Today, I woke up early to hear Mass in one of my most favorite and cherished churches I grew up with. Although it’s not technically a church (it’s a convent chapel), the place of worship of the contemplative Carmelite nuns is a wonderful place of rich spiritual journeys and blossoming. It was also the feast of the Carmelites’ Holy Mother, Sta. Teresa de Ávila, the Spanish mystic and Doctor of the Church famous for her reflections on the interior life.
Located at once-quiet and genteel Gilmore Avenue of the Old Rich enclave of New Manila, the Carmel of Thérèse of Lisieux is an oasis found right smack in Quezon City. Many cars now pass by Gilmore but at least, the church and the cloister are still quite a distance from the road. It’s located on a hill and from iron grills inside the church, in the sanctuary area, you will hear the angelic voices of the nuns enclosed in the convent.
The lot, according to a small, elderly and jovial Carmelite nun, was a donation of the rich Hemady family, the former landowners of the New Manila estate. The convent was put up in 24 November 1926 with only the generosity of donors. The first Carmelite nuns who came to Manila were not Spaniards but actually French nuns from Indo-China, specifically Vietnam.
Earlier during my conversations with the elderly nun (who entered the Carmel in 1954!!!), she kept on telling me “‘Yan, donasyon lahat yan ng mga Español”, “Nabuhay kami dahil sa pagmamalasakit ng mga familiang español” etc. Indeed, what she said was a testament to the original profile of that area of New Manila, San Juan and Cubao as being the enclave of Spanish and Spanish-speaking families. But more importantly, she spoke of the once known practice among the rich to give large donations to religious orders for prayers in turn. The Carmelites prayed for these people who sustain and help their daily finances.
The nun however, within a breath, relayed the sad state of things wherein they no longer find it easy to have these donors.
“People have put prayers and us nuns on the sidelines. It’s so much harder now to find generous families,” she confessed.
Indeed, I would know. And it’s a sad thing seeing many children of rich or at least, well-to-do families spending THOUSANDS of Pesos on the most superficial and materialistic exploits but find it difficult to spare at least 20 Pesos for Mass offering. I am in no position to judge but heck, let’s open up those hands!
This silent and peaceful place in New Manila, located beside the gigantic CD-R King area and Aurora Boulevard, is a place I always yearn for when things get messy. Now that the semester has finally finished, it was really a joy for me to start my day in this place of contemplation, spiritual reflection and conversion. Many ladies have entered the cloister, to be no longer in contact with the world, through the iron grills of this church. It is a place of stories, tears and prayers.
How about you? Where do you go to when the going gets tough?
Visit this beautiful place now. It’s hecho ayer.
Here, by the way, is Santa Teresa’s most famous prayer, the Nada te Turbe
Nada te turbe; nada te espante; todo se pasa.
Dios no se muda, la paciencia todo lo alcanza.
Quien a Dios tiene, nada le falta.
Solo Dios basta.
May nothing disturb you. May nothing astonish you.
Everything passes. God does not go away.
Patience can attain anything.
He who has God within, does not lack anything.
God is enough!