Note: On May 2017, by the grace of God, I will make my Definitive Promise as a Secular Carmelite. This is what I wrote for the Council. The statue above is the same image I describe in this piece, but decades later.
The discernment process to become a Secular Carmelite takes several years: at least one year as an Aspirant, two years until the first Temporary Promise, and then three years more before the Definitive Promise, a total of at least six years – all under the guidance of a Council, a teacher (Formator), a priest who serves as Spiritual Assistant, and if available, an individual who serves as spiritual director. And after that, a lifetime of continued Formation.
From the time I began my journey as a Carmelite Aspirant in 2011 until well into my Temporary Promise in 2014, I experienced a very long, dry, and humiliating process of letting go of my control of those things I thought belonged to me or somehow earned by right: my family on the east coast, my career, my children’s upbringing, financial stability, my health – and my marriage.
After I came to terms with having to let go of what I then believed mattered most, God withdrew Himself from me for over two years. He felt completely absent; I felt isolated and alone, and I never knew if I would have the strength to make it through each day. Still, I persisted in my prayer life, and committed to faithfulness in the limited ways I knew how.
Everything changed after I prayed at the foot of the tomb of Saint John of the Cross in Segovia, Spain in 2015, during a pilgrimage for St. Teresa’s 5th Centenary, led by Father Robert Barcelos, my community’s Spiritual Assistant.
Saint John’s sepulcre is located behind the church altar, elevated above the tabernacle, and surrounded by a square walkway. All the other pilgrims chose to sit in the pews and pray facing the sepulcre, but I found my place of prayer hidden in plain sight – behind the tomb, with Saint John’s uncorrupted body above, and Our Lord inches from me in the tabernacle.
I took off my worn sandals, carefully put my bags down on the floor, knelt, held my hands open, and recited the prayer I had been praying since I took my Temporary Promise: “Here am I Lord, for I am nothing, and You are everything in all that I am, and all that I will be.” I asked for Saint John of the Cross, along with Saint Teresa of Avila, Saint Elijah, and the Carmelite saints to intercede for me. I asked for Our Lady’s prayers and mantle of protection.
When I got tired of kneeling, I simply sat, feeling the cold marble at the bottoms of my feet. I felt like a little girl again, leaning upon the shadow of a wall to escape the Philippine heat and waiting to be reunited with my father in the United States.
But when I walked from behind the tabernacle and faced the other pilgrims sitting in the pews, praying, I knew with certainty that God had touched me and had gently turned my gaze away from my own ego – and upon Him.
In my Christian walk, I always marveled at Jesus’s first words to the apostles after His resurrection: “Peace be with you.” I wondered, why – if that was such an important promise – so few believers, including myself, knew first-hand of that peace. At the foot of Saint John of the Cross’ sepulcre, Christ gave me that breath of peace, and despite the continued challenges of my life and my shortcomings, that peace has never left me.
Since then, He has given me a mission, one I understood while in prayer during Lent 2016. Everything about the speakroom and the various apostolic fruit that have come out of the site, have been rooted in my attempt to be obedient to Our Lord.
When I was four years old, my father was given the rare opportunity to work as an engineer to pave a life for us in America. But he had to leave four children and a wife – who in one year, had delivered a baby and buried another. During that time, a monument of the Lord’s Prayer was built in the park behind our house, the same park where my little sister was buried.
After visiting my sister’s grave. I would stand before the image of Jesus, seated on His throne, and contemplate the Lord’s Prayer behind Him. No matter what visited us in the three years my earthly father was abroad, I grew in my relationship with God the Father. By His Grace, my faith never wavered. I understood that because God desired that His “will be done, on earth, as it is in Heaven,” then it followed that Jesus was on earth with me, as Our Father was in Heaven. I rested in that love and companionship.
As I grow in my Carmelite vocation, I find that I am only trying to find my way back to the simple and confident faith I had as a child. One of my most common prayers now is: “Come Holy Spirit. Give me the grace to enter into the Sacred Heart of Christ, that I may come to know the face of my Heavenly Father.”
To see the face of Christ is to see the face of the Father. To come before the Father in Christ is to be resurrected before Him as His beloved child. And it is the Holy Spirit that makes these movements between the human, and the eternal divine possible.
Copyright 2017 teresa linda – the speakroom.org , ocds
‘Arm yourselves with the armor of faith and the sword of truth. Pray for the grace to forgive and to ask for forgiveness – and for the healing of wounded bodies and souls.’
Try the Daily Disconnect as part of your Daily Meditation
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