Teaching with homilies, not sermons
It has been a VERY busy and exciting two weeks for me. Immediately after the Mike Aquilina interview (read it here), site traffic went through the roof! That resulted in new publishers coming on board that I will be working with. These are all listed on the column to the right. Every one of the publishers on that list are fantastic and each offers great books for your spiritual enrichment. I encourage you to support as many of them as you can by visiting their websites, checking out their selections and making a purchase. Simply click on the publishers logo to be redirected there. I am currently reading Rebuilt by Fr. Michael White and Tom Corcoran. Continue Reading
What is Carmelite spirituality? A couple of readers have asked me this question, and I assume several more have wondered and not asked. So I’m going to write this as a post (for maximum visibility and readership), then make it a permanent page soon.
Carmelite spirituality stems from the teaching and lifestyle of one of the oldest surviving religious orders in the Catholic Church. Like the Franciscans, Jesuits, Dominicans, and others, the Carmelites have a particular way of living out the faith, which has been approved by the Church. St. Therese of Lisieux, one of the best-beloved saints of our age, was a Carmelite nun.
From ancient Mt. Carmel to medieval EuropeIn the 12th century, a group of Christian hermits settled on Mt. Carmel, where the prophet Elijah had once lived in a cave. St. Albert of Jerusalem wrote a rule of life for them to follow. They built a monastery and came together for prayer, but each lived in his own cell. They dedicated their oratory to Mary, becoming known as the Brothers of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mt. Carmel.
As always, tensions were high in the Middle East at this time. Soon the Carmelite brothers left the Holy Land for Europe. There they assumed an active life–that is, living and working in the world. Blessed John Soreth established the Carmelite nuns in 1452. The Third Order, for seculars, began two centuries later.
CatholicFamilyGifts.com offered me a free first-Communion gift to review and give away to one of my readers. Since my boys are currently interested in hidden picture books, I chose Can You Find Saints?: Introducing Your Child to Holy Men and Women. After the review, I will tell you how can enter to win this book.
Can You Find Saints? is one in a series of four books by Philip D. Gallery. The series also includes Can You Find Jesus?, Can You Find the Followers of Jesus?, and Can You Find Bible Heroes? Janet L. Harlow illustrated all four books. They combine hide-and-seek fun with learning about the faith.
Given the cover and the genre, I was prepared for cartoon illustrations similar to the Where’s Waldo? series. Harlow provides more than that. The inside front and back covers contain a parchment-like timeline of saints, beginning with Abraham. “Search 1: Mary Lives a Life of Perfect Virtue” delighted me with its depiction of the mysteries of the Rosary and approved Marian apparitions, encircling a Renaissance Madonna and Child. A version of Michelangelo’s Creation of Adam above St. Peter’s Basilica forms the background for “Search 7: Saints Who Were Popes.”
There seems to be a dilemma in the spiritual life. We want to do great things for God, but we are caught up in the little tasks of everyday life. We think holiness must wait until some future time: when the kids are grown up, when the job is less demanding, when we retire, when we can go on retreat. But if, as Vatican II taught, holiness is meant for everyone, shouldn’t it be accessible in every circumstance? How can we become holy now?
Although some saints have been martyrs, missionaries, or miracle workers, others have been parents, kings and queens, businessmen, and even children. How did they become great? Through “abandonment to divine providence” as Fr. Jeanne-Pierre de Caussade called it.
Don’t let the big words confuse you. This is simply the “Little Way” of St. Therese of Lisieux, who said that even when she picked an object off the floor, she did it out of love for God. Likewise, Blessed Teresa of Calcutta said, “We must do little things with great love.” This practice has also been called “the sacrament of the present moment.”
This post is part of an occasional series called Finding God in Children’s Literature, in which I look at children’s books in light of the Bible and Sacred Tradition. All correlations between these books and the Christian faith are my own insights, unless otherwise noted. You may quote me or link to these posts, but please do not re-blog them or use these ideas as though they were your own. Thank you.
Yertle the Turtle by Dr. Seuss is the story of a proud and power-hungry reptile. He starts out as king of a pond of turtles. Unsatisfied with that, he commands his subjects to stand on one another’s’ shells in a stack, while he climbs to the top. The stack of turtles keeps growing, despite the protests of the turtle on the bottom, named Mack. Yertle believes he is king of all he can see, so the higher his throne of turtles goes, the more powerful he becomes. Eventually, he over steps and the stack of turtles collapses. At last, Yertle is only King of the Mud.
Theodore Geisel, who is better known to the world as Dr. Seuss, was a political cartoonist before he began writing children’s books. He later said he meant Yertle the Turtle as a condemnation of Hitler. But there is a much more ancient culture than Nazi Germany that had striking similarities to Yertle’s kingdom–Babylon.
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At Our Lady of Lebanon Maronite Catholic Church in Shepherd’s Park (Washington, DC) the Easter Vigil begins at midnight.
The interior of the church reflects the austere monastic sensibilities of St. Maroun, the 5th Century Syriac monk who shaped this Syriac-Antiochian rite Catholic Church that profoundly influenced Lebanon.
Prior to the accent lights being turned on, the design was stark and aesthetically challenging for me. Even with the lights on, the altar is surprisingly barren for the most important feast of the liturgical year for Christians. There were a few lillies at the foot of the main altar and there was a floral display on the East Apse which also served as the Empty Tomb for the Easter Vigil. Note the tree stump at the foot of the altar, that is used as a stand for the veneration of the Cross. Perhaps it harkens back to the Cedars of Lebanon, which is an important symbol amongst Maronite Catholics.
This is the Clergy approaching the altar for the beginning of the Qurbono (Divine Liturgy). Note the Chorbishop in the center who’s vestment has a cross with the Cedar of Lebanon. The Liturgy was conducted in Syriac as well as English. The hymns that were sung were in Aramaic which was impossible for me to read. Aramaic was Jesus’ native tongue so it sounded like what the followers of “The Way” would have sung in the 1st Century A.D.
There were some unusual aspects of this Easter Vigil. There was incense but no use of Holy Water or candles. The Maronite Church tends to baptize their Catachumens on the Feast of the Epiphany in January. Candles are not as import of an symbol at the Easter Vigil, as the Maronite Church breaks fast on noon of Great Saturday during the simple “Awaited Light” ceremony. This may explain why there is not pent up anticipation for the Easter Vigil as observed amongst the Maronites.
It was remarkable how much this Liturgy celebrating the Resurrection emphasized the Glorious Cross. The Chorbishop made prayers on the four corners of the altar with the processional cross, as if to proclaim the hope of the resurrection to all the Earth. The faithful were invited to venerate the Glorified Cross as they received Communion. Another interesting Easter feature of this vigil Qurbono was the emphasis on the Empty Tomb. As the faithful departed from the Divine Liturgy, they were given flowers from the Empty Tomb as well as an Easter Egg.
Despite the alternating languages during the Liturgy, it was not challenging to follow. The order of the Liturgy is different, as the Prayers of the Faithful are offered in the middle of the Liturgy of the Eucharist. In addition, the sign of peace is passed along from the altar to the congregation by youthful altar servers. For me, the Maronite Qurbono was the most exotic of my Holy Week experiences. Unfortunately, I found the Easter Vigil at Our Lady of Lebanon to be anti-climatic and personally unsatisfying. That being said, I was intrigued by proclaiming the glory of the cross to the four corners of the Earth. In addition, I was touched by the post resurrection highlighting of the Empty Tomb as well as receiving the Easter souvenirs.