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 may 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)
To those who have made the decision to try this path we offer seven years in formation. During this formational period 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 in order 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 years of formation the process of commitment takes place in clearly defined stages that depend equally on the candidate’s own desire to go forward and the community’s consent.
A young woman who experiences an attraction to our way of life is encouraged first of all to contact the prioress. During this preliminary stage she will normally be invited to visit the monastery, staying in our guest hermitage, so that both sides can come to know one another better and have an opportunity to share the motives and desires that have led to this step. If it seems very possible that she may indeed be called by God to the Carmelite way of life in this community, the aspirant would then be invited to join us for a “Live In”. This would involve a longer stay with the community, inside the enclosure with the Sisters and living the daily Carmelite schedule along with us. After such a period of time, the young woman would then be invited to go back to her ordinary life to discern further whether God is calling her to enter as a postulant.
Those who wish to make a trial of the Carmelite vocation, and have been accepted by the community, are expected to spend a transition period, known as postulancy, of a minimum of one year before formally beginning the process of their formation.
From the beginning, a postulant follows the ordinary routine of Carmel by praying and working alongside the sisters. But she belongs to the novitiate group, guided spiritually by a Novice Director, who will introduce her to the Carmelite way of life and spirituality through weekly conferences. The postulancy lasts for a year and ends when she is ready to become a novice.
Formation itself begins from the moment of entry into the novitiate when the candidate is welcomed into the community as someone who sincerely desires to try our way of life for herself. This first stage is marked by her reception of the Carmelite habit as a Novice and lasts two years.
Novices participate fully in our community life while simultaneously receiving intellectual and spiritual preparation. They are accompanied by their Novice Director who is on hand to help and guide as necessary. She may also arrange for other members of the community to undertake courses and conferences relevant to an understanding of Carmelite history, its spirit and its saints.
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 five years, as an expression of her desire to dedicate herself wholly to God in Carmel once her formation period is at an end. At Quidenham we give the traditional white Carmelite mantle to the novice during the ceremony of first vows, as an outward sign of her deepening consecration.
Sisters who have made their first vows continue to receive accompaniment and a certain amount of 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. The vows that the Sister pronounced at her first profession are now repeated in a definitive sense in the presence of the people of God, who are its witnesses.
All the formation that precedes her final commitment will have been structured with this goal in view, and it will have sought to elucidate what her consecration means in the light of the candidate’s everyday experience.
After Solemn Profession the Sister is considered a full member of the community with all the rights and duties that this implies. She becomes a visible sign of the praying Church, wholly dedicated to Christ, called to pursue the path to ever fuller discipleship, following in the footsteps of Mary, our Mother and our guide.
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
11:45 Office of Sext
12:00 Lunch, followed by washing-up etc.
13:00 Siesta / silent free time / spiritual reading
14:50 Office of None
Tea / Coffee available throughout the afternoon.
Afternoon work period
16:15 Office of Vespers
16:45 Silent prayer
17:50 Office of Readings
20.15 Examen and Compline
Silent free time for taking a shower, reading in the cell, quiet prayer etc.