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Only God Can Make a Tree

        If you look out the window of the guest quarters at the Jackson Carmel--in Jackson, MS, that is, in case you're wondering--you'll see standing there on the lawn in front of you a truly magnificent oak tree, assuredly ancient, although quite well preserved, a breathlessly beautiful creature, if ever there was one.  Massive in height and width, it spreads out its branches every which way and seems, for all the word to see, more or less like some sort of over-sized fan large enough for a giantess to come along and pluck it up from the ground, putting it to use in cooling herself on a hot summer day.
        Now there's an image for you, the image of a gloriously mighty old oak tree, its limbs reaching madly in every direction, an image that has about it, at least for me, an inwardly gentle feel or tone to it, like that of a single tonic chord pressed from the piano.
        I don't worship trees, although if I'd lived in a different age, a shadowy one long, long past, I just might have done so, and done so gladly.  But I don't.  Instead, I worship the Being, bubbling forth and overflowing with vibrant energy, who, in his eternal mind, conceived, for lack of a better word, just such a wondrous creature.  The Being, that is, who has thus given to it its place in this world.  And the One who, in each and every moment, loves it and delights in it.
        I'm referring to God, of course--for lack of a better word--that divine, mysterious, and transcendent Being whose arms, like the limbs of that great oak tree, fan out in every direction, fashioning of himself a steadfast, all-encompassing embrace of his handiwork.

        So, a couple of weeks ago, on Saturday, June 6, the diocese of Jackson--that's Jackson, MS, in case you're wondering--honored our Holy Mother St. Teresa of Jesus with a special celebratory mass and reception at the cathedral.  The present bishop of the diocese was there to preside, along with two former, now retired bishops, who joined in.

        In the nave of the church--which was, I'd guess, at least two-thirds full--sat, on the right side, if you're facing the altar, first the Carmelite nuns, then the Carmelite Seculars, then, behind them, to both right and left, various friends of Carmel and other devotees.  Lastly, spread out more or less evenly throughout the church, were to be found other interested or merely curious parties and, mixed in among them, still others who'd come drawn by the chance to help themselves to a little free food at the reception afterwards.

        Oh, I must not forget.  Arrayed in all their glory and finest Sunday-go-to-meeting, on the left side of the church, if you're facing the altar, that is, were, first of all, the Knights and Ladies of the Holy Sepulcher, then the Knights and Ladies of St. Peter Claver.  Then, way to the back, the Knights of Columbus stood guard.  For what it's worth, I was there, too, in the sanctuary--an honorary Dark Night--and I took it upon myself, as instructed, to monopolize the microphone throughout the homily.

        The whole celebration was delightful, at least for me, who always enjoy listening to myself speak at length about Holy Mother.  Meanwhile, as I spoke, others occupied themselves studying the play of light that poured in through the richly beautiful, old-school-style stained-glass windows on either side of the church.  And still others let their minds wander off to thoughts of giant, sprawling oak trees that quietly offer shade to any and all who pass beneath.  There, in their minds, they composed the homily I should have given:
        Holy Mother is like an oak tree, firmly rooted in the earth, that rich soil which was her deeply personal knowledge of God's love.  She was a woman, therefore, whose heart, whose soul, whose very flesh, reached upward towards the sun and sky and, in doing so, gave birth to a truly crazy jumble of branches, this magnificently magnanimous outpouring of her spirit which we call Carmel . . .

Written by Fr. Bonaventure Sauer, OCD
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