The Desert in Carmelite Spirituality

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

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

“What did you go out to the wilderness to see?” (Matthew 11:7)

These were Jesus’ words to the crowd. John took to the desert to draw people out into solitude to prepare their hearts for the coming of the Messiah. For many years the desert had become a place of encounter. In 1 Kings 19:1-8 a long time before John’s appearance we learn of another prophet, a man of mystery, who appeared on the scene. After a bloody encounter with false prophets, Elijah fled from the anger of King Ahab and his wife Jezebel into the desert. On arriving there he left behind him his servant and went on alone into the midst of the desert. He entered, not only geographically but also the desert of his own spirit.

Can you identify with Elijah?

Most likely you have not had a bloody encounter with false prophets, but have you suffered a sense of failure or experienced the feeling of being totally stressed out?

Does it seem to you that no one understands your situation or is listening, not even God?

If your response is “Yes!” then you are not alone and have more in common with the rest of your fellow people then you realize. Even the Saints can testify to this in their life stories. Scripture affirms this also as we envision Elijah rising to the heights of a previous victory on Mount Carmel, now fleeing for his life, a broken man; he throws himself down under a desert tree, prays for death while falling into a deep sleep from which he hopes not to emerge. He lies there physically and emotionally exhausted. Was God not listening? That was probably Elijah’s take on it.

But while he slept God was arranging for the next segment of Elijah’s mission and journey.

“All at once an angel touched him and said, ‘Get up and eat.’ He looked around, and there by his head was some bread baked over hot coals, and a jar of water. He ate and drank and then lay down again. The angel of the LORD came back a second time and touched him and said, ‘Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you.’ So he got up and ate and drank. Strengthened by that food, he traveled forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God. There he went into a cave and spent the night.” (1 Kings 19:5-9)

Elijah is the Old Testament figure, the man that Carmelites look to as their inspiration. He is the solitary figure who wanders into the desert to encounter himself, the demons he meets on his journey of life who try to distract him from his mission and most especially the God whose Will he seeks to embrace. Perhaps, like the rest of us, Elijah was unable to see the long-range view of God’s plan. To him it seemed pointless to continue to live in Israel where the worship of the one living God had apparently failed. Far better that he be permitted to die. How often do we also see only the immediate results and take that to be the final outcome or end?

God is never limited by our short-sightedness. You and I stand in a place in history where we can read what has happened in the past. From our vantage point we can look back on Elijah and say, “Elijah, why were you so worried? Look how it all turned out! Look at what you have done with God’s help. You have been the inspiration of prophets, the spirit of an Order, a man admired by Jews, Christians and Muslims alike. God was with you all the time, leading and guiding you.”

Sister Mary Colombière, O.C.D.
Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Los Angeles

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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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