We the Carmelites, honour Mother Mary under the title ‘Mother of Carmel’ every year on July 16th and solemnly celebrate her feast day. This year it is a very significant event for us Apostolic Carmelites, as we celebrate 150 years of the foundation of our Congregation and gratefully remember the day, July 16, 1868, when our dear Foundress Venerable Mother Veronica started the ‘Little Carmel’ with humble beginnings at Bayonne, France. Pope Francis when he declared the year of Consecrated Life gave a wakeup call to all Religious saying “Wake up the world! Be witnesses of a different way of doing things, of acting, of living! It is possible to live differently in the world”. We need to take this wakeup call very seriously and go back to our roots and make the desires and inspirations of our Foundress our own. Her life was vibrant with the lived values of deep faith, interior prayer, humility and simplicity, together with a burning zeal to found a ‘Carmel for the Missions’. We need to look into our life with regard to these aspects and re-live our calling.


In the life of Venerable Mother Veronica we see an attraction to the things of God and a habitual listening to His Word in Scripture, from the very start of her childhood days. Born in a deeply religious Anglican family, she inherited a deeply rooted faith through generations of Anglican ministers in the family. Morning and Evening prayer in the family kept them united and connected to God. God was her ALL. Prayer was her forte. Communing with Him was her delight. The single eye! A simple gaze! Total surrender! This sums up the beautiful and inspiring life of Mother Veronica. She beckons us today to seek God with all our hearts, live in the awareness of His presence, commune with Him in the depth of our hearts, find our strength in Him alone and reach out to all in need.

Our faith in a living and loving God needs to be sustained, nourished and deepened through prayer and communion with Him in the depths of our hearts. Prayer has the power to transform us. A life lived with Jesus in close intimacy with Him, should make us kind and compassionate, patient and understanding towards one another. Love is the compass for guiding our interior growth on our journey of life - love of God and love of neighbour.

Mother Veronica admits that humility did not come natural to her. Looking back on her childhood, she acknowledges that she was proud and disobedient to the point of not being able or willing to ask pardon from her mother even when she had done something foolish. God Who wanted her for Himself, stripped her of everything and emptied her completely so that she could possess him totally and experience that He alone was sufficient for her. Being conscious of her pride she did her best to practise humility, for which she had ample opportunities. In her efforts to grow in humility, Mother Veronica was inspired to make a vow of humility with the permission and guidance of her confessor. One of Mother Veronica’s deep convictions on which she based her life, and which God ratified, was that there can be no humility without humiliations. In a spirit of faith Mother Veronica underwent all sufferings with love. For her one could not be humble without having tasted humiliations and our Lord took charge, she says, of sending her humiliations without number. One of the many really big humiliations was when the Little Carmel at Bayonne was closed down. Mother Veronica’s humiliation lay in seeing herself rejected as a foundress and made to feel that she was a nonentity and had nothing to do with the Apostolic Carmel she had founded. This would be a lifelong experience of pain. It was in this experience that she shared the humiliation of Jesus in His Passion. Though innocent, Jesus was treated with ignominy and branded as a criminal, experiencing in His shameful death the painful rejection by His own people. When she returned to the Carmel of Pau, she was received as a “benefactress”. This deprived her of a voice in the Chapter; she could not use her giftedness in any way except in humble service at the sacristy or as a wardrobe-keeper or an infirmarian. She was happy to be the last and the least in Carmel.

Mary the Mother of Carmel played a significant role in the life of Mother Veronica, after she and her community at Calicut were enrolled in the Confraternity of the Third Order of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. To her Superior General, she writes: “Since we are in a Carmelite Mission, all of us have been received into the Third Order of Carmelites and this is highly beneficial to us, we have a share in all the privileges of the Carmelites; we have to say the Office of Our Lady and abstain on Wednesdays. We have a particular blessing and also every evening a quarter of an hour of extra prayer and the ‘Salve Regina’ chanted after Vespers on Sundays”. When she entered the Carmel of Pau she states: “Finally I was in Carmel, the Paradise on earth for which I had sighed so long!” In her missionary activities Mother Veronica kept close to Mary, prayed to her for help and guidance and made every effort to make her known and loved. Mother Veronica inculcated love and devotion to Our Lady in her novices at Bayonne. She would conclude her letters to her daughters by invoking the blessings of Mary on each of them saying: “May the sweet Mother of Carmel protect you”, and again, “May our Mother of Carmel lavish on you her favours”. When she returned to the Carmel of Pau in 1887, her love for Mary became more and more personal. She not only prayed to Mary, but also spoke about her and her qualities for the emulation of the sisters at recreation. She honoured Mary by placing flowers at her grotto.

As we celebrate this great feast let us long to enter into the experience of our fore-fathers on Mount Carmel. Our great desire for deep contemplation needs to be reawakened; we need to keep looking at Mary our Mother to see how she lived it all through her life. Our devotion to Mary invites us to enter deep into the cave of our hearts and rediscover the riches of divine intimacy, which will enable us to reach out to one another in loving acceptance and thus embrace the whole world in selfless service. Our contemplative prayer will revitalize us and will give divine energy to our daily living of our Charism. At the same time our fast changing culture, the bombarding impact of modern technology, and the media divert our attention and drown the ‘still small voice’ within us. Daily we struggle for contemplative consciousness which is the only means to lead us to our mission, to give hope and life to all. We bring our contemplative prayer to our mission allowing the divine energy to flow out to people in compassionate love.

