Posts Tagged ‘silence’

This is one of Blessed Elizabeth’s inspiring letters in my opinion.  She believed that silence is not a privilege of a few but an essential ingredient for holiness.  Since we have a universal vocation to holiness, then silence even in the world, is possible.  I think part of the challenge for us is to redefine  silence  and expand it to not just mean the absence of noise and sounds, but possessing that “single eye” or focus in everything- pleasing God wherever we are in whatever we find ourselves doing.

“Saint Teresa says that the soul is like a crystal in which the Divinity is reflected. I so love this comparison, and when I see the sun invade our cloisters with its rays, I think that God invades the soul that seeks only Him in the same way! Listen to what St. John of the Cross says: “O soul, most beautiful of creatures, who desire so ardently to know that place where your Beloved dwells in order to seek Him and unite yourself to Him; you yourself are the retreat where He takes refuge, the dwelling where He hides Himself.” That is the whole life of Carmel; to live in Him, then, all sacrifices, all immolation become divine, for through everything the soul sees Him whom it loves and everything leads it to Him; it is a continual heart to heart exchange! You see that you can already be a Carmelite in your heart. Love silence and prayer for this is the essence of the life of Carmel. Ask the Queen of Carmel to teach you to adore Jesus in profound recollection.”

Blessed Elizabeth to Germaine de Gemeaux
September 14, 1902


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The Carmelite Order celebrates the feast of Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity on November 8th. Elizabeth was a beautiful soul who has tasted the delights of contemplating God in the depths of her soul and invites us to do the same.
She was born July 18, 1880 in a military camp of Avor in the district of Farges-en-Septaine, France to a military family. Her father, Joseph Catez, was a captain of the 8th Squadron of the Equipment and Maintenance Corps. Her mother, Marie Rolland, was the daughter of a retired Commandant. The couple was blessed with two lovely daughters, Elizabeth and Marguerite. The family moved to Dijon in 1882. As a child, Elizabeth was described to possess a terrible temper. She was inclined to bouts of tantrums and her early photos show her flashing eyes. It was said that a Canon close to the family exclaimed after being a witness to these outburst, “this child will either grow up to be a devil or an angel.” She is described to be quick-tempered and unable to manage her anger well. This character flaw will be foremost in Elizabeth’s mind as she strove to grow deeper in the spiritual life.

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We are so fortunate in Carmel to have so many Saints and Blesseds to draw inspiration from!  Here is a wonderful extract from one of the lesser known Carmelites . . . Pere Jacques Bunel.  It comes from one of his spiritual conferences and speaks so wonderfully to solitude as one of the key foundation blocks of deep, interior prayer:

Let us now place ourselves in God’s presence, so that he can speak personally to each one of you.  Let us all do our duty.  I want to fulfill my duty to let God speak to you through the words he puts on my lips and the ideas he places in my mind, without mincing his message.  Likewise, it is your duty to welcome the message as coming not from a man, but from God.  Together, let us be totally honest and straightforward in our shared search for truth.
    The one, authentic Carmel consists of a quiet, uninterrupted conversation with God.  That is the true Carmel that our Carmelite forebears sought.  We can neither find nor embrace God, just as we cannot sit at his feet in order to gaze lovingly upon him, if we are immersed in noise and activity.  We cannot hear the voice of God, who speaks without words, except in silence.  
    Consider the example of our spiritual father, Elijah.  Note these eagerness with which he returned from his apostolic activities to his beloved cave at Carmel.  It was solitude that he sought in order to replenish his spirit through silent intimacy with God.
    Likewise, consider Saint Therese of Lisieux.  The need for silence and solitude burned within her.  
    We, too, submitted to that deep spiritual impulse on the day God touched our life, perhaps after receiving Communion or during an hour of deep prayer.  At that moment we felt, understood, and lived the truth that God is not a word, but rather a living being, who envelops us.  He made us aware in the depths of our souls that this first living personal contact was with the very being of God.
    Do you remember the instructions of our holy father Saint John of the Cross, when he depicted Carmel using the symbol of a mountain?  At the summit, he put the goal of our life; he mapped our the withdrawal from the world that we must undertake to arrive at this point of all-embracing union with God.  In the middle was a steep path; on each side, he sketched the easier routes, which were makeshift and incomplete.  Then, between them, with a quick stroke, he drew an exacting road on which one hears the refrain “Nothing, nothing, absolutely nothing but God alone.”
    A person does not withdraw to Carmel because of weariness, or to know tranquility, or to live a mediocre life, or to flee the cares of keeping a home and family, or to have a more comfortable existence.  One comes here because she is athirst for God, because she desires to find God and to reveal God to the whole world.”

This passage was was specifically addressed to cloistered nuns so the concept of solitude presented might be a bit different than how we seek it in the world. For me, solitude is not so much a place we go or even a physical aloneness . . . but an attitude of the heart.

Con-templation . . . with God in His temple. The temple, of course, is our very hearts. A hermitage we can take with us anywhere we go!

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