Monday, July 16, 2018. Have a blessed day on this Feast of Our Lady!
by Lynden Rodriguez, OCDS
I recently came across an article in my email on the relationship of yoga and the Hindu mantra. Like so many Christians who might have been introduced to yoga before rededicating their lives to Christ, I have been somewhat divided on what all of this means. The Biblical pronouncement to take that which is valuable and discard the rest may be applied here, but the “mantra” is a decidedly Hindu development. Or is it?
Katie Silcox writes in this week’s Yoga Alchemy of the on-line Yoga Journal: “The Sanskrit root ‘man’ means ‘mind’ or ‘to think.’ ‘Tra’ means ‘to protect, guide, or lead.’ So, ‘mantra’ is a sound, vibration accompanied by ‘abhav’(feeling/meaning) that protects, guides, and leads the mind. Another meaning of mantra is ‘a measure,’ as in a vibration or rhythm that we attune to, instead of the normal patterning (and therefore vibration) of the untamed mind.”
This interpretation of the word mantra means it is far from Christian thought; particularly Christian Mysticism. Readers may be surprised to find that there is indeed such a thing as Christian Mysticism. The treasuries of the Catholic Church are replete with mysticism, mystic experiences, and instructions along the way.
After my conversion to Catholicism, my daily yoga practice became increasingly more difficult with regard to meditation and use of the mantra. I was extremely uncomfortable with the spiritual practices at the base of my favorite exercise. However, there was nothing I could find at the time that said it was detrimental to practice yoga and yogic meditation.
Fast forward a few years, and I found myself called to the vocation of a Secular Carmelite. During my first years at Carmel, I was struggling with my prayer life. I spoke to our Director of Formation, and she recommended meditating on a flame, a holy image or word, and of all things, a mantra. The word made me bristle, but I knew what she was referring to. We had recently been instructed in the “Jesus Prayer.” It is a repetitive prayer used for hundreds of years by the Orthodox Church: “Jesus Christ, only Son of the Living God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” So, in obedience I began to recite the prayer as often as I could. I cannot tell you how much more complete my prayer life was after utilizing that prayer; and it has taken me up unto this very day.
But returning to topic, being the curious person that I am about words and language, I sought out a book: The Way of a Pilgrim. The book is a spiritual classic from Russia, delving into the history of the prayer, its meaning, and its consequence. It follows a Pilgrim on his way, and all of the holy people and experiences he encounters. It explains how one may constantly pray the Jesus Prayer, as the answer to the Biblical command to, “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17 NASB).
The anonymous author of the book writes about his encounter with a holy man: “The elder received my plea lovingly and invited me to visit him in his cell: ‘Come, stop by and I will give you a book of the Holy Fathers from which, with the help of God, you can learn all about prayer…The ceaseless Jesus Prayer is a continuous, uninterrupted call on the Holy Name of Jesus Christ with the lips, mind, heart; and in the awareness of His abiding presence it is a plea for His blessing in all undertakings in all places, at, all times, even in sleep” (Way of a Pilgrim, 18)
Eventually, I became Director of Formation in my Secular Carmelite order; and was the Director of Aspirants (Inquirers) for much longer, and always recommended to my students Christian meditation as approved by the Order; the Jesus Prayer being one of the methods.
I cannot say that the yoga mantra is inadvisable or not. I can only speak from my own experience. After all, I came from that practice into my Carmelite vocation; and I wouldn’t want to break anyone’s “rice bowl” either. However, I do owe yoga a debt to teaching me about meditation, and breathing exercises to calm the spirit. I would only say that it is a different understanding than that of my own. But to all those who are Christian and who enjoy yoga asanas, yet are torn by this issue, I would recommend the substitution of Christian objects, words and mantras, particularly the Jesus Prayer, over those put forward by traditional yogic teachings.
Bracovcin, Helen, Translator. Way of a Pilgrim, The. Image Books – Doubleday. 1992.
Silcox, Katie. Sweeping the Body with Mantra.Yoga Alchemy:
YogaJournal.com. October 26, 2012. <http://blogs.yogajournal.com/alchemy/2012/10/26/sweeping-the-body-with- mantra/#.UIrsHyxwhJY.facebook>
According to the traditions of the Carmelite order, on July 16, 1251, the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to St. Simon Stock, a Carmelite. During the vision, she revealed to him the Scapular of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, popularly known as the “Brown Scapular.” A century and a quarter later, the Carmelite order began to celebrate on this date the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. Read more…
| What Is a Scapular?
