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Our Lady of Mount Carmel and my conversion to Catholicism

July 15, 2011 by  
Filed under Dan Burke, Seasonal Meditations

Mount CarmelIn July of 2005 I was enrolled as a candidate in the RCIA program. As I was sitting in church for mass one Sunday I became frustrated and walked out. I couldn’t bear to sit there, watching everything, and not participate again. I desperately wanted to partake in the Body and Blood of Christ.

The next day I got on the phone and called Shirley, a secular Discalced Carmelite who ran the Faith Formation program at Our Lady of Loreto in Foxfield Colorado. I don’t remember exactly what I said but it was something like, “I can’t sit through another mass without receiving communion. I don’t fully understand the Catholic view of justification, I don’t get the Mary thing, but I do understand the magisterium and I will submit and figure these things out later. I would like to be received into the Church” I told her. Anticipating an argument I said, “I have been teaching against the Catholic church for years, I know what I am submitting to.” “Is there any possible way?” I was just about writhing in my hunger for the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist and God gave me brief consolation as she responded in her normal peaceful tone, “Let me call you back.”

Shortly after that call my cell phone rang and it was Shirley.  Although I was bursting with the need to hear good news, I realized that I had only been in RCIA a short time and I was prepared for a letdown. Shirley said, “We have permission to receive you into the Church.” I was astounded and overjoyed! – Even typing this now has brought an unexpected rush of emotion. – She continued, “Come to the Church this Saturday and you will be confirmed and received.” After I picked myself up off the floor I arranged my schedule for Saturday and other important matters Shirley scheduled for me that week.

Another divine twist in this experience is that even prior to entering the RCIA program I had begun to explore Catholic mysticism in order to find answers about my own prayer life. The author that had the greatest impact on me was St. Teresa of Avila, the founder of the Discalced Carmelites. Since then, and even now, there is nothing I read (beyond scripture) that brings me peace like St. Teresa. Though her writings run very contrary to my preferred method of thinking (anyone who knows her knows what I am talking about), she always brings the light and love of Christ to me in profound ways. .

On Saturday July 16th, 2005 I was received into full communion with Christ’s Church. You can imagine that I was delighted to find out later that it was the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. To this day, Discalced Carmelite spirituality has been the most influential spiritual sustinence in my life and has led me to know and love Christ in ways that I could have never imagined.

To those who have faithfully kept the works and spirit of Carmel alive in the Church – thank you, and have a happy feast day tomorrow (or today depending on where you are around the globe)!


PS: Thank you Mary. And thanks again Shirley!



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About Dan Burke

Dan is the founder of Catholic Spiritual Direction, the Avila Institute for Spiritual Formation, and author of the award winning book, Navigating the Interior Life - Spiritual Direction and the Journey to God. Beyond his “contagious” love for Jesus and His Church, he is a grateful husband and father of four, the Executive Director of and writer for EWTN’s National Catholic Register, a regular co-host on Register Radio, a writer and speaker who provides online spiritual formation and travels to share his conversion story and the great riches that the Church provides us through authentic Catholic spirituality. Dan has been featured on EWTN’s Journey Home program and numerous radio programs. If you have an interest in having Dan come speak at your parish or Catholic event or group, contact us at or call 818-646-7729.

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  • Augustine

    Our Lady of Mt. Carmel has punctuated my life too.  From the cathedral of my hometown being in her honor to my praying for my marriage in another church in her honor and getting married on the eve of her feast, I couldn’t resist her anymore and became a secular Discalced Carmelite.

    Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, pray for us.

    • cath

      i couldn’t either…. and also am becoming a secular discalced carmelit

  • C J Sebastian333

    Dan: Thank you for that very uncomplicated witness to Mary. I wish more of my friends (who are not Catholic) would come to understand Mary as you do. She points everyone to her Son, not to herself. She is the mother of Jesus, the mother of my/our eternal salvation. Her body housed God, absolute perfect Love… the entire universe, all that ever was or will ever be. She wasn’t just picked out from of a line-up of possible candidates… she was/is the purest of the pure, had to be so. To believe otherwise is tantamount to saying that God and sin can co-exist… when all that is of God and heaven is pure, there is no evil or sin in heaven. For me, what stands stands alone about the birth of Jesus Christ is that God actually asked permission from a human being. She was/is a promise kept, the New Eve. Even though I am Catholic I was “born again” to a much greater understanding of Who Jesus is because of her… I have come to know Jesus as God because of her direction… and although I will never experience motherhood, here’s a strange twist for you, my “introduction” to Jesus was through the eyes of His mother. There is nothing more uncomplicated than to percieve God as an infant… ask any Saint, St. Anthony of Padua just came to mind. I hope you have enough room on your website for all the responses you’re going to get from your post about Our Lady, LOL. Mary truly is the ultimate spiritual director.
    Thank you again – what a great way to start the day.
    Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, pray for us.

