I have been graced with very kind people/readers of this blog who donated to me and to a benefactor who paid for my airfare and a family member who came into some money when a piece of property sold was able to give me some money for other travel expenses. I will be leaving next Wednesday, November 12th. I will arrive and enter on the 13th and will either enter on the 14th (feast of All Carmelite Saints) or the 15th (feast of All Carmelite Souls). I am not sure of the entrance date as Mother Prioress will decide how long I will “recover” from jet lag and stay in an open flat (apartment) they keep in a building they own at the edge of their property near the road called The Lodge (picture below) that has 3 flats (their caretakers have one, another couple has the second and the third is kept open for visiting discerners like myself who stayed there for a week and for the sisters’ family who come from far away or visiting priests.
Due to several circumstances, I wasn’t able to update or post on this blog for quite some time. I probably won’t post any more after this, unless I can on the day I leave for the airport (or night before) as I am so busy with last minute arrangements and dispersing of my MANY books on Carmel, etc I have collected with family, friends, my church, etc. I had miscalculated my time left and now I am running around like the proverbial chicken with it’s head cut off! ha!
Lodge in foreground, Monastery in background
When I visited them, I was wiped out from jet lag so as Mother Prioress didn’t want me to enter Carmel half dead and barely awake on my feet, she wants me to stay a day or two in the Lodge flat. I am not a frequent flyer at all and the last time I flew overseas where I’d be affected by jet lag was to visit them and then before that to Ireland to visit family when I was in my teens for several years so I am a wimp to this jet lag! But it is wonderful to enter on either of these Carmelite feast days!
This Carmel is one of many that give the religious name to the woman BEFORE she enters Carmel. Other orders (including some Carmels) wait to give the religious name to the postulant when she is clothed in the holy habit of Carmel and becomes a Novice.
St. Maravillas of Jesus and the Holy Face of Jesus from Veronica’s veil
My religious name – which I’ve had for quite a while as I’ve had to wait to enter for so long! – will be “Sr. Mary Maravillas of Jesus and the Holy Face”. My favorite Carmelite saint and my favorite devotion, see above.
Entrance door for Postulants
I will enter by this entrance door (see picture above) when I do enter Carmel. During my visit to Kirk Edge Carmel, I learned about another American woman who was to visit these nuns shortly after I left them. With a suggestion from Mother Prioress, she put myself and this other woman into contact and we emailed a while before she had the great grace to enter Carmel. The entrance into this Carmel she had she wrote me and will be the same or similar for me. She wrote:
“The gates swung inward to reveal the community, waiting to receive me – standing in the cloister in their white mantles with lighted candles, ranked in order of entrance forming a corridor through which I would pass, moist-eyed and blushing? No. We were not on a movie set but in a cobbled yard, the service entrance of Victorian-era building, formerly an orphanage and vocational school runs by the Sisters of Charity, up on the wild and woolly moors of South Yorkshire.
Sun shone into the yard and onto the Sisters’ faces as they stood loosely together in their habit sleeves. They may well have arranged themselves in some particular kind of order according to Office but, at that moment, I would have been unaware of such a detail. All looked at me intently and in a friendly way. I advanced, returning their gaze with a slightly goofy smile, as a Sister swung the large gate closed behind me. The Prioress came immediately forward to embrace me, speaking quiet words of welcome, and the Sisters followed suit, some giving the typically monastic greeting of a sort of bob to the left and right of me, others giving me a strong hug.
Our Mother (as the Prioress, always and by everyone, is referred to – even by herself!) then took my hand and led me to the door going in. Her wooden shoes (protecting her alpergates from the mud) made a friendly clopping sound on the paving stones as we crossed the yard. She left these aside as we stepped through the doorway. Still holding my hand, she led me to the chapel.
It is customary in any monastery to bring a visitor or a newcomer first to the church or chapel, which is the heart of the monastery. The chapel is central to the practices of any monastic community of any Order or tradition because the celebration of the Mass or the Divine Liturgy takes place there and because it is the setting for the chanting of the Divine Office, the public prayers of the Church.
In Carmel there is a third critically important use of the chapel. It is the place where the Sisters encounter the Lord in their practice of mental prayer. This takes place twice daily for a sum of two hours. The 1990 Constitutions speak of this practice thus:
198. Contemplation of the Divine Mysteries and assiduous union with God in prayer is not only the first and foremost duty of the Discalced Carmelite Nuns but it constitutes the very essence of their vocation and the one and only apostolate of their lives, immolated totally in contemplation. Therefore, they should strive to make progress each day in divine intimacy by means of conversation with God, converting their whole life into prayer.
If this chapter, as it seems, is the heart of the 1990 Constitutions then the heart of this heart must be the phrase “…immolated totally in contemplation.” If only a few words could be used to describe or give insight into the Carmelite charism and vocation these would be they.
Led into the chapel, I found myself now inside the photographs I had only been able to look at before on the community’s website. It was all as I hoped and felt “right” to me. Despite the high ceiling and a bit of architectural detail, it was a classically Carmelite chapel and had a simplicity and austerity in which I thought Our Holy Mother Teresa would have been at home.
Standing at the back near the Lady Altar, Our Mother lead me in my first prostration in Carmel. Down on our knees, then bending over forward, face and hands to the floor, kissing it, then rising to our knees then back to our feet. Our Mother, at the time, was soon to be 85. I realized very quickly that she did not and does not have to try to “set a good example” for her daughters as she was and is a living example of a true Carmelite. In her too, I think Our Holy Mother would have found a very recognizable imprint of Carmel.”
The nuns in their choir for early morning mental prayer.
I will be leaving this blog up for any of you who have never seen all my posts – several on my visit to this Carmel and several stories of women who entered this Carmel as postulants and for any future newcomers to this blog who, with the grace of God, finds interest in Carmel, it’s saints and their writings and their vocation to Carmel. Of course, anyone can borrow any of the pictures I posted as they were either found on internet at other sites or my own (photos of my Carmel).
I will keep all of you who were so kind enough to send me donations and all of you who have followed my blog and have read it. I will pray for all your intentions and those of your family and friends. Please keep me in yours.
God bless and may we all meet at the feet of Christ and His Mother at the foot of the Cross and in Heaven, by the grace and mercy of God.