Authentic Friendship—Learning from Mary

“The Visitation” (detail) by Albertinell

God made us for communion, and as women, we have been given an incredible gift. In fact our fundamental value as women is our ability to receive the other, our gift of receptivity that is characterized by our self-gift, giving the gift of presence. It is a special gift that is important in society today—that is to witness to the primacy of love, primacy to the heart. This is what St. John Paul II is referring to when he speaks of the feminine genius. And who embodies this better than Our Blessed Mother? In reflecting on authentic friendship, we can look to her relationship with her cousin and kindred spirit, Elizabeth, in the story of the Visitation in the Gospel of Luke.

My favorite pictures of the Visitation are those that portray the joy in the faces of Elizabeth and Mary, as they greet each other and share in each other’s joy. They receive the gift of each other and by the gift of presence they give the gift of themselves to the other. In authentic friendship we recognize and humbly accept the gift of the other who is beloved by God.

Have you ever experienced an authentic friend who gave you their full attention? Where they are not easily distracted by something going on around them or by their cell phone going off? What do you experience but the knowledge that you are loved? I can still remember when my Sister in Community was fully attentive to what I was so excited to share. I was coming through the kitchen feeling like I was about to burst with my news. Her simple movements of stopping what she was doing, stepping away from the cutting board and counter and turning toward me giving her full attention showed me that what I was about to share was the only thing that mattered to her at that moment.

Mary and Elizabeth shared in each other’s joy of the gift of new life. Both of them experienced what was humanly unexplainable and humbly accepted their gift in faith. As women, we have been given the gift of receptivity which begins with knowing a God who loves us. But how come we can sometimes have difficulty in receiving the gift from another? Instead, we find it easier to give than to receive. Perhaps, it is because In order to receive, we need to be able to show and accept our own vulnerability. Mary recognized herself as the “handmaid of the Lord” and humbly received from “the Almighty who has done great things for her.”

An example in my own life was when a Sister and I returned home after spending the day hiking and I noticed that I no longer had my wallet. We searched inside and around the car, looking in every possible nook and cranny—nothing. My heart sank. I knew we were both looking forward to the next couple of hours for some prayer, rest and to change into a clean habit before joining the rest of Sisters for dinner. The Sister suggested that we drive back to the park and look for the wallet. It was a 30 minute drive one way and now the free time we had would be eaten by going back to the park. We did drive back to the park but after looking around and checking with the ranger station with no success in finding the wallet, we started to head for home. As we were driving out, we once again passed the spot where we had parked earlier and noticed a car pulling away and decided to check just one more time. It was at that moment something in the dirt caught my eye and I jumped out of the car and there was the wallet covered with sandy dirt! Definitely a miracle!

On the way home I felt a sense of relief marked with a feeling that just left me very quiet. I realized that I was grateful to have the wallet back and was deeply touched and humbled by my Sister’s spontaneous generosity. Our Lord was asking me to humbly receive the gift He was giving me through her. And once again I was learning from Our Blessed Mother what it means to give oneself authentically in friendship through gift of self, of presence and humble gratitude.

By Sister Elizabeth Therese

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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Or for more information, please contact:
Sister Elizabeth Therese, O.C.D., Vocation Directress
920 East Alhambra Road
Alhambra, California 91801

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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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