*The word “anchor” is in the word anchorite; this is because hermits are the anchors of the Catholic Church. Without them, the Ship would not remain grounded in the middle of adversity. I hope this blog post serves as a guide for those seeking this way life. For those who are not, I still hope it enlightens because this precious vocation in the Church has a valuable worth and yet, nobody knows about it. We as a Catholics have a duty to educate ourselves on the different calls, offices and vocations in the heart, body and soul of the Church, and if asked on the spot, we need to be prepared with an answer. *
The call to the cloistered community is truly a “call within a call”, but the call to leave even a cloistered life in common to scale the mountain with Moses, Elijah and the great prophets of the Old Testament can very much be seen as “a call, within a call, within another call.” Many, even in a community are afraid to be absolutely and completely alone with God. Man is not meant to be alone, but how can one truly be alone if they are living constantly in the presence of the Divine? The presence of Our Dear Lady, the angels and the saints.
IF IN THE PAST AGES, THE CHURCH HAD TO RELY ON HER ANCHORITES, WE NEED MORE THAN EVER TODAY THAT THEY SHOULD EXIST AND PROSPER. ~POPE PIUS XI~
Carmelite Hermitess of Our Lady of Fatima:
Hastening the Triumph of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
“I have also tried to ensure that this Rule of Our Lady and Empress shall be kept in its original perfection.” ~Our Holy Mother~
Hundreds of years ago our Fathers of the Church, in particular- the desert Fathers thought the greatest gift a soul could possess was to be totally secluded in the desert. This ancient call precedes life in common and has been lost, misunderstood or seen as a waste, when it is actually the Church’ greatest gift. The world teaches us that we always have to be doing something, even our best intentions in these actions can have some sort of vain glory in it. Many Catholics in our day see the true life of prayer as a selfish, but what did Our Lord reveal to Moses and Elijah on the mount during His Transfiguration? WE do not know the answer, but I believe the most glorious of all intimacies can be found on the top of the mountain of prayer if we simply take the risk and leave all to discover these choicest secrets.
- Desert Fathers and the Spirit of Carmel.
- The Marian Vow and Our Lady of Fatima.
- Traditional Latin Mass and the Carmelite Rite of the Divine Office.
- The First Saturday Devotion.
- Strictly Contemplative.
- Mental Prayer, Silence and Work/Writing.
- Horarium .
The Desert Fathers and the Spirit of Carmel:
Carmel dates back to far beyond that of Our Holy Parents, Teresa and John; so one would ask: where did it all begin? In 1321, Our Lady revealed to Saint Peter Thomas that,
The order of Carmel is destined to exist until the end of the world.
This would be fitting because in theory, the very first monastic order to take form was under our original Carmelite Holy (Desert) Father who began his intense eremitical life on Mount Carmel where his original cell was that of a cave: Elijah. This prophet, who scripture tells us will also come back down to earth to prepare the world for the Second Coming of Christ, still has an important part to play. Many secrets have been revealed on mountaintops: God descended in a cloud of fire on Mount Sinai, the fire that consumed the sacrifices of Elijah. Abraham went to such a place to sacrifice his son, Issac to God; on Mount Horeb God revealed Himself to Moses through the manifestation of the burning bush, then later received the Ten Commandments from Him while on top of a mountain.
Our Lord faithfully carried His cross uphill, to Mount Calvary where He sacrificed Himself. Was it not Elijah and Moses who were also next to Our Lord on a similar summit during His transfiguration? Finally, this very same prophet’s mysterious vision (described below) was seen on Mount Carmel; John of the Cross also has his famous map of perfection that leads to the top of a mountain. If we ponder the meaning of Our Lady’s mysterious prophecy of Carmel “destined” to exist until the end of the world, it would be only fitting that it’s father and founder would come back to be Carmel’s commander-in-chief for the decisive and final battle ahead. So what makes Carmel, the desert – or mountain – destined for greatness?
Prophets and apostles called to the desert/ mountain:
2.) John the Baptist (an austere hermit before preparing the way of the Lord)
4.) Saint Paul (fled to the desert- Arabia’s Mount Sanai- for three years before preaching to the gentiles)
5.) Mary Magdalene, who, lived the rest of her days in a cave of total seclusion in France until her death. Martha, Mary and Lazarus docked the same boat they shared in France. Lazarus became a bishop; Martha started a holy community of Virgins. That was not enough for the Magdalen; she did not join Martha in community life but entered into her predestined cave of solitude.
