Friday, July 3, 2009

Mother Elias, Part 2

Mother Elias had long feared that the dangers to the nuns would force the Carmelite community at Aguascalientes to flee the country. In her monastery there was a young nun of singular beauty whom, it was rumored, the local revolutionaries were planning on kidnapping. At night Mother would hide the young sisters in chests and cupboards and would herself keep vigil until dawn, guarding the door of the enclosure. She knew she had to get them all to safety, somehow. The hair of the nuns was shaved or cut very short so Mother Elias had made wigs from the novices' hair. In 1914, disguised in wigs, bonnets, and secular clothes over their wool habits, Mother Elias and the younger sisters escaped to Cuba, enduring many perils en route.

After establishing the young nuns safely in Cuba, Mother Elias returned to Mexico to rescue the older nuns of her community who were in danger of starvation and imprisonment. Traveling with a young novice, she was apprehended by the authorities and placed under arrest. The two nuns stood for stood for three days and three nights in a prison cell with twelve inches of water on the floor. In desperation, Mother Elias prayed to the Little Flower, promising to establish a Carmel in her honor if she were delivered from prison.

After a brief interrogation, in which Mother refused to divulge the hiding place of her other nuns, she and her young companion were marched before a firing squad. Shots rang out; the nuns were left lying motionless on the ground. Some hours later, Mother Elias regained consciousness and found that there were no wounds on her body. Both women were unhurt and a mysterious stranger showed them how to slip away from the prison unseen.

After many more narrow escapes, Mother Elias made it to the rest of her community. They managed to flee to Cuba, and then to New Orleans. In 1915, they were invited to Grand Rapids, Michigan, where Mother Elias founded the Carmel of Our Lady of Guadalupe, a community still thriving in Ada-Parnell, Michigan. In 1919, Mother Elias fulfilled her promise to Saint Therese by establishing the Carmel of the Little Flower in Buffalo, New York. In 1923, she founded the Carmel of Saint Teresa in Schenectady, New York, now removed to Rochester, New York.

Eventually, Mother Elias returned to the Grand Rapids Carmel and died there on February 28, 1943, leaving behind her a heritage of heroic determination to please God in all things. Many stories of prodigies surrounding Mother are told in the monasteries which she founded, even to this day. She had great devotion to the Infant Jesus, and a beautiful, life-like statue which is now at the Ada-Parnell monastery. Once, during her travels through Mexico, trying to avoid arrest, Mother was on a train, dressed as a housewife. She had the statue of Baby Jesus in her arms wrapped in a blanket, like a real baby. There were revolutionary soldiers on the train. One of them, vigilant for escaping religious, noticed Mother Elias and her little bundle. "That baby is being awfully quiet," he said, and started over towards Mother. At that moment, the statue of the Infant came to life, and began to wail like a living child. The soldiers left Mother alone.
(See The Dove With The Scarlet Collar by Mother Teresa of Jesus, OCD and Dr. Jose L. Morales)


May said...

An amazing life full of heroism and miracles. I think her story could make a wonderful film, do you know if it has ever been attempted?

elena maria vidal said...

No, not that I know of but it would be a wonderful epic.

Julygirl said...

Fascinating! I had heard of her regarding the founding of the Carmelite orders you named, but had not heard about the events leading to it.

Terry Nelson said...

I had never heard the story of her with the Infant Jesus - wonderful!

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