Glimpses of Carmel 3 – The Abuse Crisis

            Four hundred and fifty years ago, St. Teresa of Avila, our Foundress, wrote The world is on fire!  The Church of her time was being torn apart and she agonized over the suffering of this Lord of mine Who is so much oppressed by those to whom He has shown so much good that it seems as though these traitors would send Him to the Cross again! The Church today is again in suffering as the revelations of sexual abuse by her members daily come to light. Christ has indeed been crucified again, thousands of times, in the persons of the victims of horrendous abuse. Jesus said, Whatever you do to the least of my brethren you do to Me. He has been abused in the persons of girls and boys, men and women, and those who have crucified Him are His own ministers. The suffering Christ shown in this drawing by St. John of the Cross depicts the agony of every abuse victim. Of all the members of the Church, they can the most identify with Him who was rejected and abused by His own.
            For us, the Discalced Carmelite Nuns of Flemington, New Jersey, the sense of betrayal is heart-wrenching! We are called to a life of prayer. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church says, Contemplative prayer is a communion of love bearing Life for the multitude, to the extent that it consents to abide in the night of faith. The Paschal night of the Resurrection passes through the night of the agony and the tomb—the three intense moments of the Hour of Jesus which his Spirit … brings to life in prayer. In this night of the agony, we identify in prayer with each person who has suffered abuse.
            We Carmelites are called especially to pray for priests. Prayer is a relationship of friendship with Jesus. In 1962, one of our Carmelite Friars, Fr. William McNamara, OCD, wrote, a religion without Christ is a corpse; an education that does not convey ideas of Christ that are vital, real, precise, and compelling is a farce…It is impossible to look into the face of Christ without being drawn into the action of Christ. That is what Francois Mauriac meant when he said: “Once you get to know Christ, you cannot be cured of Him.’… Religion will thus cease to be a moral code, a list of forbidding commandments, a dull, drab affair. It will take on the thrill and excitement of a love affair between God and man. It will mean, above all, a friendship with Christ.
            St. Teresa insists that we must ask God, too, to make …the preachers and theologians  highly proficient in the way of the Lord. And … we must pray that they may advance in perfection, and in the fulfilment of their vocation, for this is very needful. We pray for every priest that he will know this love affair between God and man. Anyone who does not have a deep intimacy with Jesus will look for intimacy elsewhere. That is a temptation for all Christians but especially for those who have made a vow of chastity. We support with our prayers all the many good and faithful priests who continue to minister to the People of God. We also support with our prayers the bishops who are called to shepherd all the members of their flock, including the victims, the abusers and those who are affected in any way in this crisis. May Our Lord support and guide them.
            Faced with the agony of the Church in her day, St. Teresa wondered what she could do. We ask ourselves the same question. There have been many initiatives made public recently, good and helpful, and some perhaps not so helpful. St. Teresa’s response to the fire burning in the world of her day was simple and straightforward: This troubled me very much, and, as though I could do anything, or be of any help in the matter, I wept before the Lord and entreated Him to remedy this great evil. I felt that I would have laid down a thousand lives to save a single one of all the souls that were being lost there. And, seeing that I was a woman, and a sinner, and incapable of doing all I should like in the Lord’s service, and as my whole yearning was, and still is, that, as He has so many enemies and so few friends, these last should be trusty ones, I determined to do the little that was in me — namely, to follow the evangelical counsels as perfectly as I could, and to see that these few nuns who are here should do the same, confiding in the great goodness of God, Who never fails to help those who resolve to forsake everything for His sake.
            We promise to try to do the same.


Categories: Carmelite Life

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