John the Cross and the Chapel of the Holy Spirit


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John of the Cross (1542-1591) was a reformer of the Carmelite Order and is considered, along with Saint Teresa of Ávila, as a founder of the Discalced Carmelites. Saint John the Cross was also a Spanish mystic and a Doctor of the Church. Scholars agree that John the Cross is probably the greatest poet in the Spanish language, not for the volumes produced but for the content “polished and re-polished ceaselessly” to perfection.

Carmelite Monastery of St. Joseph and St. Anne. Inside is the Chapel of the Holy Spirit. These are true gems of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

inside carmalite monestary
Inside the medieval looking Chapel of the Holy Spirit. The Carmelite nuns celebrate Mass on the other side of the reredos immediately behind the altar.

john the cross closeup
Closeup of St. Elisha the prophet on right and St. Teresa of Jesus on the left at the Chapel of the Holy Spirit, Mount Carmel, Philadelphia PA. The prophet Elijah is in the chariot of fire at top, being carried into heaven.

face of john
Face of St. Elisha.

Up to John the Cross’s time, there had been very little mystical prose at all, except for poetry of the mystical experience, called the Prayer of Quiet (similar to contemplative prayer). St. John of the Cross had to invent phrases in order to express ideas which previously had no outlet in Spanish.(1) His greatest poetic work, the Spiritual Canticles was composed for the most part while imprisoned by his own religious order, the Carmelites, who resisted the change he was promoting.

A Spiritual Canticle of the Soul

(1) Reference: St. John of the Cross | Fr. Thomas Dubay, S.M. | From Fire Within: St. Teresa of Avila, St. John of the Cross, and the Gospel–On Prayer

nuns wall


My Beloved is the mountains,
The solitary wooded valleys,
The strange islands,
The roaring torrents,
The whisper of the amorous gales;
The tranquil night
At the approaches of the dawn,
The silent music,
The murmuring solitude,
The supper which revives, and enkindles love.

– STANZAS XIV, XV, from The Spiritual Canticle of the Soul by John of the Cross

St. Francis Xavier Parish and the Philadelphia Secular Oratory


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St. Francis Xavier in Secular Oratory

It makes sense St. Francis Xavier Parish is home to the Secular Oratory of Philadelphia. St. Francis Xavier was canonized with St. Philip Neri on the same day in 1622. Both saints were part of the Jesuit community of Saint Ignatius Loyola and the Society of Jesus. St. Francis travelled extensively through India and Japan, implanting small Catholic communities. While traveling on his first trip to China, in 1552, he became seriously ill and died on December 3 at the age of forty-six. He was canonized in 1662 and in 1927 was named patron of foreign missions. He is also the patron saint of India. The feast day of St. Francis Xavier is December 3.

St. Francis Xavier Church

St. Francis Xavier Parish in the Fairmount section of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania was founded in 1839. The church originally built in 1893-1898 extended to its present size in 1906, and rebuilt in 1908 after being damaged by a fire that started in a nearby hat factory.  St. Francis Xavier Church was only the seventh Catholic Church to exist within the city. The church did not modify its old High Altar following the liturgical reforms of Vatican II in 1962.

St. Philip Neri

St. Francis Xavier Parish was entrusted in 1990 to the pastoral care of the Oratorian Fathers. The Secular Oratory is a community of Catholic young adults inspired by the spirituality of Saint Philip Neri. The Oratory is a community of secular priests and brothers who live a common life, observe a daily rule of prayer and practice the gift of stability, i.e., they hope to remain in one place for life. The Congregation of the Oratory was founded by Saint Philip Neri (1515-1590) in Rome and it was officially established in 1575.

francis xavier church3

“For if you seek God in truth, and enter vigorously the path which leads to Him, you will certainly find so much delight proceed from His service, as will easily mitigate and soften whatever sharpness or bitterness there is in conquering yourself.” St. Francis Xavier

francis final

“It is not the actual physical exertion that counts toward a man’s progress, nor the nature of the task, but the spirit of faith with which it is undertaken.” St. Francis Xavier
panoramic photo st francis xavier 4

Side by side, St. Philip and St. Francis say goodbye.
neri and francis 2

Immaculate Conception and St. Catherine Laboure at Miraculous Medal Shrine


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mary side shrine 2Immaculate Conception, or the birth of Mary. Her parents were Saint Joachim and Saint Anne. She was born free of original sin as proclaimed in 1854, Pope Pius IX’s solemn declaration, Ineffabilis Deus. As a result she shares in the benefits of salvation in Christ from the very moment of her conception.

mother of the church

The Miraculous Medal was originally known as the Medal of the Immaculate Conception. Oh Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who has recourse to thee.

main altar miraculous medal shrine

In 1830, the Blessed Mother appeared to St. Catherine Laboure in 1830 three times. The first time, to tell her of troubling times to come and job she had for Catherine.
ist apparation without frame
1st apparation

The second time, appearing as the Mother of the World, holding a globe with a cross on top.
2nd apparation

The third time, depicted in what we now call the Miraculous Medal, hands outstretched, standing on the globe, crushing the snake, with rays of graces shining down on the world.

3rd apparation

The Blessed Mother said that people who wore the medal around their necks and prayed would be blessed with special graces.

Mary told St. Catherine to “Come to the altar and pray and great graces will be shed upon you.”

The famous Spanish painter Bartolome Esteban Murillo had a devotion to Mary, and created several paintings of the Immaculate Conception in the mid to late 1660s.


Murillo was the inspiration for the the stained glass window at St. Basil’s Church in eastern Pennsylvania. The Immaculate Conception was created in late 1890’s of German design.

immaculate conception Murillo st.basil

Appropriately, high in the ceiling is The Eye symbolizing the Holy Spirit and the important role in the Immaculate Conception.

st.francis de paul

The Vincentians, Congregation of the Mission are the shrine gaurdians of the Miraculous Medal Shrine. St. Vincent dePaul stands at the entrance to the Seminary, and at Mother Mary’s side.

eye holy spirit

St. Charles Borromeo – Bishop


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Charles Borromeo was born in 1538, his mother was the sister of G. de’Medici who became Pope Pius IV in 1559. He became Archbishop of Milan and was responsible for implementing Catholic Reform by reorganizing the Church under his domain.

His life became austere, eating only once per day and devoting himself to the care of souls and made it his goal to increase adoration of Christ in the Eucharist. He promoted the procession of the Holy Nail and Forty Hours. He is patron of seminarians, teachers and catechists. His feast day is November 4.

St. Charles Borromeo

St. Charles Meditates on the Passion by Daniele Crespi (1598-1630), Milan, From Saints and Their Symbols: Recognizing Saints in Art and in Popular Images by Fernando Lanzi

St. Charles Borromeo Seminary, Wynnewood, Pennsylvania.

Guanella: Saint of the Poor, Founder of Servants of Charity and Daughters of St. Mary of Providence


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Don Guanella 1912 Special envoy to USA
There are not many photos of the Saint, but here is one of Guanella in his 1912 envoy to USA. He passed away three years later in Como, Italy on October 24, 1925. Guanella dedicated his life to serving the poor, orphaned, elderly and handicapped. He joined the Salesisans in 1875 for three years at the request of John Bosco, who also became a saint. St. Guanella feast day is October 25.

Daughters of St. Marys of Providence sign 100 yrs

One of the religious orders founded by Guanella is The Daughters of St. Mary of Providence, sometimes called the Guanellians. Here are the outskirts of Philadelphia, in Elverson, PA resides the congregation, who will celebrate their 110th anniversary in 2023.


The Potts Mansion, called “Langoma”, once occupied by Joseph Potts, from the John Potts iron foundry family of the 1800’s. The a 67-room mansion contains 183 windows, 20 fireplaces and 22 bathrooms with staircases made of marble, onyx and alabaster, and the stained glass window made of Tiffany glass. Today, it is the center for religious retreats. Behind the mansion are several residential buildings for senior citizens, a chapel, trails and a large indoor pool. Every August, the St. Mary of Providence Retreat Center holds a summer festival complete with a mansion tour. The Daughters of St. Mary of Providence took over the mansion in 1948.

