Usually when you tell a story, you start at the beginning. Well, let me turn the tables a bit and begin with the end…
As the last rays of the sunset were fading in the sky, a harmonious group of voices rose gently from the softly lit garden. Over a hundred Carmelites were spread through the curving pathways behind the convent and all had their attention fixed on a small statue of Our Lady, illumined by a garden light. What were they doing, gathered in the growing dusk? What was the cause for the peaceful smiles that played on their faces as they sang? What drew them together on this summer night?
Was it the riotous game of baseball that had shortly preceded the singing? The sport had been full of adventures, including several home runs, a stolen base by a sister well past seventy, and a trip onto the roof to retrieve a stray ball. Yes, this spirit of communion expressed in joyful play was certainly a part of the evening.
But didn’t the family pot luck dinner before the games also add to the bliss? Where else can you serve yourself tamales and roasted turkey? Is there a more delightful dinner party than to enjoy a meal in the garden with your sisters, over a hundred of them? It was cozy to say the least, but absolutely endearing. This too contributed to the palpable peace of the gathering.
Still we have not answered the question: why? Do Carmelites usually celebrate the 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time with such festivity? Well, no, to be perfectly honest we don’t. But for us it was a truly special day.
August 22 is the Feast of the Queenship of Mary, the day we celebrate her as Queen of Heaven and Earth. In Latin, the word for queen is regina. Our Superior General’s name is Mother Regina Marie of Jesus and this is her feastday.
Our evening of celebration began with Mass, the source of all our joy. In his homily, Father related what was in all of our hearts. Honoring and celebrating one’s superior is not an ego trip for her, but rather a time to rejoice in the role that she fulfills: Christ’s presence among us. The Holy Spirit worked through us when we elected her and she now carries the burden of reflecting Christ to her sisters in a unique way. This is a burden far too heavy for her to carry alone and so she completely depends on our prayers and support. On her feastday, we are able to express that support and renew our dedication to praying for her.
So all of this combined rejoicing flowed forth from our evening Liturgy, into a shared meal, bubbled out into our play, and reached its gentle closing in a hymn to the Queen and Beauty of Carmel. Perhaps closing is the wrong word because each of us returned to her own Carmel renewed in the unity we share through the service rendered by her whom we call our mother. No, graces received do not close, but continue to bear fruit as long as we respond. And so we carry on…
Happy feastday, Mother Regina Marie, from all your sisters in Carmel!!!