The emblem of the Carmelites 2R4v. Gaspar de la Anunciación, (O.C.D.); Representacion de la vida del bienauenturado P.F. Iuan de la Cruz primer Carmelita Descalço por el R.P.F. Gaspar de la Annunciacion [sic] religioso de la mesma orden. En Bruxas : por Pedro van Pée en el Nombre de Jesus, 1678. $2,000 Octavo. 7 X 4 1/2 inches A-Z⁴, 2A-2R⁴. First and only edition. Lacking title […]
I’ve been a lay Carmelite ever since October 2001. The Order is quite ancient and has its origins well before the eleventh century, traditionally hearkening back to before the Birth of Christ.
The Order, since the days of Sts. John of the Cross and Teresa of Avila in Counter-Reformation Spain, has been divided into two main branches, the Discalced, and the Calced (or Ancient Observance). Although they have much in common, each branch has its own separate customs, rules, and traditions. Each month of the liturgical year has at least one Carmelite feast day.
July is quite an important month for Carmel since it’s the month during which we honor both St. Elijah, the Prophet and our Father, on the twentieth; and the Virgin Mary. Mary gets two days. The first is the Solemnity of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel on the sixteenth. Her other feast day is the Mother of Divine Grace, on the twenty third. It’s on the nineteenth in Europe. Sts. Joachim and Anne, parents of the Virgin Mary, are also honored on July 26 as the protectors of the Order.
Morning prayer has just ended at St. Elias Priory in Middletown. Father Mike has enjoined Brother Charles, soon to be ordained, to await his turn to be interviewed.
“I suppose I’m set,” thought the prospective Carmelite priest.
“I’ve studied the Rule of St. Albert,and Teresian and Sanjuanist theology and philosophy, for eight years.”
In spite of all his confidence, he couldn’t help getting an unbearably dry mouth. His coarse brown habit and cream colored mantle were starting to feel heavy.
“My married friends and relatives have one kind of responsibilities in their vocation,” he thought, “and I have another.”
Everyone, over the course of his lifetime, simply has to figure out how to deal with boredom. Life for me can be so quiet and ordinary at times. During the course of those kinds of times I often read even more than I usually do anyway. If I happen to be feeling truly brave I may even presume to attempt to re-read something as difficult as “Dark Night of the Soul” by St. John of the Cross. I really have to make sure I become as familiar as possible with all kinds of Carmelite reading material anyway. Since weight, these days, hasn’t presented me with any kind of a problem lately I can also feel quite free to go over to the refrigerator and to get something fattening to eat. Alas, that’s quite a very bad habit to indulge in inordinately, but at least it helps to keep my mind occupied for a while. Noise has quite a tendency to annoy me such a lot. If a baby starts crying continuously in the distance, or some other unwelcome sound persists, that can truly spoil my ability to concentrate, and will always leave me quite frustrated and restless. Conveniently I don’t usually get bored anyway but I at least have done quite a reasonably good job of learning to handle it.
Fray Titus knelt to pray in his cell
To meditate at night.
A statue of John of the Cross
Was all that he could see.
His coarse brown habit fit him well,
A novice distracted
By light from a far away world.
Not a sound could he hear.
Distractions abounded that night
As he stayed all alone.
Only his silent vocation
would he have for a friend.
A Little Way to pray for souls
With nada and todo.
Fray Titus was so happy now
As he knelt in his cell.
