Monday, May 9, 2011


I have always had an affinity for the Carmelites.  I don't think I have shared this before, but I have vivid memories from my early childhood of speaking to a Carmelite nun who was standing on the steps of a convent. It was January and the kindly next-door neighbor had offered to take me for a walk to get me out of my mother's hair for awhile.  Sister wore a mantle.  I asked her if the convent was still decorated for Christmas and she told me that there were no decorations and there didn't need to be because Christ lived in the heart of the Sisters every day of the year.  Some years later I asked my mother about this and she said she couldn't imagine where this took place because there was no Carmelite convent or monastery within walking distance of our house.  I have since concluded that this was probably a dream that I could not distinguish from reality, but I do like the fact that it has stayed with me.

When I was in first grade, I was given a children's book about saints.  You probably already know which saint drew me closest.  The little book had an illustration of Carmelite nuns looking up to Heaven as a shower of roses fell on them.    Someone gave me a "holy card" that had a reverse or x-ray-type image of St. Therese on one side in black and white and a little prayer to her on the other.  The idea was that you would stare at the image for 30 seconds or so and then look at the wall, and it would seem as though St. Therese was appearing to you.  Child's play.  It occupied me for hours.

When, in my early twenties,  I secretly harbored the notion of joining a contemplative order, it was the Poor Clares, not the Carmelites, that I thought about.  It wasn't until years later, when I became a Catholic revert, that I again began to feel the gravitational pull of the Carmelites.  It seems that during the last five years, the subject of joining the secular Carmelites won't go away. A member of our local chapter has asked me twice to consider.  I keep finding invitations to join left for me in strategic places.    One of the reasons I have hesitated is because I have never been able to faithfully pray Morning and Evening prayer, though I've had no such issue with Compline.  Over Lent, I made a sincere effort to pray both and while I was never 100%, I managed with more regularity than I had previously.  The little voice in my head keeps saying: "OK, so what's your obstacle?"

I have a job where the expectation is that I will eat, sleep and live what I do for a living, but that is not my make up.  I do not wish to sound self-congratulatory, but the fact is that I happen to be very good at what I do, even though it does not define me.  I have no intention of letting my occupation take over my life.  I am not passionate about nursing administration.  I'm passionate about Christ and I'm passionate about saving souls for Him.  But the job I have now demands so much of my time and energy.  Would it be fair to the Carmelites or to Christ to start down this road if this is not the right time?  Would it be fair to my family to give up a job that brings us some financial security in such a shaky economy?  Does it reveal an appalling lack of trust in Christ to even worry about my job when there are others out there that would allow me to devote myself to the Carmelite rule?

This is something I am going to seriously pray  about and try to discern over the coming months.  Perhaps some of you who have made the commitment to a tertiary order can add your thoughts.  What drew you to a third order?  What obstacles did you envision?  What did you do to overcome those obstacles?  How long did you spend discerning?  How difficult is it for you to be faithful to your rule?

I would be enormously grateful if you would share.



  1. I will certainly pray for your discernment. I didn't even know there was such thing as a tertiary order.

  2. Joyce~not sure what length of time it took me to was over 10 yrs. ago. I think my main obstacle at the time was convincing my *then husband* that I was not becoming a nun. I just gave him as much info as possible. The first thing I recommend to anyone discerning the Carmelites is Father Deeny's Book *Welcome to the Secular Order of Discalced Carmelites*...he covers many topics in there and it is a great aid in discernment. There are many members in the Carmelites with a variety of backgrounds...some work full-time, some are doctors or professors, some are full-time moms at home, or retired widows. The reality is if God is calling you to this vocation, He will give you the graces. I was raising young children when I entered...and I was able to weave the Carmelite vocation into my vocation as wife and mother. Sometimes you can catch me stirring a pot while praying Evening Prayer or pulling up Divine at work to pray when time allows. We do the best we can...we are human...we will not be able to pray the LOH faithfully every single solitary happens!! But for the most has become a beautiful sacred part of my ordinary daily life. There is time to discern even upon entering Aspirancy (which is the whole point) so there is no need to fret about a life and death decision right now. If you are led...go...and God will reveal your path to you. You are in my prayers. (PS...I know you are closer to South Philly but we would love to have you as well--teehee...).

  3. Thank you Theresa, I appreciate your candor. I will most definitely look for Fr. Deeny's book, I'm sure it will be a great help. I don't want to rush into anything but the little voice urging me to do this is getting louder. Thank you for your prayers, and Mary Christine, thank you for yours.

  4. Joyce- I've only been reading your blog a short time, but if one thing comes across clear about you, it's that you have a deep passion for the Lord. It's a real gift.
    I came to the Benedictine oblates much like you ..with this constant pull that couldn't be quenched. Any other hunger, paled in comparison..and when I finally began the process which for me was about 3
    1/2 years, I knew I was home. I don't pray everything perfect every day..I trust that-- as one of the brothers told me, my monastery is the walls of my heart. We do the best we can living the call in the vocation we are in.
    Carmelite mom says it beautiful..If you are led...go.
    I've read enough of your writing to believe...
    you know He will make the way for you and give you whatever graces you need to make changes if they are necessary.
    I am praying for you with all my heart.
    Blessings and +PAX

  5. Thank you Caroline. In one of my first Saturday meditations, I let St. Therese do the talking about the Gospel mystery of finding the Christ Child in the temple. St. Therese said that Jesus wanted His holy Mother "to be the example of the soul searching for Him in the night." That pretty much sums up my mission, although I certainly cannot fulfill it as perfectly as Mary did. I'm still compelled to try. I suspect you feel the same way. Thank so much for sharing and the gifts that you impart on your blog.

  6. Joyce, I have been an OCDS for about 15 years. I think you can discern up to a point, but then really just have to test your vocation by taking the plunge. As someone else mentioned, once you join a community, you have plenty of time to decide. It takes at least six years to get to your Definitive Promise. You will be evaluating all along the way, and will have the input of your formation directors. Before your First Promise (after 3 years), the Community's Council will interview you and help you decide if you wish to continue, and they do the same again before your Definitive Promise.

    I think I struggle now more than I did in the early years, to live my vocation. A wise and holy spiritual director once told me that it is the "work of a lifetime," so we shouldn't be surprised at how often we fail.

    I am just getting to know you through your blog, but you sound like a wonderful candidate to me, and someone who has much to offer others. I found a link for you to the text of Father Deeney's talk on how to discern a vocation to the Secular Discalced Carmelites. It's excellent. Hope this helps!

  7. The Marriage of True Minds: An Uncommon Love Story @

    You must read this story. It is remarkable. My father went to Georgetown Prep, as did all of my brothers. This is the connection. We used to pick up Brother Alfredo and drive him to the caremlite convent in Baltimore so that Brother Alfredo could visit his wife Sister Beatrice! They were married and then entered the Jesuits and Carmelites with dispensation from the Pope. Decades later I encountered a woman, while in the hospital, who turned out to have known Beatrice. She was at the Baltimore Carmel and left Carmel. I have a photo of the two of them in their later years. They look like newlyweds in love.

  8. Patricia, I do not know why, but your comment originally wound up in the spam box. That's the first time that ever happened, so I apologize for the delay in publishing your comment. I suppose perhaps the same might be true for Carmelite sisters and priests, or any priest or religious for that matter, that their vocations are life-long work. Thank you for such excellent advice.

    Maria, I will have to check that story out, thanks.

  9. Hi,

    I have been in Carmelite formation for 8 months. I converted to Catholicism a year ago after being a life long Protestant. I always knew I was called to a life of prayer, I just did not know how it would take shape until now. I am far from perfect at this new life I am embracing, but the way I have come to think of it is that I am going to be a Carmelite who rolls with the punches and keeps navegating through the darkness. This calling it so intertwined with who I really am that the question I now ask myself is "What would I honestly do if I was not becoming a Carmelite?" I just can't imagine not doing this. I plan to continue no matter how hard it gets, how distracting life is, and how weak I feel many days. What a beautiful irresistible calling this prayers are with you as you continue to discern what to do. I know you will have total clarity about your decision given to you by the Holy Spirit.



  10. Thank you Beth for your beautiful and helpful reflection and for stopping by TLW.

  11. I love that you are a faithful Catholic in the hospital setting! What a blessing for anyone entering those doors, to have your prayers and offerings and saintly recourses....How refreshing it is to have stumbled upon your page! As for your discernment, I can only say that I will offer the Divine Mercy chaplet for you. These prayers because of the providential message the Little Flower received through the Pranzini repentance -- mercy. He was a sick man in need of intercession. You deal with those in need everyday as well...I will ask St. Faustina to pray it with me, in case my mind wanders....... ;) Again, thank you and may God continue to bless your return home....

  12. Anonymous
    Thank you for stopping by, for your kind words and for your prayers. Thank you also for the reminder about the Pranzini repentance. He was, after all, St. Therese's "first child".k
    God Bless you

  13. oops, don't know how that "k" got in there!


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