The above picture of the Order of Discalced Carmelite Monastery, situated above the famed biblical cave of Saint Elijah, was taken by yours truly in the Spring of 2009. I have a long, long, long history with the Discalced Carmelites, despite which[!] they were still wanting me to join up and teach at the Teresianum in bella Roma. But I knew that this is not what the Lord had in mind for me, however much I’ve at least wanted to learn from the likes of Saint Teresa of Avila, Saint John of the Cross, Saint Therese of Lisieux, Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity…
The little I did learn has served me well in my priesthood. I simply could not have endured so very many trials without some understanding of the glories of the cross in our lives. Having taken note of some of my experiences, one bishop, already very many years ago, exclaimed that he did not know how it was possible for anyone to continue wanting to be a priest after having gone through what I had already been through. I said that it wasn’t about me, but was all about Jesus. He nodded in agreement that that would be the only way. Indeed, this is the only way for any priest who wants to remain faithful to our Lord and His Church.
My image of Saint John of the Cross is, I suppose, rather different from that of most who breathlessly run to include him in their bibliography of psychobabel, not because they agree with anything he has to say, but because they hope that the mere mention of him legitimizes their endeavors to contradict everything he ever had to say about the spiritual life.
Instead, my image of Saint John of the Cross is — and this is to pay him a great compliment — is that of our Holy Father Elijah (as all Carmelites call the greatest of prophets) while he is cutting off the heads of hundreds of false prophets on the North-Eastern foot of Mount Carmel, just after that great challenge on Mount Carmel itself, during which fire fell from the heavens and consumed Elijah’s sacrifice, but not that of the false prophets.
Carmelite “spirituality” as it is called, is simply the life of sanctifying grace lived at the Heart of the Church. There is no room for relativism, for false prophets of anything that contradicts the doctrine and morality of the Church. But this does not mean that all that which is Carmelite is cold and uncaring, aloof from the drama of redemption and salvation which is accomplished daily among the Lord’s elect. Instead…
All that which is truly Carmelite is entirely Marian, and is therefore all about her Divine Son, Christ our God. The Carmelite has a most agile soul, that is, having the God-given capactity to accompany our Lady in the attention she gives to her Son. I’ll have to ask the Lord about such an agile soul. I’m guessing He’ll say something about getting to know that which Saint John of the Cross embraced willingly, that is, the Cross. For myself, I say, Yikes!
You’ll want to turn up the volume for this, the chant of the Flos Carmeli.