Creative Encounters with God

Photo by Brittany Kahl

The spirit of Carmel is a spirit of childhood, of original life, of newness, of immediate proximity. . . it drinks of the torrent. . . it passes into human beings, renewing and in truth creating them.” Paul-Marie of the Cross, OCD

Creativity always achieves a higher level of originality when God is involved. The best way to hear God’s voice is simply by being attentive in prayer and daily ordinary encounters. I care for a group of lively elderly residents where I work and each has their own fun personality which makes for a fun and surprising encounter. One resident in particular has a way of prompting you in conversation by asking thought provoking questions about meaningful topics, such as “what purpose are you living for?”

One day after having joined the Carmelite sisters for prayers and Mass I promptly made my way to work. I greeted the residents and helped them to breakfast. After breakfast I helped this particular resident to his room and as we were walking he asked, “did you pray this morning?” to which I answered, “yes”. His follow-up question was, “what did you pray about?”

Providentially, I had not prepared my points for meditation the night before according to the readings for Mass, as is my custom. Instead I had been thinking about a phrase that we pray in community every morning: “I implore your grace to enable me to perform all my duties in the Spirit of Carmel.” This prayer is prayed every morning and I hardly ever stopped to examen whether I was making a sincere effort to embrace it. So I told him, “I prayed about this specific phrase and its significance in my life.”

His immediate response was “so, what is the Spirit of Carmel? If you don’t know it, how can you perform your duties according to it?” I wasn’t surprised at his question although I wasn’t expecting it. We talked for a little while about living in the presence of God, offering little sacrifices out of love like St. Therese did, and we talked about my favorite practice, offering up the work I do for priests. I mentioned I was still growing in my knowledge of Carmelite Spirituality. And to that he said, “don’t rush it. Don’t try to understand it all at once. Live in the present moment and take it in as it comes, but do not loose your joy doing it. There will be moments when you don’t like what you see, but that is when you have to choose to surrender. You either accept it or reject it but you cant do both.” And with that, we said goodbye and I left his room.

I was speechless after that encounter, which was not uncommon. I went through the rest of the day thinking about our conversation and thanking God for enriching my morning reflection using the words of a humble elderly man who simply enjoyed meaningful conversations.

God uses everything and everyone to reach the hearts of those He loves. There is no obstacle between His love and your soul, unless you create it. The disposition we have to daily encounters, no matter how mundane, can transform the channels of ordinary grace into flowing waters of dialogue, where God reveals himself in love.

“The spirit of Carmel is none other than this power and life that spring from the divine word and seeks to enter the soul; none other than this divine presence that is waiting to be received and communicated in a reciprocal gift.” – Paul-Marie of the Cross, OCD