On September 2020, the Carmelite Sisters for the Aged and Infirm will hold their Fourteenth General Chapter and elect a new Leadership team.  To this end, preparations started on November 1, 2019, with the gathering of elected delegates and forming of four Commissions on Community, Ministry, Spirituality/Vocation/Formation, and Government/Finance.  Very Rev. Mario Esposito, O.Carm. joins the delegates as Chapter facilitator.  During the next few days, we will share with you homilies and photos of Pre-Chapter gatherings.  We ask that you keep the Carmelite Sisters' intentions during this time of preparation and the upcoming 14th General Chapter that God's Will be done in all things!

NOVEMBER 6- MEMORIAL ST. NUNO ALVAREZ PEREIRA

+ Maria

My dear brother and sisters in Christ and Our Lady of Mount Carmel –

The Carmelite calendar today notes a saint of the 14th – 15th century from Portugal, Nuno of St. Mary Alvares Pereira, formally canonized by Pope Benedict XVI in 2009. Nuno is not a typical Carmelite saint, if you can say that any Carmelite saint is typical. Rather, he was a married man, and a soldier, in fact, the commander of all of the forces of Portugal, and bore the title, and is still referred to today in Portugal, as the Constable. His image is on the very front of the basilica in Fatima, as he is considered the national hero of Portugal who led the army against Castile in Spain in order to preserve the independence of Portugal from Spain. His memory is reverenced among the Portuguese and within the Order of Carmel.

Now, Nuno was not canonized because he was a great general, nor because he was a national hero, but rather, because he was a deeply virtuous man, passionately in love with and devoted to the Blessed Virgin Mary, full of faith, just and charitable to the poor. During one long battle against the Castilians, from his own money he fed all the Spanish people who would have starved to death in the area during the conflict. He used his considerable income to build a magnificent Church in honor of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Lisbon, and ultimately entered the Order eight years before he died, taking the humblest place as a lay brother. Now…what can he tell us today?

When most of us were confirmed, we were taught, in the old days, that we were becoming soldiers in Christ’s army, Catholic Christians who must witness to and fight for Christ in our world. This idea has fallen on hard times, for we consider ourselves today not as fighters or soldiers, but as peacemakers and lovers. And yet, my fellow Carmelites, every one of us battles and fights almost every day. As a Congregation you fight for the rights and dignity of the elderly. You work against physician assisted suicide and for proper treatment of the most vulnerable. You have learned that to be quiet and passive will accomplish nothing.Really, every one of us battles, to some degree, with ourselves, with the parts of us that we are not happy of or proud of, or realize that we must change in order to be happier, healthier or holier. Sometimes we battle with others, silently or overtly. Battle is part of living, though we don’t look for it or relish it. Our own Rule of St. Albert contains a long chapter on spiritual warfare, and provides of us many beautiful and religious means for putting on the armor of Christ in preparation for battle.

So…St. Paul says, “Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another” and “love one another, and do no evil to one another”. This is plain, simple advice whether we are living in a family or in community. Frequently, we have to recall that the end of our vow formula declares that we are really doing is “seeking perfect charity in the service of God and the Church.” This is the goal, and it should order all of our thoughts and actions. St. Nuno, even in the midst of battle, we are told, never hated his enemy, or was cruel to his enemy, and insisted that his soldiers pray, fast, keep themselves chaste, and be fair with the enemy. He did battle always under Mary’s banner, literally, and always for the good, not for vengeance.

In the gospel, Our Lord uses two images and strong language with his listeners to call them to discipleship: hate, even of mother and father, building without the proper means, and, yes, battle. War. We battle; we fight always to accomplish some end. We sacrifice, as Our Lord teaches, and push back against sin and weakness and have to be willing to pay the ultimate price in order to be in union with God, and to be his disciple. Even Mother Angeline criticized “arm chair” holiness. She emphasized fidelity, and fidelity comes with a price. It means, as the gospel teaches today, letting go of attachments to even the most beloved of persons if they get in the way of union and peace with God. Fidelity means effort. To be faithful requires that we not overestimate our own abilities, to take into account our own weaknesses, and to allow God to show us the way and help us to battle and change, to engage in the spiritual warfare of our Rule, for the good of our soul.

