Carmel Lights

By Sister Timothy Marie

The Carmelite Sisters at Sacred Heart Retreat House are richly blessed because we have so many retreats on our campuses. We walk on holy ground. People who visit our retreat house frequently remark about this. They say that our atmosphere is “spiritual” or they feel “peace” as they cross our threshold. These remarks are consistent month after month and year after year, so we have come to take them seriously. We sisters live in this atmosphere and I hope we never take it for granted. If grace is defined as “God’s life within us” and the graces of our retreats flow almost non-stop here, no wonder the atmosphere is charged with God’s love.

How often the holy name of Jesus is pronounced here. I am convinced that also has something to do with the “special something” people experience when they are with us. To pronounce His holy name is to invite Him into the present moment. Wherever two or three are gathered in His name, there He is present.

Yet, in today’s society, the holy name of Jesus is pronounced less and less on a daily basis. We are urged to separate religion from our daily work and our daily life and save it for a specified time of worship when our “religious freedom” can be “exercised” I consider this trend to be as a red flag already thrown onto the field of religious freedom. Nothing is more intimate, more personal, more life-changing than our relationship with God and God forbid that it is relegated only to Sundays for an hour.  

Isn’t it true that most of the people in our United States are descendants of immigrants who came here for religious and political freedom? Most of them suffered innumerable hardships to get here and then to establish themselves as citizens after they arrived. We come from sturdy stock and let us not underestimate our inner strength. It is there. Do not doubt it. And so is God’s grace. Just a few weeks ago, we celebrated the Feast of the Holy Innocents. Imagine! Christ just born and already the persecution begins. And has not stopped since—generation after generation.  

I used to think that we who were born into this society, at this time, in the United States of America, would continue to be free from religious persecution. Now I wonder. In my random musings at the beginning of this new year, this thought of a change in the status of our religious freedom keeps recurring. Pope (St.) John Paul II used to say said over and over, “Be not afraid.”  

My meditation is frequently centered on the words of Jesus, “And remember, I am with you always, day by day, until the Close of the Age.” Mt. 28:20. Sometimes I concentrate on the “I” of that quotation. Other times I pray about the “with you.” Again, some days I contemplate the “always” portion of the quote. Lately, the words “day by day” have popped out at me when I read the bible.  

As I write this, I think I know why I’ve been meditating on this specific scripture. Our retreat theme for 2014 is “Encountering Christ: Who Do You Say I Am?” What is your answer?