The devotion of the Brown Scapular used to be better known than it is today, though in recent years it has made something of a comeback. Those who wear it faithfully as an expression of devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, it is said, will be granted the grace of final perseverance. But did you know that scapulars have their roots in a particular garment that is part of the monastic habit? Read more…
| Reader Question: Are Scapulars Just for Catholics?
While the wearing of the Brown Scapular (and all other scapulars) is a Catholic practice, there’s nothing to prevent a non-Catholic Christian from adopting the practice, so long as he believes in what the scapular represents and faithfully carries out any requirements of the devotion. However, non-Catholics (and Catholics as well) need to understand what wearing a scapular really means, and what it cannot do. Read more…
| Novena of the Week: To Saint Mary Magdalene
July 22 is the Feast of Saint Mary Magdalene, the disciple of Christ traditionally identified with the repentant woman who washed and anointed Jesus’ feet and dried them with her hair. And so, for our novena this week, I have chosen a Prayer to Saint Mary Magdalene. If you have no particular intention for which you wish to pray, please pray for all of those involved in the case of Fr. John Corapi.
As a Carmelite, I cannot resist re-posting this article on Saint Simon Stock and Our Lady of Mount Carmel. We are already into the second day of the Novena to Our Lady of Mount Carmel. Here is a site that should give you more information on that: http://www.ocarm.org/en/ Enjoy!
Our Lady of Mount Carmel, pray for us.
We were motoring through the French countryside, on a tour of the wine country which took us from Paris to Bordeaux and the walled city of St. Emilion, into the Loire Valley and the vineyards of southwestern France. We learned about the gravelly soil which provides the perfect drainage for the vines, and about the roses which mark the end of each row and, like the proverbial canary in the mine, warn the vintner of potential threats to the vines laden with muscadelle and pino gris grapes.
Along the way, we stopped for Mass at small chapels and grand cathedrals.
The evidence of theological strife was everywhere: There were churches that had been burned, cathedrals which had been overtaken during the French Revolution and used to stable horses.
At last we reached the Cathedral of St. André at Bordeaux, which had been consecrated by Pope Urban II in the 13th century.
On the day of our visit, workmen were busily installing a new statue of Our Lady with the Child Jesus at the front entrance. We stopped to pray, then toured the magnificent cathedral. One interesting feature was the seating: Not the traditional pews, the French instead had created thatched chairs, each with a similarly thatched prie-dieu, or kneeler.
Our small tour group moved toward the left altar with its Marian art and ornate altar railing when friend Paula, a Third-Order Carmelite, gasped. There he was! St. Simon Stock, early prior of the Carmelite order, was entombed beneath the altar! Since the saint had spent most of his life not in France but in England, it was a complete surprise to find his remains there in Bordeaux.
* * * * *
On July 16 we remember St. Simon Stock, as we celebrate the memorial of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. Who was this holy man, to whom Jesus’ Mother had entrusted the brown scapular?
He lived so long ago, and the accounts are murky. According to early biographies, even as a child the 13th century Englishman Simon Stock was devout. It is believed he left home at the age of 12 to live in the hollowed trunk of a tree—where he spent his days in prayer and sacrifice.
Simon grew and joined the Carmelites, a mendicant religious order with a special devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary. He lived in a monastic community at Aylesford in Kent, and was eventually chosen to be prior general of the Order as they grew from a hermit community in Palestine, to establish themselves in Europe.
On July 16, 1351, the Virgin Mary appeared to Simon holding the Brown Scapular—which became the habit of the Carmelite Order—in her hand saying, “This is for you and yours a privilege; the one who dies in it will be saved.” The promise meant that Carmelite religious who persevered in their vocation would be saved. Beginning in the 16th century, the Carmelites began giving a diminutive version of the Brown Scapular—two squares of cloth or imprinted paper, joined by two brown cords which are worn over the shoulders—to lay people who wanted to be affiliated with the Order, and it became increasingly popular as a sacramental.
