The kitchen was bustling with meal preparations. Meat was marinating and pastries were being shaped with great care and even greater love. But it was not Thanksgiving. The choir was busy rehearsing and perfecting every note. They sounded like angels but the music was not for an Easter Liturgy. All of our Carmel was aglow with excitement and anticipation. It was delightfully tangible. But it was not Christmas. What is it that would cause such a joyful stir among us?
On May 16, 2010, we had the unparallel joy of having an evening of appreciation for our priests. For weeks we had looked forward to this special night when we would pray with our beloved shepherds, enjoy a meal with them, and then offer them some Carmelite entertainment. They give so much, truly laying down their lives for the sheep, it was a blessing to be able to express in this small way our profound gratitude and love.
“I believe there has been a fusion between the soul of the priest and that of the Carmelite.” These words of Blessed of Elizabeth of the Trinity resonate in the soul of each one of our sisters. We are here for priests. They are the beneficiaries of our daily prayers and sacrifices. Yet in this Year of Priests, that was not enough. We had to offer another expression of our affection and esteem.
And so on that glorious evening, Jesuit, Carmelite, Benedictine, Norbertine, and diocesan priests gathered at Sacred Heart Retreat House. The Chapel reverberated with the combined voices joining together in prayer on the Sunday celebrating the Ascension. In the novena for Pentecost, it was similar to what it must have been for the faithful disciples gathered in the upper room. Truly we could feel the presence of Mary the Mother of Jesus and her risen, glorified Son.
Dinner was delicious, surpassed only by the wonderful company. Joyful, uplifting conversation filled the air and more than one reunion of old friends took place that night. Appetites were fed but even more, souls were filled with the nourishment of encouragement, knowing that no follower of Christ lives their life alone, that we have the support of one another.
The grand finale of the evening was a concert given by the sisters. We chose specific musical pieces because each could be sung from the very depths of our souls. I will never forget looking out on the sea of priestly faces and watching them receive our gift of song. Some with eyes closed seemed deep in contemplation. Others looked like children on Christmas day: absolutely delighted. When the last song ended, a song of blessing, no one seemed anxious to leave. The atmosphere in the room was too heavenly to want it to end.
One by one we said good night to each of our priests: pastors, chaplains, educators, each of them Alter Christus, another Christ. Clean up finished and guests on their way home, we went before our Lord with full hearts. Gratitude for every soul He has called to the priesthood and admiration for their faithful response. Joy at the blessings shared that evening and renewed dedication to offer all that we are for these men of God. It was at this point perhaps most especially that we remembered the priests who could not attend, busy about their Father’s business or too far away to join us. These, too, we held up in prayer, and from our hearts there rose a joyous sacrifice of praise.
It is good to be a Carmelite and serve the priesthood, very good.