I posted this many months ago, but it is so worth re-sharing. I absolutely love how Our Lord works; the Carmel I came from was known as the “skit Carmel”. This is actually not surprising, Saint Therese wrote her fair share of plays for big feast days and was cast as major lead roles. Our Carmel was famous for taking songs and making them “Carmelite”. The sisters were really good at coming up with the most creative lyric changes for Disney songs. For example, changing Mulan’s “Be a Man”- to “Be a Nun” or the Little Mermaid’s “Kiss the Girl” to “Kiss the Cross”.
Skits were our way of giving ourselves fully and completely, because it forces one out of their comfort zone and to give, not for ourselves but to the Lord- through the sisters. It was all about charity, and it taught us to give…everything! Good thing I took Drama 101 beginning in middle school through high-school because we had to be ready to “improv” (improvise) on the spot too many times to count. This is a great exercise for the spiritual life and for union with God; I had the pleasure of being a part of a very traditional Carmel, only the Latin Mass and Carmelite Rite of the Divine Office, but these skits often reminded me that Jesus and Mary must have had a very joyful home life with the good Saint Joseph!
There was a very specific growth period I underwent in Carmel; I was struggling in finding my fulfillment in Christ alone (a part from His glorious Mother and Queen) so I depended quite often on getting letters from friends and family in the cloister, I thought I needed those letters. Our Lord knew otherwise and He was very patient in helping me give up that notion. Our Holy Father John of the Cross often writes about how this is part of the phase of “detachment” (that comes with a pretty red bow) that the bride must purge herself of- not just some things, but all if she wants to reach union with the Bridegroom, the Divine Bridegroom of course!
To be quite honest, I absolutely hated the skits. I was surprised by this truth because I grew up doing theater, Drama class and was cast in my fair share of plays and musicals; my Dad is even in actor, so why did I dislike them so? It was Our Lord’s way of showing me through the experience of these impromptu performances that I didn’t need those plays and skits in my life anymore. Christ was showing me I was actually quite ready to give that part of my life up…of course I didn’t know that until a few years after the fact. But this growth was necessary, it was a season that needed to be had! Little did I know it then but I was very much being prepared for the anchorite vocation; (I was being shown- even sung to- is more like it) the vocation of a Carmelite Hermitess, life without a community that stems back to the Magdalene…
For Mother’s feast day- a very good humored Mother from Australia- a few years ago ( also today’s feast, Saint Mariam of Jesus Crucified, August 25th) all the novices and the professed handpicked their own solo pieces to sing or act out in honor of Mother’s special day. Providentially a book filled with all the music from Beauty and the Beast landed on the turn and I was determined to rewrite my own lyrics for “Something There”. I had a soft spot for Beauty and the Beast- rewind to my childhood when my two generous grandparents surprised me by taking me to the Broadway production of it, I am a fan of surprises (Our Lord knows this) and while I was having the time of my life, my Papa was snoring in the seat next to me and my Grammie had to periodically nudge him to consciousness throughout the play- what a Papa! I am such a princess at heart and these little “tastes” of the Divine were proof that Our Lord meets us right we’re at in the spiritual life; He knows the desires of our heart.
