I am discerning a vocation to the Discalced Carmelites. I thought it might be helpful to other discernees if I posted my experiences at the two Carmelite monasteries I’ve visited. This was the first Carmelite Monastery I visited. . . I visited 2 years ago, but I recorded the visit in my notebook for future reference.
The Carmel of Jesus, Mary and Joseph is a special Ecclesia Dei Carmelite Monastery - they are in full communion with Rome and I don’t think they are under the 1990 or the 1991 Constitutions for Discalced Carmelites. I think they are a special exception.
About my trip to Carmel of Jesus, Mary and Joseph:
Bob picked me up at the airport. He and his wife are caretakers for Carmel of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. He told me that they are all so joyful - that when sometimes, like on feastdays, they get to visit with the community, their cheeks hurt from smiling and laughing. He says these nuns are filled with a genuine joy. Even in times of sadness and solemnity, there is a deep joy.
When this Carmel began, the sisters were able to design and build it according to their needs. Mother Teresa of Jesus does everything with prayer and discernment of God’s will - even if it is not her own. The builders told Mother that no one would come to this monastery because no one would know about it, and encouraged her to make a webpage or do some advertising. She said that if the Lord wants them here, He will bring them. And He has. They have already made two foundations.
The Sisters make their own butter, jam, and habits. They also embroider vestments for the altar. They have cows, sheep, chickens and a garden. They are located between two seminaries - an FSSP (This is a Tridentine Mass - celebrating seminary that is FAITHFUL to the Magisterium - NOT to be confused with the SSPX) and a diocesan seminary. How perfect for an order that offers itself for priests! Seminarians come out regularly, and the Vicar General of the area offers the Extraordinary Form of the Mass daily. He says coming home to Carmel is like coming to heaven. On Sundays and feastdays the seminarians come and the sisters enjoy the High Form of the Mass, complete with Gregorian chant. Otherwise, the Mass is spoken, and the Liturgy of the Hours is chanted on a single note.
Bob and Sue live right outside of the walls of the monastery in a house attached to the guest house. When we arrived at Carmel, we stepped into the chapel shortly, then went to see Mother Agnes - she is the Novice Mistress. There was a wooden turnstile when we entered with a little doorbell by it. When Bob pushed the doorbell, a nun on the other side said, “Praised be Jesus Christ, who is it please?” She pushed a button that unlocked a door to my right, and I was able to visit with Mother Agnes through a double grate. We visited shortly and she sent me to my room.
The guest house was nice and welcoming, with plenty of food to make my own meals. I was able to visit with Mother Teresa at 3:30 pm for about an hour. . . we talked about my vocation story and the Mass. She asked if I play any instruments and encouraged me to make this time a retreat. She wanted me to read a book in my room called *My Beloved. * When I returned to my room after the Liturgy of the Hours, I could not find it. I read a different book I found there, and let her know the next time I saw her.
I stayed for three days. The Chapel was locked after Vespers each day, and wasn’t unlocked until the morning Mass, so I couldn’t go to any of the prayer times in between the two times. The Mass was in Latin, and I did not have a way of following along in English. I love Latin, but don’t understand it without help. Maybe this had a hand in why I experienced a lot of dryness during this trip. . . I spent a lot of time sitting in silence, reflecting, laboring to pray and begging for help.
I was to meet with Mother Agnes at 9 am the second day, but a sister was cleaning in the turn room. I stepped out again, waited until exactly 9 am, and then returned. The sister guarded her eyes and quickly left. I rang the bell and was allowed in to see Mother Agnes. We talked about music, obedience, and spiritual poverty. She talked about the strictness of the Carmelite rule, but also the joy, appreciation and freedom in knowing that this is Christ’s will, and in following it you follow Him. She talked about the difficulty in transition to the Carmelite lifestyle, and said your will changes to God’s will for you, to the lifestyle. And then there is a sweetness, a purity of essence in it - without duplicity.
During prayer times, I could not always understand the nuns. . . and as I mentioned earlier, my own prayer was labored and very dry. But I could appreciate their love of God, and this adoration given Him as being sweet to Him.
THIS IS THEIR DAILY SCHEDULE
4:30 AM Rise
5:20-6:20 Mental prayer before Mass
6:40 - Prime
7:00 - Mass
8:00 - Thanksgiving
8:20 - Terce
8:45 - Work
10:45 - Sext and Examen
11:00 - Lunch
12:00 PM - Recreation
1:00 - Siesta
2:05 - None and the Rosary
2:45 - Work / Spiritual Reading
4:30 - Vespers
5:00 - Prayer
6:05 - Supper
6:55 - Recreation
8:00 - Compline
9:15 - Matins
10:30 - Retire
I tried to follow their daily schedule with them…and I filled my time with prayer. I really wanted to be called to this Carmel, but despite myself, I felt more of a dread and dryness than anything. Maybe I wasn’t ready. . .I think it is simply that this isn’t the Carmel God is calling me to - but I’m sure it is for many others!
“All day long let us surrender ourselves to love, by doing the will of God, under His gaze, with Him, in Him, for Him alone.” - Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity