Flower of Carmel OCDS resources
formation of a carmelite heart


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Sister Michael Ann Cladek, OCDGuidance sayings of Sr. Michael Ann Cladek, OCD, of the Beacon NY Carmel, as excerpted from the journals of Elizabeth Pantas, OCDS and their correspondence* - 1977 to 2014. We have a powerful intercessor in heaven now!    Obituary

On Angels

-The angels protect us, remind us, and give us strength.

-“May St. Michael keep you safe.”

On Apostolate:

-In Carmel, there is a freedom for apostolate, once one knows that the plan is of the Lord.

-The Apostolate of Love is to follow God in the present, and if He asks for visibility OK; if not, OK.

On Asceticism:

-Regarding asceticism and the way of the imperfect: those seeking sanctity, joy, and glory need to seek these things for the Lord, not self; and to seek not to possess anything, not our own bodies, nothing. Look at a flower, enjoy its smell, its beauty, but don’t seek to possess it. Rest in God that He might possess you. Look at the mother and the child: the mother must seek to “let go” of the child to God, not seek to own the child.

On Carmelite Witness:

-Carmel is giving witness to Life as revealed in the Gospel, by our presence, our being, our love.

-Carmel is not so special as to be above other Orders. It is special to you as something else would be to another. Some people need swimming lessons so they go and get them; you need formation and have been led to Carmel for what you need now. 

-The witness of how we live our lives everyday is what is important. Just be a presence of Love without needing to talk about it with many pious words; just be… in the image of God.

-People grow through our giving witness to prayer and a life of prayer.

-“Carmel grows slowly and is the hidden life. You have made a good start. Growth will come by your witness – often not even seen by yourselves. I love the line in Hebrews, ‘Keep your eyes fixed on Jesus’ and our Carmelite Rule, ‘Walk in the footsteps of Jesus Christ’.”

-“The gift you have received, give as gift” Mt 10:8

On Contemplative /Carmelite Vocation:

-A contemplative vocation is in the heart of the Church, hidden (like in the body), yet if the heart stops beating (loving), the body dies.

-Stop planning the future or “structuring”; let God do it.

-The Carmelite vocation is prayer, being, and Love.

-A contemplative is one who prays, and thoughtfully seeks to share with other intelligent minds in the Church one’s real concerns. We need each other; and to do this, we are not just speaking from emotion, but from prayer and caring. We help and affirm each other for the Love and Glory of God and His Church.

-All are called to contemplative prayer, yet some are called deeper.

-What makes a Carmelite? It is interior not external, although formalized by scapular, formation, etc. Carmel is seeking the Lord within, the Trinity Who dwells within, to come to the fullness of whom we are destined to be in Christ.

-Maybe some need the formality of Carmel to stay on track, while others do not.

-“Where there is no Love, put Love and you will draw out Love.” –St John of the Cross  “This is our Carmelite vocation- to bring love into the world of our day.”

-“.. and, yes the mystery of ‘call’, and to know when it is not going to work. I found you need to watch behavior – one may have a strong desire for the life, but how is it lived out? .. and time tells .. growth too in relationship with God and others.”

On Community:

-We need the support of a covenant community awhile, but then we are ready to go to God alone…together. And, He will take us to deeper regions where He is and where we have never been or dreamed of before. Growing together, but letting the other freely discover how to express the contemplative life.

-We become more tolerant as we grow and see where we have been.

-Let God form whatever structure or non-structure he wants. Let go of it and pass on what you have received; again, this is giving witness to the interior life of prayer. Books can be little missionary activities; however, Carmel is not contained within books, buildings and structures.

-Our journey is ultimately alone with God; though a spiritual director, confessor, community and others will give valuable help from time to time.

-“[Try to] do the right thing – how your response is taken is the other person’s responsibility. Let the whole thing go. Some time later [the person] may see things differently, and if not, trust that God knows your good intention. Peace, and ask the Lord to give grace and peace to the other. I believe how we deal with differences is so important to the world – always this has been my belief in community. You do your best to honor the differences, but speak your own truth.”

On Detachment:

-…eat simply, to “fill the hole”.

-Simplicity regarding furnishings is the Carmelite way.

-Don’t spend time thinking about what “mansion” you reside in most of the time!

-“This is how the Lord works with us to help us grow- it is not how we think it should be or suits our personality- I think He is helping you share in His own leaving the shelter of Nazareth to go out to others. He shared Himself and now He is asking you to share with the POOR all He has given you- to be His listening ears, His helping hands to His little ones—so walk with Him into the homes and hearts of the people you minister to- they cannot see Jesus now but He is with you and in you they will come to know His care and concern. Once I am into the new thing that is against my grain, I’m fine.”

