In obsequio Jesu Christi). Also beneficial have been the Carmelite Forums and Institutes established in various parts of the world, and other joint projects and formation programmes. We also share a common liturgical calendar (with slight variations). It has become clear that we must collaborate and recognise each others' gifts, and that what divides the traditions is tiny in proportion to what we share.

The Carmelite Family has tended to follow the pattern of most divided communities, as seen in places like the north of Ireland and the different denominations of the Church: first the different sides argue and the tension becomes so great that the community splits; then there is a period of not talking to each other when ignorance feeds prejudices; then we wake up to the scandal of division and our hearts are touched to begin polite communication, before we get down to debating our differences in a frank but mature and respectful fashion; finally, either unity is achieved, or we learn to celebrate the different gifts that each group brings to being Carmelites.

Some people would like to see the two branches of the Carmelite Family formally reunited, whilst others believe that something distinctive would be lost from either Order; they say that just as a rainbow is one entity consisting of many colours, so being united doesn't mean that we all have to be the same. Today most people recognise that there is only one Carmelite charism but that it is lived distinctively in two orders (and indeed in several other independent congregations that have developed in recent centuries, such as the Carmelites of Mary Immaculate, largely based in India). In terms of terminology, some speak of the one 'Carmelite Order' consisting of two or more branches; others speak of 'The Carmelite Order' and 'The Discalced Carmelite Order' as two separate orders but sharing a common heritage.

August 7, 2011


Christopher O’Donnell, O.Carm.

It has long been my conviction that the main crisis facing the Church is not a crisis of faith, but a crisis of religious experience. It is not that people do not believe, but they do not see the point of faith. And they drift away. Despite the enormous commitment of the Catholic Church to the renewal of liturgy, there has not been a renewed Church. One may say that the liturgical renewal is patchy and at times very defective. But those of us old enough to remember the pre-Vatican II Mass can only be struck by the contrast today of participation by the congregation, even in the most unrenewed or backward church. In the Tridentine Mass there was no communal participation, except through presence and such movements as kneeling, sitting, standing, and making the sign of the Cross. But where has our renewal brought us? People are wandering off: some to other Churches, a fact that we Catholics do not often admit; some to cults; some to New Age manifestations; some to a cold secularity without any religious dimension.
Yet the sad thing about this modern crisis is that the very thing people are seeking elsewhere is already present in the age-old tradition of the Church. When people seek their deepest self, a power within, a transformation of awareness etc. in New Age offerings, we can answer that what they are looking for, and far more, is already at hand in the Church, but seldom preached and generally ignored, like a trunk containing family treasures reposing in an attic. Amongst the finest riches in the Catholic household are the lives and writings of the Carmelite mystics.
The Carmelite mystics form a group of major spiritual writers in the Church. But as a whole they are more spoken about than known; they are often misunderstood. If you mention St. John of the Cross, people may immediately think of him as hard and inhuman; St. Teresa of Avila’s visions and experiences will be thought of as far beyond the ordinary Christian; St. Thérèse of Lisieux, however; is felt to be nice, a bit sugary perhaps, but was she really a mystic? Yet these three are only the best known of a whole diverse category of spiritual authors, all of them different, yet still belonging to an identifiable family, the Carmelite Order.
This article attempts to place them briefly in their background and see some common features as well as some of the differences between them.

But first a word about the difficult term “mystic/mysticism.” In a very odd book Matthew Fox gives twenty-one definitions of mysticism, and more or less agrees with them all (The Coming of the Cosmic Christ. The Healing of Mother Earth and the Birth of a Global Renaissance. San Francisco, 47-67); I would not. A surer guide is the Jesuit, Harvey Egan, who devotes the first chapter of his fine book Christian Mysticism: The Future of a Tradition (New York, 1984) to a discussion of the meaning of the word “mysticism.” He and all main-line scholars are agreed that mysticism is not primarily about peak experiences, or extraordinary graces such as visions, ecstasy or levitation. It is the Christianity lived to the full, pursued to its ultimate and all-satisfying fulfillment. Mysticism is a way of living, and not a set of transient or isolated experiences. Mysticism is the result of an unconditional response to unconditional love. The mystic wants and finds God alone, and in God finds and values everything else.
What most characterizes mysticism therefore is love.

