*Small update: The videos on Matins will be posted on Wednesday the 23rd. I am going to wait on Lauds and Prime because Matins is the most difficult to master for beginners. If you can conquer Matins, the rest of the Office flows quite nicely. My sincere apologies for the delay on the postings of the videos but I will do my best, with the help of Our Lady, to God-willing produce some helpful videos on how to pray Matins in common with a community and individually using the Carmelite Rite Breviaries. *
Today, I want to dedicate this specific blog to Father Johannes Michael Mary of the Immaculate Conception and Father Maximilian Mary of Jesus Crucified (quite the titles, no?). Our Lady works in very mysterious ways; as some of you may know, before Carmel, I was accepted into the Franciscan’s of the Immaculata. There was an active branch of missionary men and women, and a contemplative branch as well. My current and beloved Spiritual Director was the Superior for the missionary brothers and Father Maximilian was the Superior for the contemplative branch of friars. When I visited the sisters for my “come and see”, I saw my future Director from afar, but we never had a chance to shake hands and meet formally. Later, as a postulant in Carmel, we had a private speak room visit where Father and I both recalled seeing each other at a distance, but did not get the chance to speak.
Providence saved that meeting…. we officially met in the confessional in the Carmel I entered a few years later. At that point he was the assistant chaplain for the community; he arrived only a month after my entrance. Father Johannes Michael Mary was his name, and I could not get over the “coinsidences”. At that point, when we became acquainted, the Franciscan’s of the Immaculata were dissolved and both Father Superiors of the active and contemplative branch needed to follow Our Lady on a different path. Father Johannes was led to the Carmel of Jesus, Mary and Joseph in Elysburg to help the nuns for a season, while Father Maximilian became the chaplain for the foundation of nuns in Fairfield. Outside of the celebration of the Mass in the Extraordinary Form, Father is a hermit (as I have mentioned in several former posts).
When I entered Carmel, I had the glorious opportunity of having a few confessions with Father Maximilian before he departed for Fairfield. When he left, I was extremely disappointed; I wanted my confessor to be a priest I knew through the Franciscan’s of the Immaculate. Before confessions began, there was always a list taped by the door with the order of seniority and who the priest was for the week. I smile looking back on the specific day I finally met Father Johannes: it was a dark and stormy afternoon (it really was. I have always wanted to begin a story this way) when I read the list, saw it was not Father Maximilian, it was some priest named Father Johannes. I remember thinking, “who on earth is that?” in a tone of contempt, and not because I did not like Father (I did not even know who he was yet) but my heart was set on Father Maximilian because we both had a connection through the Franciscan’s of the Immaculata.
Little did I know, that the priest waiting for me would be the answer to all my prayers, and the chosen vessel of grace hand-picked by the Immaculata, Herself! Like Faustina, I have had a few Father Andre’s in my life, but Father Johannes is a Father Sopocko. In short, these two priests are my heroes. Both have played an instrumental role in my religious vocation, in crucial and pivotal moments, when I needed true shepherds to lead, guide and reveal to me the hidden ways of God. I look back and I cannot even imagine being Franciscan, I am Carmelite through and through, but I have a deep appreciation, respect, and gratitude that Our Lady has still allowed these two Franciscans to make my paths straight.
Because even though the door to Franciscan’s of the Immaculata closed for me, and the door to Carmel opened, Father Johannes and Father Maximilian were still included in that open door. The one aspect of the F.I. charism that Our Lady never wanted to eliminate, in my own poor vocation, was the Marian Vow. It was so fitting that as I allowed the Carmelite Spirit to soak into my soul, Father Johannes was there to show me how the Marian Vow can be united to Carmel. A union that can only produce new grace. I love all priests, but Father Johannes is especially dear to my heart, as he has been nothing but a true Father to me, in the highs and the lows of the spiritual life.
I ask that you keep Father Johannes in your prayers as his birthday is tomorrow. Father Maximilian, for his means of sustainable living, has Novena Masses and on the side he creates music for the glory of Our Lady dedicated to the triumph of Her Heart! He was so kind, as I sent one of his CDs to my Dad and when I let him know, he insisted on sending me a replacement free of charge. When the package arrived, not only did he send the replacement but three additional CDs. Father comically told me that his music does not pay the bills, rather… the music creates the bills.
But he also quoted Mother Angelica and said, “in order for God to do the miraculous, we have to do the ridiculous”. It was also one conversation, on June 14th of last year, that I heard the anchorite call through Father Maximilian, in particular. Father described how he had to live and experience community life, in order to realize his true desire of a life of intense solitude. What I love about his story, is on the surface, he is the last person one would expect to be called to the desert. “Father, you’re too talented and outgoing, a great preacher” he told me he often heard from other holy Catholics.
He relayed how none of those things matter; God calls whom He desires, and the ways of the Father are not our ways. Our Lord looks at the heart. The most important lesson I have learned in viewing the anchorite call is this: the human personality and the heart are two VASTLY different things. With the guidance, prayers, and continual assistance of these two beloved priests, I hope to be led into the desert as well, where I can serve Jesus and Mary alone. I understand that this gift would be one I do not deserve; one that I did not earn. In fact, the only thing that I have hope in, with attaining this goal of direct service to Christ and His Mother, is that God chooses the weak; He chooses the least likely candidate. This leads me to believe that the ways of God are not the ways of man.