On mountain tops:
1.) God the Father is found and reveals Himself- “I Am that I Am.”
2.) Our Lord accepts “burnt offerings”- sacrifices.
3.) Christ reveals another part of His identity, that of fire- the burning bush.
4.) Reveals His Holy Will.
5.) His law- beatitudes, ten commandments etc.
Hermits are called to a stricter and more intense way of life even than that of the cloister, because it is a life of direct service to Jesus and Mary outside of life in common. Contemplatives have been identified as the very heart of the Catholic Church; the cloister “grills” can be seen as the rib cage, which we know, protects that heart. Modernism has seeped its way into the rib cage and this heart is no longer seen as essential; we are well aware, however, that the body cannot go on living without this vital organ. Thus, we must look back to Elijah where it all began, the prophet who was chosen to foresee the glorious foot of Our Lady predicting this future war between the seed of Satan and the seed of Her own:
Elijah climbed to the top of Carmel (the mount(tain), crouched down to earth and put his head between his knees. Six times he looked out to the seas and saw nothing. And the seventh time the youth reported, ‘there is a cloud as small as a foot rising from the sea’…In Genesis, God the Father said to the serpent: ‘She will crush your head and you will strike Her Heel.’
Are Carmelite souls destined to form Her Heel? After all, it was Elijah on the top of Carmel who saw this Heel take shape. Only time will tell, however; at Fatima did not Our Lady appear on October 13th, 1917 as Our Lady of Mount Carmel?
Carmel seems to be the key ingredient to proclaiming victory over Satan. Carmel was in a very real sense, the first monastic order to exist with Elijah being the first ever founder and according to Our Lady, will it also be the last? The Blessed Virgin Mary has revealed extraordinary secrets of Her Heart through the holy prophets and order of Carmel: The gift of Her Scapular to Saint Simon Stock and the intense and disciplined rule of Saint Albert of Jerusalem; in no other (approved) apparition does Our Lady appear in a different habit, only the Holy Habit of Carmel. If we reread all that was written in regards to Fatima, the “Carmel destiny” and the future role of Elijah, we are reminded that Carmel is truly Our Lady’s order. Thus, we do not limit ourselves to strictly looking back at Our Holy Parents Teresa and John, but to the very beginning where it all began on the mountain of Mount Carmel. As Scripture has shown us, it began with Elijah and it must end with him.
All are to remain in their cells or near them, meditating day and night on the law of the Lord and being vigilant in prayers, unless otherwise lawfully occupied. ~Saint Albert of Jerusalem~
The Marian Vow and Our Lady of Fatima:
After having brought the daughters of Our Holy Mother Teresa to France in the beginning of the 17th century, Cardinal de Berulle wanted them to add a fourth Marian vow to their three existing religious vows. But he had to renounce this idea due to the very strong opposition of the Spanish Carmelite nuns; this unexpected objection was headed by none other than Blessed Anne of Jesus and Blessed Anne of Saint Bartholomew. So since that time, what has changed? Our Holy Mother St.Teresa of Jesus and Bl. Anne of Saint Bartholomew both faced a great crisis in their own times: the Protestant revolution. In our current time, we can simply look around and clearly see with adjusted vision the crisis literally infiltrating the heart of the Church. That rib cage can be seen as the Catholic Hierarchy, without them- who protects the heart, the contemplatives?
Our Lady always raises up great saints during times of instability or catastrophe. A fourth Marian vow that was not needed then, could certainly be needed now; not unlike a remedy or cure that was not necessary for an illness that did not yet exist in 1500. This vow could very well be another “key ingredient” that Our Lord requested through Our Lady at Fatima: devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary which could only lead to one thing – the triumph of that Heart. My intention therefore is not to change the Carmelite spirit in any way or to introduce some extraneous element to that spirit, but rather to enhance it with new grace. Notably, during the time of Our Holy Parents John and Teresa, Saint Maximilian Maria Kolbe was not yet born; he was destined to live during a time when Satan would begin his decisive and final battle with the Virgin. So, what did Kolbe introduce in this vow?
In the traditional Carmelite profession, the object of the vows is the evangelical counsels of obedience, poverty and chastity, but these vows are rendered Marian by the fact that they are offered to God through the Hands of Our Queen. My intention is to render this Marian dimension all the more explicit by adding sacred obligations beyond those commitments already listed. This Marian Vow on a spiritual level involves a total offering of self to the Blessed Virgin, establishing Her as the Sovereign Queen and Mistress of the heart, body and soul. To give Her the meritorious value of all prayers and works so that She can dispose of them as She wishes. According to Saint Louis De Montfort, this is not even done in religious orders:
They do not give Him by these vows the liberty and right to dispose of the value of their good works. They do not despoil themselves of what a Christian considers most precious and most dear – his merits and satisfactions.
