Life is incredible because it is in the hands of a God who is incredible. When I was superior of the Discalced Carmelites of Malta, I visited Taiwan various times because we had three young Maltese Carmelites who were working towards the foundation of the first ever Chinese Carmelite convent.
There I witnessed miracles. In 1954 the Discalced Carmelite Sisters from Santa Clara, California had crossed the Pacific by boat to Taiwan. They were asked to start the Carmelite sisters in China.
The situation at the moment was politically explosive. The communists had gained complete control of mainland China. All Catholic priests and nuns had been expelled. North Vietnam also had fallen to the communist regime. Everyone predicted that Taiwan will soon be taken by the reds. But love knows how to risk! “If it is God’s will that we go to Taiwan, we shall go,” were the only comments of the Montana-born Mother Teresa who led this small nucleus of eight Carmelite sisters.
The moment they arrived, they immediately started to think of building a monastery! Everyone thought that this was a reckless decision. Their pockets were empty. But the pockets of God were full. And so relying on Him, they went ahead. Problems were innumerable. Yet, on the eve of Christmas 1957 the Sisters moved into their new monastery. A very peaceful place built in pure Chinese style. Miracle one.
Fifteen years later, disaster. In 1973, the authorities gave permission for a wholesale market to be built adjacent to the monastery. The noise became unbearable… buzz of the crowds, screeching and honking of trucks, pervading and foul-smelling odor of all kinds of food; a movie theater just across the road that used loudspeakers to attract attention… A real racket that made prayerful life impossible.
But God did it again! First He puts you in a tight corner from where you cannot possibly escape and then nonchalantly He intervenes! I know. He does it to me also!
One day, a recently-converted constructor came to speak with the superior, Mother Paula. Just before leaving, he asked casually whether they needed any kind of help. “Well, yes in fact we do! We need a new monastery! But we do not have one dollar!” The man quietly thought for a moment and then just said, “Mother, let me first find the property and then we shall discuss.” He disappeared for two months. When he appeared, he just said two sentences, “I found the property. Please come and see…”
A half hour drive and they found themselves in front a spacious piece of flat land with a chain of mountains in the distance and filled with the beautiful music of silence. It was agreed that this friend would buy the land, build a monastery following the specifications of the Sisters and as a return they would hand over the old monastery that will be transformed into apartments.
However, enormous opposition was raised because many thought that this ‘friend’ was just a manipulative business man who was unscrupulously taking advantage of a situation to fill his coffers. It was a difficult moment for the Sisters, seeing such a generous friend being slandered so harshly.
Again, going against the ‘good advice’ of ‘prudent’ people, the Sisters decided to continue. A year and a half later the Monastery was completed! Not one single dollar spent. Even more… the profit that this friend made through the building of the apartments in lieu of the old monastery, he deposited into an account for the day-to-day maintenance of their new building… Miracle two and three!
Ten years later, another attack from the evil one! A red flag appeared just beside their property and an official notification was attached to the enclosure wall stating it will occupy a part of the sisters’ property. The state had decided to build a highway just beside the monastery!
The Sisters were alarmed. What could they possibly do? After some discussions, they reached a unanimous decision to follow our St Teresa’s example and organize a procession! This is what Saint Teresa did when faced with an insoluble problem. And the solution always arrived.
Thus, beginning next day, as soon they finished morning prayers, they put on their white mantles and with a crucifix leading the way, they processed by that enclosure which was threatened to be taken from them, chanting the litany of the Name of Jesus. Adding with emphasis an invocation of their own: “From disaster of the freeway, Jesus deliver us!”
After full ninety days of daily procession… The red flag disappeared. The notification on the wall was taken away. The freeway moved… to another place! Miracle four.
Perhaps what Madame Chiang Kai-Shek, the wife of the President of Taiwan wrote, explains everything. “I had never met you before” she wrote to the Sisters after her first visit, “and yet there was something hauntingly familiar about you… Seeing the calm radiance of your faces reminded me of a line from Tennyson describing the Knights seated around the Round Table, when King Arthur appeared in their midst: ‘I beheld, From eye to eye thr’ all their Order flash, A momentary likeness of their King.’ There, I had the secret!”
WE also can become like the King and thus share in His power to do miracles!
PS. Today is the feast of Saint Teresa, the Spanish mystic who founded the Carmelites.
(c) Fr. Pius Sammut, OCD. Permission is hereby granted for any non-commercial use, provided that the content is unaltered from its original state, if this copyright notice is included.