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Monday, January 29, 2007

2007 - Eighth centenary of the Rule of St. Albert

Our Superior General, Fr. Luis Arostegui Gamboa, OCD, announced in September 2005 that in 2007 we will celebrate the eighth centenary of the Rule of St. Albert, given to the hermits on Mt. Carmel.

With this in mind, the California-Arizona Province of St. Joseph is holding their Regional OCDS Congress at the Bellevue Hilton (near Seattle, WA) from Friday, June 15th – Monday, June 18th, 2007. The theme is: The Rule of St. Albert: Fount of Living Waters.

For more information, go to our website at:

From now until then I will try to post some relevant material for your benefit.

From the Exhortation on the Carmelite Rule of Blessed John Soreth (Office of Readings – Bl. Archangela Girlani – January 29th)

We read in the Rule, ‘Each of you is to have a separate cell, situated according to the lie of the land you propose to occupy.’

The religious, who is a child of grace, is nourished, developed and sheltered in the womb of his cell; the cell leads him to the fullness of perfection and makes him worthy to speak with God. The cell is a holy land and a holy place, where God and his servant exchange their confidences as a friend with a friend. It is here, oftentimes, that the soul is caught up in union with God, as a bride is joined to her husband; it is here that heaven touches earth, and the divine is united with the human. Indeed, the cell of God’s servant is like a holy sanctuary of God, for both in the sanctuary and in the cell divine affairs are the chief preoccupation-and this is so even more frequently in the cell. The cell is the workshop of everything that is good; it is the assurance of perseverance. In his cell, a man can live in poverty and yet be rich; and whoever has goodwill has everything that he needs to live well.

To help you to live safely in your cell, three guardians are given to you: God, your conscience, and your spiritual director. You owe to God the devotion of a son, offering to him all that you are; you owe honor to your conscience, for you are ashamed to sin in its presence; and you owe to your spiritual director, in whom you should confide before anyone else, the obedience that comes from love.

I will add a fourth guardian for you: as long as you are a learner and while the practice of the presence of God does not come readily to you, I advise you to choose someone for whom you have a high regard, whose example will be a constant spur to you each time you think of him, just as effectively as if he were actually present with you. Let the thought of him and the regard you have for him help to correct whatever needs correcting in you. In this way your solitude will never be an occasion for backsliding. You will try to imagine that he sees your inmost thoughts, and you will be impelled to fresh efforts, just as if he were present urging you on.

To practice this solitude each one should have a separate cell, just as the Rule prescribes. Your cell is both interior and exterior. The exterior cell is the house in which you live with your body; the interior cell is within your conscience, where the God of your deepest self must be invited to dwell. The door of the enclosure is a symbol of the door of your inner cell, and just as a religious cannot go wandering about abroad, so the interior senses should be curbed and concentrated on God. Therefore, you should love and cultivate your inner cell, and the exterior one, too. Let the exterior cell be your hiding place, yet not the kind of place that enables you to sin without discovery; rather, may it so protect you that you can live more attentively.

You come to realize what you owe to your cell only when you consider what personal faults you have been preserved from there, and how you do not have to quarrel with others. You realize what you owe to your conscience whenever you experience in your cell a sense of grace and of interior consolation. Therefore, give to both aspects of your cell the honor that is their due, and for yourself lay claim to your reward.

In your cell you learn to be master of yourself to set your life in order to liberate yourself and to deny yourself, and yes, to judge yourself, too: for no-one loves you more than you do yourself and no-one will judge you more carefully. On this topic someone has said: “Be contented in your cell and slow to step foot outside; keep continual silence, weep for your faults, read or pray at the proper times, rise promptly, and from time to time examine your conscience.’

It is with all these benefits in mind that the Rule lays down, ‘Each is to have his separate cell, allotted by the prior himself with the consent of the other brothers, or at least of the wisest among them.’

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Carmelite House of Studies - Mt Angel, Oregon

The new House of Studies of the California-Arizona Province was officially consecrated on December 8, 2005. These are my reflections on that wonderful event:

Many times the fruit of our prayers remains hidden from us. This is not one of those times. For years we have been praying for vocations. Our prayers are being answered in abundance with many answering God’s call. A place to house these laborers in God’s vineyard has become a necessity. This past December, with great celebration, we gave thanks and praise to God for the dedication of the House of Studies in Mt Angel, Oregon.

“I rejoiced when they said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the Lord’, and now our feet are standing within your gates” (Psalm 122).

The structure of the house is very beautiful, and the careful work of the craftsmen is expressed in every detail. There are many windows to allow plenty of light in, and on the day of the dedication the sun was pouring through, representing the light that will shine forth from this place. The chapel is exquisite, with its Carmelite simplicity and powerful invitation that draws one to stay and spend some time with our Lord who is so perceptibly present.

With the exhortation of St John Chrysostom, I continue to pray that they may, “Paint their house with the colors of modesty and humility. Make it radiant with the light of justice. Decorate it with the finest gold leaf of good deeds. Adorn it with the walls and stones of faith and generosity. Crown it with the pinnacle of prayer.”
(Office of Readings – Friday after Ash Wednesday)

It is indeed a perfect dwelling place for the Lord.

I praise God for the vibrant life and faith that flows forth from the Friars that occupy this space. There is no doubt about it; our future is full of hope and promise.

Since the dedication in December 2005, I have had the opportunity to return to the House of Studies. It is a flurry of activity with sixteen friars; student master, Fr Christopher LaRocca; assistant, Fr. Colm Stone; and fourteen students. It is simply buzzing with energy.

Their dedication and commitment to prayer is evident as it flows into their active involvement with their studies and ministries. I observed such joy radiating from each one of them!

In the early thirteenth century, Jacques de Vitry, Bishop of Acre, commented on religious communities of his time. He said, “Others, in imitation of the holy anchorite, the prophet Elijah, led solitary lives on Mt. Carmel…They lived near the fountain called Elijah’s Well…where in little comb-like cells, those bees of the Lord laid up sweet spiritual honey.”

Several centuries later, in a small town in Oregon, his words still ring true.