When Pope John Paul II addressed the Carmelites in 2001 on the occasion of the 750th anniversary of the bestowal of the Scapular, he said,
“Over time this rich Marian heritage of Carmel has become, through the spread of the Holy Scapular devotion, a treasure for the whole Church. By its simplicity, its anthropological value and its relationship to Mary’s role in regard to the Church and humanity, this devotion was so deeply and widely accepted by the People of God that it came to be expressed in the memorial of 16 July on the liturgical calendar of the universal Church.”
by Sister Timothy Marie, O.C.D.
Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Los Angeles
You never know when and where they’ll appear… perhaps even in Aisle 3 at Staples.
Photography © by the Carmelite Sisters
With a heavy heart, I put down the telephone and sighed. I knew it was right that I, like the other sisters in my Carmelite community, set myself to the task now ahead of us. This was not the fi rst time death had visited us. No, and I knew that it would not be the last. This time, however, death was claiming the one who had worked alongside me for two years. She knew Spanish. It was her native language. Together we were editing the original letters of our Foundress, Venerable Mother Luisita, trying to distinguish the nuances of the expressions and the intricacies of the coded messages written during the dark days of religious persecution in Mexico in the 1920’s and 1930’s. Sister Piedad not only knew Spanish, but had lived during those historical days and possessed a magnificent historical perspective on the letters. Her input was of inestimable value to our community, both now and in the future. I treasured every moment of my time with her on this holy project.
Toward the end, she could barely read. Yet, she continued, knowing that her input was valuable and most necessary. I can still see her leaning over the manuscript with a humongous magnifying glass reading aloud in Spanish and effortlessly substituting the correct English idioms and, from time to time, adding anecdotes that she remembered.
Soon, I had to read aloud to her and she, in turn, dictated the best phraseology for each passage. As time went on, her trips to the hospital became more frequent, until that final trip, which by some special design of God, took place the day after we finished editing. Not long after, we learned that her condition was not only critical, but that it was also terminal. Death was imminent.
The phone call came to me about mid-morning. I learned that Sister Piedad was dying. Would I begin preparing a bulletin board with photos that would greet people as they came to her Rosary and Funeral Mass which would be held as soon as possible? Of course, I replied in the affirmative, tidied up the work space I had been using and, after lunch, drove down to Staples to obtain a poster board. Spiritually, I rejoiced that Sister Piedad would actually behold the very Face of God, but on a natural, human level, I was hurting deep inside.
One never knows when God will send us a messenger. On this particular day, God sent a messenger to me in Aisle 3 of Staples on Valley Boulevard in Alhambra, California. I would like to share what happened that day—something that had never happened before and as of today, has never happened since.
To begin with, I couldn’t make myself walk down the aisle that had the poster board. I would start out and then hesitate, turn around and look at items in some other aisle. Secondly, I did not realize I was crying big, slow tears that were finding their way, one by one, from my eyes to my chin where they were stopped by the coif that we Carmelite Sisters wear. I wasn’t really thinking about anything. I was more or less aimlessly wandering up and down the aisles of the store. I hadn’t been long—maybe four or five minutes—when it happened.
I heard a familiar sound, “Sister!” Automatically, I turned around in the direction of the voice.
Photography © by Andy Coan
“What’s the matter, ‘hon’?” the woman asked.
I looked at her, not comprehending. As far as I was concerned, nothing was the matter. “What do you mean?” I asked.
Her gentle black hands reached over and clasped mine. “Sometimes, I just know. And right now, I know that something’s troubling you. I work here part time. I stand in the aisles and help people locate the items they want to buy. What are you looking for? What brings you here today, ‘hon’?”
That’s when it happened. Great, deep sobs rose from my inmost being and came out as waves of grief, spilling over onto her strong shoulders. She just kept quiet and let me cry until I had no tears left. Looking back, I wonder what the customers thought as they saw this Carmelite sister wailing in the arms of this kind and intuitive woman in aisle 3 of the stationery section of the store. I didn’t think of that then. All I could do was ask for a tissue.
She tried again. “So, what’s the matter?”
Another surge of tears ran down my face. My coif was wet, indeed. As I looked up into those kind eyes, into that loving face, the words tumbled out of my mouth…
“One of my sisters is dying. She is in her final moments right now.”
“Anything else, ‘hon’?”
