“…Our hearts should be enkindled with burning zeal…we should long to be able to love Him with glowing love, with a love that makes of Him a friend, gives Him solace, and love that bears rich fruit.”
– Bl. Maria Teresa of St. Joseph
Love seeks union and a giving of oneself to the One loved. Such a loving union cannot help but bear fruit. Our intimate encounter with the Lord in prayer stirs within us an ardent longing for the salvation of souls. As Carmelite Sisters of the Divine Heart of Jesus, this longing is expressed not only in hidden prayer and sacrifice in our Carmel, but flows outward, bearing fruit in a direct apostolate. Daily we leave our enclosure walls to bring Christ to others, putting concrete form to the sentiments of St. Teresa of Avila when she wrote:
Christ has no body now but yours
No hands, no feet on earth but yours
Yours are the eyes through which He looks
With compassion on this world
Yours are the feet with which He walks to do good
Yours are the hands,
With which He blesses all the world
This union of the contemplative and apostolic is our gift to the Church. It is lived out in our effort to bring Christ’s love to all whom we encounter. In a very concrete way, we bring this spirit of fruitful prayer into our apostolates with the young and the old, providing them a place where they feel safe and secure, where they are nurtured and loved. In a word, we provide them with a home. While we, indeed, speak of a physical structure, “home” has a meaning of even greater depth. We are to draw the souls in our care to the Heart of Our Lord, wherein exists our true home.
Every home needs a mother. We are, thus, called to be mothers to those whom we serve. Like Mary, we are called to a spiritual motherhood, a motherhood in the order of grace. While it is our joy to care for the physical needs of souls entrusted to us, it is the burning desire of every Carmelite D.C.J. that through the genuine love with which we care for each soul, by our prayer and sacrifice, they may be won over to Christ, grow and deepen in their spiritual life, and one day share the splendor of heaven with us.
“From my heart I thank the good God for granting me the grace of establishing Homes for the aged,” wrote our Foundress, “…how many souls are thereby won for the Divine Heart, even in the eleventh hour! And how many prepare themselves here, where they are so near to God, so much better for the end!” It was Bl. Maria Teresa’s desire that her daughters provide seniors with a Home “in which they can spend a quiet evening of life, lighted up by peace and warmed by love.” This is what we strive to do in our Central Province at St. Agnes Home in St. Louis, Missouri, and at Carmel Home in Owensboro, Kentucky. From administration to nursing, from marketing to resident activities, a Sister may be assigned to any line of work which keeps the Home in operation.
On our St. Louis campus, we also have the joy of caring for children aged two to five at Carmelite Child Development Center. Once again, a Sister could be assigned to a variety of positions at the daycare, from director, to teacher, and even to cook. It is our mission to shower these little hearts with love and to teach them about Our Lord. In the words of our Foundress, “Souls entrusted to us are cared for and loved. In every child, we love the Divine Child, and this sincere love affects the heart...”
We consider the upholding of the dignity of life an especially vital consequence of our life and charism in today’s culture. Both in our daycare center and our senior living homes, we operate by the truth that every life matters and witness to the value of life from conception to natural death. Through little day to day occurrences, such as a reassuring word to one of our residents that their suffering has value when united to the redemptive suffering of Jesus or a discussion with a family at our daycare about their obligation to be open to new life, we strive to create a culture of life within our apostolates and amongst all those we encounter.
“To consecrate our lives for the salvation of souls, [burn this] into your heart, vigilant and enduring. It must be our first and last thought. Begin with a new, burning love to pray for souls, yes, to wrestle with the Divine Heart – and seek to win your children for the dear Savior by your sacrificial love.”
– Bl. Mother Maria Teresa of St. Joseph