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Visiting prelate helps honor 'Little Flower' on feast day

November 01, 2018

RARITAN TOWNSHIP — All who attended the Solemn Pontifical Benediction and Blessing of the Roses at the Carmel of Mary Immaculate and St. Mary Magdalen, home of the Discalced Carmelites nuns, Oct. 1 were seeking the intercession of St. Therese of Lisieux, who is lovingly known as "The Little Flower." St. Therese, a Carmelite nun who died in 1897 when she was 24, promised on her deathbed to let fall a shower of roses from heaven.

The roses are symbols of the many favors and blessings St. Therese hoped to obtain from God for all those who asked her intercession. She led a very simple and hidden life, but after her death and the publications of her writings, she became one of the best known and best-loved of all the saints.

"In all these years, dear friends, the little Therese has never stopped helping the little, the poor and the suffering who pray to her. She has never stopped helping us because we are here begging for prayers. May these roses which we bless in her honor tonight bring you comfort and peace," said Bishop Manuel A. Cruz, a Cuban-American prelate who serves as an auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Newark.

Bishop Cruz, who was first invited to the Carmel more than 40 years ago, has a special place in his heart for the Carmelites, a community of cloistered, contemplative religious under solemn vows.

"We know that our faith is stronger more than ever today because here there is a Carmel where wonderful Bishop Manuel A. Cruz blesses roses at a Solemn Pontifical Benediction and Blessing of Roses for the Carmelite nuns to celebrate the feast of St. Therese of the Child Jesus at the monastery chapel. Holy women remember us by name day after day. That is why so many of us come knocking in good times and in bad at the door of this Carmel. We are begging for one thing - prayers," the bishop said.

The annual service is held on the feast day of St. Therese in the chapel, which was filled and overflowed into a hallway. The liturgy included exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, liturgy of the word, adoration, novena prayers, benediction and the blessing and distribution of the roses along with a chance to venerate the relic of St. Therese. Bishop Cruz reminded those present that sometimes people like to place the saints high and far from them because it is easier for them to make an excuse to not embrace the mystery of their own conversion.

"Conversion is what we are in need of. Conversion is what will lead us to trust and to accept the mercy of God fully and without any fears," he said.

'Conversion is what will lead us to trust and to accept the mercy of God fully and without any fears.'

Bishop Cruz stated that St. Therese’s prayer was very simple and she had a clear direction for life — to ask the Lord for the gift of his infinite love and for the salvation of all human beings. “In the difficult times in our lives, how wonderful it is to find a gentle kind holy one who is teaching us to trust in simplicity, to have a great desire for salvation. To learn at the school of the saints to love authentically and totally the one who died on that cross for our sins and who has risen from the dead,” he said.

Nancy Weidner, who helped with the evening’s preparations, is a member of Immaculate Conception Parish. She began coming to the monastery 21 years ago and is a daily communicant. “This is my come-to place. I am really close to the nuns. They are hidden away and praying for us,” she said.

Many people from surrounding areas travel to speak with the sisters at the turn, a closet-like room where one of them will appear and talk with a visitor when they ring a bell. “You can go to the turn anytime and talk to the sisters. You can feel free to talk to them about anything. You can and should ask for prayer. It is amazing, they are amazing,” Weidner said.

Carmela Maresca, who traveled from Somerset with her husband, said she has a special devotion to St. Therese and has been attending the Blessing of the Roses for the past 13 years. “I consider St. Therese to be my dearest friend and sister,” she said. “I take her with me all the time and that is why her feast day is very important to me.”

“As we conclude our service tonight,” Bishop Cruz said, “I would like to say on behalf of reverend mother and the nuns of this Carmel, we express deep gratitude to all of you for coming tonight. We would also like to thank the family of Jacqueline Besch, who donates the roses each year in honor of their mother who had a strong devotion to Saint Therese.”

Speaking to the sisters, Bishop Cruz said, “As you retire in solitude and in prayer in this Carmel, know that we are so grateful for your presence. The whole Church is grateful for your testimony, for your prayers and for your love.”

According to the Carmelite’s website, www.flemingtoncarmel.org, the nuns, who moved to their current location in 1972, follow the life established by St. Teresa of Avila to support the Church. Their loving fidelity to the Magisterium is lived out in prayer, solitude and a common life in a Marian spirit.

In the chapel, daily and Sunday Mass is celebrated, Sunday Benediction, as well as a monthly Holy Hour to pray for priests. Visitors and prayer requests are welcome.

By Karen Corpora
Correspondent for The Catholic Spirit

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