The Day the Light Dawned

Photography © by Carmelite Sister of the Most Sacred Heart of Los Angeles

I am a Carmelite Sister who teaches 200 high school students daily during five class periods beginning at 8:00 a.m. and ending about 2:30 p.m. Each of my classes has forty students. Each student is a cherished, never-to-be-repeated, unique human person. Each one of them has an immortal soul, so I can truly say that there are 400 souls in my care during a school year, because my religion class is only a semester. That makes 200 souls the first semester and 200 new souls the second semester.

Now, we are all composed of body and soul. We can see the body, but we can’t see our soul. So as people progress through their lives, it is easy to forget about the spiritual component which makes them who they are. Words are only words until they penetrate into the very soul.

That’s why it is sometimes very difficult to teach teens. Why? Their minds and hearts are filled with so much—friends, activities, sports, clubs, schoolwork, and often a part-time job besides. It is hard for them to calm down enough to learn. For example, they come from a P.E. class into mine and then off to one of their favorite elective classes. Their bodies may be present, but their minds are most of the time very far away.

I suppose each teacher deals with this “bringing them in” to the present moment in the classroom. Each tries to find a way. Some have just given up. Others become extraordinarily animated as they teach, but who can teacher deals with it in their own way. I would like to share with you my way and I think families can also do this within their homes.

Upon arriving in the classroom (a little early) I take some holy water and sprinkle it lightly on each desk and chair. I find some beautiful music—usually praise and worship music—and have it playing softy when they come in. Then I begin class with the sign of the cross and play the music for the day with printed words if possible. This introduces the lesson of the day.

The name of my class is “Sacraments and Worship” and I teach juniors at a Catholic High School in southern California. Twice in my high school teaching career, I used a teaching strategy that was extremely different and at first I wasn’t sure whether to use it or not. But the nudging to use it remained strong, so I changed my lesson and did something very new.

You see, it was a very important lesson. Both times I used this new approach, it was for very important lessons. This is what happened. I was scheduled to teach that Jesus Christ is the son of God, not symbolically or figuratively, but really and truly. And that is a mighty awesome concept to teach to someone who comes in thinking about their date that very evening.

I had already prayed in the classroom that morning and sprinkled some holy water. Praise and worship music was playing as they students entered. Our classes are fifty minutes in length, so I told them to clear off their desks of everything and wait.

Then I told them that I wasn’t going to talk at all that class period. One of them muttered, “Well that’s a first-class miracle!” Others laughed. Then I put on a recording of the outtakes of testimonies of some people. This took about five minutes.

Then I said, “And you aren’t going to talk either. We are going to meditate.”

I didn’t define what meditation is.

Next, the praise and worship music began playing and I began writing on the board a sentence from the Mass of Our Lady. It is also found in the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Slowly, I wrote the words slowly, deliberately, respectfully, and in large letters.

“Blessed is the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary
which bore the Son of the Eternal Father.” 

For the next thirty-five minutes, we listened to the music and looked at the board. The bell rang. We finished the class with a prayer. One student lingered behind and asked me, “Do you really believe that?” I replied, “Yes, I do. It defines who Jesus Christ is—the son of God, born of the Virgin Mary. Both.” He just shook his head and said, “I never knew. This changes everything.”

The second time I did this, I followed the same format, but with a different quote. It was the day I was scheduled to teach about the True Presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. I wrote,

“Jesus Christ is truly present in the Blessed Sacrament.
That is why we call it the Real Presence.
This is not a symbolic presence.
He is really and truly present in each consecrated host
and in each particle of the consecrated host.” 

Again, no one talked. Praise and worship music played softly in the background. After class ended, a young man came up to me. He was one of our top football players. He said, “Excuse me, Sister, but is what you wrote on the board true?” I said, “Absolutely, 100% true.” He looked up until we were face-to-face. With tears in His eyes, he said very quietly, “Thank you. I didn’t realize.”

There are so many days when after you teach, you come home tired and a little down, asking yourself, “Is it worth it?” Little positive feedback finds its way back to the teacher trying his or her best.

Yet, once in a while it happens. The light dawns in such a powerfully tangible way that you can see it and almost touch it.

Thank you, Lord, that I am a teacher.

Sister Timothy Marie, O.C.D.

This story and many others are found in the Carmelite Sisters’ short-story book called “Moments of Grace.”  If you wish to obtain a copy of the book, please visit:

To learn more about the Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Los Angeles, read their biography below and visit their website.

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

Or for more information, please contact:
Sister Faustina, O.C.D., 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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