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Living Prayer in the Heart of the Church

February 22, 2018

The Discalced Carmelite Nuns of Flemington are a community of cloistered, contemplative religious under solemn vows. By their style and way of life in the Carmel of Mary Immaculate and St. Mary Magdalen, they express their call to follow Our Lord ever more closely in silence and solitude.

The Blessed Virgin Mary is mother and patroness of the Carmelite Order; hence they place themselves in her safekeeping, and look to her lifelong union with her Son as an ideal model of faithfully lived consecration.

Prayer, both communal and solitary, is the center of their life. Scripture calls the faithful to pray always, to seek God in all that they do. The Carmelite life is based on living this Divine request. The Mass is the highlight of each day; Our Lord’s abiding Presence draws every other activity into a continual sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving.

Two hours each day are given to personal quiet prayer in the Choir. St. Teresa of Avila, Mother and Foundress of the Discalced Carmelite Order, describes prayer as “conversation with Christ.” The loving relationship with Jesus which develops in this way, gradually comes to pervade the whole day. This is what a Carmelite is meant to be ― living prayer in the Heart of the Church.

At specific times during the day the Liturgy of the Hours is recited by the community. Participation in this great prayer of the Church with its cycle of Psalms is a powerful expression of the needs and longing of all humanity, and implores God’s mercy and peace for the world.

Carmelites offer their whole lives as a most ardent prayer for the Church. As they grow in their voca- tion, Carmelites become increasingly filled with God’s presence — a presence which, though hidden, is extended throughout the world. Bringing joy, love, and gratitude to each daily task, they entreat God to pour out His mercy and renew the face of the earth.

Manual work has always been an important part of monastic life. It is an authentic witness to the vow of poverty and provides a healthy balance for an intense spiritual life. All share in the common household and gardening tasks, as well as in the work by which they help to support themselves (including printing, sewing and various forms of handcrafts).

Carmelite monasteries are independent so each community develops its own family spirit. The Flemington Carmel chooses to maintain strict enclosure, wear the full habit as a sign of poverty and consecration to God, and preserves many of the traditional monastic observances. The lifestyle is simple and austere, but not excessively so. Two daily hours of recreation enrich and enliven community living. St. Teresa said: “Lord, deliver us from gloomy saints!”

St. Teresa, the first woman Doctor of the Church, wrote Constitutions that have led many to great holiness. Discerning a vocation to the cloistered, contemplative life begins with an attentiveness to the Holy Spirit, followed by a journey of prayerful discovery. Seeking guidance from someone who knows authentic Carmelite life, reading the lives of Carmelite saints and deepening a commitment to prayer, are good ways to begin. The formation program includes postulancy, two years of novitiate, and at least three years in temporary vows before solemn profession.

The life of Carmelite nuns is not lived for all the world to see. For those who believe that they are called to this life, the moment comes when they must enter into this hiddenness and discover if it is truly God’s will for them. To seek the face of God was the lifelong desire of St. Teresa. From her youth, Teresa dreamt of setting to be martyred by the Moors, because that was the quickest way to see God. On her death bed, she cried out, “O my Bridegroom, my Master! At last the longed-for hour has come! Now it is time for us to see one another!” She desired nothing more than to achieve this end and to help others to do the same.

For more information contact: Discalced Carmelite Nuns 26 Harmony School Road Flemington, NJ 08822

Editor's Note: This story is used courtesy of The Institute for Religious Life.

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