The couple who live in one of the flats in the Lodge and are the caretakers for the nuns and act like externs. The woman is very sweet and helpful. She walked me to the enclosure gates when I entered! As for life at Kirk Edge, this is Carmel as it was MEANT to be lived by Our Holy Mother St. Teresa! I constantly find myself expecting to see her in the cloister, choir and refectory with her as Prioress because this is truly a Carmel SHE would found! Are there austerities? Yes, of course, but the greatest austerity of all is also our greatest gift to God – the total surrender of our self-will, done in love and for love, and through love and I have never experienced a greater joy or peace or happiness in my life.
We have confession in a room that is somewhat dark but we wait in the novitiate for our turn and then we go into a little room just outside the confessional where there is a light so one can see into the confessional and the prieu-dieu in front of the grille before entering. It is a very small area and it was very much like being totally alone with God to confess one’s sins! I loved it. The priest was kind and gentle and made me feel truly forgiven!
Although there is hardship and suffering in this life, it brings a feeling of great joy and peace. We do sleep on straw mattresses. There are no cupboards or chairs in our cells. The sisters wear the hemp sandals (like St. Teresa of Avila) and make them as well. But, we have a shower once a week and a bath once a week. If a sister needed another one and had some free time, she could ask permission for it. Everyone here is kindness itself and I love being a postulant because it gives me special privileges without even meaning to. As a postulant is not part of the community and is often not with the professed sisters, it also gives the novitiate sisters more time alone with God in a hermitage that is only for the novitiate, for reading time alone in choir and other hermit-like activities and recreation is plenty of time to gt to know the sisters, twice a day, and the sisters do speak to the novitiate sisters at recreation. In all, I just love everything about life here!
(Sisters are recreation.)
Mother said that many postulants come only to find they don’t have a vocation – at least to a 1990 Carmel – so she is open to women trying, even if they don’t stay. The postulants are given various duties so as to gradually learn them all – they take one all over the monastery:
(Carpentry/woodworking for repairs, making prayer stools, etc.)
If you want to surrender your self-will to God – there is no better place than here, Kirk Edge Carmel. There is love and peace and joy, but God asks for ALL of you. When I start to think of a better way to do something (easier, faster, more efficient, etc.), I stop and tell myself that I am NOT here to learn how to improve the way things are done, but to learn the will of God. And when I let go of that self-will and just do things the way I have been shown, then I am filled with such a sense of peace and joy. I can see that all the sisters here are trying to do the same – surrender to God’s will – it makes everyone so sweet! One sister meets with me everyday to mark the breviary or discuss hymns with me. Another sister gives me work for recreation and we all help out with dishes after means. This week Mother is doing the dishes and I am drying for her. We are all a family and love each other.
On Sunday, I was given a tour of the monastery and the different Offices – each sister would give me a little tour and talk about her office (work). We ran out of time so there are still rooms I haven’t seen – this place is a rabbit warren! The gardens are extensive and so beautiful.
(Gardens and pathway to cemetery.)
Mother says that the other Carmel in the UK that was – or is, sort of – a 1990s but they already have several modifications and mitigations after merging with a 1991 Carmel so Kirk Edge is the only 1990 Carmel in England. We are faithful to St. Teresa’s constitutions of 1581 (we know them as 1990) with only those few changes required by canon law after the Council of Vatican II.
I can hear them singing the hymn of the Office of Readings now at 9 pm so I should get to bed. I don’t attend this Office yet – postulants don’t because Mother wants them to get enough sleep, rest and get used to Carmel. Tomorrow is my first time getting up at 5:30 am for 6 am mental prayer. I have been on the 2nd call since I entered, getting up at 6:30 am for Morning Prayer (Lauds) at 7 am. It has been a gentle introduction to the life – they are so sweet.
(Postulant up front with sisters in choir for Office and mental prayer.)