Christian love is not a simply acquired possession, even though its foundation in the habit of charity is given at baptism. Love is a journey, a search, a pilgrimage. It is also a struggle. Love is not a feeling, for feelings can be present or absent in genuine love. Love is primarily a decision, a commitment to another, in the case of the mystic to God, sought as the All Holy, the Totally Other, the Supreme Good. But total love does not come easy. We all know the three enemies of the world, the flesh and the devil. Powerful forces both inside ourselves and from outside tend to turn us away from the path of total love. So the mystical road is a road of purification. If we are to be united with the All Holy God, then everything that is of sin and selfishness must be surrendered and healed.
When we speak of mysticism, then, we are concerned with the consequences of people falling totally in love with God. Mysticism is a living contact with the living God. But it is a contact ultimately beyond our unaided efforts. The most we can hope to achieve by our own efforts assisted by grace is a well-ordered life in which sin is overcome and virtue seriously cultivated. This corresponds to St. Teresa’s Third Mansions and the active nights of St. John of the Cross. Beyond that we cannot go, unless God intervenes and carries us up to a state in which we can experience his deep presence in our lives and above all in our hearts. This experience of God’s working within us, of drawing us into himself as Father Creator, Redeeming Son and Abiding and Strengthening Spirit is in turn a still more profound healing of our selfishness which allows God to give still greater blessings.

The Carmelite Mystics
In a discussion at the Carmelite general chapter in 1989, someone asked if the Church would have been much the poorer if the Carmelite Order never existed. My immediate instinct was to feel that of course the Carmelite Order, small as it is, is important for the Church; but the question niggled, did we really make any big difference? I pondered the question for weeks and months, and it gradually became clear in my mind something of the nature of the Carmelite contribution to the Church.
The great Carmelite insight, one common to all our mystics, is the supreme value of the spiritual journey, the journey into our heart where we discover God. This journey is a pearl beyond price; it is something worth losing all else to acquire. But it is not an easy journey: the ascent of Mount Carmel to use the expression of St. John of the Cross, later taken over in the liturgy, is a stern task that demands unrelenting dedication over a life-time. Yet the Carmelite mystics know like the Egyptian Jewish mystic, Philo of Alexandria in the first century, that just to embark on this journey is already a great joy.
This we see in a letter of Bl. Elizabeth of the Trinity just before she died at the age of twenty-six to her slightly worldly friend, Françoise de Sourdon. Elizabeth was so weak she could only write in pencil. But her mind was crystal clear. From her own deep experience she told her nineteen year old friend:

I truly believe that God wants your life to be spent in a realm where the air breathed is divine. Oh! You see, I have a profound compassion for souls that live only for this world and its trivialities; I consider them as slaves, and wish I could tell them. Shake off the yoke that weighs you down; what are you doing with these bonds that chain you to yourself and to things less than yourself (Complete Works. Washington, 1984 ff. 1:126 / Oeuvres complètes. Paris, 1991: 136)

Four years earlier when she was twenty-two and Françoise would have been only fifteen she had written:

I understand that you need an ideal, something that will draw you out of yourself and raise you to greater heights. But you see, there is only One; it is He, the Only Truth! Ah, if you only knew hint a little as your Sabeth does! He fascinates, He sweeps you away, and under His gaze the horizon becomes so beautiful, so vast, so luminous... My dear one, do you want to turn with me towards this sublime ideal? It is no fiction but a reality (Ibid. 122 / 414).

Similar sentiments could be echoed throughout the Carmelite tradition. An obvious example from the male Carmel would be the ecstatic poetry of St. John of the Cross.
But the Carmelite mystics do not only share this conviction of the pearl beyond price with other saints, which they come from a particular perspective, which we shall see if we look briefly at the history of the Order and its Marian tradition.

Carmelite Historical Background
The Carmelites always have a problem about their origins. Other institutes had great men and women as founders: the Franciscan family has St. Francis and St. Clare; the Vincentians have St. Vincent De Paul (Depaul) and St. Louise de Marillac. The Carmelites were originally hermits living on Mount Carmel in the second part of the 12th century. They got a Rule from St. Albert of Jerusalem about 1208. They came to Europe as a result of Saracen persecution. They had great trouble being accepted in Europe: they were of unknown Eastern origin; they wanted to live as hermits and found they could not do so on fresh air; they had a habit which was like the back of a wobbling zebra; the diocesan clergy did not want more competition; the other religious institutes did not welcome rivals either. For the first hundred years or so, Carmelite writing was almost exclusively defensive: the Carmelites had to justify their right to exist and to minister as friars which they had become. By the middle of the 14th century they were more or less accepted, and soon a major classic in spirituality was written.

