Amada Means Beloved
Life is filled to the brim with gifts. Many
pass by us without us even noticing them!
This is sad because acknowledging life for
what it is, namely an extravaganza of gifts
from heaven, would definitely make us change
our attitude in life. The opposite of Christian
life is not transgression but complaining.
While in Malta I had the enormous gift to
attend a funeral mass of a Discalced Carmelite
nun. She was 71 years old when she died.
She had joined Carmel when she was 24 years
old, living forty six years (yes, 46 years)
enclosed between the four walls of the cloister.
She was a bright, charming woman. Unwavering
in her love towards Him who loved her from
all eternity. When her spiritual director
and confessor visited her in her small Carmelite
room ('the chamber of love' as the Carmelites
endearingly call their room), she was already
Before he left, she asked Father whether
he could 'please turn slightly the statue
of Jesus' that she had on the bedside table,
'so that I can fix my eyes on Him more easily'.
In this simple phrase lies a powerful secret.
The secret of what life is all about!
George Bernanos is one of the most original
and polemical writer of the Catholic Church.
The Dialogues of the Carmelites written in
1949 is a screenplay about sixteen nuns martyred
during the French revolution and was the
basis for an opera by Francis Poulenc in
Perceptively, he places these words in the
mouth of the former prioress of the Compiègne
Carmelites, Mother Henriette of Jesus: "We,
the cloistered nuns, are not an enterprise
for mortification or the preservation of
the virtues, we are houses of prayer; whoever
does not believe in prayer cannot but take
us for impostors or parasites."
In fact the French radicals believed what
today the secular mind believes, namely that
these sisters are either deluded or intimidated.
They are a waste. In this play, the city
authorities come to the monastery and cross-examine
each sister as to the motives of their vocation
and to offer freedom to anyone who wished
it. None of them accepted!
They must be afraid to speak, argued the
authorities. So they placed armed guards
as sentinels within the cloister and again
the sisters are interrogated. When Mother
Henriette's turn comes, she simply hands
them a written response that she asked them
to read aloud.
"How false are the judgments that the
world makes of us! Its profound ignorance
disapproves of our promises; all that it
adorns itself with is but pure vanity. Its
only reality is the sorrow that devours it.
I despise its pride, I consider its hatred
an honor; and I prefer my chains to its spurious
freedom. O day of eternal celebration, O
day forever holy, when, vowing myself to
Carmel I won the heart of God.
"O beloved and precious bonds I strengthen
you each day; all that the earth can offer
me is worthless in my eyes; your sarcasm,
worldlings, compared to my joy is a dead
giveaway: that joy outweighs all the cares
to which your soul is prey.
Startling twist of perspective. The secular
mind pities these women. They pity us! We
think they are missing on life. They believe
we have messed up all our priorities in life.
We try to hard to snatch a few moments of
gratification and pleasure out of life. They
claim they have found the secret of a fulfilling
life. We are delighted because we do not
have exterior walls that close us in. They
assert that the interior walls that hem us
in are terribly suffocating!
We believe that happiness consists in having
more, enjoying more, achieving more, being
more and more liberated. They believe that
the happiness consists in living a life of
intimacy with Jesus Christ and they make
this visible by renouncing to all the trappings
that life offers to live just the core of
Christianity - serving the Lord and living
in his loving presence. Thus they fertilize
the world with the beauty of Christ.
They say NO to going out, to getting married,
to having money of their own, to do their
own will, to live independently so that their
YES to His love becomes more obvious to all
who want to see.
Smiling, Sister Josephine Koeppel of Saint
Theresa, 84, a Carmelite Sister from the
US, said: "I have everything I had before
and everything I thought I was missing. It
is a totally satisfying life. I just wish
it were possible for young people to know
that God put someplace on the world, a place
where you can really be totally satisfied."
When a rather naive Carmelite nun, Sister
Catherine asked Saint John of the Cross why,
when she passed beside the pond in the garden,
the frogs always jumped into the water and
hid, he answered that the pond was the place
where they felt most secure. And he immediately
added, "You should do the same as well:
escape creatures and throw yourself deep
into the center which is God and hide yourself
This is the secret that eludes so many of
us…What a pity!
(c) Fr. Pius Sammut, OCD. Permission
hereby granted for any non-commercial
provided that the content is unaltered
its original state, if this copyright