-Sometimes the Lord asks us to be detached from our opinions, even when they are good. His ways are not ours; He may work differently.

 On Discernment:

-“1. Put it in the hands of God – I think that is John of the Cross 2. If it [whatever the person needs to do] is done with charity, hopefully all will grow from the experience. 3. Sometimes the Lord lets us receive one [a blow] from another to put our trust in Him more completely. 4. The truth will come out though – so know Jesus too was questioned – and kept going.”

-“It is an art to deal with delicate matters…”

On the Divine Office:

-Be flexible and allow yourself to be creative. Use the Office as a base but permit variation in material and length. This is freeing.

On Duties of State:

-Carmelite daily duties should not interfere with carrying out one’s duties of state. Witness at home first.

-If the Lord turns our day around and it is impossible to keep an aspect of the Rule, then in truth, OK. We should not be rigid; however, if one just doesn’t “feel” like it, that’s no excuse. Remember, a wife often does things she does not “feel” like doing for her husband because she loves him. So too with Our Lord, it is a sacrificing of self out of love.

-The ordinary tasks that make up everyday life are living out the Christ-life: with Him, in Him, and through Him.

On Extraordinary Manifestations:

-If God lifts us up to show us what the Kingdom can be like, it doesn’t mean that we are habitually there. We always need to build a firm foundation. We are like pieces of wood: the first coat of paint, the primer must go on, then the second coat, and the Lord puts on the third. If He paints a corner with all three coats, it doesn’t mean the whole piece of wood is painted.

-Rapture today isn’t so bone-rattling. But to go out of oneself can be gentle.

On Formation:

-Formation is participating in or experiencing the Carmelite life as the Spirit leads, step by step, naturally, letting Carmel grow in you. And then, profession will be an interior act, not just affiliating and putting on Carmel from the outside in. 

-Susanna’s age now [3 mo.] is the time they need to be taken in for formation!

-“Our chapel renovation is exciting to watch. After I looked one day, I came away with the thought: how like our own growth and change. It takes work and yet depends on the architect, listening to us and giving ideas and directions, as you do in formation – a working together and yet being led.”

-“Many years ago at a Carmelite meeting of Nuns, one of the sisters in speaking of vocation and formation used the expression ‘Carmelite heart’ and we talked about it – hard to explain – except that we came to [this]: a person desiring to give herself to God totally, and the teachings of Carmel are accepted and lived out in their lives. It is the way [it is lived] and the road walked. [One can] desire it [the vocation] and have many gifts and be prayerful.. but her living is not moving to the center.”

On Hermit Days:

-Thursday [this day can change] is a Hermit Day at Carmel. There are no community obligations except daily Mass. Always try to do something you usually can’t or don’t do. Be with the Lord in a new way!
-There are differing expressions and rhythms of withdrawal.

On Human Consolations:

-Accept your weakness and where you are. When a “tail spin” happens and you desire the consolation of a “special food”: OK, if God allows it. He will block it if you are not supposed to have it.

On Human Relationships:

-When a human relationship is provoking, it is OK to ventilate one’s feelings unless given the grace to give that to the Lord. One must slow down when irritations and frustrations build, and look for the triggering causes.

-If someone feels inferior, remind the person of your own self-centered behavior.

“Judging” others is more how you say something about someone else: not closing off the whole because of a part, or fixing the person in a place with no room for growth. There is a difference  saying “X is rigid” and “My experience of X is that she is rigid in this area and needs to grow”. With every cautious statement of one’s discernment or experience, there is no need for an equal compliment. Regarding the example of “X”, there is no need afterwards to say “but X is great in this other area.”

-Focus not on what the other is doing wrong, but on encouraging and drawing forth the good, in an attitude of mercy not reprimand.

-We are not responsible for what others do; they are free agents. Pray that they may be given the lights to see so they can change. God loves them more than we do and He will protect them. If asked, you can share your opinion, and be empathic; but, but this is not to tell another what to do. Just be who you are. If God wants you to speak, He’ll arrange it.

-“Relationships only grow in tension- we need to be stretched- and angry words happen even here in Carmel. My sensitiveness has to grow and I have to learn how to forget myself and respond to the other. See, and be compassionate [about] why the other is angry- not be hurt by the words. And, believe me, this has been a long and hard pull for me! But, this is holiness- and all of you want to grow and the Lord is with you, so do not fear.”