This work by a Catalan Carmelite, Philip Ribot, after 1370, called The Institution of the First Monks, though largely derivative, gives in essence the mystical call of the Carmelite Order. A passage in the second chapter of the first book is rightly famous:
In regard to that life we may distinguish two aims, the one of which we attain to, with the help of God’s grace, by our own efforts and by virtuous living. This is to offer God a heart holy and pure from all actual stain of sin. This aim we achieve when we become perfect and hidden in charity. The other aim of this life that can be bestowed upon us only by God’s bounty: namely to taste in our hearts and experience in our minds, not only after death but even during this mortal life, something of the power of the divine presence and the bliss of heavenly glory. Here we find clearly expressed the ordinary ways of the spiritual life, namely what we can do by our own grace-assisted efforts, and the mystical (“supernatural” in St. Teresa of Avila) which is by God’s special gift. The significance of this passage lies partly in the fact that this special grace is one that we should desire and have as an aim of the spiritual journey. In the middle of the next century Bl. John Soreth founded the Carmelite sisters and the Order henceforth would have a feminine branch. There had been various groups of women associated with the Order before Soreth’s foundation in 1452. The first significant woman mystic who wrote, or had her thoughts recorded, was St. Mary Magdalene of Pazzi (d. 1607). Meanwhile in the century leading to the Reformation, the Carmelite Order, like other orders, was in some decline. There were various reforms, even before the Reformation. But the most significant one was initiated by St. Teresa of Avila in Spain. From being a bit worldly, but by no means a great sinner, she received the grace of a major conversion in 1555.
Seven years later she began the reform of houses of nuns, and later of priests in the Order in Spain. She was later helped by St. John of the Cross, twenty-seven years her junior. After their death, the reformed houses broke away from the parent Carmelite Order to form the Discalced Carmelites, now in some places, even by themselves, called Teresians. There was a major reform in the parent Order at the beginning of the next century, centred in Touraine in France. Its leading light was a blind lay-brother, the Venerable John of St. Samson, one of the most outstanding mystics in the history of spirituality. His works are only now being published in French. English translations do not yet exist. In the period of 1600-1850 there was a huge amount of mystical writing in both parts of the Carmelite family; this body of material is only in recent decades being studied, and very little is published in modern editions. With the nineteenth century we have one of the best-known of the Carmelite saints, Thérèse of Lisieux who died in 1897 at the age of twenty-four. Less known is Bl. Elizabeth of the Trinity who died at the age of twenty six in Dijon in 1906. Both were enclosed Discalced nuns. Another remarkable mystic is the recently beatified Edith Stein, a Jewish philosopher and convert to Catholicism, who was martyred by the Nazis in 1942. Also a martyr to German National Socialism was Bl. Titus Brandsma, an authority himself on Carmelite and Low Countries mysticism.

Mystics for the Whole Church
Thus we see that the Carmelite mystics are both men and women, but all were members of the Carmelite Order, either as friars or nuns. The question arises whether these can be said to belong to the whole Church or have a more parochial interest for one religious family. At this stage one can say that the mystics received personal graces to raise them to high holiness. This gracing, however, was ecclesial; it was not only for them, but also for the Church. Through their mystical experiences they became teachers in the Church, and some have become authenticated teachers with the title “Doctor of the Church.”