Mansion Chapel 1

The chapel on the grounds of the Potts Mansion. There is also a chapel inside the mansion, where Daily Mass is celebrated.


On the feast of Guanella, on October 24 in Italy, his body was moved into the church in a religious celebration, where it complimented the altar during celebration of Mass.


A closeup view of St. Guanella, resting in peace.

crest 3 servants of charity

St. Guanella was a member of the Apostleship of Prayer / Salesian Congregation for three years before starting the two charity orders; Daughters of St. Mary of Providence and Servants of Charity.

cured PA-Man

Bill Gleason, an amazing connection with St. Guanella.

The Philadelphian Bill Glisson, whose was the recipient of a miracle orchestrated by God, through the request of St. Guanella, which was the third miracle required for canonization as a saint. Here is the” data-wplink-url-error=”true”>video news report with Bill Glisson telling his story!

Guanella at Mansion 3

The three professed vows at the time were: poverty, chastity and obedience. Guanella added a fourth vow; assisting the contagious sick people of the world. (Guanella icon from chapel at Daughters of St. Marys of Providence center, Elverson PA.)

logo of daughters of st. mary of providence

Crest of Daughters of St. Marys of Providence.

Revealing the Mystical; St. Teresa of Avila’s Interior Castle


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A Mystical Saint Talks

One tends to reminisce about our own spiritual experiences while reading the Interior Castle and which of the seven mansions described by St. Teresa we may have visited. The book, Interior Castle, is ranked among the top 25 of all time Catholic books. It’s an eerie read. Like any good writer, the Saint appears to talk directly to us, giving little indication of the life or working atmosphere of 16th century Europe from which it was created. It appears relevant today in 2022 as it did in 1577 when the book was released.

an-interior-castle-from-my-viewpointAn impression of a convent or castle in St. Teresa’s time. October 15, 2022 is St. Teresa of Avila feast day.

Several insights on The Interior Castle:

We are within Him.

St. Teresa says that “God is a very large and beautiful mansion” and since we reside in the mansion any sins we commit are “done in the palace itself, inside God”.

We are inside God’s mansion. This requires meditation to fully understand. Perhaps this is why the book is at times difficult to read, requiring re-reads to fully grasp the message.

God suffers from our misdeeds since we are “his creatures within Himself” (6th mansion.)  A simple eye opening concept.


A mystic writes to us in the future.

More favours hurts.

God gives us “favours” and the more favors we receive, the pain of receiving a favour increases, since we learn more about His greatness, yet we are “being so far and unable to enjoy Him”. This painful desire within the soul, who wants more favours. Yet receiving the favours is not up to us. The soul enjoys the “great delight” at being near to God, but its God who chooses the soul.


St. Teresa of Avila by Lazzarni.

St. Teresa compares the soul as blind and dumb like St. Peter at his conversion (Acts 9:8), preventing him from having any sense of where or how the favour came.


Original manuscript, Interior Castle by St. Teresa of Avila. (Avila, Spain)

Seeing the Trinity.

“God removes the scales from the eyes of the soul” and reveals the Holy Trinity in all three persons. She saw these three persons and suggests we can too;  one of Substance and one of Power and one of Knowledge; all God alone.

“So what we hold by faith the soul grasps by sight, but nothing seen by the eyes; it’s felt by the body or the soul.”

The Trinity, one of the biggest mysteries of the faith, is explained in the book. This is mind boggling!


Monestary cell of Saint Teresa.

Understanding the Trinity.

The Saint says, “All three Persons communicate Themselves to the soul and speaking to the soul and explaining to it those words which the Gospel attributes to the Lord, namely, that He and the Father and the Holy Spirit will come to dwell in a soul which loves Him and keeps His commandments.”

She references  the Gospel as a means to understand the Trinity, which is probably a good tip.


Artist Kuba Ambrose’s The Interior Castle was inspired by the Saint’s book. Used by permission.

Heaven observation.

“Our Lord brings the soul into this Mansion (7th) of His, which is the center of the soul itself, for they say the empyrean heaven, where Our Lord is, does not move like the other heavens.” Praise his name and “make every effort to serve a Lord who will give us a reward in Heaven.”

I’ve read about these multiple Heavens before, possibly it was in the Gospel, the Book of Revelations. This needs more investigation.

What if we, individually, captured all the questions that puzzle us in our life; in this world; in nature; and document it, to be answered in Heaven, as our reward for getting there. Like, what causes cancer, what miracles weren’t recorded, how close were we to death. More later…

St. Teresa of Avila also know as St. Teresa de Jesus. She wrote the Interior Castles under God’s direction and her superiors when she was 62 years old.

A Mystic Poet as well

Poetry is another way to explain mysticism. Here is St. Teresa’s most famous poem written after coming out of the ecstasy at Salamanca. There are several translations, this one by Megan Don.

I Live Without Living In Me

by Teresa of Avila

English version by Megan Don
Original Language Spanish

I live without living in me,
and I expect a life so high,
that I die because I do not die.

I live already beside myself
since I am dying of love;
because I live in Him,
who wanted me for Himself:
when I gave my heart to Him
He placed this sign in it,
that I die because I do not die.

This divine prison,
the love in which I’m living,
has made God my captive,
and my heart free;
causing in me such passion,
to see God, my prisoner,
That I die because I do not die.

Oh, how long is this life!
How hard this exile,
this prison, these chains
which my soul has entered!
Just waiting to get free
causes me so much fierce pain,
that I die because I do not die.

Ah! so much bitterness in this life
without God as my lover!
Because if to be in love is sweet,
to wait so long is not:
take this burden God,
heavier than steel,
that I die because I do not die.

Trusting in You alone, I only live
because I know I’ll die
because in death I know
that I will live;
death, where I’ll find life
do not be slow, it is you I wait for,
that I die because I do not die.

You see how strong love is;
life, do not hinder me,
you see, all I need do to gain you
is to lose you.
Come on already sweet death
come quickly death
that I die because I do not die.

That life above,
that is the true life,
until this life dies
nothing can be enjoyed in living
death, don’t be coy;
let me live by dying first,
that I die because I do not die.

Life, what can I give
to my God who lives in me?
In losing you,
then I am worthy of gaining Him.
I want to reach Him by dying,
Since I love my lover so,
that I die because I do not die.

Avila, Spain. Home of St. Teresa of Avila


The blog, Teresa of Avila Turns 500 discusses the topic We are within Him in the post “God’s Presence: Part Two”. This blog, several years in the making, is a structured study of the book, helpful for anyone interested in gaining insights and understanding the depth at which St. Teresa describes her experiences, influenced directly from God.

The audio book of The Interior Castle is here.

The ebook of The Interior Castle is here.

St. Francis of Assisi Feast Day: Pope Francis Connection and The Meaning of the San Damiano Cross


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Francis, the man of God, left home behind,
abandoned his inheritance and became poor and penniless,
but the Lord raised him up.
– Entrance Antiphon: Mass St. Francis of Assisi Memorial


This painting, called “Saint Francis of Assisi Receiving the Stigmata” was made in Netherlands (15th-16th century) and resides in the Philadelphia Museum of Modern Art.

Italy Vatican Pope Assisi

Although Pope Francis is a Jesuit, he chose the papal name Francis in honor of Saint Francis of Assisi. He has admitted that his favorite saints are Saint Augustine and Saint Francis. Pope Francis has been called an innovator, the church’s Steve Job’s. (NYT 10/3/13 Why Italians Love Francis)

Pope Francis with icon of St. Francis, Assisi Italy.

As we bring you these offerings, O Lord,
we pray that we may be rightly disposed
for the celebration of the mystery of the Cross,
which Saint Francis so ardently embraced
Through Christ our Lord.
– Prayer over the Offering: Mass St. Francis of Assisi Memorial, October 4, 2013

francis of assisi
St. Francis of Assisi in Assisi wall painting. St. Francis of Assisi is Founder of Franciscans religious order. St. Anthony of Padua and St. Padre Pio are of the Capuchin Franciscan order. Padre Pio had the stigmata, much like Francis of Assisi. Charles Chaput, the Archbishop of Philadelphia is also a Capuchin Franciscan.

francis in assisi with dove

Pope Francis in Assisi with dove Feast of St. Francis.

Grant us, we pray, O Lord,
through these holy gifts which we have received,
that, initiating the charity and apostolic zeal of St. Francis,
we may experience the effects of your love
and spread them everywhere for the salvation of all.
Through Christ our Lord.
– Prayer After Communion: Mass St. Francis of Assisi Memorial, October 4, 2013

st. francis cross at st basil
The cross of St. Francis, called the San Damiano cross has deep meaning to Catholics. This cross is a variation of the original cross where Francis heard God speak, “Build my church”. It is located in St. Basil’s Chapel in Kimberton Pennsylvania.

The San Damiano Cross at the Padre Pio Center in Barto, Pennsylvania. The cross is called an icon cross since it contains images of people who give it meaning.

san damiano Cross PADRE pIO CENTER CLOSEUP
Closeup of the San Damiano Cross at the Padre Pio Center in Barto, Pennsylvania. The original cross is revered in Santa Chiarra (St.Clare) Church in Assisi, Italy. Painted on walnut wood in Umbra in the 12th century, the name of the painter is unknown. in 1257 the Poor Clares left San Damiano and took the cross with them, keeping it safely for 700 years. In Holy Week of 1957, it was placed on public view for the first time over the new Altar in San Giorgio’s Chapel in the Basilica of St Clare of Assisi.


Above is the original San Damiano cross in Italy. The largest figure and giving light to others in the icon is Jesus Christ. “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life. ” (John 8:12) Christ stands upright, not nailed, not a corpse, but of God Himself, incorruptible unto eternity and the source of life, radiating the hope of the Resurrection. The eyes of Jesus are open: He looks out to the world, which He has saved. He is alive, the one who is eternal. Jesus’ vestment is a simple loin cloth – a symbol of both High Priest and Victim. The chest, throat and neck are very strong, Jesus gives power of re-creation to His Disciples (John 22:23). He breathed on His Disciples (John 20:22), the Greek word used recalls the moment of Creation (Gen 2:7). The shadow over the face of Jesus is increased by the fact the halo and face are tilted forward on the original Icon. The humanity of Christ veils the true glory of the Word who lives in the super luminous darkness of the Godhead. Behind the outstretched arms of Christ is His empty tomb, shown as a black rectangle.

five figures

The next largest figures are the five witnesses of the crucifixion and witnesses of Jesus as Lord. On the left side are the Virgin Mary and St. John the Evangelist, to whom Jesus entrusted his mother. On the right side are Mary Magdalene, Mary, Mother of James, and the centurion who in Matthew’s Gospel account asks Christ to heal his servant, who is also depicted on the cross on the shoulder of the centurion (Matthew 8:5-13). Both Mary and Mary Magdalene have their hands placed on their cheeks to reflect extreme grief and anguish. The first four witnesses are saints who gave their lives for the Lord and are therefore represented with halos of sanctity. The names of the five major witnesses are written beneath their pictures.

More on Mary and John. As in John’s Gospel, Mary and John are placed side by side. Mary’s mantle is white meaning victory (Rev 3:5), purification (Rev 7:14); and good deeds (Rev 19:8). The gems on the mantle refer to the graces of the Holy Spirit.

The dark red worn under the mantic indicate intense love, while the inner dress is purple – the Ark of the Covenant (Ex 26: 1-4).
Mary’s left hand is raised to her cheek – her acceptance and love of John, and her right hand points to John while her eyes proclaim acceptance of Christ’s words “Woman, behold your son… ” (John 19:26). The blood drips on to John at this moment. John’s mantle is rose color indicating eternal wisdom, while his tunic is white – purity. His position is between Jesus and Mary as is fitting for the disciple loved by both of them. He looks at Mary “Son, behold your Mother”, but points to Christ.

left figure

On the lower left is Longinus the traditional name of the Roman soldier who pierced the side of Jesus with a lance. He is represented here as holding the lance and looking up at Jesus. The blood running down the right arm of Jesus begins at the elbow and drips straight down and will land on the upturned face of Longinus.

right figure
In the lower right is Stephaton, the traditional name for the soldier who offered Jesus the sponge soaked in vinegar wine. From his posture, one can see that he holds the staff and sponge in the same way that Longinus holds the lance.

Mary Magdalene. Mary Magdalene is next to Christ making her very special; her hand is on her chin indicating a confided secret “He is risen “. She wears scarlet, which is a symbol of love; her mantle of blue deepens this.

Mary Clopas. Some authorities make her the mother of James. She wears garments of an earthen color a symbol of humility, and her light green mantle – hope. Her admiration of Jesus is indicated by the gesture of her hand.

The Centurion of Capernaum. He holds a piece of wood in his left hand, indicating his building of the Synagogue (Luke 7: 1 – 10). The little boy beyond his shoulder is his son healed by Jesus. The three heads behind the boy show “he and his whole household believed” (John 4: 45 – 54). He has extended his thumb and two fingers, a symbol of the Trinity, while his two closed fingers symbolize the hidden mystery of the two natures of Jesus the Christ. “Truly He is the Son of God” (Mark 15:39).

hand of the father

The Ascension is portrayed within this circle of red: Christ is breaking out of the circle, holding a golden cross which is now His Royal Scepter. His garments are gold – a symbol of royalty and victory. His red scarf is a sign of His Dominion and Kingship; exercised in love. Angels welcome Him into Heaven. IHS are the first three letters of the name of Jesus. The little bracket above indicates it is shorthand. NAZARE is the Nazarene; REX is’ king’ and IUDEORUM is ‘of the Jews’, which is reported in St John’s Gospel “Jesus the Nazarene, King of the Jews”

The Hand of the Father. From within the semi-circle at the very top of the Icon, He whom no eye has seen reveals Himself in a benediction. This blessing is given by the right hand of God with the finger extended – the Holy Spirit. The Father gives the gift of the Holy Spirit to all because of the merits of the Christ’s Passion

Numbers. There are 33 figures in the Icon – Two Christ figures, 1 Hand of the Father, 5 major figures, 2 smaller figures, 14 angels, 2 unknown at His hands, 1 small boy, 6 unknown at the bottom of the Cross and one rooster. There are 33 nail heads along the frame just inside the shells and seven around the halo.

unknown saints soldiers

The Unknown Saints. At the bottom of the Icon are six unknown saints whom Scholars postulate are SSTs Damian, Rufinus, Michael John the Baptist, Peter and Paul, all patrons of Churches in the Assisi area. St Damian was the Patron of the Church that housed the Cross and St Rufinus was the Patron Saint of Assisi. There is too much damage of that area to make a proper identification.

The Rooster. The inclusion of the rooster recalls the denial of Peter who wept bitterly. Secondly, the rooster proclaims the new dawn of the Risen Christ 1 the true light (1 John 2:8). “But for you who revere my name, the Sun of Righteousness will rise with healing in its wings” (Malachi 4:2 or 3:20 depending on your translation).
(Adapted from The Franciscans Friars web site)

Sacred Path to the Summit of Mt. Carmel with John of the Cross and Teresa of Jesus


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I followed John of the Cross
and Teresa of Jesus
inside the Carmelite Monastery,
seeing their pleasant ways
I ran up the mountain’s
sacred path
seeking The Almighty God
reaching for the
Summit of Mt. Carmel.
– Shrinetower

I. Spiritual Guides: St. Teresa of Jesus and St. John of the Cross

Opening Prayer: Love and honor to Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, to Saint Joseph, Saint Anne, to our Holy Mother Saint Teresa, to our Holy Father Saint John of the Cross, whose powerful intercessions we invoke that the spirit of prayer, penance and apostolic zeal may flourish in the community. Amen

Sanctuary at Philadelphia Carmel

The Triumphal arch, with crucifix suspended, inspired by the crucifix of Fra Innocenzo de Palermo (1637) in the Church of San Damiano, Assisi. – Holy Spirit Chapel Sanctuary at Philadelphia Carmel. Photo courtesy of Friends of Carmel Pinterest.

