.....Christmas 1999.....

Dear Friends of Carmel,

If you had but one wish, what would it be?

It was an intriguing sight. In a way, Christmas came early to us this year. In mid-November, all kinds of hooded and bundled creatures could be seen walking around outside at one and two o'clock in the morning, squinting and looking up, probably waiting for redemption or maybe just wishing to spot that star with a tail as big as a kite. We had to wait for the moon to set in order to see the meteor showers more clearly. Even our retreat director, protected with two coats, stretched out in the ditch to view the performance. He stayed there until either the chill of the early morning or the howl of coyotes and our big brown owl encouraged him to seek more comfortable accommodations. We wished upon a "star" that night, praying for peace and love in the world and that the light of the first Christmas star would shine on the homes of our many friends. So, in a way, you were there.

Why don't sheep shrink in the rain or go "baa" in the moonlight?

Speaking of coyotes, we seem to have them. During October, in the middle of Mass one day, the doorbell rang. "Would you please keep your dog in?" the neighbor asked. Two hundred and fourteen head of their cattle were out and scattered around the area. It seemed as if the coyotes may have frightened them. We searched for an effective way of praying that our neighbors would find their cows. As the days went on, the concern stayed with everyone around us who knew about it. In the end, most of them were found. We felt like throwing a party, much like the shepherd discovering the lost sheep or the woman rejoicing because she found her coin.

Is this heaven or Iowa?

We so enjoy ringing our tower bell on different occasions. As mentioned before, it is quite a historic bell fitted with an old fashioned rope. Out of respect for our neighbors, we ring it only for the Angelus at noon, and again at four-thirty for prayer. Tux (a shortened form of Tuxedo), our black and white dog, shows up religiously for these times, and accompanies the music with a wild howl. This ritual has its benefits. When, much to our distress, Tux visits the neighbors, we call him back by ringing the bell. People just think we are praying a little extra that day.

You can tell saints by the way they walk and talk and untangle Christmas tree lights.

Speaking of things electrical, when we put up both new additions, we included an intercom system. Frequently, we hear the announcement, "Paging Sister So and So's location, please." The humor of the day comes when the Sister responds, oh so biblically, by saying, "Here I am." These events parallel the times when members of our families call to ask if they may speak with "Sister". "Surely," we say, "Which Sister would you like?"

I like to take my Christmas a little at a time.

We place little quotes between the news to keep you reading to the end. We wouldn't want you to miss our special Christmas blessing. Periodically, we let you in on our inside secrets. This is our little unmatched gift to you, which comes with much love. And, now for the blessing!

May you love every snowflake and ray of sun, and your neighbor in the process. Since God is in the heavens and on our earth as well, may all worry and anxiety be banished from your heart. May this same God send you strength and joy needed for all the tasks before you. And, finally, at the end of the day, may the angels attend you. Then, may you find rest in the Heart of God.

It is Christmas in the heart that puts Christmas in the air.

Do place the above blessing on your refrigerator, at least for the Christmas season. We plan to ring our bell at midnight, December 31. If there is no electricity around, due to Y2K, we will enjoy using the rope even more. Here is an added morsel for the New Year, and the new millennium: Never be discouraged by the size of the task before you. One sees great things from the valley!

Your grateful Carmelites,

Eldridge, Iowa



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