Characteristics of Carmelite Mysticism
In the brief outline of Carmelite history, we saw the origins of the Carmelite Order to have been on Mount Carmel, a hermitical life. The change to Europe was traumatic. One Prior General, Nicolas the Frenchman, wrote The Fiery Arrow about 1270, a bitter diatribe against those who betrayed the ideals of the Order by leaving the contemplative life to become involved in pastoral ministry. In succeeding centuries there was always a nostalgia for the hermit life of Mount Carmel and a conviction that the Order is essentially contemplative as well as pastoral. At times this nostalgia would appear almost as schizophrenia between the ideal of Mount Carmel, which was to be no more, and the actual reality of the ministry of friars.
This nostalgia for the hermit life on Mount Carmel gave rise to a characteristic symbol of the desert. We know that the desert is a symbol of purification. It was in the desert that the Israel was purified and made into a people; the prophet Hosea speaks of the desert as a time of special conversion to, and allurement by, the Lord (2:14). The desert, even when not explicit, is never far from Carmelite writers. They sense its solitude, its being a privileged place of divine encounter, its offer of conversion, purification and transforming love. But the place of the desert is within. I must go into my heart to find the desert, the place where I meet God. Elizabeth of the Trinity in her final years cites the text of Hos 2:14-16 about the desert where God speaks to the heart (Oeuvres complètes 100, 174, 463).
This desert of the heart has all the connotations of the Exodus experience in which the Israelites were purified of their idolatry. It is in the desert too the Carmelite mystics learned to let go of the many idols that block the way to God. There are many names for this desert: it is the nights of John of the Cross, it is the surrender of Thérèse and Elizabeth of the Trinity, it is the journey inwards of Teresa of Avila, it is the cell of the heart corresponding to his prison cell for Bl. Titus Brandsma. Above all the desert is where we learn to leave all and travel light to meet the One who satisfies all our desires.

Mary and the Carmelite Mystics
In the extensive writing about the Carmelite mystics there is, I think one major lacuna. Not nearly enough attention has been given to the place of Mary in the mystical journey. On its coming to Europe in the mid-13th century, the Carmelite Order developed over a period of about 300 years several images of the Virgin. Firstly, she was Patron. The hermits chose her on Mount Carmel as their Patron by the medieval symbolism of dedicating their first church to her. Henceforth they would serve her as a feudal Lady, and she would protect them as her vassals. The second image developed was Mother. The Lady of the Order was also its Mother. Thirdly, the idea of Sister developed. The Brothers of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, to use the ancient title of the Order, realized that their Patron and Mother was also Sister. Finally, the Carmelites focused on Mary as Virgin, but not so much in terms of chastity or physical integrity, but as the Virgin of the Most Pure Heart. Mary was the ideal fulfillment of the programmatic aim of The Institute of the First Monks, “to offer to God a heart holy and pure from all actual stain of sin.” But behind all these four images of Mary – Patron, Mother, Sister and Virgin of the Most Pure Heart – there is a deeper reality: Mary is the gentle, loving presence for Carmelites. But she is more: she is the Teacher and Guide of the mystics. This is an area seldom averted to by authors on the Carmelite mystics, be them from the Order or not.

