The choices we make

If the Prior and the brothers see fit, you may have foundations in solitary places, or where you are given a site suitable and convenient for the observance proper to your Order.

Rule of St. Albert No. 5

“Man, in his weakness and shortsightedness believes he must make choices in this life. He trembles at the risks he takes. We do know fear. But no. Our choice is of no importance. There comes a time when our eyes are opened and we come to realize that mercy is infinite. We need only await it with confidence and receive it with gratitude. Mercy imposes no conditions. And lo! Everything we have chosen has been granted to us. And everything we rejected has also been granted. Yes, we even get back what we rejected. For mercy and truth have met together, and righteousness and bliss shall kiss one another,” says Gen. Lorens Löwenhielm in the 1987 Danish movie Babette’s Feast.

Indeed, life presents to us so many choices, and many of us would prefer to make the safest choices, only to realize that the choice we made is actually not the better choice. But how do we make the better choice?

When Jesus was tempted by the devil in the wilderness (see Luke 4:1-13, Matthew 4:1-11, or Mark 1:12-13), he was not afraid to choose what may seem to the world to be unreasonable choices – choosing hunger rather than to take the easy way out by turning stone into bread; choosing servility over power; choosing humility over pride.

Jesus showed us that the choices we make should not be that which would simply satisfy our bodies or our whims, but that which would give glory to the Father by allowing His love to flow in the fruits of our choices.

But, human as we are, and in our shortcomings, our decisions may be guided by our needs or our wants and would often lead us to what we may seemingly perceive as a failure.

This may be true in our decision to accept assignments, invitations, or even investment opportunities. Sometimes the offer are so attractive and seems to benefit us, only to realize afterwards that we have made a bad decision and many are affected by it.

But then again, whatever the outcome, never fret, never worry, for, as Gen. Löwenhielm pointed out, “Our choice is of no importance” because whatever choice we make, if ever we make a mistake, we are assured that God’s “mercy is infinite” and “we need only await it in confidence and receive it with gratitude.”

Was there a time that you regretted the choice you made? What did you do? 

Matthew 4:1-11
Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. He fasted for forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was hungry. The tempter approached and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command that these stones become loaves of bread.” He said in reply, “It is written: ‘One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of God.’” Then the devil took him to the holy city, and made him stand on the parapet of the temple, and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down. For it is written: ‘He will command his angels concerning you’ and ‘with their hands they will support you, lest you dash your foot against a stone.’” Jesus answered him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test.’” Then the devil took him up to a very high mountain, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in their magnificence, and he said to him, “All these I shall give to you, if you will prostrate yourself and worship me.” At this, Jesus said to him, “Get away, Satan! It is written: ‘The Lord, your God, shall you worship and him alone shall you serve.’” Then the devil left him and, behold, angels came and ministered to him.

Most loving Lord, grant me a discerning heart that would guide me with the choices I make. May my choices praise you and bring glory to your name. Amen.


Blessed solitude

If the Prior and the brothers see fit, you may have foundations in solitary places, or where you are given a site suitable and convenient for the observance proper to your Order.

– Rule of St. Albert, No. 5

“Blessed solitude. I am quite at home in this small cell. I never get bored here – just the contrary. I am certainly alone but never was the Lord so near to me.”

These lines were written by Titus Brandsma, a Carmelite priest martyred by the German Nazis in 1942 for his defense on human rights that included the freedom of the press and the right to education.

Titus embodied the Carmelites’ love for solitude for it is in this solitude that we come into communion with God.

In our busy-ness in doing our business, we often forget God. There’s just no end when it comes to things to do.

When we’re done with one thing, another comes.

Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays are allotted for working in the garden during our novitiate year in the Spring of Carmel. When we first arrived in the place, the plot assigned to me was so full of weeds of different kinds. I’ve done everything I could to remove the weeds, but the method I found to be effective was the tedious work of pulling them one by one.

The thing is, when I’m done with one area, the area I worked on previously would again be blanketed in weeds. There is just no end to the work and in all honesty, we will never run out of things to do.

For us to be able to find that solitary place within us and to be able to withdraw to that place from time to time is a jewel that we will always treasure, especially when we are choked with things to do.

When was the last time that you were by yourself? How did it feel?

Luke 6:12
Now during those days he went out to the mountain to pray; and he spent the night in prayer to God.

Lord, Jesus Christ, despite the many moments that I’ve failed to remember you, burdened by my responsibilities, you remain to be present when I needed you. Grant me a heart that remembers you often and to praise and give you thanks for the blessings you showered on me. Amen.