Saturday, July 20, 2013

"Then the Prophet Elijah arose like a fire ... "

Carmel Ashram, Baroda
On Thursday, I went out to the Carmel Ashram in Baroda to say the morning Mass for the sisters in Baroda. A small, modern, concrete chapel. The cloistered section behind a grille to the left of the altar, and a narrow nave for the faithful. After Mass, one of the ladies showed me to the refectory near the sacristy. "Breakfast is waiting for you Father." There was bread, eggs, a thermos of tea in a round serving tray sort of thing that rotated back into the cloister. After chowing down on the fare, I went back to the chapel. The sisters were chanting the morning office, the cloister curtained off. At the back of the church, three ladies were praying the Rosary in Malayalam, the rising and falling, rapid-fire staccato a strange counterpoint to the chant. I prayed Lauds and left.

Breakfast, in the round turn-table tray thingie
In the afternoon, Mother Superior called me. "But we didn't get to meet you, Father! Please come back!" So, I went back this morning. On the Carmelite calendar it is the Feast of St. Elijah. The readings were the account of Elijah's fleeing in the desert to Mt. Horeb (1 Kg 19) and the Transfiguration (Lk 9). "After breakfast, you can meet us in the parlor." (Or, as it would be spelled here, "parlour.") After Mass, in the sacristy, I heard a knock on the turntable-tray-thingie. It turned, and there was a key in the tray. "Father," a voice came from beyond, "this is the key to the refectory. I will put the key to the parlor there." I went to the refectory. One of the faithful came in to chat with me -- a retired gentleman, who is taking theology courses at the local seminary, and is very keen to understand the vocation of the laity.

Map showing Carmel foundations in India
After breakfast I went to the parlor and first had a long talk with one of the postulants, across the grille. She too is a convert from Hinduism, of Gujarati background, raised in Bombay. We shared conversion stories and vocation stories. She was baptized in 2002. There were accounts of incredible graces and movements of the Holy Spirit in her story. It was truly a holy conversation. Afterward, the whole community came in to greet me, and we chatted amiably for a while. I will be back on Monday and Tuesday to say Mass for the sisters. "Father, then we will get your First Blessing and kiss your hands, through the Communion grate!"

God is good! St. Elijah, pray for us! Then the prophet Elijah arose like a fire, and his word burned like a torch. Blessed are those who saw you, and those who have been adorned in love; for we also shall surely live. (Sir 48:1, 11) 

Dedication plaque
Statue of St. Theresa of Avila on the grounds

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