Therese pf Lisieux

 

Sr Marias Apples

My journey to Carmel has taken a little longer than most. I have no ‘Damascus’ experience to share – just a personal story of a gentle call within a call.

I was ten years old when a visit from my cousins Aileen,  Mai and Kitty, (all in religious life), made a lasting impression on me. I did not know it at the time, but it was then that the seed of my vocation was sown. Some seeds take longer to geminate than others! My loving home and parents provided a fertile climate in which this could happen.

My time in Secondary school, with the Ursuline Sisters, was very happy. I often dreamed of teaching Home Economics, my favourite subject, on the Missions. I really enjoyed life and an attraction to the Ursuline life grew; a way which recognised the uniqueness of each person in the school and provided an all round education while imparting Christian values.

 

My dream to teach was realized when I became an Ursuline Sister. I had the joy of working with young people, firstly on the banks of the Suir then at the foot of the Brecon Beacons in Wales, and Ngong Hills in Nairobi and also in the barren desert of Turkana.

One day, at the end of the first term of school, I was on retreat. During Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament the words ‘Contemplative Life’ came to me. For months later they kept echoing in my mind, like the words of a favourite song. What were they saying to me, was it a message?

At the end of a full day in the classroom and boarding school I felt a desire for a deeper relationship with God through prayer. Despite serving Him happily in my present life-style was God asking me to give myself totally to Him in a life of prayer?

With the guidance of a spiritual director, who introduced me to Carmel, I discerned for two years. During this time, and whenever I visited the Monastery, the attraction to the contemplative way of life became stronger.

I came for two weeks to experience the daily rhythm of monastic life lived in community. I encountered a warm, friendly, family atmosphere in the community and felt very much at home. There was a good balance between prayer, work and recreation. The beautiful landscaped grounds were inspiring.

There was a battle within my heart. I felt deeply drawn to this way of life but at the same time I did not want it. However, nothing could deaden the persistence of God’s call and I came to realise that those very happy years as an Ursuline sister were really preparing me for Carmel.

How is life in Carmel?

Carmel, far from stifling my life, offers great scope to develop and/or discover ones talents, which can enrich daily community life.

We seek to enter into a relationship with our Friend Jesus. For this friendship to grow, we live as hermits in community. This provides one with the space and silence to hear God. We listen to Him and the words of Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity echo in our hearts. “Let yourself be loved.”

We spend much of the day praying the scriptures, which helps us to come to know Jesus and ourselves and has a life changing effect. Carmel has no boundaries so we can reach out in love and compassion to the deep hidden places of pain and need in our world. Joyously we share life together.

I am often asked what I found most difficult when I came to Carmel. There were ten sisters living in community from different backgrounds varying in age and character. They didn’t pose any problem! But, there were also Sheba, Cleo and Bruno, the extended ‘family’ of this community, who really tried my vocation. I couldn’t respond to the welcome wagging of their tails, you could say there was a personality clash! Did I really notice God’s creatures during the live-in-experience? As time moved on and the coping skills were put in motion, we became best of pals – “All creatures great and small praise the Lord”! The Carmelite journey is well worth making. Through it we learn to see things from God’s point of view and then everything becomes a grace, from ‘wagging tails’ to starry skies and from washing dishes to praying the scriptures.

If you feel you may have a vocation to Carmel please contact us at info [at] roebuckcarmel.com