-Yes, we are naturally attracted to others, that’s normal and natural. But, that’s it: it is natural. Because of love of self, others, and God, we respect the vows of others and self. Supernatural love is loving as God loves and seeing as God sees. Always, our love for self, others and God leads to respecting our vows and theirs before God. Natural attraction comes and goes; just let go of it. See it, but “so what!”  Don’t pay too much attention to it: detachment; certainly don’t indulge it.

On Humility:

-Always God is Who He is and i am who i am, never to be confused.

On Intercession:

-Intercession is growth into full awareness: being fully aware of God, of Jesus, of who we are and of mankind.

-Life is intercession. We don’t have to sit an hour for each intention: every action, every thought is a prayer. It is the awareness of those whose lives are connected to mine, attached to my heart, who are always with me in union with Jesus’ heart. Our prayer may even affect souls before birth on earth or after death.

-The agony of intercession is the painful awareness and the powerlessness in relation to situations and others. Turn mental conversations that want to straighten everything out into prayer. Then, wait on the Lord for when He wants you to speak, in His time, if ever. This is making up what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ.

-Powerlessness in the face of others’ problems is my inability to do anything, but suffer with them and pray, “Lord have mercy!” In this powerlessness and poverty comes the efficacy: the grace of God. The powerlessness is a kind of suffering, a pleading to God for His Power, His Mercy. and His Grace, then  waiting in faith and hope for Him to come for the Resurrection. As Jesus was led by the Father down the path of  the powerlessness of the cross (Jesus crucified) our greatest help came: the glory of the Resurrection, new life, the saving power of God, the distribution of His Spirit. So I am led to follow Him along this path. ”Into your Hands I commend my Spirit…Your Will be done”.

-Pray that [X] will be friends with Jesus more and more, then [X] will be so full of Jesus there will be no room for his fears.

-In offering myself to God for transformation into Christ, or to be like Jesus: like Jesus, I will be  for others.

-Prayer is a matter of levels: we have to deepen our relationship with God first; then can we really be intercessors.

On Love

-”May Christ dwell in your hearts through faith, and may charity be the root and foundation of your life. Thus you will be able to grasp fully, with all the holy ones, the breadth and length and height and depth of Christ’s love, and experience this love which surpasses all knowledge, so that you may attain to the fullness of God himself.
-“To him whose power now at work in us can do immeasurably more than we can ask or imagine—to him be glory in the Church and in Christ Jesus through all generations, world without end. Amen”                                                                                                                    -Ephesians 3:17-2

(This is one of Michael Ann’s favorite scriptures.)

On Mary

-Mary is our support, our Mother’s love.

-“May Our Lady give you all an experience of her loving care in the many unknowns of life.”

-The important thing is the struggle to utter what is deep within. The enemy can get in with technicalities because we think it has to be perfect, just the right words, as if to be published. No, the words aren’t important; rather it is the urge to utter the mystery within. We are like children, imperfect, fumbling. Like a child bringing her mother a picture she has drawn, childish, imperfect feeble, yet the mother sees a masterpiece. So it is when we bring our struggling efforts to Mary, our Mother. Another time we might approach our holy Mother differently.

-Even when the Lord had to separate from her, still He never left her: the relationship just changed.       

On Mental Prayer:

-Therese said her hour was often dry and she experienced the Lord interiorly when she least expected it. Yet it is probably the hours alone that enable the Lord to speak when He wills. We make efforts to be with Him in our most interior part, and He is always there, and He always responds.

-Relax! Let the Lord find your time for prayer and spiritual reading and scripture study. See the Lord’s will in every contact and task.

On Poverty of Spirit:

-God never puts us “on hold”. When we are poorest, God is doing the most and He is doing it, not us, though we may not see it.

On Redemptive Suffering:

-To fast is to be aware of those hungry in the world and to offer them to God: to pour out His grace upon them.

-When we experience poverty of spirit, loneliness, isolation, misunderstanding, powerlessness in our inability to change the world, and we seek to identify these in union with Jesus when He experienced these things; it becomes redemptive for oneself and others. We may never know specifically for whom. This is the ordinary way. If we do this , then God may give us something supernatural. Sometimes we sense the suffering of another in our whole bodies. Sometimes this sensitivity helps us with discernment in relation to others, and they get better gradually.

-All are called to redemptive suffering, but some in a special way, as they may have a larger capacity for this. It becomes a joy to suffer anything God asks.

