Religious Orders

In 05 Homilies by Fr. Reid on 2014/10/17 at 12:00 AM

One of the beautiful elements of Catholicism is that the Church is composed not just of individuals, but also of religious orders and communities. Throughout history these religious families have helped form the rich tapestry of our one, holy, Catholic, and apostolic Church!

Generally speaking, each religious order and community arose out of a specific need in the Church, and each has its own charism or gift for the Church.
For example, the Dominicans have given the Church some of her greatest preachers and miracle workers, whereas the Franciscans have taught us the value of holy poverty and a life of simplicity.

The Jesuits have produced some of the Church’s greatest teachers and missionaries, while the Benedictines have taught the Church how to balance prayer and work in a life of stability.

But perhaps the greatest gift given to the Church has come from one of Her smaller orders: the Carmelites. For it is this religious order that has taught Holy Mother Church how to pray.

Tracing their spiritual heritage back to the prophet Elijah, who hid and prayed on Mt. Carmelin northern Israel, the Carmelites began as a group of hermits who lived and prayed togetheron that same holy mountain that was home to their spiritual progenitor.

Over the centuries the Carmelites have grown to include both men and women, and thisreligious family has produced some of the greatest and most beloved saints of the Church.

While we’ve all heard of Carmelite saints such as St. Teresa of Ávila, St. John of the Cross,and St. Thérèse of Lisieux, we may not be as familiar with some of the Carmelite martyrs, most notably the 16 martyrs from the Carmelite Community of Compiègne, France, who died in the French Revolution.

These 16 women were arrested during the Reign of Terror in June 1794 for refusing to allow the Revolutionary government to suppress their community. A month later they were transferred to Paris, where on July 17th, 1794, they were executed for treason by guillotine.

Knowing that they were going to die, these valiant women offered themselves as victims to God for the restoration of peace in France and in the Church.
As the community approached the guillotine, they jointly renewed their religious vows and began chanting the Veni Creator Spiritus, which is often chanted at the liturgies for the profession of vows and ordinations.

Amazingly courageous, each of these brave Carmelites continued chanting right up until the moment her head was severed from her saintly body – until at last the solitary voice of the prioress, Mother Teresa of St. Augustine, was silenced by that heartless and cruel blade.

As we might expect, our Lord accepted the sacrifice of these valiant women, and the French Revolution’s bloody Reign of Terror ended just days after their martyrdom – saving the lives of countless others who would have met the same fate for rejecting the terrible tyranny of the revolutionaries.

These courageous Carmelites are saints not simply because they died for our Faith. They are saints because, like all the other saints from the family of Carmelites, they persevered in prayer and in the living out of our Christian faith – even when it was deathly inconvenient.

Perseverance in prayer and living out our Catholic faith dutifully are the themes of our readings today, and these actions go hand in hand.

In our first reading from Exodus we are given the image of Moses raising his tired arms in supplication on behalf of the Israelites engaged in battle with the Amalekites. As we know, as long as Moses persevered in his supplication, Israel had the better of the fight.
In our second reading St. Paul encourages St. Timothy to remain faithful to our Catholic faith and to persevere in proclaiming the Gospel, no matter how difficult that might be.

In our Gospel we have the familiar story of the persistent widow, the parable that Jesus uses to teach His disciples the necessity of praying without becoming weary.

Now all of us have certain needs or desires that we hope that God will grant, and so many of us go to God in prayer every day asking Him to give us what we want.

But what we must remember is that our prayer should not be primarily about our wants and needs. Our Father in Heaven is not Santa Claus! He is our loving Father Who knows what’s best for us in every situation.

Our Lord has a divine plan, a divine will for each of us and for all of creation, and in His humility, He allows our prayer to be the mechanism by which He enacts His will.

It’s not that our prayers change God, but they do act as a spiritual lever to bring about His will. As a loving Father, He listens to our prayers intently, and He answers them according to His will.

Ultimately our prayer should be about getting to know God and discerning His will, and it’s for this reason that we must persevere in our prayer. While the persistent widow got what she wanted because she persevered, our goal should in prayer should be to get to know what God desires for us – while trusting that He will give us exactly what we need.

But we must remember that the holier we are, the more weight our prayers will carry with our Lord. If we wish to enjoy God’s good favors, we should try to dispose ourselves for them by proving ourselves to be His friends.

Regardless, sometimes the answer to our prayers will be “No.” And when our Lord says no to us, we must remember that it is always because He wants to grant us a greater Yes!

Sometimes our Lord allows us to suffer, even when we beg Him to take it away. And when He does this, it’s always because He wants us to grow in virtue or to give us an opportunity to make reparation for sin.

While we may be tempted to question His love for us when He doesn’t ease our sufferings, persevering in prayer and in the Christian life means that we persevere in trusting God.

When we learn to persevere in our prayer, despite our sufferings, God gives us the grace toaccept whatever answer He grants to our prayers, and in this humble acceptance of His willwe are given the grace to grow in virtue.
If we persevere in our prayer, while also trying to cultivate virtue, eventually our prayerchanges so that eventually it becomes less and less something we do, and more and moresomething that God does within us. This is when we really make great strides in holiness.

My brothers and sisters, make it a point to persevere in praying every day, and as you do, tryto listen to God more than you speak to Him.

While vocal prayer is good and necessary, simply sitting with our Lord quietly and listeningto Him, or meditating on a passage of Sacred Scripture or an element of our Lord’s life iseven more necessary in helping us grow in holiness.

Often when people begin to develop a prayer life, they give up in frustration because theyfeel constantly distracted. But keep in mind that distractions in prayer are normal and will always be present. So even though you may get terribly distracted in prayer, do not give up.

Whenever you get distracted, simply pull your mind and heart back onto the task of communing with our Lord. For this is what it means to persevere in prayer!

Lastly, remember that prayer is not something we have to do alone. Call upon the saints and angels to assist you, most especially Our Lady! If we are her faithful children, she will always help us persevere in our prayer so that we might better live out our Christian faith.

All you saints of Carmel, pray for us!

20 October 2013

© Reverend Timothy Reid

Fr. Reid is the pastor of St. Ann Catholic Church, Charlotte, NC

Homilies from June 17, 2012 onward have audio.
To enable the audio, lease go directly to Fr. Reid’s homily homilies and select the matching date.

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