Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Journey to Carmel

Several people have asked me about my spiritual journey and how I got involved in Carmel. In 1986 I had just received my Master's degree from SUNY Albany when I visited the cloistered Carmelite nuns in Schenectady, NY. I was fascinated with their austere, radical way of living the Gospel. I began reading the works of the Carmelite saints and going to daily Mass. However, there was also someone I wanted to marry, but I was not sure about him. So I prayed for guidance.

Every day after 8 am Mass at St. John's in Frederick, Maryland I would stay after and pray and I noticed one other lady who did the same. One day, the lady came up to me and introduced herself. Her name was Mrs. Quinn and she had eight children. I told her about my interest in Carmel and my discernment struggles. She told me that she and her husband were both "Third Order Carmelites" and she invited me to attend a meeting with them in Baltimore some Sunday. I loved the community and joined it.

The Third Order or Secular Discalced Carmelites are composed of lay people who make promises of poverty, chastity and obedience according to their state in life. They can be married but try to live the Carmelite charism of prayer in the world, in the spirit of the Holy Mother St. Teresa of Jesus. They commit themselves to saying parts of the Divine Office, including Morning and Evening prayer, as well as spiritual reading and at least a half an hour of mental prayer a day. Daily Mass is also encouraged, and devotion to Our Lady. Monthly meetings are required and an intensive formation period, too. There are certain days of fast, such as the vigils of some Carmelite feasts. The "habit" of Teresian Carmelites is the small brown scapular which symbolizes consecration to the Mother of God. Carmel is "Mary's order."

Being a tertiary has been a great mercy to me, for it has given a discipline and compass to my spiritual life. I have received much help, guidance and support over the years from my brothers and sisters in Carmel. It is a challenging but joyful vocation, of which no one is worthy, for like any vocation it is a gift from God.

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