St. Nuno never did anything that he didn’t commend first to the Mother of God. As soldiers in Christ’s army, and beloved children of God and Mary, we realize that to be at war is a necessary part of life, else nothing good will be accomplished. But our battles are for virtue and done through holy and salutary means, always grounded in prayer and reflection. We commend ourselves today to Jesus and Mary and ask God to help to fight, as St. Paul says, the “good fight of faith.”

Amen.

Father Mario Esposito, O.Carm.

Avila-On-The-Hudson

November 6, 2019

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

November 5, 2019 -DELEGATES AND COMMISSIONS

NOTE: COMMISSION ON MINISTRY NOT IN THE PICTURE

Commission on Government and Finance
Commission on CommunityCommission on Spirituality Vocation and Formation

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 

NOVEMBER 4- MEMORIAL ST. CHARLES BORROMEO- HOMILY


+

Maria

My brothers and sisters in Christ and Our Lady of Mount Carmel –

In the liturgy of the day, we are marking the Memorial of Saint Charles Borromeo, a saint that is not exactly a household name. I doubt anyone has come up to you recently and said, “Oh Sister. I just made a novena to St. Charles and I received from the Lord exactly the grace I needed.” I don’t think so. Still – St. Charles is an important saint in the history of the Church and one of the stellar figures of the Counter Reformation. In this, he lived in a time like our own: where as we are still dealing with the effects of the Second Vatican Council he lived fully in the years just following the Council of Trent. Born in 1538, he became Cardinal at age 22 because his uncle was Pope Pius IV in 1560, and was the Archbishop of Milan from 1564 to his death in 1584 – two years after St. Teresa began her reform of Carmel – just for some perspective.As the General Chapter process of the Congregation is beginning step by step to move forward, I think St. Charles has three lessons he can teach us.

First – never tell the book of a person by the cover. In our midst there can be people with just the right talent, or personality, or idea that can be of great use, great insight or great strength to help in the renewal or moving forward of a project, or of our religious family. For all appearances, Charles Borromeo could have been a spoiled young man. Your uncle is the Pope and you become a Cardinal at 22. Sure. You get promoted to lead the largest diocese in Europe shortly thereafter. Sure. And, you have a speech impediment. Sure. But history tells us that despite these gold stars (maybe golden dots) next to his name, Charles was an intelligent, hard-working and serious young man, educated and able to accomplish the tasks put before him.Looking around the Carmelites friars and sisters, God – not us – has called all kinds of folks, for His reasons, and not ours. As we may wonder why her, or him, beware that others may wonder: why you? St. Charles can remind us that God has sent, really, the right persons for the right times, and we have to allow those gifts and persons to show themselves – even if they may seem “out of the mold”.

Second – St. Charles Borromeo was totally dedicated to the Church, and in his days, to the reform of the Church inspired and led by the Council of Trent. Today, Trent is looked at by some as a Council that stopped all progress and development in the Catholic Church and that is totally unfair. The Council of Trent was the Church’s response to the Protestant Reformation, of course, but even more so, it helped our beloved Church to get its act in order, as we say. It corrected many serious abuses in the Church, brought order to worship, to training for the priesthood and religious life, and to the management and organization of dioceses and other Church entities. It clarified the doctrine and teaching of Holy Mother the Church particularly regarding the sacraments. Does any of this sound familiar? Charles embraced the reform of the Church, and used all of his abilities to take the teaching of the Council in the best possible light, and build up the Church. He was a leader in this effort, who was imitated by many other bishops and religious superiors. We, for our part these days, can be quick to criticize or get lost in the troubles of our beloved Church or Congregation, or world, but we are not called by Christ to be critics but construction workers, builders of the His body in the world. As Chapter preparation moves forward, all of us must think of how we can build up, in a thoughtful and spirit-filled way, our own part of the Church which is Carmel so that our life and ministry can be “ever old and ever new” and ever useful to the Lord.

Third and last, St. Charles never neglected the spiritual dimension of church life, of reform, or of vocation. His advice was practical, and direct, and he made it clear that structures and tasks alone were never enough. The soul of the church, especially personal and public prayer, and good liturgy, must have priority. The body without the soul is lifeless, of course, and how to nourish the soul remains an eternal work. St. Charles clearly said that without meditation and reflection, priestly tasks, religious tasks, simply cannot be done. How fortunate we are that Carmel has come down to us after eight hundred years and still retains the tools and spirit to renew us spiritually. In our tradition and charism are all the seeds of renewal that we need but we alone, for these times, can plant these seeds and let them grow.