“I’m looking for a poster board to put photos of her for the people to see at her funeral.” My lip quivered.
“Let her go, ‘hon’, let her go. God’s calling her, ‘hon’. You believe in God, don’t you? And in heaven?”
“Yes, I do.” I thought how strange it was that I, who usually was the one comforting people, was standing here in the aisle, sobbing into the arms of a total stranger. Of course, I believe in God. Of course, I believe in heaven. Still, the tears kept coming, falling down my face slowly and surely.
The woman looked at me. “Of course you believe. Will you pray with me? Together we will let Him know that we are letting her go. What’s her name?”
“Her name is Sister Piedad of Jesus.”
“And what’s your name, ‘hon’?”
“Sister Timothy Marie.”
Still holding my two hands, she closed her eyes and said…
“Father God, here is your dear child, Sister Timothy, meeting with me today in this store. Her sister, Sister Piedad of Jesus, is passing on to You as we speak. We know that You are our Father, and that You are Sister Piedad’s Father, and that You are waiting for her with open arms because it is her time to go home to You. I don’t want to hold her back. Sister Timothy doesn’t want to hold her back. So, here I am, Father, with your daughter, Sister Timothy, and we want to let Sister Piedad go home to you. We don’t want to keep her here. She already hears Your voice calling her home. We praise You for calling her home.”
Then she looked at me and squeezed my hands and said soft ly, “OK, Sister Timothy, say after me. ‘Father, I want to let Sister Piedad go home to You. I know You are calling her.’”
I repeated the words.
“I don’t want to hold her back. I trust You, Father, I trust You enough to let Sister Piedad go home to You.”
As I repeated these words, my sobbing stopped as suddenly as it had begun. A deep peace sett led into my spirit. I closed my eyes. When I opened my eyes, she was gone.
Did I buy the poster board that day? Yes, and I created a beautiful memory board of our beloved Sister Piedad for her family, friends and all of our sisters to see. Etched into my heart, forever, is that special moment in time when God sent me His messenger to strengthen and comfort me during my loss and grief and to remind me, once again, of His Love.
–Sister Timothy Marie, O.C.D.
|I came across a nice web article on the Feast of the Transverberation of St. Teresa of Avila. She is quite the gal! So, remember that tomorrow, Friday, August 26, 2011 is a BIG DAY for all Carmelites.
Feast of the Transverberation of St. Teresa of Avila
Saint Teresa died in 1582 after proclaiming that she was “a daughter of the Church“. Her body was buried in a wooden coffin. After nine months it was exhumed and to everyone’s amazement, though her clothes were decaying, her body was incorrupt. While the Carmelite nuns reclothed her a delightful perfume spread throughout the monastery. Later, her heart was removed to be enclosed in a crystal vessel and placed in a jeweled silver reliquary. When this was being done they beheld a glorious and wonderful sight: a wound from the angel’s dart was visible! It can still be seen today at the Carmelite Monastery of Alba de Tormes in Spain. Her heart has kept its color and since the nineteenth century three sharp thorns are visible at the base of the heart.
In the Liturgy for today’s feast, the hymn for Evening Prayer is as follows:
Mild messenger of heaven’s high King,
A sweeter pain, a death more dear
Victim of God’s unbounded Love,
Jesu, celestial choirs adore
For further reading I recommend The Life of St Teresa by Herself, The Way of Perfection by St. Teresa of Avila, The Interior Castle by St. Teresa of Avila, and The Collected Letters of St. Teresa of Avila. All of these can be purchased at the Institute for Carmelite Studies… (just google it.)
Jesus, You want your Spirit of Love to blaze like fire throughout the world; may we, like Saint Teresa, be instrumental in keeping that flame of love alight.
You sanctify Your friends and reveal to them the mysteries of Your heart; unite our hearts to yours in a friendship so close and intimate that we may experience the secrets of Your Love, proclaim it to others, and win them to you.
You blessed the pure of heart and promised that they would see You; purify our sight so that we may see you in all things, and through all things be close to You.
You oppose the proud and give wisdom to the simple; make us humble of heart, so that we may receive Your wisdom for the sake of the Church. ~ Intercessions from the Carmelite Proper of the Liturgy of the Hours
posted by little one @ 1:35 PM