The origins of Triumphal arch comes from the Roman era when captives were led under an arch to symbolize their submission to the authority of Rome. In later centuries the liturgical procession through the triumphal arch symbolizes Christians, as captives of Christ, being lead to the Kingdom of Heaven. The sacred space of the Sanctuary represents the Kingdom of Heaven.

teresa of Avila medallion
The round medallion of Teresa of Jesus (Ávila) as she looks upward on the altar terra cotta wall over the cloister grilles of the Sanctuary. Her feast is celebrated by the Discalced Carmelite Order on October 15.

john of the cross medallion
The round medallion of John of the Cross, with the Christ on the Cross in his arms on the altar terra cotta wall over the cloister grilles of the Sanctuary. His feast is celebrated by the Discalced Carmelite Order on December 14.

II. The Sanctuary Mosaic

altar mosaic 2

The Sanctuary of the Holy Spirit Chapel; the heart, joy and beauty of Mount Carmel – Detail

From left to right, Teresa of Jesus; the sanctuary doors with the Cross; St. Elisha with hand reaching to the Lamb of God, reaching for the summit of Mt. Carmel; where the Prophet Elijah rides a chariot on the wings of a cloud. The Holy Spirit is in winged flight above St. Teresa who is in adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.

The images of the Sanctuary mosaic express the reality of divine love in the charism of Carmel. It is love revealed by God in the Old Testament and fulfilled in the New, a love that en-kindles our hearts and transforms them. Ultimately this transformation enables one to enter, body and soul into full union with God. Horizontal and spatial concepts of the mosaic echo passages of time in the Old and New Testament history of the Carmelite Order. – The Chapel of the Holy Spirit booklet, Mount Carmel Philadelphia

Symbolic images in the mosaic are:

Fire symbolizes divine love.
– St John of the Cross, Spiritual Canticle 39:14, St. Teresa of Jesus Life 30:20

Fire and Water
Oh, God help me, what marvels there are in this greater en-kindling of fire by water. The water does not impede the fire though it’s the fire’s contrary, but rather makes its fire increase! – St. Teresa of Jesus, The Way of Perfection 19:3

These lamps of fire are living waters of the spirit…although it is fire, it is also water.
– St. John of the Cross, The Living Flame of Love Stanza 3, #8

Chariot of Fire
in Christian art, St. Elijah is carried into heaven on a chariot of fire, a symbol of Christ’s Ascension. In the Dialogue of St. Catherine of Siena, Christ himself is referred to by the Father as a fiery chariot.Prophet Elijah in chariot
St. Elijah en-route to Heaven “You make the clouds your chariot, traveling on the wings of the wind. You make the winds your messengers, flaming fire your ministers.” Psalm 104:3-4

Elijah the Prophet is called the founder of the Carmelite ideal. There are two accounts of him being taken up to heaven in a fiery chariot (2 Kings 2:1-12 and Sirach 48:9). His feast is celebrated by the Carmelite Order on July 20.

The Holy Spirit (Dove)
The Holy Spirit is the third Person of the Blessed Trinity, the Sanctifier, the living Flame of Love. – Romans 5:5

teresa spirit lamb

St. Teresa of Jesus
St.Teresa of Jesus (1515-1582), the foundress of the reformed Carmel (Discalced Carmelites) is portrayed on the mosaic in Adoration of the Eucharist. In her spiritual writings one finds frequent images of fire and water. The Carmelites celebrate her memory on October 15.

The Lamb of God and the Eucharist
Fulfillment is found in Christ, the Alpha and Omega, the sacrificial lamb of god, who gave himself for the life of the world. His sacrifice is perpetuated in the Eucharist. From this divine reality the graces symbolized by the fire and the water are sought and obtained. Mt. 26;26-29; 1 John 5:6-8; Rev:5:6-14

Elisha and Teresa reaching
St. Elisha (hand raised)

St. Elisha (c. 840 BC) was the first disciple of St. Elijah. He was the leader of the prophets on Mt. Carmel.  The Carmelite Order celebrates his memory on June 14.


Under the altar in Latin: Gloria Patri, et Filio, et Spiritui Sancto
meaning Glory [be] to the Father.

III. The Repository Doors

repository doors
Between Elisha and Teresa of Jesus, with the Cross and triangle superimposed, are the bronze Repository Doors.

repository doors sketch
The Repository Doors Schematic Diagram. – from The Chapel of the Holy Spirit, Mount Carmel, Philadelphia (Booklet)

The symbols that are employed on the doors shows St. Teresa’s image of the Interior Castle, her guide to union with God. They are:

“The door of entry to this castle is prayer and reflection.” – St. Teresa of Jesus, Interior Castle I:i,#7

The castle is the image of the soul: We consider our soul to be like a castle made entirely out of a diamond or of a very clear crystal in which there are many rooms, just as in heaven there are many dwelling places. – St. Teresa of Jesus, Interior Castle

The soul of the just person is nothing else than a paradise where the Lord says He finds His delight. I do not find anything comparable to the magnificent beauty of a soul and its marvelous capacity. – St. Teresa of Jesus, Interior Castle I:i, #1

The triangle is the symbol of the Most Holy Trinity dwelling in the center of the soul.

cross schematicThe soul of the just person is a paradise where the Lord says He finds His delight. – St. Teresa, Interior Castle

The Cross is the symbol of the Paschal Mystery of Christ’s passion, Death and Resurrection.

Blood and Water
Blood and water flowed out of our Redeemer on the Cross. The Doctors of the Church interpret this to mean that from the pierced Heart of the Son, God the Father pours out through the Holy Spirit, the saving graces of the Church’s Sacraments.

Then the angel showed me the river of life, rising from the throne of God and of the Lamb and flowing crystal clear down the middle of the city street. – Revelation 22:1-2

Jesus Christ who came by water and blood, not with water only, but with water and blood. – 1 John 5:6

Center Room of the Castle
The castle has many dwelling places. Located at the center, is the abode of the most Blessed Trinity: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

The shell is a symbol of Baptism, the sacrament of initiation to the divine life.

 IV. Blessed Virgin Mary

our lady w spirit 14
Discalced Carmelites are known for their deep devotion to Our Lady of Mount Carmel.

The Blessed Virgin Mary, dwells with the Holy Trinity in the most profound union, supreme above all creatures, beloved Daughter of the Father, mother of the Son, Spouse of the Holy Spirit Mediatrix of all Graces.  – Mt. Carmel prayer

V. Seal of Mount Carmel (Coat of Arms)

Carmelite coat of armsDiscalced Carmelite Order (OCD) Coat of Arms plaque, located on balcony in front of  Hook and Hastings organ at the Holy Spirit Chapel, Philadelphia Carmel.

Coat of Arms plaque in context within Holy Spirit Chapel.

The coat of arms is a roadmap to the background and religious beliefs of the Discalced Carmelite Order. There are multiple levels of meaning and symbolism of the Seal of Mount Carmel acquired over the centuries.

The Shield of Carmel

In the center of the seal is Mount Carmel, cradle of the Carmelite Order, and the star in the mountain refers to the Our Lady of Mount Carmel. The two stars above are the prophets Elijah and Elisha.

