Thursday, July 15th dawned clear and seasonably warm for Alhambra, CA. And all the Carmelites were full steam ahead getting ready for today’s feast. Music rehearsals, food preparations, floor waxing, guest sisters & family arriving: it was a buzz of activity.
But if you had been a fly on the wall in the Chapel (or maybe more appropriately, a cherub in a stained glass window) you would have seen sisters stopping by for a few minutes here and there between projects to thank Our Lord for the great gift of our vocation. We really do live a balanced life.
Then…at 4:45 p.m. 62 Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart gathered for our Holy Hour and First Vespers for the Solemnity of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. There was a definite extra charge of energy in the Chapel.
The rest of our sisters will arrive today. (We are close to 140 in total, a small intimate family gathering.) Our three postulants will be initiated into the Novitiate and officially become our sisters. As an outward sign they will receive white veils and we will call them by a new name.
Oh, the fun we have had over the past several weeks getting them ready for this “new name!” Let’s just say that it is our job to come up with the most atrocious name we can think of to tease them so that when they receive their real name, no matter what it is, it is better than what we suggested!
At 2 p.m., Sister Cora and Sister Teresa will profess their first vows of chastity, poverty and obedience during Mass. Their families arrived a few days ago, and we have many priests coming to concelebrate. We had beautiful volunteers helping the sisters with flower arrangements, everything in the sanctuary has been polished until it gleams, and the music really is going to be heavenly. (One of our sisters wrote a new Mass setting- stunning!!!)
The celebration will continue through the afternoon and evening. Our “Plaza del Carmen” is decorated with white tents and flowers for the reception and afternoon recreation. Plans for the wedding cake are underway. We will gather again this evening to sing the Te Deum and chant Vespers, then join the families of the brides for dinner. An authentic Italian feast. (One of the sisters professing is German, the other Italian. We didn’t have too many takers for sauerkraut, so we went for the biscotti.)
At the end of the day we have a very tender tradition. After professing their vows, the two sisters will receive crowns of white roses, which they will wear all day as a sign of their espousal to Christ. When we gather before retiring to pray Compline, they will lay their crowns at the feet of our Blessed Mother in the Chapel. If you stop by early next week, you will probably see them there. All we have received comes to us through Mary and it is through her that we offer it back to God.
Be assured that we keep you and your families in our prayers on this glorious day. May Mary, Queen and Beauty of Carmel draw you ever closer to her Son and show you that she is your Mother.