Could you please explain to me how women or men who are in cloister are obeying the commandment to “love your neighbor” as explained in the Good Samaritan? It seems to me that the Carmelites or other cloistered orders of religious could be likened to the priest who walks on by the man who has been robbed and left for dead. How is it the Catholic Church can support this? My understanding is that the cloistered orders build those walls around themselves to block out the distractions of this world (i.e., human interactions) so that they can pray more effectively. This seems to be in direct conflict with the ideas that Jesus gave us with regards to loving each other and what it means to love each other. I don’t think that prayer alone is what is needed.
It must be said that is a pretty harsh assessment of a way of life that you, as a Catholic yourself, are seeking to understand.
[quote=marymartham]My understanding is that the cloistered orders build those walls around themselves to block out the distractions of this world (i.e. human interactions) so that they can pray more effectively. This seems to be in direct conflict with the ideas that Jesus gave us with regards to loving each other and what it means to love each other. I don’t think that prayer alone is what is needed.
Perhaps the problem is that you have underestimated the power and necessity of prayer. St. Therese of Lisieux, a cloistered Carmelite nun, said of prayer:
For me, prayer is a surge of the heart; it is a simple look turned toward heaven, it is a cry of recognition and of love, embracing both trial and joy (CCC 2558).
The Catechism of the Catholic Church says of prayer:
In the New Covenant, prayer is the living relationship of the children of God with their Father who is good beyond measure, with his Son Jesus Christ and with the Holy Spirit. The grace of the Kingdom is “the union of the entire holy and royal Trinity … with the whole human spirit.” Thus, the life of prayer is the habit of being in the presence of the thrice-holy God and in communion with him. This communion of life is always possible because, through baptism, we have already been united with Christ. Prayer is Christian insofar as it is communion with Christ and extends throughout the Church, which is his body. Its dimensions are those of Christ’s love (CCC 2565).
In other words, prayer unites us to God, and in doing so, unites us in communion with all those who belong to his body the Church. In a real sense, prayer unites us more fully with neighbor than do the active works of charity, necessary though are those works.
That said, those in cloisters do not entirely lose touch with the world. In many cloistered communities, the locals are welcome to attend Masses celebrated for those who are cloistered and they are welcome to bring their prayer needs. And cloistered religious also must support their communities, and so often provide services that bring comfort and joy to the world. For example, the cloistered Carmelite monks of Wyoming have a coffee business that supports their life, provides a comfort to the public, and will enable the monks to build a new monastery that will serve as their home and enable the monks to provide spiritual assistance to the faithful.