First, Mother Prioress and ALL the sisters were loving, peaceful, warm and joyful at all times to me and each other. There were no “sad faced nuns” as St. Teresa wanted!
Their motto is “nothing, nothing, nothing.” – taken from St. John of the Cross. They don’t have many colors throughout the monastery – mostly black, white, brown or gray. Mother has the computer access for vocational contact by email with women. Thank God they don’t have internet surfing nuns, forum reading and posting and nun bloggers! Their life and world is God and praying for souls from the prayers from their hearts and that is the only contact with the world – spending time on the internet in worldly, useless activities – my words but as they ONLY use the internet for the occasion, short emails to discerners, I am pretty close to it!
RECREATION: We all had work to do during recreations (sewing, shelling beans, peas or some such thing) as St. Teresa of Avila instructed in her rule and constitutions as she didn’t want this time wasted with useless games or activities. Her and her sisters then (as the real Carmels do now) had fun and lively, entertaining recreations but also did their work as they were poor and work needed to be done. There are some or most 1991 Carmels who have board game or cards at recreation but that is and was not St. Teresa’s desire or rule she founded. People say it’s a little thing, but it’s not and it wasn’t to St. Teresa or she would have allowed games. There were some times she had singing and music played by a nun or two at her recreations while the other nuns could easily sing while shelling peas!
(Working at recreation hour, which is 2 hours a day.)
(Recreation hour with music and song.)
HERMITAGES: I used it whenever Mother allowed sisters to go out to the garden for meditations. Sometimes several days in a row. It does depend on the weather that is what Mother based her permission of the sisters going out into the garden. I had a lot of time in my cell – private time, prayer with God while working at something. The novitiate has it’s own hermitage and the professed nuns have their own.
(One of the hermitages.)
MEALS: I like English food, so the meals were great. Lots of soups, stews, and porridge. Lots of veggies and other good food.
NO EXTERN SISTERS: The man and wife living in the lodge do the nun’s necessary shopping in exchange for paying the monastery a lower rent for their flat in the lodge. The woman takes care of the visitor’s flat and sacristy and the man has helped them with their website, a retired computer guy. A female doctor visits the monastery for reasons that do not need her office, clinic or hospital. Sisters must leave to go out for the dentist, though. They only go out when it is absolutely, positively necessary – which is very rarely the occasion. Mother is very strict about this. Sheffield is the only Carmel in England that does not participate in outside meetings with other Carmels. – yeah! In fact, they are really the only 1990 Carmel in the UK. There was another but they merged with a 1991 and the sisters heard they were “changing”. Which is very sad as the Mother Foundress of Kirk Edge and the other 32 Carmels in England, Wales and Scotland founded ALL these Carmels to be 1990s (1581 constitutions when they were first founded, we know them as 1990). In fact the bishops of the UK specifically told Mother Mary of Jesus (foundress) and the other sisters that they were to ONLY found such Carmels in the UK – pretty much do this or don’t bother! I have read the book on Mother Mary of Jesus’ life, “In the Silence of Mary”, a book written by the nuns, her daughter’s a long while ago and is available at Notting Hill Carmel’s online gift store (http://carmelitesnottinghill.org.uk/craftynun/#ecwid:category=1485975&mode=product&product=6028179), which is the Foundress’ first Carmel in the UK, and all this is in there plus so much more, such a fantastic woman and nun – it truly is a must read!
So it is sad to see that all but one of her Carmels have strayed from her desire – and the bishops – for true Carmels in the authentic Teresian Reform of Carmel. The others have the all modified or the un-unified communities with the mixture of modified and traditional Carmelite habit and changed to the 1991 constitutions. I know of one that has “inclusive language” in their liturgy, Office and perhaps they and others I know of break enclosure all the time to go out and about the towns they live in – maybe not all go out but some do and the other changes they made probably have her and the other founding nuns rolling in their graves! Sorry to rant, but there it is.
(These two pictures are of Mother Mary of Jesus, foundress of Kirk Edge Carmel and 32 other Carmels.)
NOVITIATE: The Novice Mistress saw me on Mondays, every other Wednesday, Thursdays, and Saturdays, for Catechism, readings on The Way of Perfection, The Journey to Carith and sessions on discussing the Sunday Gospel readings. Mother saw me on Tuesdays to discuss the history of the Carmels, especially in England. The turn sister, saw me on Fridays for Catholic Church history. The postulants and novices have access to the Novice Mistress whenever needed.
PRIESTS: Fr. G. is an Irish Marist priest who is very nice. I talked with him before entering. Traditional minded. He supports and loves the nuns. He gives great spiritual direction and help.
POSTULANT WORK: Cleaning up the refectory every day and putting out all the dishes. Drying dishes and helping out after meals. I did gardening for Mother, whenever she asked and sewing for the sister in the Robe Room twice a day and at recreations. I also helped out with folding laundry once a week. I also did some work typing up correspondence for Mother on the computer. They also had me knitting an afghan to put on sale.
BED: A tough, handmade straw mattress on boards, on iron legs. Rough woolen sheets pinned to the mattress with long hat pins. The white sheet (in lieu of a pillow case) must be pinned to the pillow every night with straight pins. But the bed was fairly comfortable, it molded to your body and I slept well.
LIGHTS OUT: The nuns on the wing were I was put are supposed to have lights out by 10 p.m. For an “ALARM CLOCK” to awake each morning, they used the matraque – that wooden clapper thing in the am.
KNEELING FOR 2 HRS OF MENTAL PRAYER: Meditation periods begin with a five minute period of kneeling up on the knees (for younger or able to nuns) and the last 5 minutes at the end was same way. The rest of the time, the 50 minutes in between, you could kneel, used prayer stools or choir stalls. Some of the older ones, in their 50s and 60s, sit on short stools and older nuns could sit in their stalls.