The beauty of the contemplative life
By S.L. Hansen

.- At the Carmel of Jesus, Mary and Joseph in Valparaiso, Nebraska the Discalced Carmelite Sisters lead a life of prayer in the presence of Christ. Their beautiful lifestyle was begun by Saint Teresa of Avila, who, with the help of Saint John of the Cross, established the first order of Discalced Carmelites the 16th century.

The word “discalced” means “shoeless,” referring to the simple sandals the sisters wear as a sign of poverty and sacrifice. They live in cloister, separating themselves by living in a rural area. Metal grilles separate the Sisters from their visitors. There is no television, radio or other forms of media.

The Sisters wake early in time for their first formal prayer, Lauds, at 5 a.m. Altogether, they will have nine scheduled times of prayers, three holy hours before the Blessed Sacrament, Mass and the Rosary to help them stay focused on Christ. They also have time to read the Bible or other spiritual writings, and to study.

Even while they work, they are in prayer. As they perform household chores, care for the farm animals, make scapulars, etc., during their morning and afternoon work sessions, they work in silence so as not to disturb one another’s prayerful focus on the Lord.

Following the mid-day and evening meals, the Sisters enjoy an hour of recreation, during which they circle together for a lively chat while doing handiwork.

As they fill their days with prayers and sacrifices, these Carmelite Sisters are ultimately imitating Mary the Mother of God, who stood at the foot of the Cross, united to the saving sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Their diligent prayers for redemption are vital to the diocese.

While the Carmelite lifestyle is “counter-cultural” by today’s standards, Mother Teresa of Jesus, O.C.D., has found herself fielding quite a few letters from young women who are discerning potential vocations.

“It’s very extraordinary,” she admitted. “This is just what the young women want… solid and traditional.”

Msgr. Timothy Thorburn, chaplain of the Carmel of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, encourages parents to introduce their daughters to the concept of contemplative orders.

“We are all called to serve God, and this is a marvelous way to do it,” he reasoned.

He added that there is no need to pressure young people, though. “What I tell people is, ‘You don’t have to say yes now… just don’t say no.’ Consider it a possibility.”

Mother Teresa encourages the young women to write to the monastery if they feel the pull toward a contemplative life. She can recommend several books to help them understand the Carmelite vocation better. She also recommends that the young women seek guidance from a spiritual director.

As the discernment process continues, the young women are invited to visit and have a share in the Sisters’ lifestyle, so they can discover the excitement of contemplative prayer.

Any young woman who is considering such a vocation may write to Mother Teresa of Jesus, O.C.D. in care of the Carmel of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, 9300 Agnew Road, Valparaiso, NE 68065.

Printed with permission from the Southern Nebraska Register, newspaper from the Diocese of Lincoln.

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