Mount Carmel is the Carmelite’s place of origin located in modern day Haifa, Israel. In the 9th century BC the prophet Elijah lived there and had a profound experience of God. In that same place in the early 12th century some hermits, inspired by the memory of Elijah, gathered there, with a desire “to live a life of allegiance to Jesus Christ” (Rule of St. Albert).

cross on teh summit high defThe cross on the summit of the mountain was added in the 16th Century by St. John of the Cross as a distinctive mark of the Discalced Carmelites (OCD) branch of the Carmelites. There is no cross for the Order of Carmelites. (O.Carm.)

The colors are the brown of the mountain and the white of the skies. Brown is the color of earth. White is the reflection of light. It is the color associated with the tunic of Christ at the resurrection, the transfiguration.

On this particular shield, there are three, eight pointed stars. The number three has numerous symbolic meanings; the Triune God in unity of three divine persons: Father, Son and the Holy Spirit; the three virtues of faith, hope and love; and three monastic vows of poverty, chastity and obedience.

The three stars also represent the three great epochs in the history of Carmel; the first, or prophetic era, represented by the star inside the mountain, denotes the time of the prophet Elijah to the time of St. John the Baptist; the second indicates the era of those hermits living on Mount Carmel before the arrival of the Latin Crusaders; and the third signifies the present epoch spanning from the first Carmelite community living under the Rule of St. Albert until the end of time.

A deeper meaning of the stars is that they stand as a remembrance to the members of the Carmelite order. The star inside the mountain represents the Carmelites who are still on their way to the Summit of Mount Carmel (Heaven), the other two stars in the sky represent all the Carmelites who have gone before us and have reached the goal of their life’s vocation; union with God in love in the eternal Joy of Heaven.
– from Croatian Carmel Province

The Crown of the King

Ducal crown with hand
Placed atop the shield is a ducal crown and an arm wielding a fiery sword, representing the prophet Elijah.

The golden crown represents  the Kingdom of God on earth, present through “Emmanuel,” “God with us,” Jesus Christ. Carmelites endeavor to serve God faithfully with “a pure heart and a steadfast conscience” (Rule of St. Albert). They understand their vocation to be a call to rooting and strengthening Christ’s Kingdom of self-sacrificing love and goodness in the world. In their service to this King they take their inspiration from the Blessed Virgin Mary, whose patronage they enjoy, and Saints Teresa of Jesus and John of the Cross, the great reformers of Carmel.

The Sword of The Spirit

Over the crown is an arm and hand brandishing a flaming sword, signifying the fiery spirit of Elijah. Burning with zeal for the Lord “burned like a torch” (Eccl. 48:1).

For Carmelites, Elijah is the solitary prophet who nurtured his thirst for the one and only God and lived forever in His presence. Elijah is the biblical inspiration of the Carmelite life and, like him, Carmelites seek both to continually carry in their minds and hearts “the sword of the spirit, which is the Word of God” (Rule of St. Albert) and to live constantly with a loving, contemplative awareness of His presence.
– Discalced Carmelite Friars, Washington Province of the Immaculate Heart of Mary

coat of arms detail window
Another rendition of the Discalced Carmelite Order (OCD) Coat of Arms at Philadelphia Carmel, in the stained glass window of the Prophet Elijah.

Halo of Stars

In this stained glass window, the halo of twelve stars above the crown represents the prerogative of every Carmelite’s acclaim – the Blessed Virgin Mary, whom St. John saw in an apocalyptic vision as: “a woman clothed with the sun… on her head a crown of twelve stars” (Rev 12:1).

In the coat of arms of the Discalced Carmelites these stars also signify the twelve points of the rule, which are: Obedience, Chastity, Poverty, Recollection, Mental Prayer, The Divine Office, Chapter, Abstinence from meat, Manual Labor, Silence, Humility and Supererogation. (defined as those works or good deeds performed by saints over and above what is required for their own salvation, the merit of which is held to be transferable to others in need of indulgence). – Discalced Carmelite Friars, Washington Province of the Immaculate Heart of Mary

Also shown on this particular Philadelphia Carmel shield or seal, is the Latin legend  referring to the Prophet Elijah’s phrase: “Zelo zelatus sum pro Domino Deo exercitum,” which translated means: “With zeal have I been zealous for the Lord God of hosts.”

This is not present on the Coat of Arms plaque but present in this stained glass window and at the portico entrance to the Holy Spirit Chapel.

Coat of Arms Sources: Philadelphia Carmel Monastery
Discalced Carmelite of the Australia-Oceania Region
Croatian Carmel Province
Discalced Carmelite Friars, Washington Province of the Immaculate Heart of Mary

VI. St. Albert and the Carmelite Rule

st. albert half
St. Albert of Trapani (1250-1307), from Sicily, at Philadelphia Carmel.

St. Albert wrote the Rule for hermits living in the spirit of Elijah near the prophet’s spring on Mount Carmel near present-day Israel.

Teresa of Jesus and John of the Cross would have both prayed to St. Albert for intersessions. He was one of the first saints of the order to be venerated. He is represented here with a lily, a symbol of purity and an urn for water he had blessed. Water is still blessed with his relics and the Carmel and is used for healing the sick.
– The Chapel of the Holy Spirit booklet, Mount Carmel, Philadelphia

VII. Hearing God in Silence

silence please
The Great Spiritual Silence. Listening, loving, believing, preserving.

And He said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a secluded place and rest a while.” Mark 6:31

The Apostle would have us keep silence, for in silence he tells us to work. As the Prophet also makes known to us: Silence is the way to foster holiness. Elsewhere he says: Your strength will lie in silence and hope … be careful not to indulge in a great deal of talk, for as Scripture has it – and experience teaches us – Sin will not be wanting where there is much talk, and He who is careless in speech will come to harm; and elsewhere: The use of many words brings harm to the speaker’s soul. – Carmelite Rule of St. Albert, [21a]

angel architecuturally perfectAngel on guard in praying stance. Inside the Holy Spirit Chapel, Philadelphia Carmel.

And our Lord says in the Gospel: Every rash word uttered will have to be accounted for on judgment day. Make a balance then, each of you, to weigh his words in; keep a tight rein on your mouths, lest you should stumble and fall in speech, and your fall be irreparable and prove mortal. Like the Prophet, watch your step lest your tongue give offense, and employ every care in keeping silent, which is the way to foster holiness. – Carmelite Rule of St. Albert, [21b]

Life on Mount Carmel: Contemplation and Prayer

Carmelite spirituality proposes silence and solitude as necessary prerequisites for prayer and contemplation. Silence refers not only to external noise but also to the stilling of one’s internal noises. Silence is the condition for listening attentively to the still small voice of God. Solitude provides the ambiance where one may be alone so as to focus more attentively on the Beloved. Solitude then is not primarily separation or isolation from others, but a place of privileged encounter with the Beloved. – Carmelite Spirituality, Discalced Carmelite of the Australia-Oceania Region

Teresa of Jesus and John of the Cross, speak of prayer and contemplation as ‘friendship with God’ and ‘union with God’ respectively.
Carmelite Spirituality, Discalced Carmelite of the Australia-Oceania Region


Breviary of St. Therese of Jesus on display at the Museo Ferias, Spain in 2014.

The soul does not use words. Is surrounds words with space, and that is what I mean by silence” – Richard Rohr, Silent Compassion

In order to foster and facilitate relationship with God, through prayer and contemplation, Carmelite spirituality proposes certain means, both personal and communal, namely meditation on the word of God, liturgy, silence and solitude, and asceticism (avoidance of indulgence). The Rule of St. Albert urges an unceasing pondering of the Law of the Lord in Scripture and the strengthening of one’s heart with holy thoughts, so that the word of God may abound in one’s heart and lips, and guide all one’s actions.  Carmelite Spirituality, Discalced Carmelite of the Australia-Oceania Region


Asceticism is the means of freeing self from the tyranny of self-will, simplifying one’s life, and preserving all of one’s energy for journeying to God. For St. John of the Cross, the main expression of asceticism involves a radical detachment from inordinate or disordered desires and appetites. Detachment is a way of prioritizing God above all creatures. As such, it witnesses to the primacy and all sufficiency of God. Asceticism is not only at the service of a deeper life with God, but it is also geared to the demands of the apostolic ministry. – Carmelite Spirituality, Discalced Carmelite of the Australia-Oceania Region

chapel side aisle

Holy Spirit Chapel, side aisle, Philadelphia Carmel. Holy Spirit is principle guide in spiritual life. Photo courtesy of Friends of Carmel Pinterest.

