In December 2013, hopefully, I am scheduled to take my definitive promises as a Secular Carmelite. I made my “temporary promises” (for the second time) in December 2010. In the ceremony, it’s the same promise, but the text has the option of reading “for the next three years” OR “until the end of my life.” They emphasized the importance of reading only the one that was applicable, though of course there were people who read both. When it came to my turn, I almost jokingly reading, “For the next three years OR until the end of my life, whichever comes first.”
Little did I know that just a few weeks later, my aorta would dissect. The fact that I’m still alive at all is a miracle. In the meantime, my ill health has been a detriment to my attendance at meetings, which is a crucial element in the formation process (though technically the Constitution and statutes of the Order refer to “unexcused absences,” and enforcement of the attendance rule is up to the discretion of the Council).
I first began formation in 1998, and do to circumstances both in and out of my control, I’m still at the formation stage that should only last 6 years.
I was hoping not to have any absences this year or next year, so that I could average out my extensive absences from last year. This month, however, I had already been granted an excused absence because I miscounted the weeks and thought it was going to conflict with my daughter’s First Communion. Then we realized that today, the 22nd, was the fourth Sunday, when my Community’s meetings are held, and next week was First Communion. However, this week *was* the First Communion “Retreat”–though that was only held during religious education this morning and did not have to conflict with my meeting. It *did* require me getting up for religious education and Mass.
St. Therese of Lisieux, the “Little Flower” or “Little Theresa of the Child Jesus”, has always been one of my favorite saints. Holy Mother Teresa of Avila, or “Great Teresa of Jesus,” has also always been a favorite. But I’ve always felt a special devotion to Therese because I always felt she exemplified a “happy death,” and I took the “shower of roses” promise literally in the version I read in Fr. Daniel Lord’s _Miniature Stories of the Saints_.
On June 9, 1996, the night before my aortic root replacement, I was flipping around the TV and heard, “She said when she died she’d send down a shower of roses.” I flipped back. I wasn’t too familiar with EWTN at the time, other than knowing it existed. The program was _Mother Angelica Lives_, with Fr. Jacques Daley, OSB, as the guest, talking about St. Therese. He was discussing how she pondered the question of living a long life on earth to serve God or going straight to Heaven, and reconciled it by saying, “I will spend my heaven doing good on earth.” It was just what I needed to hear the night before my surgery.
Either shortly before or after my surgery, I got a card in the mail from my grandma that she had sent a donation to a Carmelite convent to make a novena to St. Therese for me.
Later that year, I read _Story of a Soul_.
My name in Carmel is “John of the Little Way.”
Recently, EWTN happened to rerun an episode of Fr. Jacques’ series _The Little Flower_. I’m not sure if it had been running the whole series, and I just happened on the last airing, or it was just the one episode for some reason, but in the episode in question, Fr. Jacques happened to mention that Therese died before she ever made her final profession as a nun.
Once again, Fr. Jacques said just what I needed to hear. I worry about not being able to make my “definitive promises,” but if I should die before I do, then I’ll just be following in the footsteps of St. Therese.