Along with Carmelite Friars, Sisters and Lay members of the Order, we worshipped in the beautiful chapel, on the grounds of the Shrine, surrounded by relics of Carmelite saints. The Mass was beautiful and the choir extraordinary. The Prior General who presided and gave the homily was sincere, authentic and genuinely pleased that so many had traveled long distances to be a part of the day. What a good man! His goodness was shining through his words and smiles, which is why I imagine he was called to be the Prior General! He seems to be enjoying his role. He said that we are family, all of us, the Friars, the Sisters and the Lay Carmelites. He said that when he met Pope Benedict, the Pope mentioned the special prayer charism that Carmelites have.
His words reminded me of how uplifting it is to be a part of something that has inspired and helped so many to grow in holiness and sanctity over the ages. The Carmelites saints such as St. John of the Cross, St. Teresa of Avila and St. Therese were extraordinary human beings, who all became great saints. The heights of holiness that they achieved through the Carmelite way of life shows the power of the Carmelite path.
Principal concelebrants of the Mass were Very Reverend Raul Maravi Cabrera, O. Carm., General Councilor for the Americas and Very Reverend Mario Esposito, O. Carm., Prior Provincial of the Province of St. Elias. (Some impressive titles!)
We restated our intention to love God and Mary and to serve and remain aware of the awesome call and vocation we have by reciting an "Act of Consecration to Our Lady of Mount Carmel." It begins.......
"O Mary, Queen and Mother of Carmel, I come today to consecrate myself to you, for my whole life is but a small return for the many graces and blessings that have come from God to me through your hands. Since you regard with an eye of special kindness those who wear your Scapular, I implore you to strengthen the darkness of my mind with your wisdom and to increase in me faith, hope and charity that I may render, day by day, my debt of humble homage to you............."
It was an enriching day, full of surprises, good fellowship, delicious food and most importantly a day to praise God and to be thankful for the Carmelite Order, which has produced such great "fruit" in the Church and will continue to do so, into the future.
The best gift I ever gave to myself was becoming a Third Order Carmelite. A day such as today reminds me of that.
NJ Azzaro, T. O. Carm.