Fast forward to the day of the performance in Carmel when I rewrote “Something There”; It was so “romantic” for me to dress up a little statue of the Infant Jesus on our “stage” (just the recreation room), put on my mantle and veil and sing my “solo” to the little Infant Prince (the Infant of Prague) in front of Mother and the community. The comical part of it all was the four or five novices cast as Mrs. Potts and the whole crew, who commented at the end of the song at the Princess’ “change of heart”. The truth is, what I wrote and changed the lyrics to were very much what I wanted to believe was the love I could have for Our Lord, but I was suffering so much at the time, I simply made myself be convincing in this skit even if I didn’t believe what I was singing. I was very good at the convincing part, it was all I knew how to do… but as I look back now and reflect- ironically enough- these lyrics are exactly how I feel today in my love for Christ as Prince, Spouse and King:
“Something There” With Piano Accompaniment (one giant solo instead of two parts):There’s something sweet and almost kind
Yet I was mean and I was coarse and unrefined
But He’s dear and I’m unsure
I wonder why I didn’t see it there before.He glanced this way, I thought I saw
And when He looked He didn’t shudder at my sin
No, it can’t be, I’ll just ignore
But then He’s never looked at me that way before.New and a bit alarming
Who’d have ever thought that this could be
True, that He is a Prince Charming
But there’s something in Him that I simply didn’t see.Sister #1 Well, who’d have thought?Sister #2 Well, bless my soul.Sister #3 Well, who’d have known?Sister # 4 Well, who indeed?Sister #1 And who’d have guessed They’d come together on their own?Sister# 3 It’s so peculiar.All Sisters: We’ll wait and seeA few days moreThere may be something there that wasn’t there before.Sister# 4 You know perhaps there is something there that wasn’t there before,Sister # 5 Deo Gratias? (how nuns say “what” in Carmel)All Sisters: There may be something there that wasn’t there before…Sister # 5 What’s there sister?Sister #1 Shhh, I’ll tell you when you’re a professed (in vows).
Almost exactly a year later I found myself having a heart to heart with my prior Novice Mistress and I will never forget her words that still ring in my ear during times of doubt:
Our Lord will not ask you to be His bride when He sees you can cook or sew, but when He sees that you’re detached (from all that is not Him).
What PROFOUND words, I was struggling because I knew I lacked some serious talent and couldn’t add anything to the community of holy and gifted nuns, who I couldn’t help compare myself to constantly. The world teaches us to be successful while Our Lord only wants us to be faithful, what a contrast! I found myself wishing I was more like the good-hearted nuns I was surrounded by, I wished I could cook and sew and really be an asset to the community. But I should have believed Saint Paul ( and Saint Therese) when he said Our Lord doesn’t care about our talents (“let us choose the better gifts”), He actually is attracted to our weakness (even Paul complained of his weakness and when he was rebuked by God, turned around and embraced it…ah!).
Satan knows that our greatest weapon besides Jesus and Mary is our weakness. Remember this truth next time you are tempted by the devil in regards to your weakness- why else would he tempt you with it? And let’s face it, those who are weak make a firm habit to go to God as Father and Provider for all their needs, not just some; everything! What a God of love we are dealing with. Mother Mistress very gently corrected me with so much compassion and said Christ wanted me to root out everything in my heart so that He could dwell there. Immediately after that little chat another Mother of the community called me in to rehearse a skit for an upcoming feast day celebration and you will never believe what the song was…
One of the novices changed the lyrics from Beauty and the Beast’s “Be Our Guest” to “Be His Guest” (“here we go”, I thought) all about Our Lord and His bride. I was originally cast as Our Lord, but was (“providentially”) last minute switched to Belle’s role and I was never so excited. I was usually cast as the weirdos; Jesus really humbled me…all the time! On one occasion I begged Our Lord to finally give me a “normal” or well, dignifying role and right when I asked Him that special favor, I was cast as “the fat kid on a beach, building a sand castle”, I couldn’t help but laugh as I learned to never ask for a “dignified” role again. I played that fat kid on the beach with all that I had and did my best to make the sisters laugh even if it make me look ugly and ridiculous! This is why I am marrying Jesus, His sense of humor is impeccable and these lyrics to Be His Guest have stayed in my possession because to this day I look back and realize those lyrics really assured me that to be His bride means- I must be ready to suffer.
