.- About 800 people — a congregation reminiscent of Christmas and Easter — filled St. Monica Church in Moraga to celebrate the official opening of the Carmel of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, a new foundation of the Discalced Carmelites in the Diocese of Oakland.
Five nuns in brown habits and black veils and five novices with white veils took their places in the pews as the Most Rev. Salvatore J. Cordileone, archbishop-designate of San Francisco, celebrated the Solemn Pontifical Mass on Sep. 21.
The Mass, which was in Latin with priests dressed in red and more than a dozen altar boys serving, was celebrated on the Feast of St. Matthew.
The Rev. Gregory Eichman, FSSP, who was ordained to the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter in May, proclaimed the Gospel. His order is dedicated to the traditional liturgy of the Roman Catholic Church. Father Eichman, 27, is assistant pastor at St. Anne Church in San Diego. His 19-year-old sister was among the Carmelite novices attending the Mass.
Their parents, who live in Fort Wayne, Indiana, were making their first trip to California.
The Mass and following reception offered a rare opportunity to see the sisters. Later that day, they returned to their monastery in the hills of Canyon, which would then be enclosed. The nuns will be behind grilles, and just two of them will be designated to speak to the public.
"Today we rejoice and give thanks to the Carmelite sisters who are establishing their enclosure with this Mass," Archbishop-designate Cordileone said in his homily. "You have left the world to seek the more perfect life, the life of single-hearted perfection in union with Christ. Your life is a more perfect life because it is in anticipation of the life of heaven. You leave the world to be exclusively with our Lord. Your prayers sanctify us and bless us."
He called upon those "who must live in the world" to understand "how to leave what is of the world while still living in the world. We must learn to leave all that is sinful, all that is selfish, all that is of the old self, so that Christ might make us new in his image."
At a reception after the Mass, supporters of the Carmelites gathered around the sisters, wishing them well and asking for prayers.
The sisters, who in the course of a day, rarely speak, were smiling and gracious with their well-wishers.
Fifteen members of the Third Order of Lay Carmelites from Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church in Fairfield filled a van, and four traveled by car, to attend the Mass.
The group, which in addition to studying the Carmelite saints, performs works of charity and outreach to meet the needs of the sisters.
"It's not very often that we can get in community with the sisters," said Barbara DiMarco.
Another attendee passing by, added: "They're angels."
Posted with permission from The Catholic Voice, official newspaper of the Diocese of Oakland, Calif.