  • Kristin Palermo

    Thank you for sharing that beautiful story, Dan!  It brings tears to my eyes. My husband used to work at Our Lady of Loreto. He worked there for about seven years, from approximately 1998-2005. We know Shirley! :o)  May God bless you and happy feast day!!!

    • Anonymous

      Awesome Kristin and thank you. Where do you all live now?

  • Jesusbpraised

    Happy Anniversary! And may Jesus Christ be forever praised and glorified!

  • Leia_r_go

    Mama Mary! in my country, this what we call her! She has helped me through some rough times. Bad thoughts make it difficult for me to pray and be with her Son. But I know I can always turn to her when I need help.

    Thank you Mama Mary!

  • Mary@42

    What a beautiful Post!!! Yes, Our Lady, my “Patron” is the purest of all God’s Creation.  I never cease to feel a quickening of my heartbeat when I reflect that Satan dares to challenge God (Job), to challenge Jesus Christ (40 Days in the Wilderness) yet – oh, how I love this – Satan can never, ever dare to go near the Mother of Our Saviour, the Mother of the Church, our Mother.  In all Heaven and earth and all God’s Creation this Purest Lily, This Star of the Sea, sends Satan right to be the bottom of the hottest Hell. Loving Mary is the gateway to Loving her Son, The Father and the Holy Spirit, hence the venerable Title of Our Mediatrix

  • Stephen

    “By night on my bed I sought the One whom I love; I sought Him,but I did not find Him. ‘I will rise now,’ I said, ‘and go about the city; in the streets and in the squares I will seek the One I love.’ I sought Him, but I did not find Him. The watchmen who go about the city found me; I said, ‘Have you seen the One I love?’ Scarcely had I passed by them, when I found the One I love. I held Him and would not let Him go, until I had brought Him to the house of my mother, and into the chamber of her who conceived me.”–S.of S.3:1-4

    Welcome home; to the holy Catholic and Apostolic Church and may God richly bless you as you are led by the hand (as a little child), by the hand of our Blessed Mother into the loving arms of Jesus,our Blessed Savior and Lord.

  • Katherine

    Love your story!! I remember what it was like being at Mass, longing more than I ever believed I could to participate fully, to enter into that deep and wonderfully mysterious communion with God but each time having to say a prayer of spiritual communion and go up for a blessing. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do but it was completely worth it. Becoming Catholic is THE best thing I’ve ever done.

  • Margarett C. Zavodny

    Amen, and welcome!

  • Mary Grace Lemoine

    Can you answer my neighbor’s question, “Didn’t the Catholic Church do away with Limbo and Purgatory?”

  • Joe Generoso

    “Though her writings run very contrary to my preferred method of thinking (anyone who knows her knows what I am talking about), she always brings the light and love of Christ to me in profound ways. .” I not only know what you are talking about, I have had and still  having the same experience you had. I am a Third Order of Carmel member.

  • Joe Generoso

    “Though her writings run very contrary to my preferred method of thinking (anyone who knows her knows what I am talking about), she always brings the light and love of Christ to me in profound ways. . ” I not only know, i have and still experiencing the light and love she brings. I am a member of the Third Order of Carmel. 

  • Pamela Yeoman

    I can identify with this story-I am not a Catholic but a member of the Salvation Army – how diverse can we be- but the prayer of St Teresa of Avila has remained with me since my youth and my journey of faith began in the Catholic Church.  I have been attending mass recently and although I do not understand much of the ritual, I experience a deep inner peace and depth of devotion to God – I look at the statue of Mary – she comforts me…I have recently lost my daughter….Pamela

    • Anonymous

      Dear Friend: I am grateful to have a glimpse of what God is doing in your life and grieved at your loss. Be assured of my prayers.

  • Anonymous

    Dear Friend: Please send this question to

  • Michelle

    Congratulations on being received into the Church! Did you get your scapular imposed that same day? St Teresa of Avila is a wonderful saint! – Once again congratulations. :0)

    • Anonymous

      Thank you! Interesting you should ask. I took the scapular and related commitments this year in response to a significant prayer request that I believe came through Mary.

  • Cjbruner17

    our lady of mt carmel has brought me closer in my faith also….  calling me through the death of my father, bringing me peace and comfort as i looked on a statue in a catholic book store, st therese feeling like my friend in this loss… that was 5 years ago and i have been pulled closer and closer through the carmelite saints and our lady….  

  • Mobrien7

    Mr. Burke,

    Welcome, welcome, welcome to the Church!  I hope it is just as wonderful of a journey for you as it is for me.


    • Anonymous

      Thank you Mike!