Vocation to religious life is a gift from God that may emerge gradually in the context of one’s journey of faith. We are always happy to hear from women exploring this possibility and who wish to find out more. You might choose to spend a short time here first as a retreatant to get the ‘feel’ of the place or, if it seems appropriate, we may invite you to spend a few days monastic experience inside the enclosure with the community without implying any kind of commitment on either side. We are pleased to give young women who are seriously interested in the contemplative life an opportunity to experience at first hand what life in Carmel involves: its work and prayer and the type of formation we offer.
The Church needs people who pray,
who are willing to remain on the mountain top
to be struck by the light of the Word of God
and who will, from their illumination,
send light and grace over the whole Church.
(Pope Paul VI)
We recognize that a deep sense of vocation is something that may evolve over many years and take time to assimilate. To those who have made the decision to try this path we offer five years in formation during which great care is taken to assist the candidate in her discernment and provide her with the theological and scriptural, spiritual and human input she needs to grow in understanding both of herself and of what God may be asking of her. Importantly, we look for a mature adjustment to our way of life during this formational period so that the moment of final commitment may be one of real choice on the candidate’s part. The great reformer of our Order, Saint Teresa of Avila, described our life as “a very happy one” and we, too, look for this growing appreciation, stability and happiness in those who join us.
THE STAGES OF FORMATION
During the five years of formation the process of commitment takes place in four, clearly defined stages which depend equally on the candidate’s own desire to go forward and the community’s consent.
Those who wish to make a trial of the Carmelite vocation and have been accepted by the community are usually expected to spend a transition period, known as postulancy, of at least six months before beginning this process. This is to enable them to make the necessary adjustments, to get to know the Sisters and acquire a clearer understanding of what is involved. At this stage they may, of course, leave at any time if it should prove that their real vocation lies elewhere.
Formation proper begins from the moment of entry into the novitiate when the candidate is formally welcomed into the community as someone who sincerely desires to try our way of life for herself. This first stage is marked by the reception of the Carmelite habit as a Novice and usually lasts about two years. Novices participate fully in community life while simultaneously receiving intellectual and spiritual preparation. They are accompanied by one of the Sisters who has been appointed as their Novice Director and who is on hand to help and guide as necessary. She also arranges for other members of the community to undertake courses and conferences relevant to an understanding of Carmelite history, its spirit and its saints.
The immediate goal for the Novice is the formal commitment of herself to God in the Carmelite way of life of our community for an initial, three-year period. A Novice who freely chooses to go forward, and whom the community judges to be ready, undertakes to make Simple Profession. This means that she makes promises of poverty, chastity and obedience, valid for three years, as an expression of her desire to dedicate herself wholly to God in Carmel once the formation period is at an end. Sisters who have made their first vows continue to receive accompaniment and a certain amount of formal instruction, but the primary aim at this stage is for them to begin to exercise a more responsible role in the community and to show that they are committed to living in Carmel as women of prayer.
The ultimate goal of formation is the making of a total life-commitment, recognized and solemnly consecrated by the Church. All the formation that precedes this final commitment will have been structured with this goal in view and will have sought to elucidate it in the light of the candidate’s everyday experience.
Please contact us if you are would like to know more.
THE COMMUNITY TIMETABLE
5:30 Rise (Tea / Coffee available)
6:00 Office of Lauds
6:30 Silent prayer
7:30 Office of Terce
Morning work period
11:30 Office of Sext
11:45 Lunch, followed by washing-up etc.
13:00 Siesta / silent free time
13:45 Office of None
14:00 Spiritual Reading
14:45 Tea / Coffee in the refectory
Afternoon work period
16:30 Office of Vespers
17:00 Silent prayer
18:50 Community recreation
19:45 Office of Readings
Silent free time for taking a shower, reading in the cell, quiet prayer etc.
21:30 Office of Compline
(Lights out by 22:15)