16 August 2011

In a simple ceremony last Sunday, I was invested with the scapular of the Secular Discalced Carmelites, and am now officially a novice. It isn't the same as the brown scapular that many wear; it's larger, with two patches of brown cloth about a foot square each, laid over the chest and back, much like that in the photo to the right. After the novitiate, one proceeds to make temporary promises, and three years after that, definitive promises. If one wishes, one may afterwards make simple vows (according to one's state).

The Carmelite community to which I belong has been a blessing, although it's been through some difficulties through the years. Itself an orthodox community, it has had a few questionable elements now and then (of which it has been purified, Deo gratias). For some time we were meeting at the local Carmelite monastery and directed by the Superior of the community. They were one of those dying communities, where no sister was under the age of 50, and they used a gender-neutral breviary. They hosted a website where each sister offered social and political commentary, and their Masses were nothing short of a horror. Same-sex couples filled the pews rows of stackable chairs, the Jesuit priest offered a homily about liberation theology activists, during which he had a question & answer session with the "audience", and Holy Communion involved passing a glass bowl full of consecrated Hosts from person to person, each communicant helping himself, while "Dream the Impossible Dream" played (loudly) from the speakers. Afterwards, during the thunderous chatter, the sisters let their black labrador roam the chapel licking people's hands.

Of course, I wrote a letter to the Vicar General (who also happened to be pastor at my parish) letting him know of the liturgical abuse, prayed intensely for the madness to end, and things were soon taken care of. Their website was eventually taken down, and a year or so ago they were forced to sell their monastery and move in with a Franciscan community hours away. The monastery is now a bustling and orthodox diocesan seminary; part of our Carmelite community's apostolate involves spiritually adopting seminarians and praying for them.

We also had a long-time member who, it was soon revealed, was a dissident, in favor of women's ordinations and everything else that goes along with that. I remember offering a silent prayer to Our Lady of Mt. Carmel on my drive home that She would purify our community. It was not long after that that this particular lady decided to leave our "too rigid" group in search of tenderer shores. I've recently learned she is now a professed atheist. Prayers for her soul, but good riddance, I say. One doesn't "dialogue" with people like that; one says goodbye, prays, and hopes they return to right reason one day.

We're a small and diverse group, and, curiously enough, I've noticed that the ones on either side of the age spectrum--the oldest and the youngest--tend toward traditionalism, whereas the middle-aged are less vocal about the status quo. Our oldest member, a lovely 90-year-old grandmother, sharp as ever and jolly, has a difficult time with the sloppy liturgy and catechesis at her parish, and the complete irreverence toward the Holy Eucharist. She's decided, though, to stick it out in the hope of offering a counterweight to the common, Lord bless her.

She happens to have nine grown children. Compared to her, I'm just getting started, yet already feel a need for a massive break from childbearing, as pregnancy isn't the easiest thing to bear, with all its aches and pains and hormonal unrest--not to mention the frequent remarks by the well-meaning with regard to the respectable size of my belly. Yes, two months to go, and I'm already looking as if I'm ready to burst. But the baby herself is healthy, as are all my children, and I'm not doing so poorly myself, all things considered, so I won't complain...