-“God blesses our efforts. If only our world would deal with situations more peacefully. I always tell the sisters when we struggle with issues or misunderstandings, if we work at peaceful resolving, it brings grace to the world. So I am sure the Lord will dole out grace to another situation somewhere to bring about peace.”

On Relationship with God:

-When you tell God you are serious about Him, He’ll take you at your word, and begin healing you and that is a painful, normal part of Christian life.

-Trust in God, like a child. Trust God; trust your husband [or wife] regardless of the pain you feel that may have been triggered by the wounds of the other. This will help the other to grow. Sometimes one doesn’t want to sit with God in prayer because of fear of pain.

-Sometimes God is not angry with us, because our sin is that of an angry little child.

-Reaching the “bottom of the pit” is a grace because we come to know our nothingness, a dark night.

-Full union with Christ with its betrothal states, including ecstasies and raptures, are as possible for the married, non-celibate person as for the celibate. The fullness of God is available for all.

-“We all desire to see God, to love Him completely. Yet while here on earth our ‘creatureliness’ will always be felt, now in this manner now in another. Even a strictly cloistered Carmelite nun will have areas of fear, doubts, struggles that she feels certain if they were different she’d be more united to the Lord. All is meant to strengthen you while you cannot see it now and it is painful, the Lord is pleased with your desire. perhaps even more pleased than if you felt you loved Him totally. His thoughts and ways are not ours.”

-“It is when we experience the love of God and we want to respond that we find how limited we are in our ability to respond of ourselves. We can’t make the experience as it is God’s gift- then His gift is our ability to know ourselves- which is such an unfolding process- a lifetime!!!”

On the Rule of Life:

-The hermits on Mt. Carmel lived together first; their Rule grew out of their life together.

On Sacrifice:

-It is in giving ourselves for others, not ourselves, that is like Jesus’ sacrifice.

-The efficacy isn’t in the sacrifice, but in our attitude toward it: for another, not “Pretty Polly, look at me!”

-One cannot demand sacrifices from another: love gives freely.

On Saints:

-Saints usually don’t know they are saints or see their holiness because they are so aware of their sinfulness.

-“St. Teresa was very much into real estate with all her foundations - so, call on her and all the saints to help you. When we were wanting to move from the Bronx, one of the Carmelite fathers who was a real friend said, ‘Make the saints your support system.’”

-“May St. Joseph who worried to provide be a constant support for you.”

On Self-knowledge:

-Through discipline we see ourselves and our weakness. Accept your weaknesses and forgive yourself; then you will be able better to accept and forgive the weaknesses of others and grow in compassion. Like a child, you are weak just because that is how you are. Grace heals and changes you. One has to make efforts, yes; but one’s dependence is on God. In your suffering and pain remember Jesus’ suffering for you. He fell under the cross; you fall. That is the Christian life.

-Don’t take yourself too seriously: get a dog!

-Weaknesses are humbling.

-We have to make the effort and do what we can, then we learn even more what God can do that we cannot. He reveals more of Himself. He blesses our poor efforts and He will show us more ways to sacrifice as we go along.

-Accept and love yourself during a period of psychological regression. See God in it and change the pattern of your day: light activities, spiritual reading, rather than beating yourself up with “shoulds”.

-Finding confession embarrassing indicates a self-centeredness; instead, one needs to focus on how one’s sin hurts another or the  community. Penance, then, needs to be a giving of self in service to another. If this is a child, then a good way of disciplining the child is to have her focus on the damage to another or family life, thus the discipline is in service to the one or the group hurt.

On Spiritual Direction:

-Jesuits make good spiritual directors because of their understanding of and appreciation of: a life of prayer, contemplative prayer and its demands on the soul, and their experience in prayer and discernment. When looking for a spiritual director, be honest about the need for someone who has the understanding of and experience of a life of prayer, who will appreciate the charism of Carmel, and can lead you deeper into the Life of the Lord… someone who has experience in the direction of contemplatives…a co-discerner in the darkness. Much growth can occur with a confessor with these qualities.

-Seek a confessor first; then a Spiritual Director as the need arises. It may or may not be the confessor. Drift away when it is not working. If later the opportunity arises for you to share why you are not there, then we’ll see.

-Cenacle nuns make good spiritual directors as they are trained in spiritual direction.

-Spiritual Direction means two things primarily: 1)  Helping the soul become conscious of the way God deals with it. 2) Helping the soul to become conscious of where God is leading it.

-Look over the history of your life from the perspective of how Grace has intervened and led you.

* Guidance from correspondence is in quotes.