Solemn Commemoration of Our Lady of Mount Carmel

16 July 2005
Protocol: 230/2005

Dear Sisters,

I want to greet you on the occasion of the great Solemnity of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, the Patroness of the Order, who has cared for her Carmelites throughout the centuries.

Recently the Church and the world have lived through great events. The response to the death of Pope John Paul II took everyone by surprise. No one could have expected that three million people would have gathered from every corner of the globe to be present for the Popeís funeral. Cardinal Ratzinger preached very beautifully at the funeral Mass. When the Cardinals gathered for the Conclave, everyone was wondering who the next Pope would be and the speed with which the cardinals made their decision took most people by surprise. I had been in Portugal and got back to Rome for the first full day of the Conclave. I decided to walk up to St. Peterís for the result of the ballot. When I arrived, people were running and excitement was definitely in the air. I saw the smoke. It was definitely white but there were no bells to confirm that we had a Pope. After ten minutes of indecision, the great bells of St. Peterís Basilica began to peal and the excitement grew, as did the size of the crowd in the Square and down the Via della Conciliazione.

I had been present for the Popeís funeral and I was also in St. Peterís Square for the new Popeís inaugural Mass. Both were beautiful occasions. I was also struck by the great organization of the city of Rome, which coped admirably with the huge crowds for both occasions.

The new Pope, Benedict XVI, has been quietly going about his work. His style is different from that of John Paul II but his ministry is the same: to strengthen the faith of his brothers and sisters. He is a great theologian and seems able to speak very simply about profound matters. I sent a letter of congratulation to the new Pope and told him that the whole Carmelite Order would pray for him.

Since Christmas I have been traveling as usual. The General Council had kept some free dates for the beatification of Madre Crocifissa, the foundress of the Carmelite Missionary Sisters of St. Therese of the Child Jesus. The great day was fixed for April 24 but, of course, other events overtook it and that day was the inauguration Mass of the new Pope. We are still waiting for a new date. Pope Benedict XVI has decided that he will celebrate canonizations but that he will delegate others to celebrate beatifications. The important thing, of course, is that whenever the beatification takes place [cfr CITOC-online 76], Carmel will have a new blessed and another model of living in allegiance to Jesus Christ, with the guidance of Our Blessed Lady.

The cloistered nuns have been busy recently. New foundations are in various stages of being set up: in the north of Italy (Biella), in the Czech Republic, Romania, and in Kenya (Ngong). There are also some ideas of establishing a monastery in Fatima and we have been asked to re-establish the presence of our cloistered nun in France. Even in this time of scarcity of vocations, the Lord is blessing the Order. We must remember that the Church is essentially missionary and therefore the Order must also be missionary. The vocation of the cloistered nun is missionary also. Your Constitutions say that your life is "an eloquent and simple testimony to the reality of faith" (no. 9). In our day, when faith is under attack from secularism, the world needs authentic witnesses. Your prayer and love move beyond the walls of the monastery and, in some mysterious way, touch many people, who remain unmoved by preaching or books about religion. Over the period of Pope John Paulís funeral and Pope Benedictís election, the interest in Catholic websites increased hugely. There is a great spiritual hunger in our world and a very important way of reaching many people is through the internet. It is a vast market place and the Carmelite voice must be heard also.

Our Lady of Mount Carmel is a great model for the Carmelite. She stored up everything in her heart (Lk 2, 51). At the foot of the cross, she offered herself in union with the sacrifice of her Son. There she became the mother of the Church and we are invited to take her into our hearts. She will teach us to look to Christ and follow in his steps. Let us pray for one another that all of us may be faithful to our Carmelite vocation.

On the Solemnity of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, may you experience the love of our Mother, the closeness of our Sister and the protection of our Patroness.

Your in Christ,

Joseph Chalmers, O. Carm.
Prior General