Although Carmelite spirituality highly esteems prayer and contemplation these are always in service of the apostolate. For St. Teresa, while prayer and contemplation are paramount, they are not ends in themselves but are orientated to the support, welfare, and apostolic fruitfulness of all those engaged in the work of spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ. Carmelite spirituality, then, is not simply about self salvation, but a way of co-operating with God in bringing about God’s reign on earth. – Carmelite Spirituality, Discalced Carmelite of the Australia-Oceania Region

Finally Carmelite spirituality teaches that authentic prayer and contemplation is accompanied by and promotes growth in the human and theological virtues. This leads to a flowering in the Carmelite of the two-fold gospel commandment of love of God and love of neighbor. – Carmelite Spirituality, Discalced Carmelite of the Australia-Oceania Region

From credence niche side wall of Holy Spirit Sanctuary. Pattern from church of San Vitale, Ravenna, Italy (6th century). At the center of the radiating disc contains the first letter of the Greek alphabet, Alpha, the symbol of creation, “In the beginning was the Word” (John 1:1)

Both Saints Teresa of Jesus and John of the Cross teach us that God, the Blessed Trinity, dwells within the human person. Hence, one need not go out of self in search for God but enter progressively ever deeper within oneself to be with God who dwells at the very center of our being.

St. Teresa speaks of this journey within as an itinerary through a castle with seven mansions. St. John of the Cross hymns this reality:

“What more do you want, O soul! And what else do you search for outside, when within yourself you possess your riches, delights, satisfactions, fullness and kingdom – your Beloved whom you desire and seek? Be joyful and gladdened in your interior recollection with Him, for you have Him so close to you. Desire Him there, adore Him there. Do not go in pursuit of Him outside yourself. You will only become distracted and wearied thereby, and you shall not find Him, or enjoy Him more securely, or sooner, or more intimately than by seeking Him within you.” (S.C. 1:8)

VIII. The Path of John of the Cross

john of the cross window
St. John of the Cross, Poet and Doctor of the Church (1542-1591)

The model of this portrait of St. John of the Cross was the brother of one of the foundresses of the Carmel of Philadelphia. Contrary to what is seen here, St. John was actually of very slight stature, had a oval lean face with a beard, a broad receding forehead, and was also quite bald. St. John of the Cross was associated with St. Teresa of Jesus in the reform of Carmel. The writings of both these Saints speak about the deepest communion with God and the way that leads to it. – The Chapel of the Holy Spirit booklet, Mount Carmel Philadelphia.

The “discalced” in the name “Discalced Carmelites”, references the practice of wearing sandals or going barefoot instead of shoes. In the stained glass window, John is shown wearing sandals. In Teresa’ s reformed convent of St. Joseph’ s, which she founded in 1562, the nuns wore strap sandals as well.

St John of the Cross’s drawing of the crucifixion.
Drawing of the Crucifixion From Above, by John of the Cross 1641
It influenced Salvador Dali’s Christ of St. John of the Cross 1951.

John of the Cross said that “all prayer is reducible to the pater noster” (Our Father).

John and Teresa Team Up

St. John of the Cross, co-reformer of the Carmelite Order, was born in Spain in 1542 to a loving but struggling family.  At the age of fourteen, John took a job at the hospital of Median caring for the poor and incurable.  He spent the rest of his time learning at a nearby Jesuit school.

John eventually joined the Carmelites of Medina.  He was ordained a priest in 1567, but John became overwhelmed at the idea of fulfilling the duties of the priesthood, and decided to join the Carthusians instead.

St. Teresa of Avila who had come to Medina to found a convent for her Carmelite nuns convinced John to stay with the Carmelites, and he began to help her in the reform of the order.   But his fellow Carmelites were against his attempts at reform and they went so far as to kidnap and lock him up in a small cell.  During this time, John wrote much of his mystical poetry, from his hours of silent prayer, including:

Beloved, in you I find
The mountains, wooded vales;
Choice islands, distant, strange.
The river’s voice resounds
With ever-changing flow.
As whisper soft of breeze
Now sings our love.

After nine months, John escaped the prison cell. Several of John’s books are available on-line:

Dark Night of the Soul


Ascent of Mount Carmel

Spiritual Canticle (poem)

John spent the rest of his life establishing monasteries, spreading his reform, and writing many spiritual works, which are now treasured by the Church.  He died in 1591 at the age of 49 – his body is still incorrupt to this day.  He was canonized on December 27, 1726, and was also named a Doctor of the Church.  St. John of the Cross is one of the Church’s most beloved mystics, known for his compassion and deep understanding of the inner workings of the soul. – Carmelite Sisters of the Divine Heart of Jesus

IX. The Path of Teresa of Jesus (Avila)

teresa avila window full
St. Teresa of Jesus (Avila, Spain 1515-1582) Doctor of the Church.

In the stained glass window above, St. Teresa of Jesus is writing at a desk. The scroll hanging from the desk reads:

“Let nothing disturb you. Let nothing frighten you. All things are passing. God never changes. Patience obtains all things. Whoever has God wants for nothing. God alone suffices.”

Saint Teresa of Jesus is the foundress of the Discalced Carmelite life and is one of the thirty three Doctors of the Church, who are considered guides due to their great significance in our understanding of Church theology. St. Teresa believed in the presence of God in every person.

tersa with Jesus and nails
Jesus gives St. Teresa of Jesus (Avila) a nail. Mt. Carmel Philadelphia.

St. Teresa of Jesus received a profound mystical grace during Holy Communion on November 18, 1572. Our Lord appeared to her and gave her a nail as He declared that she was His bride. At this time she entered the highest degree of the spiritual life, that of Spiritual Marriage. – St. Teresa of Jesus, Spiritual Testimonies #31 – from The Chapel of the Holy Spirit booklet, Mount Carmel Philadelphia.

teresa with child Jesus
The Child Jesus Appears to St. Teresa. Mt. Carmel Philadelphia.

This episode is recounted in the life of St. Teresa. One day the saint was passing a flight of stairs and saw a Child.

He asked her, “Who are you?”
“I am Teresa of Jesus” she replied,
“Who are you?”
I am Jesus of Teresa,” the Child said.

St. John became the spiritual director (confessor) of St. Teresa who was 27 years his junior.

It is right that you pray for all those, living and dead, who have helped us. – St. Teresa of Jesus (Foundations 25:9)

Teresa of Jesus in 1828 by François Gérard (1770-1837) – Original

Teresa was born in Avila, Spain, on 28th March 1515 and entered the Carmel of the Incarnation there in 1536. She lived there for about 20 years until she felt that God was asking something more of her. After many tribulations and heart-searching Teresa, left the Incarnation on 24th August 1562 to found St. Joseph’s, a new monastery in which she planned and hoped that the original Rule of Carmel would be kept faithfully. There was a great deal of opposition to the new Carmel and it was sometime before she was able to live there in peace. Many condemned her as a woman deceived by her experiences in prayer.

teresa of avila beauty
Teresa of Ávila by François Gérard (1770−1837) detail

Eventually the hostility died down and Teresa was asked to found more of these houses of prayer in other cities of Spain. Over a period of twenty years she founded 15 more houses for the nuns and, in association with St John of the Cross, at least two for the friars. Teresa introduced a fresh orientation into Carmelite life combining silence and solitude with community living and giving the life of prayer a specific apostolic role in the Church and the world.

