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Interview with Fr. La Rocca

February 27, 2008

Q1: If could speak a little about where you’re from and anything else that might be helpful…

"I was born in San Francisco, as were my parents and grandparents, so I am the third generation.  I am one of six children – all of which attended Catholic schools from the first grade through high school and university.  My father worked with the Jesuits, founded by St. Ignatius, for 30 years so we kind of grew up with the Jesuits.  I thought about being a teacher, a high school teacher, following in my father’s footsteps.  But before we get to that I would like to say that I think Catholic education is excellent.  It’s not as inexpensive as it once was, but I am firm believer in Catholic education. So, I had 20 years of Catholic schooling and wanted to move into Catholic education.  And I actually did that. I was teaching at a Catholic high school for a while and during that time I met Theresa of Calcutta, and I can use that as, I guess, like a 'signpost'.  It’s not everyday that you meet a living saint!  I actually met with her a couple of times and, on one occasion, just the two of us sat down and had a little chat about my vocation."

"This was, of course, something unexpected and was a big factor [in my vocational discernment].  So, we sat down and I had this overwhelming sensation of being unworthy.  She x-rayed my soul and said to me at that moment, 'No one is worthy.'  And I said to myself, 'Wow!' She just looked right into me.  ‘No one is worthy.’  Then she said, 'But, whatever Jesus is asking you to do say ‘Yes.’  Say, ‘Yes’ to Jesus.''  At the end of it all she said, 'I think you should go to the Bronx.  My Fathers are just getting started and I think you should go to the Bronx and spend time with my Fathers.'  I said I would.  Now, trying to be a man of my word, I told Mother Theresa I would go to the Bronx, so, eventually I arranged to go to the Bronx.  I had absolutely no idea this was a discernment, 'Come and See' thing, 'Explore your Vocation!'  I was definitely not that far along in my vocation journey!  All I knew is that I told Mother Theresa that I would go to the Bronx, and I did.” 

"When I got there, I found out that this was all about discerning your vocation, and I was quite panicked.  When the priest said to me, towards the end, 'Well we’d like for you to get back in touch with us in about a month and tell us what you’re thinking.'  I said, 'Father, listen, there’s absolutely no way that I could make a decision like this in a month.  I mean this is so new to me.  I came because I met Mother Theresa.'  I went back home and my mind was kind of spinning a bit.  My father kept saying, 'Go see Father Murphy.  Go see Father Murphy….'  To appease him, finally, after a lot of reluctance, I saw Father Murphy.  He, first of all, said something very reassuring to me.  He said, 'You are in no position to make any sort of life changing decision.'  And I thought, 'Oh, what a relief.  Thank God.'  He continued, 'But, I will offer you my services as Spiritual Director.'  He promised me clarity.  We would meet once a week and clarity would come.  I told him, 'Father, I doubt that clarity will come.  I don’t have that kind of faith.  I don’t have the faith to lay down my life on a hunch.'  He said, 'Well, believe in God and we’ll see what happens.'  In the midst of this, miracle of miracles, it became absolutely clear to me, through the intercession of St. Therese, that I was to be a Carmelite priest.  I’ll leave it at that.  Within the next two months I applied for the Carmelites, entered the Carmelites, and now I’m a Carmelite priest.  So, from wanting to be a teacher, teaching high school, I found that as a priest you really have an opportunity to teach the best subject, which is to teach the truth of Christ.”

Q2: What is a “vocation” and how would you define a vocation?

 “The root of the word vocation is ‘vocare’ meaning to call.  So, literally, it is a ‘calling’.  Of course, we have been called into being, called into existence, everyone has a vocation.  St. Therese became a Doctor of the Church because of her precise and clear definition of a vocation when she said, ‘My vocation is Love. In the heart of the church I will be love.’  That is the vocation of every human being; created by the loving God, to know God, love God, serve Love, serve God.  Ultimately, our vocation is to love.  How?  As husband, as wife, parent, teacher, doctor, nurse, priest, religious…Yes, everyone has a vocation, everyone has a calling and ultimately it is how we will best love God and love our neighbor. That’s how we can discern what our vocation is, ‘How am I being called to love God and my neighbor?  As mother, father, priest, religious, doctor, lawyer, butcher, baker, candlestick maker…?’  So, yes, everyone has a vocation and ultimately a vocation to be holy; the universal call to holiness and the call to love.”

“It’s a vocation to love.  God’s will is perfect love.  We are all called to share in that perfection of charity and to be holy.  I will also note that in doing God’s will, in living out a vocation, will come great joy and satisfaction, because we will be becoming the persons that we were meant to be.  We were created for a certain mission in life; it’s a bit mysterious trying to figure out exactly what it is that we’re called to do, but that’s also a journey of faith, an adventure, something very worthwhile.”

Q3: You just touched on this a little, speaking about that fulfillment, that joy, that comes from following your vocation… Sometimes we don’t even think about discerning our vocation. Why would you say someone should take the time to discern, though?    

Children often hear, ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’  Some people decide very, very early, what they want to be.  You know, ‘I want to be fireman!’ or ‘I want to be a cowboy!’ or ‘I want to be a nurse!’ or ‘I want to be a doctor!’ Or a teacher, a sister, priest, or whatever it is.  That does happen, however, most of the time.  It seems to me that it takes awhile.  People start thinking about it when they’re in high school, and, maybe when they’re graduating, and maybe getting into college they start to think about declaring a major.  So, it’s different. Everybody’s awareness of what they are called to comes at a different time.  But I think it is important that people spend time thinking and praying about what they’re called do, what talents they have, etc.  Ultimately, a confirmation of the vocation will be joy and happiness.  It will be something that brings you peace, joy and happiness, fulfillment, and a way of using your talents and becoming your true self.  Serving and loving God, serving and loving your neighbor.  I think everybody wants to be happy; everybody wants to be fulfilled as a person. So, I think it’s just a matter of praying, being open and listening to that still, small voice within, seeing where your talents lie, and what your desires are.”

Q4: There are many different ways people recommend for discerning a vocation, but what have you found to be helpful?

If you’re speaking of the vocation to the religious life or the priesthood, then the indispensable element is prayer, deep prayer.  The frequenting of the sacraments, daily mass would be a great help, praying over the word of God, talking to people, maybe finding a spiritual director, listening to others.  People might say, ‘You would make a good priest or a brother.  Have you thought about doing…?’  So, keep your ears open. But, ultimately I think it’s about listening to the voice of God and prayer allows us to go into that silence and try to discover God’s will for us.  It happens in different ways, unique ways for every person; it’s hard to put a road map down.  Nevertheless, prayer is indispensable.  Spiritual Direction is a great help.  Reading is also good.  Read about saints, read about different spiritualities, the different religious orders, and see what stands out.  Just gathering knowledge, talking to people about it.”

“Ultimately the vocation is about the will of God.  What was I created to become?  Who am I?  What does God want me to do?  How am I going to use my talents?  So, whether it is to be married, religious, or single, it’s about discerning what God wants of us.  The Lord says, ‘You did not choose me, I chose you. Come to me. Follow me.’  It could be ‘Come to me, follow me and be a mother.’  Or, ‘Come to me, follow me and be a father.  Or, ‘Come to me, follow me, be a sister, or a priest.’  People ask me, ‘Why did you choose to become a Carmelite?’  And I reply, ‘I did not choose to be a Carmelite.  I was chosen and I was called to be a Carmelite.  I am responding to that call.’  The dynamic is between the call/vocation and our response. Our free response should be this loving, joyful response to what God wants us to do and become.  God knows what we’re created for, so it’s that obedience to the call from God.”

Q5: Concerning prayer; it is at times very difficult to pray. Can you speak a little about how to pray well?

“First of all, the Mass is the best prayer.  The Mass is the prayer of prayers, the Paschal Mystery.  To participate in mass, to receive Holy Communion is the best prayer.  In the mass, you pray over the word of God and you receive the body of Christ.  This is why if you had to choose one prayer to pray every day, go to mass and pray the mass, participate in the mass.  There is the Marian way of praying; to ponder the word of God in our hearts.  She pondered the Word, she treasured the word, she said yes to the Word of God.  ‘Be it done unto me according to thy word.’  The Word became flesh in her and she gave birth to the Word of God. This Lectio Divina, this praying over the word is very, very important, and, ultimately, then to proclaim the word of God and to become a living word of God. Other than that, the Rosary is of course important, other types of traditional forms of prayer - novenas, litanies, and such.  But, praying over the word of God is important.”

Q6: How can one have that “peace and joy” when they are following a certain path and have an idea of what they want, but then it seems God has a different plan? They seem so contradictory…

Great, great point!  Edith Stein, St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, has a quote.  She said, ‘What did not fit in with my plan, did fit in with the plan of God.’  I have an ever firmer and deeper conviction that every moment in my life, down to the smallest detail, has been preordained by God.  And I am beginning to contemplate the beauty of His plan, here and now.  So, what did not fit in with my plan… It’s a rollercoaster ride; a rollercoaster ride that is constantly evolving.  You don’t know when it’s going to go left, right, into the tunnel, upside down, stop short, up or down, but this is where docility and trust in God come in.  Jesus, Himself, was led into the desert.  Abraham, by the way, speaking of vocations, was 75 years old when God said start walking in the desert.  75! ‘You start walking Abraham, take your wife, and I’ll care for you and tell you what to do.’  So, there must be this great abandonment, and this great trust.  Whatever we are going to do in life, that is a very good attitude to have - this one of abandonment and trust, that God is leading me, God is guiding me.  We want to be prudent of course. But, even going away to college takes a certain amount of audacity, confidence and trust, or Graduate school, let alone go off to work and finding a career. The fundamental thing would be that abandonment, trust in God and letting the Holy Spirit lead us.”

Q7: How much credence should one give to the opinions of others, especially one’s family? What importance does the family play in a religious vocation?

The ideal situation is that someone comes from a family that practices the faith, and prays together, you’ve heard the saying, ‘The family that prays together, stays together.’ From this milieu of love and faith in the family, many vocations are born. If the children are brought up in the faith, the parents are taking them to Mass, they’re praying the rosary together, and what have you…all that is very important. However, again the great mystery: There are people who are non-Catholic, converts, who have vocations; people who have been away from the Church, prodigal children, who have come back, Fr. John Corpi is an example. I don’t think in the midst of his millionaire days he ever thought about being a priest or a religious, so it [the vocation] is a great mystery. The family always is important; ultimately we’re all brothers and sisters. When we pray the Our Father, that reminds us that we are all called to be brothers and sisters in the Body and Blood of Christ. So, our natural families are important and always will be very, very important. I was told by a Dominican nun once, who was trying to bring me into the Dominicans, ‘You know if you become a Dominican your whole family will share in your vocation.’ Which is true. The family supports the person, but the family also receives many, many blessings and love from the vocation of a child to the religious life, to the priesthood. So, it’s a two-way street. All the way through, I think the family needs to be supportive and involved. Sometimes, such as in lives of some saints, parents are adamantly against the vocations of their children. The parents were very, very against their child entering the cloister or becoming Carmelite, or becoming a priest, but these people where very determined and against all odds they said, ‘This is what God wants me to do, and I love my parents but…- ‘he who loves father and mother more than Me is not worthy of Me.’’ It takes great heroism to do that.  I would say it’s not the common way, but it does happen.”

 

Q8:  I’ve heard from different people that they’ve had a very clear calling, and form others that it was more gradual. Do you think that when you are called you have that “moment” of firm conviction, of clarity, “This is what God is asking!”

“Most of the time, I would say and prudence would say, it’s gradual. Religious- wise and the priesthood are designed that you have a deeper discernment, with aspirancy, postulancy, novitiate, then temporary vows and final solemn vows. It is all assuming that you are making deeper and deeper commitments, that you are taking root, and that you’re more convinced over time. The same for the priesthood, you have all of your studies, philosophy, theology, and then you’re ordained, you become a Deacon. Most of the time, the prudent thing is to go gradually, and to see that there are many confirmations in the vocation. However, in my case, once again my personal experience was that I had the kind of lightening bolt, absolute assurance that this was God’s will for me, and it was confirmed by my spiritual director. It is less common I would say, and may even be somewhat frowned upon, because they might not want people to be so cock-sure that this is what God wants. ‘Where’s the mystery, where’s the adventure?’ Personally, though, it be came very, very clear to me that I was to be a Carmelite priest. I was led onto that track and of course the conviction did grow deeper and deeper, all the way through I was being guided by the Holy Spirit…So, it’s hard to say; gradualism, deeper conviction as time goes on; it takes awhile to be solemnly professed or to be ordained. But it is very, very possible that you have that ‘moment of truth’ so to speak, and it becomes very clear that this is what God wants you to do. It’s such a grace, really, it’s kind of an undeniable grace, a signal grace- you’ve been given a certain sign, a certain calling- and then, as you go through, if that grace has been confirmed over the years, then it’s very, very obvious that this is what God wants you to do.”

Q9: You mentioned that you are a Carmelite priest, but, so that’s it’s more clear, can you just expand upon what you are currently doing?

 "I am a Carmelite priest.  I am Rector of the House of studies in Mount Angel, Oregon where we have 9 students. I had been the Novice Master so I knew all of these students when they were novices.  Now, I am up there guiding them. So that is what I am doing at the moment.”

Q10: You went into your vocation story briefly already, but is there anything else you would like to add that you think may be helpful?

 “I think I touched upon the basics…Mother Theresa helped me, ‘Rocked my World’ as they say. I found a spiritual director and I did my work and my prayer there. He sent me up to the Trappists, for instance, to see if any bells and whistles would go off. I went and it was nice enough, but no bells and whistles. Then, as I said, I thought a lot about joining Mother Theresa’s group, the Jesuits, the Dominicans, the sky was the limit. And it just became clear, through St. Therese, that I this was what God wanted me to do.”

Did you just study the Carmelite spirituality, or…?

“Yes, I got to know more about the Carmelite spirituality. There was a monastery of nuns that was praying for me in very big way. It was the convent in San Francisco, the Cristo Rey convent. Without getting into any specifics, it was also through the inversion of St. Therese. I will also add that it’s amazing to see how many Carmelites and non-Carmelite, how many vocations have been influenced by St. Therese in a very clear way. That she kind of comes… as she was very determined at the age of 15 that this was what she was going to do, became a Saint and a Doctor of the Church. I think praying to the Saints is an important thing, the communion of saints, especially if you’re thinking about joining one order to get to know the saints, the spirituality, as you say. To cultivate not only a personal relationship, friendship, with our Lord, but also with some of these saints. They are really closer than you think.”

Q11: Can you talk about the vow chastity, or celibacy? It is something that, particularly today, doesn’t make any sense in the eyes of the world and can appear very daunting.

Good question. ‘Blessed are the pure of heart for they shall see God…’ Unfortunately, we live in a world that has become pornographic, with the internet, cable TV, etc., and chastity and purity are mocked and scoffed at. But ultimately, we know that everyone is called to be chaste, everyone. But it is never easy to be chaste; celibacy is just one step farther. ‘Why would you not get married?’ a lot of people ask. It is sacrificial, for sure, it is a big sacrifice, but ultimately it is because our Lord didn’t get married. It is to model our lives more exactly to His life. ‘If you wish to be perfect, become celibate for the kingdom of God.’ It is absolutely counter-cultural. In our society, we have lust, greed and pride, while poverty, chastity and obedience overturn lust, greed and pride. Chastity is a great witness factor. Also, it frees the heart to a universal love. All religious, by the way, are called to a perfection of charity, pefecti caritatis, ‘No greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.’ So, the perfection of charity, the undivided heart, that you lay down your life, as Christ did, with Christ, for the love of neighbor, for the salvation of their souls. When you see that sacrifice of not having a family and you open it up to this sacrificial self-offering, with the capacity to love with the very love of God and to enter into this perfection of charity as Christ did, then it is very worthwhile. Again, very counter-cultural, but very rewarding, a very beautiful, though not easy, thing. But we believe in the Grace of State, that you were given the vocation and the Lord will give you the grace. Purity of heart, like sanctity, like perfection of charity, is a life-long journey. No one says, ‘Alright, I’ve arrived at the sanctity, I’ve arrived at the perfection of charity, I arrived at purity of heart, and so now I can see God.’ It is an on-going thing, a purification, kind of a pilgrimage. I would like to reiterate, again, that everyone is called to be chaste, to pure love, to charity. This friendship, this call to the perfection of charity, comes from our Lord within the context of friendship, ‘There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.’ For most people, this perfection of charity takes place within the context of friendship within marriage. This is how their charity is perfected, sacrificing themselves for one another, and for their children, how they’re growing in holiness, purity of heart, and selflessness.  It’s not easy, but friendship is the key, friendship with Christ. All of our friendships are healthy and holy insofar as our friendship with Christ is healthy and holy. All of the other friendships, among our peers, between the opposite sexes, will be healthy and pure, good and loving, insofar as our first friendship with Christ is healthy and holy, and growing and vital.”

Q12: As a Carmelite priest you take specific vows, right? What are they? could you explain them a little more?

“Yes, I briefly mentioned them earlier. The vows for all religious are the same, Mother Theresa of Calcutta’s sisters actually rake a fourth vow, which is to give wholehearted and free service to the poorest of the poor. The three traditional vows, also known as the evangelical councils are the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. They are based upon other vows which are our baptismal vows. The word ‘devote’, by the way, as in a ‘devote’ wife or a ‘devote’ Catholic, literally means ‘to be vowed’. That’s were we get he word ‘devote’, so a ‘devote’ wife is vowed to her husband, a ‘devote’ Catholic is vowed Catholic, and a ‘devote’ husband is vowed to his wife. We become devote religious insofar as we try to live these vows out. Again, we have these capital sins, we live in a society that has become quite secular, and even pagan one might say. Pride, selfishness, are combated with obedience, to the superior, to the one will of God, to share in charity. God’s will is perfect charity, we pray, ‘Thy will be done’ well we could pray, ‘Thy love be done.’ Ultimately, the vow of obedience unites our will to the will of God, which is perfect love. Pride and disobedience caused the fall of the human being. Humility and obedience were our redemption. Christ humbled himself and was obedient unto death on the cross. Our Lady was humble and obedient, St. Joseph was humble and obedient, Our Lord was humble and obedient, we are all called to be humble and obedient; religious just in a particular way. Again, it’s for the perfection of charity. The capital sin of lust, the concupiscential passions, the disordered attachments of the human being, little hedonistic pleasure seekers that we are, and this vow of chastity, the sacrificial self-offering of Christ allows us to put order in those disordered passions, so that we can live chastely again, so that we can love with an undivided heart. Poverty; again, we live in a very materialistic world; a world of stock portfolios, and greed, and people can become very money hungry, but this vow poverty teaches us to be detached form the things of the world so that we can have spiritual treasures in heaven. Our Lord said, ‘If you love’, to the rich young man, ‘then sell all you have, give to the poor, and then come and be my disciple.’ So these vows, in a way, correct our fallen human nature. Even though not everyone is called to make these evangelical councils, vows, everyone is indeed called to be humble and obedient to God’s will. Everyone is called to poverty in spirit, ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit’ states the beatitudes. And to purity, ‘Blessed are the pure of heart for they shall see God.’ So all are called to this, but the religious in a more intense, formal way.”

Q13: How does one know which order to join?

About orders… there are actually only a handful of orders: the order O.S.B. (Order of St. Benedict), the Order of Friars Minor, the Order of Preachers (Dominicans), the Order of Discalced Carmelites… That word order is an important word. We believe that if a person is called to a certain order then it is there that our disordered human nature will find order. God took chaos and put order into the world when He created the universe. So the vocation, whether it’s to a specific order or a congregation, we believe that particular charism of that order, or congregation, or society is exactly what will enable this unique person to grow in holiness by living out that particular charism. Whatever that may be, Benedictine, Franciscan, Carmelite, Jesuit, Legioniare of Christ, Missionary of Charity, and the countless, really, ways of living that vocation out. But it will be a perfect match for the person’s personality, their talents, their gifts, their desires and what this particular group does. That is why it’s very important to pray and be open to the Holy Spirit.”

“Two words: Discernment and Docility. The root of the word discernment is the same root of the word ‘disciple’ and ‘discipline’. It means to learn. Christ is the Master and we are disciples, so we are learners. We have to be open to learn at the foot of the Master what He wants to teach us. Discernment literally means, a learning process about yourself, about the congregation, about ultimately God’s will for you. Now, the word docile, its root means ‘to be teachable’. A person must be teachable, must learn from the Holy Spirit. They must have the ‘discipline’ to learn and the ‘docility’ to be led by the Holy Spirit. So, if you discern and you are truly docile, you want to understand and learn what God’s will is for you, and then you are open to being taught and led by the Holy Spirit. Then, whatever your vocation is, you will be open to that. You know, some people want to be religious and God’s will is for them to be married. They try to do religious, or whatever, they find out and then they are happily married and have their family. The parents of St. Therese are a perfect example. They both wanted to be Religious, in the worst way, neither one became a religious and they got married and their daughter became a Doctor of the Church. They are now up for canonization, they’re way to sanctity was by being husband and wife and raising their family. They will be saints one day, I’m prophesying. So finally, Docility and Discernment, which go back to humble obedience.”

 Q14: Prayer is often difficult and I know as Carmelites you pray a lot. So, could you offer any advice on how to pray?

“First of all, Our Lord tells us to pray without ceasing, ‘Pray always and in all ways’. A person who writes is a writer. A person who sings is a singer. A person who jogs is a jogger. And a person who prays is to become a prayer. Not just a prayer but a prayer. Everything that we do should be for the glory of God. It ‘should be an act of love’, as St. Theresa would say. God walks among the pots and pans. So, we learn to make our entire lives a prayer, not just to fold our hands and bow our heads, but to do everything for the glory of God, to do everything for the love of God. In that way, our very lives become a prayer. Prayer is a very beautiful thing. It is communication, it’s contemplation, it’s ultimately loving, to learn how to love is what prayer is. To receive love and to share love would be the greatest prayer. To receive the light of Christ and to radiate the light of Christ, to receive the peace of Christ and to share the peace, and the mercy, of Christ; it is this ongoing relationship with God, love of God and love of neighbor. We can only become our true selves only if we are doing God’s will, which is to grow in this charity, to grow in peace, to grow in wisdom, and we can only learn what that is by praying. Prayer, you could say, is like the heart beat of the spiritual life. It’s like the soul of the spiritual life. We need to pray just to stay alive, spiritually. It’s like breathing. It’s our daily bread, eating, drinking and breathing. The other thing is that there are countless ways of praying and each tradition will have their own specific way of praying, their spirituality, to help one pray. The Carmelite way of is all about prayer. We have three Doctors of the Church who helped people to grow in their friendship with Christ, their intimacy with Christ. I’ll give you three quick modes of contemplation-contemplation means to go into the temple, to dwell with God. The first is when Christ said, ‘I am the light of the World…You are the light of the world.’ and while He was praying He was transfigured on Mt. Tabor. While we are praying, we get transfigured in the light of Christ. You’ve seen ‘Glow in Dark’ toys, well, while we are praying we are ‘Glow in the Dark’ Catholics. The more we hold ourselves up to the Light, the more we absorb the light of Christ, and the more we are able to radiate the Light of Christ. It’s that transfiguring form of prayer contemplating seeing Christ, seeing God, so the first mode is that seeing. We’ve heard it said that ‘seeing is believing’ but we actual believe that ‘believing is seeing’. That with our eyes closed in prayer, we can actual begin to glimpse the Glory of Heaven. The second mode would be the Marian mode which is, as I mentioned I think, to ponder the word of God in our hearts as Mary did. She treasured these words, she pondered them in her heart, and then she said, ‘Be it done unto me according to thy word.’ And the Word became flesh within her; she gave birth to the word of God. This is what we are also called to do; to pray over the word of God, to listen, to ponder it, to obey the word of God, to say ‘yes’ to the word of God, to let it really take up residence in our hearts, to become flesh within us, and then to give birth to the word of God by proclaiming the word of God, and ultimately becoming the word of God. For instance, if you meditate on ‘Peace be with you’, ‘Peace be with you’, ‘Peace be with you’ until it becomes a part of your heart. Your response to the whole world can then be ‘Peace be with you.’ And you become the peacemaker, the peace of Christ in the world. The third, again this is also on Mt. Tabor, a voice from the cloud said, ‘This is my beloved Son, listen to Him.’ So the first mode is contemplating the light, radiating the light, being transformed and transfigured in the light. The second mode is listen to the voice of Christ, pondering the word as Mary did. And the third mode of contemplation, which we also find on Mt. Tabor, is the point when Moses and Elijah were there, conversing with Christ. This mode is how St. Teresa would describe contemplation as a ‘heart to heart, loving, ongoing conversation, with a friend that you know loves you.’ This was the genius of St. Teresa, that contemplation is a conversation with a loving friend, a heart to heart, free flowing prayer of friendship, a conversation with Christ. I think these points are very important; so these are the very ‘Carmelite’ ways of prayer.”

Q15: As a religious, is there a favorite experience that you have had, or something that has been very helpful?

Well I mentioned that the Pope laid his hands on my head and that was very moving. To be able to offer Mass everyday is a great gift. Certain canonizations-I was at the canonization of St. Faustina, the first Saint  canonized in the new millennium (April 30, 2000). I was there when St. Therese was declared a Doctor of the Church in Rome in 1997. There are so many great things. Studying in Rome was a great opportunity. It’s hard to say what my favorite or ‘most powerful’ experience was but, although religious life and the priesthood is sacrificial and it is a challenge, and at times a ‘via cruces’, it is also heaven on earth. Because the Lord promises as we pray in the Our Father, ‘Thy will be done on earth as it is heaven.’ That if we are trying to do His will, His love everyday then we begin to experience, here and now, a little bit of heaven on earth. So, everyday is a great adventure and a great opportunity to behold the love of God and the mercy of God in our daily encounters.”

Q16: As a Carmelite religious, what type of activities do you do, what is your daily life like?

“’A day in the life’” would be mostly prayer. Above and beyond the Liturgy of the Hours, which we pray five times a day, we have two hours of contemplative prayer, one in the morning and one in the evening. For me, the high point of my day, the heart and soul of my day, is offering the Mass. By far, that is the most important period of time in my daily life.  Other than that, the sky is the limit; days of recollection, retreats, novenas, spiritual direction, hearing confessions, all of the various ministries. It depends on what you’re doing, whether you’re in a parish, in a retreat center, with the students. There is a great need for priestly ministry and so there is great diversity of ministry. The days are quite ‘action packed’ and ultimately we’ve got to pray our way through the day and the mass is the heartbeat.”

Q17: Do you ever visit family and friends, or go outside of the Carmel to visit?

“Yes, we are Carmelite Friars.  We were originally hermits on Mt. Carmel living in caves, in the same place as the dual spirits of Elijah the Prophet and Elijah the Mystic. But, when we came to Europe in the 13th century, we became friars. And friars were the ones who kind of hopped over the monastery walls, so to speak, and brought the gospel to the people. They were the first ones not to live behind the walls. So, we are not cloistered, we are not monks, we are not hermits anymore, we are friars and so we go out. We have to go out; ‘Active and Contemplative’.  About seeing the family- Yes, I think that’s always very important to have close contact with your family. It depends on where you’re stationed, if your near to your family or not, but generally speaking there is time annual to be with one’s family. As I said earlier, ultimately, we are all one family. God is our Father and we are all brothers and sisters in Christ. But, the natural family on the natural level is always the most important. It’s good for them to see us and it’s good for us to see them. So there is time for that, time to go out, to do different activities and ministries; again it depends on the individual.”

For the Faith 
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