For us Carmelites Mary is a constant presence in our lives, guiding us and protecting us as we seek to follow Christ Her Son. Mary symbolizes for us Apostolic Carmelites, everything we hope for – to enter into an intimate relationship with Christ, by being totally open to God’s will and having our lives transformed by the Word of God. Carmelites have always thought of Mary as the patroness of the Order, its Mother and Splendor. In Carmel she is also addressed as ‘Sister’. We seek to live in spiritual intimacy with her Son that we may learn from her how to live as true Apostolic Carmelites.

Our contemplative prayer impels us to open ourselves to the concerns of our brothers and sisters, their expectations and groaning and reach out, by our healing touch to bring them new life. When we take our spiritual journey seriously and with our hearts try to respond to God’s invitation to intimacy and when we entrust ourselves to God in whatever way He chooses to approach us then Contemplation begins. Contemplation is God’s gift to us. The greatness of Mary’s life consisted in the fact that she threw off her egoism and self centeredness and made herself available to those in need.

Mary is the Church’s model in the contemplation of the face of Christ because she was not only the first one to contemplate it, but she contemplated it unceasingly with all her heart. She is the greatest contemplative and as such the model and teacher of contemplative life. In a unique way the face of the Son belongs to Mary. It was in her womb that Christ was formed.

Mary disposed herself to receive the gift of contemplation through her silence and love for hiddenness. She is the silent one who did not reveal to Joseph her secrets. In no way does she reveal what belongs to God alone. But she kept all these things pondering them in her heart. Therefore we can call the home of Nazareth as the home of silence. How important it is for us to rediscover the value of silence! It is the sanctuary of prayer, the home of reflection and contemplation.

Mary our Mother is the example for all Consecrated persons. By virtue of her call to be the mother of the Redeemer, Mary also shared in the role of her Son. The gospels tell us that she stood at the foot of the cross and was with the infant church. Thus she fulfilled her role in the mission assigned to her. We are called to fulfill God’s mission and I am sure we can draw inspiration and guidance from our Mother always and especially during this month of July when we celebrate her feast day.

Our life’s goal is to live the life of Christ. If we want to live the life of Christ, we need to learn from His most perfect disciple, His Mother. When we imitate her we surely follow Christ, for she is the one who most perfectly resembled her Son. Obviously, none of us is going to be without sin, but what we need to do is to strive to remove sin from our lives. Each one of us is able to climb that Mountain of Carmel to be able to look out over the sea and be able to see our salvation coming forth. The Mountain of Carmel is Jesus Himself and Saint John of the Cross makes it very clear that the way to climb Carmel is the way of nothing; it is pure faith. It is to rely solely on our Blessed Lord and to walk straight up the Mountain. That is exactly what Our Lady did, so she has already cleared the path for all of us, her children, to be able to walk up the Mountain, and reach the final stage of perfect union with Christ.

Hence we need to realize, that Our Lady desires nothing more for each one of us than to be perfectly united with her Son, that we love Him as perfectly as we can. If we are willing to allow her, she herself will arrange for that. She is, after all, a Mother, and so she will take care of everything in our regard. But what is required is that we open our hearts, our homes, and be able to receive her, learn from her. Like the apostles, we too are called to gather around Mary in the Upper Room and be enveloped with her presence, guidance and grace and be taught by her how to pray (cf. Acts 1:12-14). Indeed, she taught them how to pray, how to understand the truth and she taught them how to do the Will of God. We need to go to the Mother of Jesus and our Mother, and ask her to teach us how to love her Son, how to do His Will, how to make sure that we are seeking perfect union with Him in prayer. She is the one who will teach us, for she wants her Son to be loved perfectly. She will help us, even in this world, to love Jesus perfectly, to grow to such a degree of holiness that we will have uninterrupted union with Him, so that when we get to heaven we will only continue to love Him perfectly, forever! Yes, we will have that perfect union, that face-to-face union which will only be in heaven, but it begins now by seeking union with Jesus Christ. This perfect way to union with Jesus Christ is reached only through our union with His Mother.

So then dear sisters, let us strive to attain holiness of life through our Mother of Carmel. As we complete 150 years of our existence let each one of us re-dedicate herself to our Mother of Carmel and through the intercession of our Foundress Venerable Mother Veronica be a true Apostolic Carmel Sister practising union with God and thus attaining contemplation. During this feast let us prepare our hearts and minds to have a celebration at the individual level, community level and also at the institutional level.

I take this opportunity to wish you a very happy feast of our Lady of Mount Carmel. The Sisters of the Provincial House join me in wishing each one of you a very happy feast. May our Lady of Mount Carmel draw down many graces from heaven and draw us closer to her Son Jesus and make us great missionaries for the Lord. May our Foundress intercede for all of us.

Sister M. Carmel Rita
Provincial Superior




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