Prayer was to be the great outreach to others, the one and only work of her nuns. Her energy, resolution and sense of humor were unfailing, animated as they were by her immense desire to serve the Lord as lovingly as she could. She died at Alba de Tormes on 4th October 1582. She was sixty seven years old. When the bells of Avila tolled for her the local citizens said: “The Saint has gone to heaven.” Her feast day is kept on 15th October. – Carmelite Spirituality, Discalced Carmelite of the Australia-Oceania Region

st. teresa of jesus from Mother Pia
St. Teresa of Jesus sculpture. Shared by Philadelphia Carmel.

St. Teresa’s writings on the four states of mental prayer. In the first stage, believers learn to pray. In the second, they experience the supernatural aspect of prayer. In the third, the soul is bathed in the pleasure of God’s presence, and in the fourth, senses are abandoned in a sort of out-of-body experience where the soul feels only divine union. – from The Life of St. Teresa of Jesus of the Order of Our Lady of Carmel (Autobiography)

incorrupt right foot of Teresa of AvilaIncorrupt right foot of St. Teresa of Jesus.

Teresa entered a Carmelite convent when she was eighteen, and later earned a reputation as a mystic, reformer, and writer who experienced divine visions. She wrote the book The Way of Perfection for her nuns. Other important books by her include her Autobiography and The Interior Castle.

st teresa by bernini
The Ecstasy of Saint Teresa by Bernini, Basilica of Santa Maria della Vittoria, Rome. 1652. St. Teresa’s life has inspired great works of art. This marble sculpture was finished 30 years after her canonization.

As St. Teresa of Avila’s friend and confidant, St John of the Cross remarked, ‘At the end of the day, it is by the quality of our loving that we shall be judged.’

In 1571 Teresa wrote to her sister about John, “The people take him for a saint; in my opinion he is one, and has been all his life.”

X. In Closing

Christ Has No Body
by Teresa of Avila (1515–1582)

Christ has no body but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
Compassion on this world,
Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good,
Yours are the hands, with which he blesses all the world.
Yours are the hands, yours are the feet,
Yours are the eyes, you are his body.
Christ has no body now but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
compassion on this world.
Christ has no body now on earth but yours.

mount carmel sign

A change in seasons at Mt. Carmel.

Inserted into the cornerstone of the Holy Spirit Chapel dated April 15, 1915:

Praise and thanksgiving forever to the Triune God!

Philadelphia Carmelite Monastery
The Discalced Carmelite Nuns of Philadelphia – Facebook
The Discalced Carmelite Nuns of Philadelphia – website
The Chapel of the Holy Spirit, Mount Carmel, Philadelphia (Booklet)
Discalced Carmelite of the Australia-Oceania Region website
Croatian Carmel Province
Discalced Carmelite Friars, Washington Province of the Immaculate Heart of Mary
Friends of Carmel Pinterest
Opening poem – I followed John of the Cross… – by ShrineTower
Opening prayer – Love and honor to Our Lady of Mt. Carmel . . . – From the cornerstone of the Holy Spirit Chapel dated April 15, 1915.

Guest Post: Saint Michael the Archangel, Patron Saint of Police Officers


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St. Michael the Archangel by Ludovico Gimignani (1643-1697) Rome, Italy.          Feast Day is Sept 29.

As the leader of the Heavenly Hosts against Satan, prayers to Saint Michael the Archangel have been a source of comfort for Catholics since the early days of the Church. In fact, he plays a significant role in both the Old and New Testaments, and was also a popular figure among Jews in the era pre-Christ.

Archangel saints play a major role in Catholic teaching. Although the exact number of archangels is open to interpretation, there are only three who are mentioned frequently in the Bible. They are Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael. The Church does not place emphasis on the archangel classification, although the archangels are the best known of all angels.

The heavenly host of angels is often described in military terms, which is fitting as Saint Michael is associated with action and protection, fighting Satan for the good of mankind and God. His patronage reflects this—he is Guardian of the Vatican City and patron saint of police, the military, mariners and firefighters, among others.

The many references to Saint Michael in the Bible are also in keeping with this theme. In the book of Daniel (Daniel 12:1), he is mentioned as a protector of Israel, he defeats Satan in the Epistle of Jude (Jude 1:9), and he is mentioned again in the First Epistle to the Thessalonians (Thessalonians 4:16).

His feats are often likened and claimed to have inspired the deeds of the military saints in Catholic theology, such as Saint George, Saint Gereon and Saint Martin of Tours. The story of Saint George slaying the dragon has similar themes to Saint Michael’s fight with Satan, commonly likened to being a serpent.

Significance of Saint Michael

This image of Saint Michael, as a protector of the faith willing to go in harm’s way for the plight of mankind, is one of the reasons many Catholics pray for his intercession during challenging times. This is of particular relevance to those in dangerous professions. He is associated with many events of gravitas in the life of a Catholic, such as being the angel to escort the faithful to heaven.

st michael prayer

A good example of the centrality of Saint Michael as a diligent and combative defender of the faith relates to the composition of the main prayer to him. Sometime around 1880, Pope Leo XIII had a vision of a terrible exchange between the devil and God. According to several sources, he subsequently created the prayer to Saint Michael as a way to ask for Michael’s intercession in times of peril.

While the Church has never confirmed that the vision indeed occurred, the prayer still stands as an example of the significance the Church places on the role of Saint Michael as a protecting and policing force.

Some lines of the prayer resonate strongly with those in law enforcement:

Saint Michael the Archangel,
Defend us in battle,
Be our protection against the wickedness
and snares of the devil


Cast into hell
Satan and all the evil spirits

Patron Saint of Police


His status as the patron saint of police officers is very well known, which parallels this emphasis on his patronage of those working in dangerous occupations and those members of military or martial professions. The NYPD and other police departments consider him the unofficial patron saint. Many police events are named after him around America.

Part of the appeal of prayers to Saint Michael is that he experienced many of the same tribulations as policemen. His courage was tested when combating those who sought to do harm to the faithful. Prayers, icons and medals to Saint Michael often reference the hardship faced by those who put their lives in danger daily.

Police officers, more than those in other professions, can benefit from patronage, such as that of Saint Michael. Not only are they at risk every day, but the pressures of the job can take a toll on their personal lives.

At work or at home, a strong faith to call upon and a sense of the challenges overcome by a patron saint, such as Michael, can bring about further resolve and presence of mind. Taxing and hectic jobs can sometimes make people lose touch with what is actually important like God, faith and family, so it’s also good that the prayers to Saint Michael mention the goal of protecting what is best to keep one’s spirits high during difficult times.


A St. Michael necklace or medal is a traditional token of faith for Catholics, whether or not they are in law enforcement. Saint Michael’s necklace is a good way to keep in touch with your faith as a source of strength during stressful times.

The Church teaches that while medals and necklaces should not be emphasized as a talisman or seen as a holy artifact, they are certainly a valuable way to remind one of the Church and its teaching to strengthen one’s faith. Saint Michael medals often portray the saint with a sword, clad in armor, brandishing the banner and standard of the Lord.


Saint Michael in Art

Saint Michael is typically portrayed in art confronting Satan. There are many such works by the most famous artists in history, including Raphael, Michelangelo and Rubens.

These paintings and sculptures have a very dramatic setting, depicting Saint Michael’s defense of heaven, casting the Devil from into the abyss or pinning him to the ground underfoot. He often strikes a commanding pose, with a shield and a formidable sword.

Final Thoughts

It is fitting that police officers have the patronage of such a high-ranking angel who protects the faithful and was at the forefront of the defense of Heaven itself. Medals and art commemorating this link between the person of Saint Michael and martial professions have been a source of faith for Catholics for centuries. Catholics in the policing profession can fortunately take solace in the knowledge that the chief of all angels is provided as an example to follow of how to confront adversaries in the name of good.

Guest Post:
Megan Dahle is a Catholic blogger and internet retailer at Her writing emphasizes prayer life, traditions and forms of worship. Megan likes giving reinforcement to live bravely as a Catholic.

