By Fr. Alex Ezechukwu, OCD
Insights From Carmelite Saints
With carefully chosen words, Odile Rimbert begins her lecture with a simple prayer to the Holy Spirit. She is wearing a crimson-pink scarf that adds a personal touch to her somewhat shy, but light-hearted personality.
“In prayer, God delights in us” she says with a smile, displaying a slide of Michaelangelo’s painting of God creating Adam. She adds that “prayer gives pleasure to Jesus.”
And that happens when sometimes we don’t feel like praying. “Even if we don’t give much, or feel that we are not worthy of it,” she adds.
Ms. Rimbert’s video and one hundred others are part of the Wisdom Lectures series produced by the newly formed DecorCarmeli Media, a service of the Order of the Discalced Carmelites in the United Kingdom.
Her talk is titled, “Prayer as a Loving Relationship.” Ms. Rimbert is a consecrated lay woman of Notre-Dame de Vie, or Our Lady of Life. Based in France, her group is a secular institute of consecrated life.
As a Carmelite priest, I appreciate this institute and look forward to our continued working with them. And our Discalced Carmelite friars have much in common with them since their spiritual life is rooted in the spirit of Carmel and in the life of prayer.
Notre-Dame de Vie is one of the more recently-formed religious movements that is no doubt the work of the Holy Spirit. Our world today needs witnesses of Christianity in the everyday modern milieu. Founded in 1932 by Fr. Marie-Eugene, it is made up of priests and lay consecrated men and women. They take vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. But they are not considered religious, as are traditional religious orders such as Carmelites, Franciscans, Dominicans, and so on.
God Delights In Us
God delights in human beings, Ms. Rimbert says. Quoting Fr. Marie-Eugene, she says, “He created us out of Love and has destined us to a very close union with Him.”
She compares human friendships with friendship with God, where each person gives to another. She points to the words on the screen, “Prayer is not primarily what we say, but more our capacity to listen and to dwell in silence, making ourselves available and expecting to be related with God.”
Quoting St. Teresa of Avila, she says, “Contemplative prayer in my opinion is nothing else than a close sharing between friends; it means taking time frequently to be alone with him who loves us.”
She said that St. Teresa of Avila was very gifted with a great capacity for friendship, and “had a big human heart.”
And here is practical advice, shown on her slide show: “Take time for God - small chunks, several times in the week is better than one long period of time.”
“Lord, I Believe In You. Help Me.”
She takes the listener through a number of points that highlight a way to start and finish one’s time of prayer. She adds, “When it comes to something important, go back to God with acts of faith, hope and charity. Just say, ‘Lord, I believe in you. Help me. Give me your love.’”
Prayer as friendship “is not governed by a methodology, but by little pointers – letting God, making space to do what He wants with us, and not as controlling and [us] always taking the initiative.”
St. Teresa never talked about a methodology, she adds. It is as if she said, “OK, look at Him. Picture Him. Friendship is not a technique. It is as with your friends.”
She showed a slide of a famous painting of Christ standing with a lantern in his hand, knocking at a door. There is no handle on the door, and that is because the handle is on the inside, and we must open it.
“I think we spend our whole lives, she says with a chuckle while making a motion with her hand, “opening it a little bit, but closing it. Opening it a little bit more, and then closing.” At that quip, she draws sympathetic laughter from the class.
At the beginning of our prayer lives, our will is predominant. But then, his divine life gradually takes possession of our soul. God’s action overrides ours, and we are treated as beloved sons and daughters.
St. Therese of Lisieux “had very dry prayer,” Ms. Rimbert admits, but then she said, quoting the saint, “just when I need them, lights, hitherto unseen, break in.”
St. Therese of Lisieux: Jesus Instructs Us Without Words
“Jesus has no need of books or teachers to instruct us,” she says, again quoting the Little Flower. “He, the Teacher of teachers, instructs us without the noise of words…Never have I heard Him speak, but I feel He is within me. At each moment He is guiding and instructing me in what I must say and do.”
Ms. Rimbert’s video and one hundred others have been produced by the newly formed DecorCarmeli Media, a service of the Order of the Discalced Carmelites in the United Kingdom. We produce these videos so that people can have access to authentic teachings on the spiritual life and benefit from the insights from the Carmelite tradition that has produced many saints and Doctors of the Church.
Monthly and annual subscriptions to the video platform will be available soon. We will let you know – simply sign up for our mailing list: DecorCarmeli Media. And here is our website page again about the Wisdom Lectures.