My mother is a Third order Carmelite, and I offered my First Mass at Cristo Rey Carmelite Monastery in San Francisco on July 1st, 1991. Seven years ago I was assigned to a parish just a few blocks from this monastery, and a week ago I offered my 30th Anniversary Mass in their chapel. A few of the sisters from my first Mass are still in the community, along with a lot of younger Carmelites.
There are probably Carmelite sisters not far from you, although you don’t know it. They live quiet and unknown lives, but you would be surprised how many Carmelite monasteries have been established in every corner of the world. The nuns at Cristo Rey have been quietly praying for us on Parker Avenue since the 1920s, when they escaped the persecutions in Mexico. In the early 90s they founded a daughter house in Las Vegas, which later moved to the rolling farmlands of Nebraska (a quieter place). Today that monastery is brimming with young sisters and has established half a dozen daughter houses throughout the country. Next year I will preach the annual novena to the Carmelites in Nebraska, culminating in their renewal of vows on July 16, 2022, the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel.
To prepare, I’ve decided to study the seventeen or so approved apparitions of our Lady throughout history, hoping to understand the common threads in her messages. God asks his Mother to speak to us from heaven, and I want to be able to articulate what God is telling us through her. My yearlong study will help me better develop my own parish as a shrine of Our Lady, featuring 14 side altars, each to a different Marian apparitions. For each of these altars, I will prepare a pamphlet with the history of the apparition and the essential message she delivered to the world at that time. I’m convinced that the messages at Fatima (both from Our Lady in 1917 and from the Angel of Portugal in 1916) summarize her messages throughout history, applying them in a specific way for our own time. “Many souls fall into hell because they have no one to pray for them,” she said, addressing the widespread decline in religious practice of the last hundred years. The youngest of the three children, Jacinta, was dying in a Lisbon hospital when Our Lady told her that “war is a punishment for sin.” "Fashions will come that will offend Our Lord very much; priests must be very pure and concentrate on saving souls; more souls go to hell through sins of impurity than any other sin.” We understand these words better than in 1917, when Europe was still essentially Christian, and the “sexual revolution” had not yet been launched. But Marxism and Gnosticism were already gaining ground in 1917, the third year of World War I and the first year of the Soviet tyranny. “Russia will spread her errors throughout the world,” she told the children, “the good will be martyred, various nations will be annihilated, but in the end, My Immaculate Heart will triumph.” We are now witnessing the long-term consequences of global atheism, spread by the wealthiest and most powerful nations.
God is not silent. He speaks through His Church, but that Church, like our social order, is coming apart at the seams. It will never be completely undone, but while confusion reigns at the highest levels of the Church, I am turning to the words God has spoken to us through Our Lady. She speaks in the simplest terms, but with marvelous depth, like the rosary itself, as John Paul described his favorite prayer: “marvelous in its simplicity and in its depth.” A few beads, a bit of brown wool. The Word of God is not complicated. Even the simplest souls can understand it.