St. Vincent de Paul


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4 Vincent de Paul

St. Vincent dePaul is founder of the Vincentians Catholic religious order. A peasant from birth, he chose the priesthood to make something of his life and succeeded in reaching the highest levels of society through his charm and social skills. A turning point came in midleife when he heard the dying confession of a peasant and determined afterward to devote his life to serving the poor.

The Vincentians operate The Miraculous Medal in Germantown, Pennsylvania which is a suburb of Philadelphia. Along with St. Loiuse de Maillac, Vincent founded the Daughters of Charity to serve the poor and sick. They have a presence in Germantown PA today.

Vincent instructed priests and religious, “The poor are your masters and you are their servants.”

A view of the Miraculous Medal Shrine in Germantown Pennsylvania, a suburb of Philadelphia.

vincent at entrance2
Vincent icon in front of St. Vincent’s Seminary building, which is next to the Miraculous Medal Shrine they operate. Vincent died on September 27, 1660 at the age of eighty. He was later named patron of all charitable societies. Sources: Blessed Among Us/Give Us This Day Daily Prayer Guide.

mm shrine entrance

mm church overview
Inside the Miraculous Medal Shrine.

lower shrine close up
Inside the Lower Level Shrine – The Virgo Potens.

Padre Pio’s Connection with Pope Francis and Pennsylvania


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Barto, Pennsylvania. Campus of The National Centre for Padre Pio. San Giovanni Rotondo replica on right.

Padre Pio was famous for bilocation.  He appeared in others dreams, by voice, by his presence, fragrance and bilocating in physical form.  Near Barto, Pennsylvania, Padre Pio bilocated into Vera Calandra’s life, asking her to come to Italy quickly (he was to die several months later) and see him, as her daughter’s health was deteriorating.  It was 1968 and doctors had surgically removed the child’s bladder, but after seeing Padre Pio in Rome, the child miraculously received a new bladder.

This became another of the known miracles attributed to Padre Pio, but not the miracle used for beatification or canonization. Later in life, Ms. Calandra went on to build The National Center for Padre Pio in Barto Pennsylvania, a true devotion to the saint.

jesus joseph and mary

Jesus, Mary and Joseph, the original Holy Family at the National Centre for Padre Pio in Barto, PA.

Pope Francis and President Biden

The Connection: Pope Francis, St. Francis of Assisi, Padre Pio.

Although a Jesuit, Pope Francis has a strong devotion to St. Francis of Assisi, founder of the Franciscan Order, as evident by taking the saints name.

Pope Francis has visited and prayed at the site of the original San Damiano Cross in Santa Chiarra (St.Clare) Church in Assisi, Italy.

Padre Pio, a Capuchin Franciscan is intimately familiar with St. Francis, and like Pope Francis, has also prayed at the San Damiano Cross.
san damiano cross
Here is the San Damiano Cross (in Barto, PA) that St. Francis of Assisi was praying, when asked by God to rebuild the Church. This Cross and St. Francis of Assisi is another connection between Pope Francis and Padre Pio. See the symbolism of the San Damiano Cross. 

Pope Francis visited the USA and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, roughly 50 miles from the National Centre of Padre Pio in Barto, Pennsylvania, where the miracle that made Padre Pio a saint originated.

Pope Francis will have the Jubilee of Mercy in 2016, to highlight the Catholic Church’s “mission to be a witness of mercy.” Jubilee for Padre Pio’s Prayer Group will take place Feb. 13, 2016, as the body of Padre Pio will be exposed in St. Peter’s Basilica Feb. 8-14, at Pope Francis’ request.

painting in Our Lady of Grace Chapel

Painting in Our Lady of Grace Chapel, Barto PA.

Padre Pio celebrated his final Mass the day before he died, on September 22, 1968. He is and will always remain a Capuchin Franciscan. Like St. Francis, Padre Pio was a stigmatic, he had on his hands, feet and side the wounds of Christ, starting in 1910 and ending a few months before his death. He performed thousands of miracles and could read the hearts of those who went to his confessional. Padre Pio’s feast day is September 23.

pio room

A replica of Padre Pio’s residence in Italy. A humble life. From the Saint Pio of Pietrelcina Museum, Barto, PA.


Padre Pio’s strong devotion and love to the Blessed Virgin Mary during his lifetime and continues in Heaven.

“No matter how great the trial…never lose heart. Have recourse, with more childlike trust, to Jesus who will never be able to resist bestowing on you some little solace and comfort.” Padre Pio’s Words of Hope

padre pio painting
Painting of Padre Pio of Pietrelcina. Padre Pio Spiritual Center.

On June 25, 1950, Padre Pio was seen attending to the death of a fellow monk in Milwaukee. When asked about it he said, “If Christ multiplied the loaves and fishes, why cannot he multiply me?”


Replica of San Giovanni Rotondo at the National Centre for Padre Pio in Barto PA, about 50 miles from Philadelphia Pa.

“Go Ahead! Courage! In the spiritual life, one who does not go forward goes backward.” – Padre Pio

Padre Pio met Pope John Paul II before he was pope in 1947 and prophesied his rise to Pope after hearing his confession.

pio church

Church at The National Center of Padre Pio. On right side of altar is Padre Pio. Due to Church infighting, no Mass is offered on the premises. They do have rosary prayers and Stations of the Cross.

Our Lady of Grace Chapel
Replica of Our Lady of Grace Chapel that Padre Pio prayed in each day. It is modeled after a 16th Century Capuchin Franciscan Friary Chapel.

“Pray, hope, and don’t worry. Worry is useless. God is merciful and will hear your prayer.” – Padre Pio

hands in prayer

“Hands of Padre Pio”, stained glass, National Centre of Padre Pio.

Have courage and do not fear the assaults of the Devil. Remember this forever; it is a healthy sign if the devil shouts and roars around your conscience, since this shows that he is not inside your will.

He’s with us now.

Padre Pio:

If the people of the world could only see the beauty of ones soul when it is in the grace of God, all sinners and unbelievers of this world would be instantly converted.

Padre Pio, Mystic


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Padre Pio celebrated his final Mass the day before he died, on September 22, 1968. He is and will always remain a Capuchin Franciscan. Like St. Francis, Padre Pio was a stigmatic, he had on his hands, feet and side the wounds of Christ, starting in 1910 and ending a few months before his death. He performed thousands of miracles and could read the hearts of those who went to his confessional.


Padre Pio was famous for bilocation. In Barto Pennsylvania, Padre Pio bilocated into Vera Calandra’s life, asking here to come to Itlay and see him, as her daughter’s health was deteriorating. This would become a miracle in the beatification of Padre Pio. Ms. Calandra would then build The National Center for Padre Pio in Barto Pennsylvania, a true devotion to the saint.

“No matter how great the trial…never lose heart. Have recourse, with more childlike trust, to Jesus who will never be able to resist bestowing on you some little solace and comfort.” Padre Pio’s Words of Hope


On June 25, 1950, Padre Pio was seen attending to the death of a fellow monk in Milwaukee. When asked about it he said, “If Christ multiplied the loaves and fishes, why cannot he multiply me?”


Replica of San Giovanni Rotondo at The National Centre for Padre Pio in Barto PA, about 40 miles from Philadelphia Pa.


Padre Pio met Pope John Paul II before he was pope in 1947 and prophesied his rise to Pope after hearing his confession.

pio church

Church at The National Center of Padre Pio. Pio is on right side of altar. Due to Church infighting, no Mass is offered on the premises, sad but true.

chapel replica
Relpica of chapel Padre Pio prayed in each day.
“Pray, hope, and don’t worry. Worry is useless. God is merciful and will hear your prayer.” – Padre Pio

“Through the study of books one seeks God, by meditation one find him.” – Padre Pio

pio on deathbed
He’s with us now.

“If the people of the World could only see the beauty of ones soul when it is in the grace of God, all sinners and unbelievers of this world would be instantly converted.”