Saturday, June 12, 2010

My Carmel Homework

I affectionately call Carmel my "Special Reading Group with Jesus." Remember those poor readers in fourth grade who had to have weekly meetings with the teacher at those dinky group tables in the front of the class? No matter what cheerful name the teacher came up to call the group such as "The Reading Rockets", everyone knew that this group contained only slowest kids who needed extra remedial instruction in phonics.

I feel that way about belonging to Carmel-- only now I'm happy to be identified as a "slow Christian" and someone Jesus knew at her conception would need extra remedial instruction.

The purpose of Carmel, in fact, all Third Orders, is to "deepen the Christian commitment received in baptism." Jesus totally knew that I was so clueless about how to discern and follow our common Christian call that he gives me extra help. Thus, Carmel is my "Special Reading Group Time with Jesus!"

Just like a poor reader who finally figures out the wonder of phonics, I'm constantly amazed by the insights that are simply handed out for free through Carmel meetings. Check out this line from my Carmel Homework:

"Christ is the centre of our lives and of Christian experience. There are various ways of following Jesus: all Christians must follow Him, must make Him the law for their lives and be disposed to fulfill three fundamental demands:

a) to place family ties beneath the interests of the Kingdom and Jesus himself (Mt 10:37-39; Lk 14: 25-26);
(b) to live in detachment from wealth in order to show that the arrival of the Kingdom does not depend on human means
but rather on God’s strength and the willingness of the human person before Him (Lk 14:33),and
(c) to carry the cross of accepting God’s will revealed in the mission that He has confided to each person (Lk 14:33; 9:23)."

(OCDS Constitution Section II).

Wow! Has anyone else heard about this a,b,c approach to Christianity before?

I've vaguely heard about "carrying your cross" or "detachment from the world." What does "placing the ties of family beneath Jesus himself mean?

How does that play out in my life as a wife and mother?

I've figured out that I need to go to Catholic Mass during visits to see my Protestant Parents, even when that displeases my Mother. By honoring my obligation to attend Mass each Sunday, I am placing Jesus ahead of my natural family ties.

Yet, how does this sentiment apply to life withing my own Catholic family? Does this statement meant that I should make sure to get necessary prayer time for myself, even when I nurse a newborn 24/7 in the Fall?

Anyone have any ideas?

It will be interesting to discuss this at my Carmel Meeting tomorrow.


  1. That's a hard one. I look forward to the insights from your Carmel meeting.

    One way I think I've experienced the call "to place family ties beneath the interests of the Kingdom and Jesus himself" as a mother is to realize that my children aren't mine, they are God's and I am just his steward, raising them for heaven. This really hit home for me when my second child miscarried at about 11 weeks. God gave and then he took away. That baby, who we called Francis, was always His.

    That experience has helped me to understand the same goes of all my children: they are not mine but His. Somehow that helps me to fight against my desire to control them, my tendency to lose my temper and yell at them. They are not mine but His.

    I'm not sure if that's what you meant; but it's what came to mind.

  2. A few years ago I read The Gift of Faith by Fr. Dajczer. I came to one part early in the book that was deeply troubling to me, and continues to be to this day:

    What can this mammon be, that enslaves your heart? It can be material as well as spiritual goods. For example, it can be attachment to money, to your children, to your work...All these attachments cause yoru bondage and bring you slavery...Everything that enslaves you closes you off from God and diminishes your faith. (page 35)

    And then on the next page

    An obvious sign of attachments is also your sadness in situations in which God takes something away from you...It is only then , when you start to accept cheerfully these kinds of situations and submit with serenity that you will become more and more free.(page 36)

    I still don't understand how this works. Submit with serenity to great, tear-you-apart loss? I just don't see how loving your children to the point of sadness at their death is an obstacle to knowing Christ. It seems we would then view everyone, even our own children, as potential mammon.

    But as for placing family ties beneath the intersts of the Kingdom--I think Abraham is a great example of this. Of course, God did not make him go through with it, but Abraham was ready.

  3. Jen,

    I think he makes a good point; but glosses too quickly over the necessity of grief.

    I don't think it's loving one's children to the point of sadness that is the problem but feeling sadness to the point of despair. Sadness is natural, yes. But there is also an excess of grief which clings to that which is gone without trust in God. Perhaps that's what it meant to say but didn't quite articulate?

    My husband's office overlooks a cemetery and shortly after he moved in he started to notice a woman who was there day after day after day. Months and months passed. Rain or shine, she sat there by a grave for at least an hour. He was curious and so one day he and a colleague walked over to look at the marker. It was a 13 year-old boy. Through Google Dom found that he was the only child of a single mother, killed in a car crash. I've thought a lot about that poor woman and prayed for her consolation.

    I'm not saying that's where she necessarily was, but I can see how an excess of grief could lead to loss of faith, loss of hope, loss of love for God. How grief could become a prison or an obstacle if it becomes the only thing you have to live for, or if it makes you doubt God's goodness.