Thursday, July 16, 2009

Notes on the Memorial of Our Lady of Mount Carmel.

Today is my mother's birthday (happy birthday, Mom!) as well as the Memorial of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, patronal feast of the Carmelite Order. Though they fall on the same day, I've never drawn any connection between these two events; my mother has done many things in her life, but I think that she has yet to meet any Carmelites. My years in the Society have afforded me a few fleeting encounters with followers of the Carmelite charism; today's memorial gives me an opportunity to reflect upon some of these experiences.

While I was living at Santa Clara University as a first-year novice on experiment, I occasionally attended Mass with the Discalced Carmelite Nuns at the Carmel of the Infant Jesus a few blocks from campus. During one of these visits I took the above photos of the Carmelites' chapel; the tombs visible in the bottom photo are those of an early benefactor of the Carmelite foundation in Santa Clara, Alice Phelan Sullivan, and of the community's first prioress, Mother Agnes of Jesus (who also happened to be Alice Phelan Sullivan's daughter). You can read about my experience celebrating Easter at this Carmel in a post from my old weblog. When I was back in Santa Clara two summers ago, I saw another side of the Carmel of the Infant Jesus when I attended the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom offered under the auspices of St. Volodymyr Ukrainian Catholic Mission, which gathers every Sunday in the Santa Clara Carmelites' chapel. A Jesuit who began attending the Divine Liturgy as an undergraduate at Santa Clara in the mid-1970s told me that this arrangement has continued amicably for nearly four decades, making the Carmel of the Infant Jesus in Santa Clara a rare place where the Church really breathes with both lungs.

In one form or another, the Carmelite charism has appeared in many of the places that I've visited as a Jesuit. On this date in 2006, I enjoyed a memorable meal at a French Carmelite restaurant in Lima where dinner service concluded with an Ave Maria and a painting of Our Lady of Mount Carmel cast a protective eye over the dining room. During summer villa at Omena, I once attended Sunday Mass at a Discalced Carmelite monastery in Traverse City (this Carmel seems to attract a lot of visitors, as a fair number of Internet searches have led to my post mentioning the place). During my three years in New York I lived a couple of blocks from a church called Our Lady of Mount Carmel, though the parish has always been served by diocesan priests and has no absolutely connection with the Carmelite Order. My former community of Ciszek Hall has a Carmelite connection of sorts, inasmuch as Father Walter Ciszek was a friend and patron of the Byzantine Discalced Carmelite Nuns at Holy Annunciation Monastery in Sugarloaf, Pennsylvania. Philadelphia has a Discalced Carmelite monastery of its own, though I have yet to visit the place.

I offer prayers and good wishes to all for whom this is a special day, particularly members of the Carmelite family. On top of that, I'm offering my own special prayers for my mother on her birthday - once again, Mom, have a very happy birthday! AMDG.


At 7/30/2009 3:40 AM, Blogger Jay said...

Very interesting post.


Post a Comment

<< Home