(LifeSiteNews) — Father Martin Hansen, a priest writing under a pseudonym, has written a letter to Catholics in Philadelphia who are distraught over the fact that their beloved Carmelite monastery of St. Joseph and St. Anne, has been suppressed. These Catholics continue to meet at the Carmel once a month, on every third Sunday of the month, and pray the rosary, also “for the preservation of the Philadelphia Carmel, according to the will of God, as a sacred place for the spiritual benefit of all people in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.”
Father Hansen kindly submitted his text to LifeSite.
The priest sympathizes with these faithful and wishes also for the restoration of this more than a century old monastery. The monastery of St. Joseph and St. Anne played a crucial role in the canonization of St. Therese of Lisieux, has first class relics of St. Therese and both of her parents, and can be seen as the birthplace of devotion to St. Therese and as “Ground Zero for St. Therese of Lisieux becoming a saint.” But Fr. Hansen also looks upon the destruction of these holy places as we cherish them as a wake-up call from God. He calls upon us to have a spiritual view on the happenings in the Church and the world, and this perspective goes far beyond the Carmel of Philadelphia.
Written and dated on Epiphany, Father reminds us of the mystery of Christmas and how Christ came into this troubled world to redeem us.
“While the world is tossed to and fro, and we along with it, we find undisturbed peace by resting in the will of God, no matter how painful or inscrutable that divine will may be,” he writes. “For from the immense and unshakable tranquility of the celestial realms, the Son of God has deigned to enter our tumultuous and fragile world, not so much to repair it, but to redeem us.”
Father Hansen concludes, God is calling us to draw closer to Him and into a more intimate friendship with Him. It is a personal bond that each one of us can only foster on a personal level through a life of prayer and penance and especially acceptance of His Holy Will. This, of course, does not mean that we should abandon the good fight here on earth.
In Father’s words: “Is Jesus going to ‘fix’ the tragedy of the Philadelphia Carmel? I dare say He has not come to fix any thing but to restore us to His friendship even in the midst of a broken world. If we simply surrender ourselves to Him, He will restore us and make us His own. If we let Him have His way with us, all else, even the loss of your dear Carmelite nuns in Philadelphia, falls into place.”
Fr. Hansen is essentially doing here what Our Lady of Fatima tried in 1917. After showing the child seers a vision of hell, she told them that many sinners would go to hell. She stated, “You have seen hell where the souls of poor sinners go. To save them, God wishes to establish in the world devotion to my Immaculate Heart. If what I say to you is done, many souls will be saved and there will be peace.” That is to say, devotion and prayers are the tools for re-establishing peace on earth. But should mankind not comply, more sufferings are to come.
Our Lady of Fatima continued: “The war is going to end: but if people do not cease offending God, a worse one will break out during the Pontificate of Pius XI […] To prevent this, I shall come to ask for the consecration of Russia to my Immaculate Heart, and the Communion of reparation on the First Saturdays. If my requests are heeded, Russia will be converted, and there will be peace; if not, she will spread her errors throughout the world, causing wars and persecutions of the Church. The good will be martyred; the Holy Father will have much to suffer; various nations will be annihilated.”
Let us therefore take heed and listen to Father Hansen’s charitable reflections and admonitions that stem from fatherly affection.
Please see here Father Hansen’s full text:
MY PEACE I GIVE UNTO YOU (Jn. 14:27).
Thank you for sharing your sentiments of love and appreciation for contemplative life, especially for Carmel and the Carmelite monastery in your “city of saints,” the once vibrantly Catholic Philadelphia. I join you in your sorrow over the loss of the Philadelphia Carmel, and I commend the Catholic community to the Providence of God.
Maybe a few considerations can help you at this time. The conclusion of the calendar year in the midst of our Christmas celebrations moves us to consider the vicissitudes of our earthly existence in the light of eternity. While the world is tossed to and fro, and we along with it, we find undisturbed peace by resting in the will of God, no matter how painful or inscrutable that divine will may be. For from the immense and unshakable tranquility of the celestial realms, the Son of God has deigned to enter our tumultuous and fragile world, not so much to repair it, but to redeem us. The Book of Wisdom (18:14-15) sees the Son of God bounding through the vast silence of the night to take His place among us mortals: “For while all things were in quiet silence, and the night was in the midst of her course, Thy almighty word leapt down from Heaven from Thy royal throne, as a fierce conqueror into the midst of the land of destruction.”
