Reflections of a Carmelite Sister after seeing “For Greater Glory”

Ask a Carmelite Sister

Editor’s Note: This installment of Ask a Carmelite Sister is a review of the movie, “For Greater Glory.”

We rarely go to a movie theatre. Yet, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity was offered my community, the Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Los Angeles, to be a part of a premiere showing of “For Greater Glory” on May 31st in Beverly Hills. 75 of our sisters immediately said “yes” to the gracious invitation of Archbishop Jose Gomez. Why? Because it was during those days, the days of the horrendous religious persecution in Mexico in the 1920s that our community began. Mother Maria Luisa Josefa of the Most Blessed Sacrament, affectionately known as Mother Luisita, had already accepted 55 sisters into the new community.

It was on July 31, 1926, that President Plutarco Elias Calles enforced the anti-clerical laws throughout Mexico. The following day, August 1, 1926, all religious services were stopped throughout Mexico. No more Masses. No more marriages. No more first Communion. No more religious practices of any kind. This is where the movie begins. And that is why we are so interested. Our community was just beginning at that time also.

Regular folk, people like you and me, felt the loss of their religious freedom all the way to their deepest soul. In the region of Los Altos, where my community and the cristeros originated, a new group formed made up of these Catholics who protested the law. There was a boycott. There was a petition. When all these failed, there rose up a group known as “cristeros” who fought for three years to reclaim their churches and their religious freedom.

Now I had read about the cristeros, researched the elements of the persecution in Mexico, and a few times I’ve given talks on the beginnings of our community.  I had read about how some of our first sisters had been put in jail. I had heard about sleeping on mats and having to get up at a moment’s notice and take all belongings and escape over roof tops to safety. I had read coded letters in which our holy foundress, Venerable Mother Luisita, wrote in detail about current fashions. She was a very simple and austere soul and wore only a mended Carmelite habit. I used to think why such detail about current women’s fashions, for heaven’s sake. Well after seeing the movie, I understood. It was for the sisters to wear a better disguise so they would not be discovered and arrested. After I saw the movie, “For Greater Glory”, it all became real to me. The blood. The torture. The injustice of it all. Above all, the faith of the people. What faith!

Some of you reading this column might know us, because your child is in one of our schools, or a family member is in one of our health centers. Or perhaps you participated in one of our retreats we offer. But, today, in this column you will learn more. Our community was born in religious persecution. Our first sisters and the people who stood by them were courageous, strong Catholics. When Mother Luisita arrived by train into the United States in June 1927, she stepped down from the train and kissed the ground of a free country with religious freedom She could wear her Carmelite habit.

Groups of sisters remained in Mexico, hidden by families who knew they would be killed if the Sisters were found in their homes. That’s how our schools stayed in session during those dark years, with private lessons and small group lessons which took place in private homes. Our sisters following Mother Luisita’s example became beacons of hope and helped God’s people deepen their spiritual resources through prayer. That is our mission, “to promote a deeper spiritual life among God’s people” Our mission is aimed at fortifying each one of you with the spiritual intimacy with God that will give you strength in hard times.

I urge you to see the movie “For Greater Glory” and when it is over, like me, you will probably see some parallels.

VivaCristo Rey! (Long live Christ the King!)

Until next time,

Sister Laus Gloriae, O.C.D.


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To learn more about the Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Los Angeles, read their biography in the left-hand sidebar and visit their website (link provided at the bottom of the bio).

They publish a beautiful print magazine, Spirit of Carmel, and we encourage you to support the work of the sisters with your prayers and through donations and subscriptions to the Spirit of Carmel.

If you are able to help them, please click on the image of their magazine to visit their subscription and donation page.

If you hear God calling you to the religious life, I encourage you to visit their vocations page. – Deacon Mike

Or for more information, please contact:
Sister Grace Helena, OCD, Vocation Directress
920 East Alhambra Road
Alhambra, California 91801

 

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About the Author

Promoting a Deeper Spiritual Life Among Families through Healthcare, Education and Retreats

The Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Los Angeles strive to give striking witness as a vibrant, thriving community of dedicated women with an all-consuming mission. It is our God-given mission, a mission of the heart, a mission of loving service to the poor, the sick, the needy and the uneducated. Our loving service overflows from each sister’s profound life of prayer. We strive to reflect His life and hope and His promise to all that light has come into our world and darkness has not overcome it.

A look at the history of our community, with its motherhouse in Alhambra, California, reveals how its life-giving presence has come about. During the beginning decades of the 1900s just as the epic Mexican revolution was subsiding, a ruthless religious persecution was gaining momentum in Mexico. This horrible persecution accompanied the birth and humble beginnings of our community, a legacy that Mother Luisita, our foundress, and her two companions brought with them as religious refugees entering the Unites States in 1927.

Those seeds planted by Mother Luisita, now a candidate for sainthood, have taken deep root in the United States since those early days. People and places have changed throughout the years, yet the heart of our mission remains. As an autonomous religious institute since 1983 we continue to carry out our loving service in our healthcare facilities, retreat houses and schools which remain to this day centers of life and hope. Today we are moving forward together “Educating for Life with the Mind and Heart of Christ” in schools, being “At the Service of the Family for Life” through health and eldercare and “Fostering a Deeper Spiritual Life” through individual and group retreats. At the heart of our vocation is a passionate mission of loving service which facilitates our life-giving encounter with the living God.

The heritage of the Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Los Angeles is rooted in the spirituality of Carmel, the Gospels, the Church, with our particular charism derived from our beloved Foundress, Mother Maria Luisa Josefa of the Most Blessed Sacrament.

In His merciful goodness, God has graced our Institute with the Carmelite charism which has its roots in a long history and living tradition. The spirituality of St. Teresa and St. John of the Cross is rooted in this tradition. Carmel means enclosed garden in which God Himself dwells. The divine indwelling in the soul is the foundation of Teresa's doctrine. Thus our vocation is a grace by which contemplation and action are blended to become an apostolic service to the Church.

Our ideal finds a living expression in the life and charism of our beloved Foundress, Mother Maria Luisa Josefa of the Most Blessed Sacrament, whose spirit we faithfully preserve and foster.

Our life is characterized by: - A life of prayer and union with God - A deep love for Jesus in the Holy Eucharist - Devotion to our Blessed Mother - Steadfast fidelity to the Magisterium of the Church - Praying for priests - Commitment to works of the apostolate in ecclesial service

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