Marian Mysticism
A significant element of the Order’s tradition is that of Marian mysticism, a term which is not univocally used by all scholars. Its main exemplar is the Flemish Carmelite tertiary Mary Petyt (Petijt – Mary of St. Teresa, 1623-1677). After some years of searching out her vocation she met the Carmelite, Michael of St. Augustine, who became her director and summarized some of her experiences in a little volume on the Mariform Life (Latin text edited G. Wessels Rome, 1926; others in R.M. Valabek, Mary: Mother of Carmel. Rome, 1987, vol. 1:269-289). Two questions arise about Marian mysticism: the first is the role of Mary that is ordinarily to be found in the contemplative – mystical life of Carmel; the second is the more
difficult area of examining the reality and validity of a specifically Marian mystical experience. In general we can answer that in the Carmelite Order contemplative life and mystical experience are very frequently seen to have Marian characteristics. Mary accompanies Carmelite contemplatives on their journey to divine union. Furthermore, very many Carmelite mystics have had experiences in which Mary had a part. These are too commonplace to need much elaboration; one can take one example from St. Teresa of Avila.
It was on the feast of the Assumption 1561:
I was reflecting on the many sins I had in past confessed in that house and many things about my wretched life. A rapture came upon me so great that it almost took me out of myself It seemed to me while in this state that I saw myself vested in a white robe of shining brightness, but at first I didn’t see who was clothing me in it. Afterward I saw our Lady on my right side and my father St. Joseph at the left, for they were putting that robe on me. I was given to understand that I was now cleansed of my sins...
The beauty I saw in our Lady was extraordinary, although I didn’t make out any particular details except for the form of her face in general and that her garment was of the most brilliant white, not dazzling but soft... Then it seemed to me I saw them ascend to heaven with a great multitude of angels. I was left in deep loneliness, although so consoled and elevated ah recollected in prayer and moved to love that I remained some time without being able to stir or speak, but almost outside myself I was left with a great impulse to be dissolved for God and with similar affects. And everything happened in such a way that I could never doubt, no matter how much I tried, that the vision was from God (Life 33:14-15). Here though Mary is central in the experience, it is a vision that is from God and leading to deeper union with God. Again, St. Teresa of Avila in a mystical vision on 8 September, 1575, renewed her vows in the hands of Our Lady. She notes: “This vision remained with me for some days, as though she were next to me at my left” (Spiritual Testimonies 43). The healing of St. Thérèse of Lisieux through the smile of our Lady on Pentecost Sunday 1883 is another example of a Marian vision, but one which is seen as a divine mercy, the beginning of a process of healing which five years later would allow her enter Carmel (The Story of a Soul, ch. 3). Such mystical experiences are extremely frequent in the history of spirituality, and need not be taken as distinctively Carmelite, even though also found in, and arising from, the life of Carmel.
The second kind of experience is more specifically Carmelite, and as yet not sufficiently studied by spiritual theologians. It is, however, occasionally detected apart from the Carmelite Order, for example in the Jesuit Pierre-Joseph de la Clorivière (d. 1820) and in the life-long collaborator of Cardinal Suenens, Veronica O’Brien (b. 1905). It is most elaborated by Michael of St. Augustine and Mary Petyt, and texts in modern languages are not widely accessible; significant material remains unpublished. There are a few initial observations to be made. Mysticism is about a journey to God, divine union with the Trinity. Hence there will inevitably be a need of contextualization of the writings of both these authors, since sentences taken apart may seem to indicate a distorted focus on Mary in place of God. Further difficulties arise from the highly symbolic mystical language used by them.
The basis of the Mariform life is the spiritual motherhood of Mary and her mediation, both of which can be seen as deeply embodied within the Carmelite tradition. The Mariform life consists in “having one’s eyes open on God and his most blessed Mother, so that one promptly and joyfully does what one knows is pleasing to them, and avoids what one recognises as displeasing to them” (Michael of St. Augustine, De vita Mariæ-formi et mariana, ch. 1 – ed. Wessels p. 363). Thus one lives a life which is at once divine and Marian; the reign of Jesus and the reign of Mary coincide so that “Jesus and Mary unanimously reign in it (the soul)” (Ibid. 364-365).
Thus it is clear that the central intuitions of this mysticism are fully orthodox. The expressions which it takes are explicitations of this insight of the identity of the will of Mary and Jesus. Where the teaching becomes specific and original is in the way that Mary is seen to accompany and instruct the person on the whole journey to profound divine union and mystical marriage. Still more distinctive is the notion of union with Mary as the way in which one comes into union with her Son and the Triune God. Thus Michael of St. Augustine uses several images.

