Story by Reagan Scott
AGNEW (SNR) – Each year the Carmelite Sisters in Agnew prepare for the Order’s patronal feast, the feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, with a preached Novena. This year’s Novena began July 8 and ended July 16, the feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel.
A special Mass was celebrated at the Carmel each day. Father Justin Wylie, the associate pastor for the Cathedral of the Risen Christ in Lincoln, was invited to conduct the nine-day period of prayer.
On July 16, the feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel was celebrated with a Solemn Pontifical Mass officiated by Bishop James Conley.
Msgr. Timothy Thorburn, the chaplain for the Carmelite Monastery, said that close to 100 people attended Mass each night. There were even more in attendance at the final event July 16. Father Wylie said the church was so full that an estimated 40 to 50 people had to stand outside.
“I was surprised at the huge number of the faithful who drove out every night for this Novena,” he said. “I was really moved by the number of young families and large families.”
At each Novena Mass, Father Wylie preached a conference on the topic of Our Lady. A conference takes place during a traditional homily but is longer and touches on a different topic than the Gospel for the day.
Father Wylie got the inspiration for his conferences from Blessed John Henry Newman. He used the Litany of Loreto to deepen people’s appreciation of the four Marian dogmas of the Church.
On the first night of the Novena, Father Wylie spoke about Our Lady as the spouse of the Holy Spirit in order to contextualize the Novena within the context of the original Novena—the nine days between when Jesus ascended into Heaven and the Holy Spirit descended upon Mary and the Twelve Apostles in the Upper Room.
On the second night, Father Wylie contextualized the Novena in the month of July—the month of the Most Precious Blood of Christ.
“I identified the Blessed Virgin Mary as the true ‘Holy Grail’ since she was the first chalice to contain the Blood of Christ or the first tabernacle,” Father Wylie said.
The next four nights focused on the four Marian dogmas which include Mary’s Perpetual Virginity, her Divine Maternity, her Immaculate Conception and her Queenship and Assumption into Heaven.
The seventh day of the Novena fell on a Sunday, so Father Wylie preached on the readings for the day and connected them to Our Lady. On the eighth day he gave a conference on Our Lady’s role in our redemption, and as Mediatrix of all Grace.
At the Pontifical High Mass on the final day of the Novena and feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Father Wylie preached on Our Lady of Mount Carmel, the origins and glories of the Carmelite Order, their saints and the Carmelites of Compiegne who were martyred during the French Revolution.
The Mass was attended by the lay faithful, priests from the Lincoln Diocese and Fraternity of Saint Peter and seminarians from Our Lady of Guadalupe Seminary in Denton and Saint Gregory the Great Seminary in Seward.
After the Mass, the priests had dinner with the Carmelites and spent time afterward exchanging testimonies, prayer and song.
“It really felt like we were in the Upper Room with Our Lady and the Holy Spirit,” Father Wylie said.
Even though contemplative orders like the Carmelites and Pink Sisters lead a hidden, penitential life, Father Wylie said they serve as great spiritual benefactors for the diocese.
He said, “Every diocese should have contemplative life in it.”
Msgr. Thorburn expressed a similar sentiment.
“Prayers from our cloistered sisters are probably more powerful than any influence that we have,” he said. “They pray for everyone in the diocese.”
Msgr. Thorburn likened the role of the Carmelites to the human heart.
He said, “Just as the heart is hidden, but does the body’s most important work, so cloistered religious, like Carmelites and Pink Sisters, do the unseen, but most important spiritual work of the diocese.”
The Carmel of Jesus, Mary and Joseph near Agnew was dedicated and consecrated Dec. 14, 2001. The Carmel chapel is open every day from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Mass is offered at 7 a.m. Monday through Friday and at 8 a.m. Saturday and Sunday. All are invited and welcome to visit.
Father Wylie will give a retreat based on the Novena he preached at Our Lady of Good Counsel Retreat House in Waverly Oct. 4-6. The event is entitled “Crown her with many crowns!” and seeks to deepen attendees’ appreciation of the four Marian dogmas of the Church, by meditating on the titles accorded to Our Lady in the Litany of Loreto. Learn more at www.goodcounselretreat.com.