A Carmelite Nun is a person who has given her life totally to Jesus Christ. She desires to follow Him and belong to Him completely.
She enters this way of life because she feels called to seek God with all her mind and heart and strength, so spends her life trying to live in His presence, attentive to Him, loving and adoring Him, and bringing the needs of all people before Him in continual prayer.
She is consecrated to God by Solemn Vows, and promises to live, in the company of the other sisters, a life that is poor, chaste, obedient and wholly dedicated to prayer in the service of the Church and her fellow men and women.
St Thérèse of Lisieux , a Carmelite nun of the nineteenth century, described her Carmelite vocation to prayer in these words, In the heart of my Mother the Church, I will be love. For each one of us it is necessary to pray and get to know God our Father who loves us, but it is the special duty of a Carmelite to stand constantly before Him in prayer on behalf of all, loving Him for them and being a channel through which his love and mercy can come to them.
Carmelites are known as enclosed nuns.
In any specialised work, in a hospital operating
theatre or a nuclear energy plant,
to use just two examples, certain special
conditions and safeguards are necessary
to ensure proper and efficient
functioning, and this is what
enclosure is all about; to help create
the most favourable conditions
for living a life of continual prayer.
God makes Himself known and prayer develops in silence and solitude. Enclosure really means a "place set apart". The external signs of this enclosure and the fact that we rarely leave the bounds of the monastery, are a symbol of the place, or cell, set apart for God, which each sister is endeavouring to create in her heart.
They are too, a reminder of her own withdrawal from the usual bustle of ordinary life in the every-day world in order to devote herself more fully to this.
Yet at the same time a nun remains keenly interested in, and concerned for, the world's needs. St Teresa herself was sure about this for she said of her nuns, They will not go to heaven alone but will always take many others with them, and she wished her nuns to keep especially in their prayer priests and their sanctification. In order to help us in seeking silence and solitude, each sister has a small, simply-furnished room of her own, known as a cell. There are also small hermitages in the grounds which can be used as solitary places of prayer.
Carmelite life is twofold. On the one hand it is lived in a hermit spirit, alone with God in silence and prayer. On the other there is the companionship of community and the loving sharing of life in a family under the guidance of a Prioress. It is an austere life but a very joyful one.
This twofold aspect of the life is evident in the arrangement of the day. St Teresa provided a framework in which periods of solitary prayer, reading and work, alternate with times when we come together, for Mass, community prayer, the Divine Office, meals and for periods of recreation when we meet to relax and talk.
The work undertaken by Carmels to earn their living may vary, but can include the making of communion breads, vestments, icons, greetings cards; also printing, hand illuminating and other such craft work. There are all the usual household tasks to be done as well, such as cooking, washing, sewing and gardening and in these everyone takes their share.
In spite of our seclusion we do not forget our needy brothers and sisters in the world outside the monastery walls. We pray for their well-being always and try to live simply so as to have something to give away; we are concerned with the trials and sharing in the sufferings and crises of the modern world. We also have contact with many groups and individuals who work for a better world at home and abroad.
Our contact with such people, and the many requests we receive for prayers from those in distress, makes us keenly aware of the problems of violence, poverty, addiction, starvation and deprivation of all kinds and the deep need there is for peace and healing in a broken world. Our own inner journey, often painful and dark, made in love, becomes a journey on behalf of a fallen humanity. Called to a life hidden with Christ in God, we unite ourselves with Christ in his work of Redemption.
As each one enters more into her own heart where she knows in faith that God dwells, so humanity is brought closer to its own centre, to God, the source of healing love - so greatly needed.
NEW CARMELITE LIFE
Those who come to join the community test their vocation for several years before making a final commitment. After spending six to twelve months as a postulant, they receive the habit and spend a further one to two years as a novice. At the end of this time they make profession of the vows of Poverty, Chastity and Obedience for three years and then finally bind themselves for life to the service of God in Carmel by Solemn Vows.
Carmelite Nuns are part of a much wider family,
Community Prayer (the Divine Office) in bold
6.45 Silent personal prayer (1 hour)
8.00 Mass, followed by Terce
12.45 Work/free time
1.45 Spiritual reading
4.30 Vespers followed by silent personal prayer (1 hour)
7.35 Office of Readings
8.00 Great Silence