In my mind, St. Charles has a lot to teach us today. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, may we learn his lessons well.

Father Mario Esposito, O.Carm.

Avila-On-The-Hudson

November 4, 2019

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 

NOVEMBER 3- THIRTY FIRST SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME


+ Maria

My dear Sisters in Christ and Our Lady of Mount Carmel –

I am pleased to see so many of you here this morning, particularly those who sacrificed running in this year’s New York City Marathon in order to attend the Pre-Chapter meetings of the Congregation. For sure, your reward will be great in heaven.

We have all had this experience, I think, of being either in school, or in a store, or dealing with any kind of business, bureaucracy or person with authority and hear a sentence something like this: “Well, it should be, or usually, or by law or custom, this should happen, but, in your case, I will/we will permit something different.” For example, “Well, really, this gift certificate is out of date, but we will still allow you to use it.” We consider this a favor, a concession, and we feel happy and usually grateful. This kind of dynamic is present in the Word of God for this Sunday and, actually, represent a deep religious sentiment: a holy reverence for, a holy fear of, not terror, before God the Just One. In the Book of Wisdom, we are reminded: “Before the Lord the whole universe is as a grain from a balance or a drop of morning dew.” Biblical wisdom affirms: our God is the Creator and master and ruler of the whole universe. We are creatures; we are the ones who have received from Him life, creation and all good things. In addition, the text goes on: “How could a thing remain, unless you willed it? Or be preserved, had it not been called forth by you?” Something to ponder in silence. But going on, the passage affirms, we are offenders and sinners, and yet God rebukes us little by little because He loves souls and is merciful. There is the pattern: you are sinner and offenders, but I love and forgive you generously as you are mine. God does not forget who he is and what he wants, though we can forget who we are, and just what incredible love and mercy have been shown us.

Let us turn now to our friend Zacchaeus. Along with Matthew, he is the most famous tax collector in the bible, and we are even told that he is the chief tax collector. The people hated tax collectors and the chief tax collector the most! They were dishonest, manipulative thieves who caused misery to people. Because of their unjust ways, they deserved punishment and harsh words. But, here we are again dealing with divine reasoning, not human reasoning. Although Zacchaeus may have deserved condemnation, what did he receive? He received divine favor from Our Lord. Why? God’s ways are not our ways? Why? Because like almost all who go astray, there is the redeemable part of Zacchaeus that maybe even he couldn’t define, the part that led him to act in an undignified way and climb a tree so that he could see Jesus. Just “see” him with his eyes. Maybe he was just curious, or…? But Jesus saw Zacchaeus with another kind of eyes, the merciful and loving eyes of our Savior that looks not at the appearance but at the heart and soul of each one of us. With those eyes, Jesus saw the real and good Zacchaeus. Our Lord invites himself to the house of the chief tax collector, where he knew he would be with sinners and would be criticized for being there, the divine physician with his patients.In that house, just by being in Jesus’ presence, Zacchaeus repents and pledges to turn his life around from injustice to justice, from thievery to charity. How the wisdom of God is demonstrated for Zacchaeus: although you have been wayward and deserve punishment, I forgive and restore you. St. Luke reports these powerful words of Jesus, “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save what was lost.” This is divine mercy, something for us to ponder before the Blessed Sacrament today during our day of prayer.

And, one more thing: Zacchaeus is described as “short of stature”. St. Luke loves little details containing big lessons. How many of us think of ourselves as short of something? Maybe we feel we are short or lacking in intelligence or education, talent or ability, beauty or stamina, lacking in emotions or even spiritual sentiments? How many of us feel that we don’t measure up to others? How much time do we waste in comparing ourselves to others, always feeling that we come up short? This, my Sisters, is a fruitless pursuit of unhappiness, natural at one level, but far from the plan of God. Let us get over it by listening to the truth: Congratulations! Every one of us is lacking in something, short of something. That’s it. We admit it. If I were at the marathon this morning, I wouldn’t make it up the incline to get on the Verrazano Bridge. But none of us is lacking or short of the fact that God loves us, and accepts us, and the eyes with which He looks at us are full of mercy, kindness and forgiveness. The more we accept this truth, the more we will want to grow and change, like Zacchaeus without a word being spoken. I may be short in this or that. So what? I am full of the love that God has for me, and I want to let it shine.