Is it not true that we have from the fall of Adam until now wrought destruction in a world that was meant to be our paradise for a time? We are inclined to evil from our youth (Gen. 8:21), yet God has mercifully condescended to lift us from such misery and restore us through the redemptive work of His Son, made man “for us men and for our salvation.” This Son, this Jesus upon whom we gaze in awe and wonder as He lies helpless in the cave of Bethlehem, is the remedy for the sin which wreaks destruction wherever it is found. He is God’s answer to evil, and only in reference to Him can we understand and overcome it.
I share your anguish at the sight of so many evils carrying souls to ruin and wreaking havoc in the Church. This spiritual destruction is so widespread that we are justly angry and filled with hatred for the offenses against God and the immense harm done to souls. If we did not hate the prevailing errors, heresies, sins and scandals we would not be worthy of the name Catholic, and we would give evidence of disdain for Jesus Christ and His Church. I must say what too many are afraid to say: Catholics must learn to hate! Yes, to hate what God hates, just as they must love what God loves!
You tell me that nearly two years have passed since the last of the Carmelite nuns left your beloved Carmel in Philadelphia. From what you say, I gather that many good people remain heartbroken at what transpired in Philadelphia. Sadly, similar misfortunes have befallen other contemplative communities. Surely, one could justly point fingers and criticize the parties involved in these tragedies. May God forgive those who have been agents of destruction in the loss of contemplative communities, or who by their short-sightedness, fear, weakness or imprudence acted contrary to the will of God. No doubt, human failure abounds here as in so many tragedies, and we grieve that such human fallibility brings so much pain.
My suggestion? Understand that the tragedy in Philadelphia as elsewhere can always find its root in sin. I don’t mean firstly and specifically the sins of Carmel’s adversaries, although they may be the proximate cause of Carmel’s demise. I speak in more general terms. Our sinfulness as a people is the more remote cause of our present ills, even if we as individuals are seriously striving to live in a manner more pleasing to God.
Our sinfulness as a people is deservedly punished by the loss of what we hold dear and by the victories of God’s enemies. If God has seen fit through the machinations of men to take away from you and the Philadelphia community your beloved nuns and their monastery, you can see His justice at work here. Is it painful to us? Yes, but we cannot accuse God of injustice. In fact—mystery of mysteries!—His permitting this evil is necessarily good and loving on His part. That’s a tough truth for us to swallow, but it is nonetheless true. Carmel’s adversaries may be unjust, but never the Good Lord.
Let us not focus on the evils of others to the extent that we forfeit our peace of soul. The awareness of evil must not shatter our union with God. Rather, let “there remain faith, hope, and charity, these three” (I Cor. 13:13) undisturbed within us.
Let us strike our breast in a spirit of contrition. We have sinned, and our fathers have sinned. The life of grace is frequently, thoughtlessly, casually and foolishly lost by so many Catholics among us—perhaps we have suffered such misfortune—that we cannot be surprised nor shocked by the proliferation of evils in our world. Our failures as a people have not escaped the just judgment of God.
What does the future hold for Philadelphia? I don’t know. What I do know is that God’s designs will ultimately be accomplished, and I have to think that He graciously regards your love for Carmel as part of His designs. I also know that while the Carmel still stands, you can join other faithful Catholics in prayer at the Carmelite monastery, as noted on its website. The intentions offered to Heaven by these public prayers are praiseworthy. I cannot see how these would be anything but pleasing to God, Our Lady, and all Catholics with deep affection for the Philadelphia Carmel and the nuns who lived and prayed there for more than a century.
Back to my opening thoughts. Jesus comes even in the midst of the chaos and destruction around us. He comes to give us that heavenly peace that is found only in Him and in union with Him.
Is Jesus going to “fix” the tragedy of the Philadelphia Carmel? I dare say He has not come to fix any thing but to restore us to His friendship even in the midst of a broken world. If we simply surrender ourselves to Him, He will restore us and make us His own. If we let Him have His way with us, all else, even the loss of your dear Carmelite nuns in Philadelphia, falls into place.
So, continue to pray. May God’s will be done in regard to the Philadelphia Carmel. And may you find that peace that the Child of Bethlehem alone can give “in the midst of the land of destruction.”
Fr. Martin Hansen
January 6, 2024
Feast of the Epiphany