Most particularly, the vow includes a specific daily self-offering as victim of holocaust to bring about the Triumph of Her Immaculate Heart. This Marian Vow is a concrete response to the message of Our Lady of Fatima who asked the shepherd children to offer themselves as victims and who spoke of Her Son’s burning desire that devotion to Her Heart be spread throughout the world. Maximillian Kolbe refers to this vow as “transubstantiation into the Immaculata, a living and breathing Immaculata in the form of a host”.
What does he mean by that? Our Lord chose to transform Himself into a small white host for the entire world in every Church Tabernacle. As such, so the Immaculata wants to establish Herself, Her life and Her interior in the utterly simple soul of a Carmelite. Did not Saint Louis de Montfort say Our Lord desires “living copies of Mary”. This vow allows the soul to give Mary ALL without holding anything back, a complete and utter victim who denies Her nothing. We only ever hear of demonic and evil possessions of a soul; picture one being possessed by the Immaculate Conception.
Then and only then, will we ever be able to love Christ as He deserves and console that most Sacred Heart, by establishing in our own hearts devotion to Her Immaculate Heart. I am going to take it one step further, if you will: to be little hosts and tabernacles for Our Lady. We will no longer exist, only Mary; just as we see what appears to be only bread, is really the Body of Christ. To see a simple Carmelite, yet who is fully possessed by the Immaculata. Obviously, the triumph of the Immaculate Heart was not reserved for Our Holy Mother Teresa’s time; thus, this Marian vow has been reserved for:
The education of the great saints who will come at the end of the world are reserved for Mary. (Saint Louis de Montfort)
In studying the lives of the Carmelite saints, one finds that many of them sensed an urgent need to make an ulterior offering above and beyond the commitments assumed with religious profession. St. Teresa Margaret Redi offered herself as a “victim of love” and her life was consumed at the young age of twenty-two. The sixteen Carmelite Martyrs of Compiegne recited a daily oblation as “victims of holocaust”, during the French Revolution’s “Reign of Terror”. After all the Carmelites were beheaded in their Holy Habits of Carmel on the eve of the Feast of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, just a few days later, the revolution ended. Their united promise was heard by Jesus and accepted. Such confidence only came from the fruit of their daily offering; a supernatural courage gifted directly from the Divine. Therese also made her “Act of Oblation to Merciful Love” as a “victim of holocaust” in order to open the flood gates of Divine Mercy for sinners. With the help of the saints who came before us, it is a desire to follow in their footsteps and open the flood gates of the mercy that comes from the Heart of Mary, thus establishing the reign of Her Divine Son and Prince, Jesus Christ, in the hearts of all men.
The combined power of prayer, sacrifice and bond of these Carmelite martyrs had the power to soften Christ’s Heart and restore peace. This is the current goal- with the Immaculate Heart of Mary. It is the urgent mission for our times as requested at Fatima and it is a hope that this offering will be accepted by Jesus and Mary; to be blessed with the gift of white martyrdom, and perhaps even red martyrdom. Many Carmels have the preconceived idea that Carmelite spirituality reached its peak of perfection in the early years of the Discalced Reform and that anyone who has an aspiration to do something a little different is somehow insulting Our Holy Mother. Let us consider all the Carmelite women’s communities that have formed in recent centuries: the Carmelite Sisters of Charity (Venerable Teresita Quevedo’s community, founded by Saint Joaquina de Vedruna), the Carmelite Sisters for the Aged and the Infirm (founded by Venerable Angeline McCrory) and the Carmelite Sisters of the Divine Heart of Jesus (founded by Blessed Maria Teresa Tauscher). You will notice that all these foundresses have titles like Saint, Blessed, and Venerable. If they weren’t authentically Carmelite, then would Our Lord have allowed them to receive such honors in the Church?
