Tomorrow I will be going through the Rite of Admission for the Secular Discalced Carmelites. Also known as the clothing ceremony, where you receive a larger brown scapular.
Admission should have happened in 2019. Delayed since I was at a conference during the time the community was to interview me, and later COVID–19 stepped in to prevent any retreats.
Perhaps all to the good to spend more time preparing myself in developing a life of prayer. I am not doing this because I am so inclined towards mental prayer and working towards contemplation. Seriously, I was once offered a book contract to write on “Praying badly.” They must have thought I was a Subject Matter Expert on this. I am doing this for what Carmel can teach me in being prayer at the heart of the Church. Maybe I could write a book on “Persevering in prayer despite praying badly.”
I had to choose a religious name before this admission rite. There is something so cool about choosing a religious name and something daunting about it. First, I was thinking of something super-pious. Something impressive sounding. At least I recognized quickly how ridiculous this thought process was.
I ended up picking “Thomas of the Sacred Heart” for several reasons. In part because of the Apostle Thomas. He went from demanding empirical knowledge that Jesus had risen to say “My Lord and my God.” Thomas feels close to my track from my atheist days, wanting all truth to be empirical and provable to the senses, to acknowledging and worshiping Jesus. So the name is aspirational to me that you can finally get things right.
I double the Thomas with St. Thomas Aquinas since this saint I identify with the first crack I saw in my atheist beliefs. His life is also aspirational to me since the saint replies towards the end of his life Domine, non nisi Te—that is, “Lord, nothing except you.”
The Sacred Heart reminds that God is Love, Deus caritas est. In the last year, I started to notice how tied this devotion was in Carmel.
St. Saint Therese of Lisieux wrote this poem for her sister, Marie of the Sacred Heart.
To be able to gaze on your glory,
I know we have to pass through fire.
So I, for my purgatory,
Choose your burning love, O heart of my God!
On leaving this life, my exiled soul
Would like to make an act of pure love,
And then, flying away to Heaven, its Homeland,
Enter straightaway into your Heart.
This year I also had read the biographies of St. Teresa Margaret of the Sacred Heart and St. Teresa of the Andes; she also had this devotion.