While most men give the woman they love chocolates and flowers, Our Lord gives the cross, He gives the nails and He gives the crown of thorns (jewels are reserved for the life to come)- He gave His own Mother (the Immaculate Conception) the cross, so it was becoming radically clear that if Christ calls one to suffer, He must REALLY love that soul. I started to see those nails, crown of thorns and the cross as another form of my own personal rice crispy treats, Cheetos and sweet tarts as His gifts to me ( it doesn’t have to be Cheetos for you!); and while the cross, of course never sounded particularly attractive or “charming”, these lyrics showed me that this “Prince” truly is a Man of romance. Every time I was made to suffer in Carmel, I started whispering to myself “rice crispy” or see that cross as my own personal bouquet of flowers! TRUE love is found in His chosen instrument of salvation, and to embrace Him as a Spouse means embracing that very wood that was used to redeem the world- Our Lord and His cross go together! I often saw how He Himself had to have written these lyrics and I couldn’t believe what it foreshadowed:
Be His Guest
Ma Chere Mademoiselle! It is with deepest pride and greatest pleasure that we welcome you tonight. And now, we invite you to relax. Let us pull up a chair as Our Lord proudly presents… your dinner! (a cross).
vs1. Be His guest! Be His guest! Put His service to the test. Just a simple little ‘yes’ Cherie, and He provides the rest. Run with glee to His tree. (By the way it’s all free!) Try the hard stuff it’s delicious! Don’t believe me? Ask Mother Mistress! You can sing! You can dance! With the cross, what romance! Fly to His cross, settle down and build your nest! And you’ll see with what love, He feeds His little dove, be His guest, Qui His guest, be His guest!
vs2. Be His guest! Be His guest! Sakes alive, and you’ll be blessed. He’ll prepare and serve with flair a culinary cabaret. You’re alone and you’re scared, but the banquet’s all prepared. No one’s gloomy or complaining when Our Lord is entertaining! Let His thorns pinch and prick! Let those nails do their trick. He’ll make you shout ‘encore!’ and bring Him out for more! Mary Candida says, ‘the cross is tasty, yes?’ Oh be His guest, be His guest, be His guest.
Bride (my small interlude solo)- Life is so unnerving for a sister who’s not serving. She’s not a bride without a cross to call her own. Ah, the good old days when she’d be useful, helping drag His heavy cross along! For years she’s been rusting, needing so much more than dusting! Needing exercise, a chance to do His will! Most days, she just sat outside the castle, flabby, fat and lazy, He walked in and upsy-daisy!
vs3. Be His guest! Be His guest! Get your worries off your chest. Let us say for your entree, we’re on an aray, may we suggest:
Are you cold, are you hot, Heaven’s sake is that a spot? While His Sacred Heart is glowing, let Him help you, you’ll keep going, course by course, one by one, till you shout, ‘thy will be done!’ Then He’ll sing you off to sleep as you digest. In heav’n you’ll prop your feet up, but for now let’s eat up, be His guest, be His guest, be His guest….. please be His guest!
“You’re alone and you’re scared but the banquet’s all prepared…. No one’s gloomy or complaining while Our Lord is entertaining” were like a Divine “two-by-four” across the face when I repeated those words later. For I had absolutely NO idea when this song was being sung to me as “Belle”, rather the bride that I would be called to the life of more seclusion with this very sweet Bridegroom- “settle down and build your nest”- John of the Cross’ poem was all coming back to me like a head-rush.
What I hope readers will take away from this post is that we are dealing with such a tender God of mercy and love that He will even go out of His way to write us songs to “whoo” our hearts and show us His Sacred Heart’s very generous nature. This wondrous Creator of the human race, the Most Blessed Trinity and His precious Mother will do anything to keep their children on their own personal paths to the one heavenly Homeland; this life is so brief so why make roots in this world? Let’s make roots in Paradise, in the Sacred Hearts (one Heart really) of Jesus and Mary. For Our Holy Father John of the Cross was right when he said the mountain of Carmel is a “fertile mountain”, it is the Eternal Banquet. Let us climb that great summit in haste where Christ awaits and let US instead be the ones ready to serenade that perfect King and Queen…who greatly deserve to be sung to and adored!