I’ve been a lay Carmelite for most of the twenty first century. For that reason St. John of the Cross, who along with St. Teresa of Avila co-founded the Discalced Carmelites in Spain during the second half of the sixteenth century, has always been quite a favorite patron saint and mentor of mine. The problem with Sanjuanist literature, though, is that he wrote in such a dry didactic manner that it’s always been quite difficult for the average individual to understand him. Unlike Saints Teresa of Avila, Therese of Lisieux and several other famous Carmelites, who wrote in every day language that can be understood by the common man, Saint John tended to write in a formalized style which only Carmelite Religious can be expected to recognize. I’ve read quite a lot both by and about Saint John so I know that he was quite an exceptionally easygoing and approachable man and that his writings were geared toward teaching each and every specific individual how he should live out the demands of his specific life and vocation. It provides much of the foundation for the Little Way of St. Therese of Lisieux. Saints such as Teresa and Therese, unlike John, wrote about common everyday occurrences and circumstances. Saint John, though, as a mystical theologian, always wrote in terms of God’s action upon the soul and his vocabulary is too thick do be dealt with except by way of extreme caution and attention to detail. In the prologue of Book I of “The Ascent of Mt. Carmel”, John writes about “love’s urgent longings”, saying that “Love is repaid by love alone”, and that “In the evening of our lives, we shall be judged by love alone”. Too many people have tried to understand John without a legitimate regard for text, context and subtext. Because of the complexity of John’s work, significant caution must be exercised in reading anything of his. Unfortunately Saint John is too frequently perceived as unapproachable and intimidating, although according to legitimate Sanjuanist scholarship he was quite a good natured gentleman. If I could have a chance to meet him in person he could teach me about all the legitimate practical application of his ideas. That way, I could really see firsthand exactly how he applied all the theory behind his ideas to his life in practice. People are too often repelled by misunderstandings of his writings but if I could meet him, he could show me exactly how it all works.
The von Hildebrands, along with Sartre and de Beauvoir, were having a leisurely walk, and a rousing debate. “God wants us to live by faith and reason”, argued the orthodox Catholic von Hildebrands. “There’s no god, just radical freedom and despair”, replied their existentialist friends. People from St. John of the Cross to Dostoyevsky have reminded us that what one is, he sees in others and in life in general. The two couples were so far apart, while standing side by side. They continuously befuddled each other, Dietrich and Alice, Jean Paul and Simone.
I’ve always been quite obsessively smitten with theology and philosophy. I don’t think the von Hildebrands were ever friends with Sartre and De Beauvoir but they were contemporaries. Alice von Hildebrand is the only one who’s still alive.
Although I’ve always quite thoroughly enjoyed music, I’ve never been talented enough to become famous. I most certainly can’t sing. As far as I can see, my main talents appear to lie in writing and public speaking. In spite of what people seem to think these days, all the great writers of yore were in the conservative tradition. Now in our modernist and post-modernist era people are entirely too smitten with things like semiotic deconstruction and other means of deception-a pox be upon you, Jacques Derrida! It’s most certainly not the least bit coincidental that Cervantes, Shakespeare and Milton are so often touted as the greatest of writers in the western canon. Each of them could tell quite an exceptional story. Each of them also put forth significant points about both human nature and the significant political, philosophical and social currents of his era, but in narrative rather than didactic form. They were very good at following Emily Dickinson’s rule about telling all the truth slant. If I were a writer I could get to know all the intellectual and literary figures who shape our current modes of thought. To my chagrin all my favorite public figures are those from the past. T.S. Eliot, Walker Percy, Graham Greene and Flannery O’Connor were among the very best of twentieth century writers. I don’t really know of anyone from this era who strikes me as especially good or interesting. Unlike a lot of great authors throughout history, I simply don’t have a healthy enough constitution to get away with their hard-drinking, hard-living behavior. Mine would have to be quite a quieter, less intense sort of lifestyle. I’ve always had quite a flair for the more comedic and lopsided side of life. It might be a really good idea, then, for me to emphasize all sorts of dysfunctionality in at least a few of the characters I may write about. I could take advantage of all sorts of ideas and literary traditions I’ve always really liked. Knowing me I’d have to write something in the style of either Cervantes’ “Don Quijote” or Jane Austen’s “Northanger Abbey”, each of which refers to other literary works within its story line. Each author seems to have his favorite kinds of symbolism to which he has frequent recourse. Graham Greene was fond of using hard-drinking alcholics among his most prominent characters. Emily Dickinson and T.S. Eliot were known for their Sanjuanist themes. I often think I could do quite well at public speaking too. Of course I should have to be a lot more knowledgeable than I am currently but with a little extra effort I honestly believe that I could do quite an effective job of arguing my side of any subject. Nothing has ever been able to stop me from arguing unofficially anyway. In college classes I’ve taken, I’ve always struck my classmates and professors as quite a formidable opponent in a debate. Under those circumstances I can suppose that I should be the same, in didactic form, as I should be in a narrative sense, with my writing. The humanities have always been my favorite intellectual discipline. Whenever I get into a significant debate about matters of either a theological or philosophical nature I get exactly as exceptionally enthused as I do about classic western literature. Our current cultural climate is quite seriously disturbing and someone simply must speak out against the way things are going now. We need as many people as possible, these days, who are both willing and competent to defend traditional western cultural mores from the absolutely insatiable leftist determination to control us all. My imagination, combined with my understanding of reality, and a determination to get my point across to people, could really make quite an impact if I were famous.
I like always both to adhere to a strict code of conduct and to keep an interesting sense of humor about things. Beware the false dichotomy. The more I see of today’s leftist ‘who-am-I-to-judge’ mentality, with its permissive approach to abortion, euthanasia, homosexuality, reverse discrimination and all sorts of other horrors, the more I see that we simply can’t afford to allow it to go on. What they call diversity I call chaos. Genuine legitimate freedom is being begrudged us in favor of a need to demand that we feel a sense of supposed indebtedness to a bunch of self-pitying, self-aggrandizing special interest groups. Amazingly we are expected to trust the judgment of the likes of Al Sharpton, Barack Obama and television, movie and talk show personalities People are encouraged, now more than ever, to take advantage of each other for the sake of pleasure and profit. I like to mind my own business as much as possible but I’ve never been able to resist a good debate about these kinds of things. As everyone knows I’ve always been quite the staunch conservative. Liberalism, while claiming to reject censorship, presumes to censor each and every single move we make in order to affect a supposed Great Society. Lately there are movements afoot to ban the use of the words ‘retard’ and ‘bossy’. This is simply not permissible. Although I’ve always been determined to be as articulate as possible I have no intention of putting up with anyone else’s controlling my speech. Christianity (Catholicism) has always been so very important for me. Liberals, as well as other totalitarians, manipulators and control freaks, see fanaticism and hypocrisy in this claim because it begrudges them absolute control over people’s lives. They want a world devoid of formal or final causality because that would put them in charge. I like to be as strict an orthodox Catholic as possible. On an everyday basis I should really like to think that I do a reasonably good job of humoring people. I’ve always tried to be at least fairly good natured. Unfortunately I’ve always tended to be somewhat short tempered and I have a major problem with forgiveness. My ability to hold a grudge is quite legendary though I’m not very happy with it. At least I’ve learned over the years never deliberately to throw the first punch. Hep Larry understands that people are quite a mixed bag of nuts. Real Larry needs quite a few lessons in patience and understanding though. One lesson I have to keep track of is like the warning given by St. John of the Cross in his “The Living Flame of Love” about how each of us tends to see his own character traits, both good and bad, in other people. If I can have so hard a time dealing with a particular individual, I can just imagine how hysterical he must be over my character defects. As I said earlier keeping a very good sense of humor about life is exceptionally important. People can often be hard to take and I know they have the same problem with me too. Because each of us, in his life and worldview, has such a wide variety of distinct quirks and preferences, many of which deviate from those of other people, an inability to laugh at it all can be toxic. Because all the things I’ve been complaining about are forms of fanaticism, I really like to refrain from any sort of an extreme position about anything. In the end it’s all about text, context and subtext. Whenever someone pushes too hard he finds out in the end, the hard way, that things always backfire anyway.