During this day of prayer, there are many things to lift up: the Congregation, vocations, the world, the sick, our own intentions. Let each of us offer up too: grateful hearts, hopeful hearts, trusting hearts, before our God who is always good, and deserving of all our love.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 

NOVEMBER 2- ALL SOULS DAY


+ Maria

My dear Sisters in Christ and Our Lady of Mount Carmel –

From really old traditions in the Church, changed and adapted from different cultures and customs, the Annual Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed comes down to us as All Souls Day. This is a day for prayer and remembrance, for memories and hopes and faith, and for intercessions and suffrages offered on behalf of our deceased relatives and friends, brothers and sisters in Carmel, and those whom we have known and or served. In your work with the Aged and Infirm, and as every priest might say, we have a daily familiarity with death especially in our ministry, and as we mature, we come to know death more and more in our family and community. Death is part of living, really. Death is part of the great Christian mystery to which we have pledged our lives in the following of Jesus Christ. Always, we proclaim the death and resurrection of Christ until He comes again in glory. The Church makes it very clear to us that there should be a crucifix near the altar lest we ever forget the truth, “For Christ, while we were still helpless, died at the appointed time for the ungodly.” And …”But God proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” In His blood is our salvation. And so near the altar even if the image is of the Risen Christ, it must always show the five wounds on His body. God never forgets the cost of our salvation, but we can forget.

As a child, I used to think of this as a dark day, a sad day as we went to Church and the cemetery. I no longer think of All Souls Day in this fashion because even though my mind, maybe our minds and hearts can be filled with memories of this or that person, another part of us is filled with hope and peace. The Good Shepherd has and is continuing to care for his own, the sheep of the flock. Jesus declared that he had come not to do his own will, but the will of Him who sent him and, it is the will of Him who sent Our Lord, that none should be lost but all should be raised on the last day. This is incredibly good news: the announcement of the power of life, and eternal life, over death. This is the source of our hope which, as St. Paul says, does not disappoint. And, all of this comes about because of the incredible love that God has for each of us, each of His children. This brings peace. Yes, we are sorry about the death of those whom we have known and loved. It is only natural and Jesus himself wept at the death of his friend Lazarus. But we don’t grieve like the pagans who have no hope. We grieve with faith and hope.

It is important, the Church also reminds us, to pray for the dead. Many of the funerals we attend today have become “celebrations of life” or announcements that this or that person is already a saint in heaven. All Souls Day reminds that this is not the way to look at Christian passing. Our funeral rites and prayers are about hope, and victory – yes. They are about resurrection and completion – yes. But they are also realistic. None of us dies in perfection. All of us need the prayers and offerings of our brothers and sisters to walk us through until the gates of heaven are opened to us. You all have Mass offered for those who died – yes, because the power of the Eucharist helps to cleanse and prepare us for the beatific vision. Today is First Saturday, and there is a long tradition regarding Our Lady of Mount Carmel and the scapular coming to the aid of the poor souls. In your homes, you are so diligent to pray with the dying and invest them in the scapular, and to accompany their passage through death to eternal life with prayer. Our Catholic funeral customs and theology show our reverence for God, reverence for death, and deep faith in the promise of eternal life given us by Christ. Our biblically based theology teaches us that we are always sinners in need of repentance and forgiveness and even in death with the aid of the prayers of the faithful, and the mercy of God, purification and wholeness can come. These days, I am sad not so much for believers, but for those who have no faith, who live only for today, who do not consider the eternal weight of life, and what the true reality of existence is. For them too, we must pray.

May eternal rest come upon all those whom we lift up in prayer today. We pray for the souls in purgatory, and for those who have no one to pray for them as we are one with them in the body of the Church. We have come to know and believe in the love that God has for us, and for our beloved dead…and so, we pray with great confidence and peace today.

Father Mario Esposito, O.Carm.

Avila-On-The-Hudson