Traditional Latin Mass and the Carmelite Rite of the Divine Office:
I am worried by the Blessed Virgin’s messages to Lucy of Fatima. This persistence of Mary about the dangers which menace the Church is a Divine warning against the suicide of altering the Faith, in Her liturgy, Her theology and Her soul. I hear all around me innovators who wish to dismantle the Sacred Chapel, destroy the universal flame of the true Faith of the Church, reject Her ornaments and make Her feel remorse for Her historical past. Pope Pius XII
Liturgy was first on that list. The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is the very center of a Carmelite nun’s day; it is where she meets her Beloved and receives greater strength. It is the place where beside Our Mother of Sorrows, she learns to carry the cross alongside her wounded Spouse. It is also where the Carmelite becomes accustomed to standing next to the Woman Who never abandoned Her Son. Another affect of modernism are the enemies of the Church who want to remove the element of sacrifice; without that key function we reduce something as precious and sacred as the Mass to a mere “meal”. The Traditional Latin Mass has produced hundreds of saints flowing from its aqueduct of rich graces. My personal favorite saints come to mind: John of the Cross, Isaac Jogues, Therese of the Child Jesus, Teresa of Jesus, Bernadette of Lourdes, Louis de Montfort, the sixteen Carmelite martyrs of Compiègne, Faustina and Maximilian Kolbe.
All the saints mentioned knew only this precious form of the Mass; the present vernacular was not introduced even during Saint Maximilian’s time, let alone the saints preceding him. The Extraordinary form dates back to the time of the Apostles, as history has shown us that Saint Peter helped write the Canon of the Mass. The Divine Office is the “completion” of the Mass; in a very glorious sense, they are inseparable. Together with the Carmelite Rite of the Divine Office used for hundreds of years and spanning back to the time of Our Holy Parents John and Teresa, it was even used by Therese of Liseux. Like the Seraphim, it is a simple wish to join these celestial beings in intoning the Divine Praises at the very throne of Jesus and Mary: The King and Queen.
The First Saturday Devotion:
Many well-grounded and traditional Discalced Carmels stress that the spirit of Carmel should not be modified in any way with the addition of extra prayers and devotions citing the preservation of spirit of Carmel as sacred. This is one-hundred percent my personal goal; the Carmelite way of life is such a gift that we come to Our Lady empty-handed, ready to be filled with the very gifts of Her Heart: Her interior. However, while many Carmels faithfully embrace the First Friday Devotion, the First Saturday is ignored. His Eminence Cardinal Raymond Burke said frankly, that this devotion has not become a universal practice of the Catholic Church and Sister Lucia related that peace in the world depends on the faithful observance of this particular devotion. Our Lord told Sister Lucia that His Heart was moved to establish a devotion that would remove the five principle thorns that pierce Our Mother’s Broken Heart:
- The blasphemies against the Immaculate Conception.
- Against Her Perpetual Virginity.
- Against Her Divine Maternity, refusing at the same time to accept Her as Mother of all mankind.
- Those who try publicly to implant in the children’s hearts, indifference, contempt and even hate against this Immaculate Mother.
- Those who insult Her directly in Her sacred images.
This is heaven’s peace plan as Pope Emeritus (Benedict XVI) said so memorably in 2013; Fatima is not concluded – it is for OUR times. It is a desire to have a life smothered in Mary’s Fatima message, as the triumph of the Immaculate Heart depends upon it; as well as the salvation of souls! The First Saturday Devotion will be treated with the upmost love and care, offering every small sacrifice possible to makes “amends” for these five wounds made against Mary’s Sorrowful Heart.
The First Saturday of the month and daily life will center on consoling the Most Holy Virgin, Whom Sister Lucia claimed to have never smiled once during the apparitions:
The world in which we live shuns the contemplative souls and says: what a waste. The popular question: what do you do all day? The thirty years of private life led by Our Lord is a mystery, to say the least. Yet Our Lord told Saint Faustina,
I keep the world in existence only because of you. You bind My Hands with your love!
That statement is shrouded in unfathomable mystery and romance. Such CAN be the power of a faithful spouse of Christ and such is the power of anchorites, cloistered monks and nuns; they are the beating heart of the Catholic Church. Anybody can have a heart, but does it beat? One may ask, wouldn’t you rather serve the poor, the sick, clothe the naked or preach? A confident lover of the Crucified can boldly answer: and who is there to serve Christ directly? The contemplative is free to love Our Lord without limits, to leave all for the sole purpose of loving Him. “To be alone with the Alone” as Carmelite and saint, Elizabeth of the Trinity so famously says. It is not a question of loud or quiet personality to “persevere” in a life of solitude, it is only a matter of the heart; He looks only at the heart and how much it is willing to love and suffer with Him.