Firstly, there is life in Mary:
As by the diligent exercise of faith and stable love one acquires the habit or practice of having the presence of God always and everywhere in mind, and there is such a sincere affection flowing with such facility towards God, it therefore appears impossible to forget God: in a similar way the one who loves Mary by constant exercise acquires the habit or practice of having her as loving Mother present in mind, so that all one’s thoughts and affections terminate both in her and in God, and the person can forget neither the loving Mother nor God (Ibid. ch. 2, pp. 366-367).
This, he says, is not something infantile or innocent, but a very mature, rational and valiant (yin/ion) movement. It is a work of the Spirit to lead the person to an awareness now of Mary, now of God, without any conflict or division of hear (Ibid. ch. 3, pp. 368-3 69). Secondly, the person lives for Mary. Here the author is again careful to show that service of Mary in no way detracts from God.
Just as in Mary everything is for the divine pleasure, and in eternity she lives for God for his pleasure, love and glory, so too every life and death for Mary must serve and be directed for God, and hence we do not live or die for Mary as our ultimate end, or with any reflection that would ac/here to anything outside God for our own convenience; rather by life and death in Mary and for Mary we more perfectly live and die in God and for God in the cause of his pleasure and love, and the perfect reign of Mary in us also at the same time consists in the perfect reign of Jesus in our souls. Nothing of the reign of Mary contradicts the reign of Jesus, but is totally ordered to it (Ibid. ch. 5, p. 371 with ch. 4, p. 369).
The remaining chapters of the work are a bold exposition of a genuine Marian mysticism. On the unquestionably orthodox basis just indicated, Michael of St. Augustine, drawing largely on the experiences of his directee, Mary Petyt shows a way to union with God which is by ‘way of union with Mary. There is growth in this mystical journey, and initial experiences of God and Mary may need to be purified. The Marian mysticism of these two spiritual authors is described as “contemplative life of God in Mary, and of Mary in God.” (Ibid. ch. 7, p. 374) But they do not allow confusion between Mary and God; the analogy used is that of the Incarnation in which the two natures are united but not fused (Ibid. ch. 7, p. 376). Union with Mary is a love union with God:
In this way we can understand the fruition of Mary in the soul, the melting (liquefaction) of the soul in Mary, the union of the soul with Mary and its transformation into Mary; this is because love tends to what resembles it and so inclines the soul, for the nature of love is to tend to union with the loved one (Ibid. ch. 11, p. 383).
The heights of mystical union with Mary are described in language which is indeed somewhat obscure, but has a haunting drawing power: Consequently the memory, the intellect amid the will are then so quietly, simply, and intimately occupied in Mary and simultaneously in God, that the soul can scarcely detect how these operations are transformed. In a confused way it knows well and feels the memory to be occupied with some most simple remembrance of God and Mary, the intellect has a naked, clear and pure awareness of God present and of Mary present in God, the will has a very tranquil, intimate, sweet, tender and spiritual love of God and of Mary in God and a loving adherence to God and to Mary in God. I say “spiritual love” because love is then seen to shine and operate in the highest part of the soul with abstraction from the lower and sensitive powers, so that it is more proportioned to intimate melting, absorption in God and in Mary and union with God and at the same time with Mary. For when the powers of the soul are virtuously (nobiliter) and perfectly occupied in the memory, awareness and firm adhesion of the whole soul with God and Mary, so that by a loving melting or influx of love seem to make one with God and Mary, as if these three God, Mary and the soul are melted together. This seems to be the extremity and supreme realization that a soul can reach in this Mariform life, and it is the principal activity of this exercise and spirit of love towards Mary (Ibid. ch. 12, p. 384).
As we have already noted, the mystics have their experiences not only as special and personal gifts from God, but also in order that they might teach the Church. The Mariform mysticism of Mary Petyt is not something eccentric in the history of spirituality, but teaches the whole Church something important about the journey to God. What may not be explicit in other mystics is very clear in Michael of St. Augustine and in Mary Petyt, namely that divine union comes about through a person becoming more closely clothed with the virtues of Mary, and through her continuing presence and accompaniment. Theirs is the most dramatic and the most sublime expression of the truth continually expressed in all Carmelite Marian writings, namely the motherly presence of Mary accompanies the Carmelite always, and growth in holiness is found through opening oneself to this presence and motherly care. Though from a different culture, the Flemish mysticism of these two Carmelites is another expression of the theological truth proposed by Hans Urs von Balthasar adopt the need for the Church to be truly Marian if it is to be authentically Christian. It also predates, and is a much more profound exposition of the truths expounded in the better-known book on the slavery of Mary, The Treatise on the True Devotion by St. Louis Marie Grignion de Montfort (d. 1716). For many people the “True Devotion” is a form of piety, an approach which they choose to Mary. Marian mysticism, on the other hand, is the result of the way God intervenes in a person’s life.

The Carmelite mystics are sufficiently homogeneous to be a distinct family in the Church; yet they are diversified enough to find in them models and teachers that will be suitable to different people on the spiritual journey on which the Spirit leads them. But we must remember that the Lord has a special plan for each one of us. Some people are indeed drawn to the Carmelite way. But it is only one, amongst many. There is an abundance of spiritualities in the Church. If we as Carmelites are right in thinking that the
Carmelite mystics have something important to say today to all in the Church, especially perhaps to women, we are no less convinced that there are many other ways. We could not think otherwise, for our very first document, our 13th century Rule, begins with the opening words of the Letter to the Hebrews: “Long ago God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways.