If this title sounds like a broad and perhaps exaggerated statement, allow me to present my case. While there are many supporting statistics, such as the number of St. Therese devotees, the popularity of the brown scapular, and the perennial interest in St. John of the Cross, I would like to relate two very unbiased and objective examples.
They are Feathers and Chunker, respectfully. (Now please, a more respectful response than that!)
Feathers is a mourning dove that made her nest outside Sister Julianna’s window. So enraptured was she by our life, that she (the bird of course, not Sister) just had to raise her young within the walls of Carmel. Not only does she reside here “with” us, but she and her brood have even taken up chanting the Divine Office.
5:25 a.m. The superior begins by intoning, “Lord open my lips.” The community responds with, “And my mouth will proclaim Your praise.” And the dove chimes in with, “Coo, coo, coo.” 5:40 p.m. Lauds begins with, “God, come to my assistance” and continues with, “Lord, make haste to help me” and is completed with, you guessed it, “Coo, coo, coo.” Funny thing, Compline at 8:40 p.m. must be past Feathers’ bedtime. We usually don’t hear much from her then. But really, by all appearances she seems to be a loyal Carmelite-wanna-be.
Then there is Chunker. Sister Grace Helena named him due to the fact that this is a very, shall we say, healthy squirrel. He will eat anything from avocados to chocolate chip cookies. He even decided to chew on the hem of my habit one day when I wanted to see exactly how close he would come if I kept calling him. Fraternal life certainly does not put him off. In fact, the more you might yell at him to go away, the closer he will come! He just can’t resist his longings to join us!
So, St. Francis might be the one with the reputation for being an animal lover, but it would seem that the attraction to Carmel extends even to the beasts of the fields and the birds of the air. And can you blame them? Who would not want to be a Carmelite!