From the Pen of Brother Bob

Brother Bob Chiulli, O.Carm.

With the holidays long past, and springtime upon us, it is that time of year where we start cleaning out the closets, drawers, garages of all that stuff that seems to have mysteriously accumulated.  Even those of us who try to consciously limit our consumption seem somehow to have more things than we really need.  Of course, the internet makes shopping so easy. With only a click or two, that item that before would have taken a trip to the store and hours of browsing, can be on our doorstep in a couple of days.  And then where to put this stuff? It is interesting to see the proliferation of self-storage units in small towns and large cities alike, as we run out of places in our homes to store all this stuff. In my musings about material possessions, I am reminded of the re-creation of Mother Angeline’s office and bedroom in the Mother Angeline Heritage Center, located at the Carmelite Sisters’ Motherhouse in Germantown, NY. Mother’s quarters are refreshingly uncluttered. There are a few books, small statues, and holy pictures, things that would help Mother focus on what she considered most important, her relationship with God.  Mother had an eye for good taste, and wanted the chapels in her convents and nursing homes to be decorated with art that was dignified and graceful. And the small items in her own rooms reflect Mother’s style: a simple, but elegant, piety.

For the visitors who come to the Mother Angeline Heritage Center, what can be learned about Mother Angeline as they gaze at her desk, bookcase, and bed? How do things she lived with, and surrounded herself with, reflect something about her personality? Mother had a deep devotion to the Blessed Mother and all the saints, so one finds in her room a few small statues and pictures. No doubt, Mother, as she went about her work, desired to be surrounded by holy men and women. As she made the many important decisions in guiding the Congregation she founded, she likely called upon their support and guidance.

One also sees in the rooms that several of the items are gifts from friends or dear associates. Mother was known within and outside the Congregation to be a generous and  thoughtful woman, the type of person who would remember anniversaries and important events, who would send a sympathetic note to one going through a difficult time. She deeply cherished her relationships with her sisters, her family, and her friends. And her sisters and friends cherished her, and would often send her small gifts as expressions of gratitude.

And one can glean from that lack of ornamentation in Mother’s rooms that poverty was an important virtue for her. As the Superior General of a religious congregation, one might think she was entitled to an elaborate and sumptuous residence. However, Mother’s simple office and room conveyed her deep belief that we are made for God, and to serve Him, not to acquire possessions. As Mother wrote to her sisters, “Our Blessed Lady practiced Poverty and knew its blessings as no other creature could know them. Let us learn from her…so that like her we may truly abandon all things and find Christ.”

If you haven’t yet made a visit to the Mother Angeline Heritage Center, I would recommend you plan a visit soon and discover what there is to know about this remarkable faith-filled, visionary woman.

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