What would you answer if you were asked, are you more like a tree with roots or a bird with wings? I expect the answer may vary from time to time depending on the uncontrollable circumstances we find ourselves in.
I have been thinking about, “The great Teresian Carmelite family is present in the world in many forms. The nucleus of this family is the Order of Discalced Carmelites — the friars, the enclosed nuns, the seculars.” (Preface of our OCDS Constitutions).
Fr. Saverio Cannistrà, OCD, Superior General, wrote a letter dated January 6, 2011, where he said, “The spiritual relationship that exists among the friars, the cloistered nuns and the secular members of the Order is a source of great riches to each of us as individuals and as an Order.”
I have been thinking how we, as Carmelites are the same and how we are different, at least as far as trees and birds go.
As I understand it, every three years without warning or consultation the friars may be relocated “led by another to places they would rather not go”(John 21:18) - or they may very well be delighted and excited to go. They must hold everything loosely, accepting God’s will, being pliable and available. They must be like a flowing stream, willing and able to go in whatever direction circumstances dictate.
My understanding is the enclosed nuns enter the monastery and much like the Benedictines who take a vow of stability, they generally make a commitment to live in that particular community. Some may find that very attractive, especially if previously they have had cause to move around a lot; here, there and everywhere. Finally, they find a place to settle down to something constant, producing a secure sense of being. To others it could seem nearly like a prison, or a stagnant pond, but to those God calls it is true freedom, an enclosed pool with a fountain, constantly moving although confined, “the water becomes within a person a spring of living water welling up to eternal life”(John 4:14). It is truly following in the footsteps of the first members of the Carmelite Order who lived near the Spring of Elijah on Mt Carmel.
The lives of seculars can be a mix of similar experiences of both the friars and the nuns. For many we may be challenged with the constant mobility caused by changes of employment and other factors. For some life is more stable and sometimes downright mundane. Sometimes we long for adventure, only to find the great escape turns out to be the exciting run to the grocery store, without the children (or grandchildren) so that it feels like a mini-outing.
The truth for us all is that our peace comes from placing our lives in God’s hands and with joyful anticipation, receiving the gifts He has for us in every situation. A realistic way to do this is to be very careful to watch our own expectations. "What does it profit to give God one thing if he asks of you another? Consider what it is God wants, and then do it." (St. John of the Cross, Sayings of Light and Love).
Let’s enjoy sailing on a day without wind. Not the excitement we anticipated, but a wonderful calm, serene, quiet time to be still and go deeper, closer to our final destination.
Let’s enjoy the challenge of the white water rapids that surprise us up around the bend, when we expected to simply float the river on a lazy afternoon with nothing much required of us. There are no spectators here, it demands active participation from everyone involved.
In these situations, like St. Paul, we can accept our own weaknesses trusting that our Lord will deliver us from all evil. “…three times I was shipwrecked, I passed a night and a day on the deep; on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers,… dangers at sea” (2 Corinthians 11:25-26)
In our no choice situations we find a capacity for skills previously unknown to us. Then they are put to the test, giving us opportunities to grow within ourselves and cooperating with others.
In retrospect, we easily see that “on our own we can do nothing”(John 15:5).
What we can do is be open to receive God’s grace and be willing to change.
I love the quote, “To live is to change, and to be perfect is to have changed often” (Blessed John Henry Newman).
Do not lose hope if it seems to take too long. Remember when the Lord said to Abram "Go forth from the land of your kinsfolk and from your father's house to a land that I will show you…I will bless you… so that you will be a blessing…All the communities of the earth shall find blessing in you." (Genesis 12:1-3).
Along those same lines, the Lord said to Moses, “You may indeed view the land at a distance, but you shall not enter that land which I am giving to the Israelites” (Deuteronomy 32:52).
"…these died in faith. They did not receive what had been promised but saw it and greeted it from afar and acknowledged themselves to be strangers and aliens on earth,…But now they desire a better homeland, a heavenly one." (Hebrews 11:13, 16).
Patience obtains all things, not necessarily now, but keep your eyes on Jesus and your ultimate entrance into the eternal and glorious Promised Land.
Rooted in Love you will fly, "soaring as with eagles’ wings"! (Isaiah 40:31).