The nun with a sense of humor is the one more likely to face the trials courageously in the war against self. Humor is a thing rooted in the Divine and since the greatest war is against powers and principalities (especially as a contemplative), we can’t take ourselves seriously if we want to judge ourselves in the proper “divine” light; we need only take God seriously. Our Holy Mother Teresa was so “done” with the world that when she was starting new Discalced foundations, she kept her eyes cast down so as to stay exclusively recollected with her Lord. Yet, what did this accomplish? The souls who saw her on the street converted on the spot simply from seeing her. She did not preach; she didn’t need to. These “on the spot” conversions were the fruit of her precious Carmelite “desert” vocation. The world says “what a waste!”, but Our Lord says “My beloved!”
Mental Prayer, Silence and Study/Writing:
But when thou shalt pray, enter into thy chamber, and having shut the door, pray to thy Father in secret: and thy Father Who seeth in secret will reward thee. (Matthew 6:6)
A Carmelite Hermit’s entire day is shrouded in prayer, apart from the two hours of mental prayer in the morning and the evening, Divine Office and the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. It is the duty of a bride of Christ to constantly be thinking of Our Lady and Christ Crucified in all we do. Those Two must become our identity, our reason for rising in the morning and the reason for laying down our head at the day’s end. Brother Lawrence of the Resurrection said he would not so much as pick up a piece of straw on the ground if it were not done for pure love of God.
The life of a Carmelite must be filled with some kind of work; never being idle, but ever letting her soul rest in Jesus and Mary while we work. Devotions such as Ignatiun Meditation and Lectio Divina are considered too “complex” for a Carmelite; it is really much simpler. It is a seeing, a being in constant conversation with the Beloved. It is setting aside the imagination, stilling the faculties and remembering the presence of that King and Queen resting in the very center of our souls, as if in a tabernacle. Brother Lawrence was so adamant on this “practice of the presence of God” that he said he no longer believed in God; he SAW God.
Silence is something the world will never understand, but as Our Holy Father John of the Cross writes, it is God’s first language. Our Lord’s voice is a soft whisper which can only be heard in the silence of our hearts. Exterior silence is the perfect atmosphere for this interior practice. This is a life of no longer “conversing with men, but with angels” (Our Lord to Our Holy Mother Teresa). Trials and sorrow are saved to share with Our Lord and Lady alone. A part from a learned confessor and spiritual director, sorrow is seen as an opportunity to go first and foremost to the Beloved, to share those trials with Him. Only in this, does one truly learn the power of silence. Before Mental Prayer, Our Holy Mother gave her daughters twenty minutes to prepare for the hour of prayer, with the reading of scripture. Even though our day is based on sacred scripture: the chanting of the psalms, the lessons and gospel at daily Mass, we come to know our Spouse by reading His Law and living it to its’ full splendor and capacity. Conversing with Our Lord and reading His word must be in-sync and in full harmony.
In silence and in hope shall your strength be. (Carmelite Rule)
When there was tumult in the Church after the great persecutions around the year 300, [causing] the first wave [of eremitical vocations], and again around the year 1000, [causing] the second wave, lay people and monks guided by the Holy Ghost left their homes and monasteries to seek out solitary places in the desert to pray and regain their solemnity and fervor. And so, eremitical life was born.
(Mass time depends on parish)
4am rise- Matins and Lauds
5am- Mental prayer with Mary, Divine Intimacy and Scripture Preparation.
6am- Angelus, Prime, Roman Martyrology and Terce
-breakfast (followed by dishes)
-work period: cleaning of Hermitage, preparing meals or form of work for office.
10:40- Sext and examine
12:00- Angelus and Dinner (followed by dishes)
2:00- None and Litany of BVM followed by Holy Rosary and Rosary of Seven Sorrows.
3:00- Divine Mercy and Litany of Seven Sorrows of Mary.
5:00 Mental prayer with Our Lord, Divine Intimacy Colloquy and Scripture Preparation.
6:00 Angelus and Supper/Coalation
8:00 Compline and examine
RETIRE WITH OUR LADY AND THE ANGELS
OHM Teresa said a Carmelite should eat well, laugh well and sleep well!
We cannot for a moment doubt the power of prayer. Think of Exodus, when Moses stayed to pray while Joshua was sent to battle. Moses noticed that when his hands were lifted in prayer, they were winning the battle, and when his hands were lowered, began to suffer defeat. Joshua understood this power of prayer, as he sent some of his men up to hold up the arms of Moses. Such was the power of ONE man in the site of God the Father.
When Saint Fransciso Marto was asked what he desired more, to pray for souls or to console Our Lord, this little contemplative answered: