God’s Design at Work
In Your Life
A Message From Mother
Aloysius of Concord Carmel
Sr. Margaret Dorgan, DCM
Sr. Margaret Dorgan is a Carmelite nun in John of the Cross Monastery, which is located on the beautiful coast of rural Maine .
“Do not be satisfied with less than the fullness of God's life and love. You know it is within your reach, and God wants it for you" (p. 1). These words of Mother Aloysius of the Blessed Sacrament tell us that our God is a generous God. They appear on the first page of Fragrance from Alabaster , a small booklet of selections from her letters with remembrances of what she said and taught. Her message urges us to realize that divine abundance is all around us—and always available. Jesus came to assure us that we, his brothers and sisters in the human race, are favored by a Father who pours out loving kindness at every moment of our existence. The good news is that God is One who longs to give. Christ asks us to open our minds and hearts so the divine largesse may overflow our lives. "Do not be satisfied with less than the fullness of God's life and love." Why settle for just a portion when the plenitude is there for the taking?
A Carmelite nun for fifty-seven years and prioress in the monastery of Roxbury , Massachusetts , and later at Concord , New Hampshire , Alice Rogers began her earthly life on February 18, 1880, in the town of Billerica , thirty miles northwest of Boston . Alice Rogers was the ninth and next-to-last child of Irish immigrants, Timothy from Dublin and Mary from Cork . Her parents worked on the estate of a wealthy family who built a house for them. That same year saw the birth of Bl . Elizabeth of the Trinity on July 18 at the military camp of Avor near Bourges in central France . She was the elder daughter of Captain Joseph Catez and his wife, Marie Rolland Catez , who later settled in Dijon , Alice and Elizabeth were both blessed with devout parents, yet their backgrounds differed considerably. Alice was an excellent student. After she graduated from public school at the head of her class, she completed a two-year teacher-training program at Lowell State Normal School .
Such a smooth educational path was not possible in Bl . Elizabeth's France of the Third Republic . French Catholic parents refused to allow their children to participate in the state educational system with its hostile anti-Catholic bias. Elizabeth had exceptional talent in music and was enrolled in the Conservatory of Dijon where she won prizes for excellence in playing the piano. Sabeth , as she was called, received limited academic tutoring at home. With her younger sister, she was given instruction in English. She reacted to these lessons with humor. "Marguerite and I are learning English. I work hard at it so that I will soon be able to babble this language of birds." We don't know how well she did in this foreign tongue, but grammatical errors appear quite often in writings in her native French.
Having been a teacher for three years, Alice Rogers was a stickler for correct grammar and punctuation. A Carmelite superior of her time was expected to review all correspondence before it left the monastery. Mother Aloysius was patient with the failings of her young nuns, but she made sure their written sentences had no linguistic errors.
I was in her room once discussing an unrelated matter when she mentioned that I almost never dotted the " i"s in my letters. (It’s a lot quicker not to, I thought to myself.) Typewriters were few and costly, and computers off in the distant future. She said she was dotting those " i"s for me. Maybe I could take on the task? Shamefaced, I made a resolution, Today, when I dot a handwritten " i ," I will remember her admonition and how she always urged us to make use of such mundane things as offerings to God.
Mother speaks of "The thousand details and actions of daily life. We have only to bring to each of them a spirit of faith, and each moment will hold for us grace, and will hold for us God" (p. 28). The humdrum daily tasks and the more important assignments are not just something to get through. They can be reminders to contact Jesus. We don't want anything to slip away when it could be put to use.
In trying to deepen our awareness of God, we need to understand how our human consciousness functions. We build up habits of prayerfulness by turning our minds to God in the passing events of life. This requires some effort, perhaps more at the beginning. When I look at my watch, I see what the hour is and I think of how One who is beyond time loves me. Perhaps I connect an aspiration to that glance at a timepiece. "Come, Lord Jesus." I am asking that Jesus arouse my awareness. The few words bring my thoughts into a focus of recollection. I don't stop what I'm doing, but now I connect with Jesus who is with me as I keep moving ahead.
Mother Aloysius pointed out, "It is only in little things a Carmelite can give Him the return of love He looks for. He is pleased by the most trifling gift of love. May His light enable us to see the countless opportunities that lie daily round us, and His love make us generous in using every one" (p. 50). What she taught was not just for Carmelites, as her letters to those beyond the monastery make clear. She wanted faith to open our eyes to everything that touches us so that we might see how the great and the small can yield spiritual profit. All that is necessary is making contact with God in and through what takes place in the passing hours.
“The varied happenings of our days are designs of His Providence.” And what kind of design does God intend at this time in my life, I question myself. The aim of the divine design that enfolds each hour is “to ask us unawares for a proof of our love—perhaps through a humiliation, an apparent lack of appreciation, consideration, or sympathy. He would ask us unexpectedly for an act of patience, of thoughtful charity, a gracious yielding to others” (p. 30). We weigh what is before us and see how it enters into God’s plan. We pause to consider the response Jesus is seeking from us. As instant succeeds instant, we can all too easily waste them on what is worthless and even worse than worthless. Where did the time go? It was thrown away, a temporal treasure spent with no return to our spirit. Trifles absorbed us so; Now as we reflect, we acknowledge how careless was our spending. "If our mind wanders, then we peacefully bring it back to Him; yet we must make this effort with fidelity," Mother Aloysius gently advises. (p. 31)
Wherever we are in the here and now, God's love overshadows our limited being and guarantees that grace comes to us in the measure we need. Baptized in Christ, we are a people of confidence. How much that confidence is needed in a world torn apart by violence and hatred. Jesus delegates us as his followers to further his redemptive activity in whatever way we can. "Our Lord has ascended into heaven, but the work for which he came to earth is to go on. His external mission is ended, but he would continue it in each of us . Like the apostles, we have a work to perform. We are to conquer the world for him, win souls to his love, but it is by the labors, trials and suffering attendant upon the work of our own sanctification . The kingdom of our souls is the place of combat" ( p. 33).
The work of our sanctification takes place marked by the boundaries of our own small world. All that is accomplished there is based on God acting within us and for us. This generates spiritual energy that affects what lies beyond our personnel sphere. The holiness to which we are called becomes an electric current bringing light and warmth to those near us and far away. Prayer has power.
Mother Aloysius, who shared her birth year with Bl . Elizabeth, lived much, much longer. The Carmelite of Dijon saw her short twenty-six years as laid out in a predetermined pattern that reached to the everlasting. Her American sister viewed her eighty-one years with that same linkage to what endures forever.
Mother says to each one of us, still living in this temporal universe, "May God discover to you new depths of love and make His Presence felt in your soul as never before — that transforming Presence which lightens every burden and makes all crosses sweet for His love's sake. We cannot fathom His ways, all divine. We know only that within our inmost being, surrendered to Him and His Will, He is building for eternity." (p. 36).
First Published in: Carmelite Digest Summer 2006
Fragrance from Alabaster sells for $3.50 and may be obtained from the Carmelite Monastery 275 Pleasant St., Concord , NH 03301-2590.
Mother Aloysius at her graduation
from Lowell Normal School
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