Today I was received into Carmelite formation – and no, I did NOT just become a nun!

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Today I was received into Carmelite formation. Really – I couldn’t be happier! ūüôā It seems as if my whole life has lead me up to this point. Now I am part of a family where I will have the space and the resources to discover and develop a part of myself that has been screaming to get out for a very, very long time.

I have been asking people to pray for me on Facebook regarding this over the last few weeks and to my great amusement, there were quite  a large number of people who congratulated me on becoming a nun! This got even funnier when they realised I was married with 3 kids!

Let me explain…

In the Carmelite (ocds) order there are¬†the First Order – the friars (who are active/contemplative), the Second Order – the nuns (who are cloistered) and the Third Order (or ‘Seculars’)¬†–¬†laypeople who continue to live in the world, and can be married or single, and diocesan priests.¬†I am becoming a Third Order (secular) Carmelite.¬†¬†The seculars are fully part of the Order, taking similar promises to friars and nuns but related to their lives as lay people.

The first part of my formation lasts 1-2 years. At the end of this time I will make my First Promise. Then there is a second period of formation lasting 4-5 years. At the end of this time I will make my Final (life long) Promise. After this I will become a fully fledged Carmelite.

The charism (or spiritual focus) of the Carmelite Order is contemplation.¬†But a very important point is to understand that¬†Carmelites understand contemplation and action to be complementary, not contradictory.¬†This is a particularly important point to grasp because¬†I am living the Carmelite charism within my vocation as a wife and a mother. The two actually fit together hand in hand beautifully, and is perfectly described in the famous quote for Teresa of Avila “God is found among the pots and pans.”

The Carmelite Order is considered by the Church to be under the special protection of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and has a strong Marian devotion. ‘Our Lady of Mount Carmel’ is the title given to the Blessed Virgin Mary in her role as patroness of the Carmelite Order.

We wear the Brown Scapular (which is basically a tiny habit!)

We say the Divine Office morning, evening and night prayer.

We follow the rule of St Albert.

Some famous Carmelite saints you may have heard of are¬†Teresa of √Āvila,¬†Saint Th√©r√®se of Lisieux,¬†Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein), Saint John of the Cross,¬†St. Simon Stock¬†and many more…

It is a way of life. A spirituality focused on the interior life – prayer from the heart, relationship with God.

I am really just scratching the surface here! And lets not forget I’m just a beginner! But I hope this goes some way to explaining what I am doing in my life now and the fact that even though I have just been received into formation, I have not just become a nun!

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In my parish, no-one would really bat an eyelid if I never showed up for Mass again.

Following on from my last post…

I got my Divine Office morning and evening prayer book today. This is brand new to me and I am receiving instruction through my Carmelite group. Opposed to priests and religious, secular Carmelites are called to pray just the morning and evening parts of the Office, and night prayer if possible.

From what I have experienced of the Divine Office so far, I know i’m really gonna like it. I love the rhythm and flow of the left hand side saying the first part, and the right hand side saying the responses. I love the fact that Catholics all over the world, including the Pope will be saying the same prayers as I am saying everyday. That makes me feel much more included in the church than I ever have felt, actually.

To be honest I have always (and still do) feel like a nobody in the church. I’ll never be a priest, bishop or cardinal, I doubt i’ll ever be a nun. I don’t have a degree – I don’t even have any A levels. I don’t have a paid, or un-paid position in the church. I’m not in charge of anyone apart from my children. I have no authority whatsoever outside of my home. In my parish, no-one would really bat an eyelid if I never showed up for Mass again. I really am a nobody. A tiny violet, a little daisy in amongst the grand roses and lilies. Yet I have felt for some time that this is my greatest strength.

As I open it for the first time, the ribbon of my new (second hand) Divine Office – still in place from it’s previous owner, leads me to read this passage of scripture:

“To shame what is strong, God has chosen what the world counts weakness. He has chosen things low and contemptible, mere nothings, to overthrow the existing order. And so there is no place for human pride in the presence of God…” 1 Cor 1:27-29

What freedom I have to love God! In my nothingness and weakness I have nothing to gain and nothing to lose. I am a nobody, on fire with a love that God is using to confound the wise! May I always be a nobody,  who prays the same prayers as the priests, bishops and cardinals, to a God who ranks us in order of love.

Carmelite co-incidence? I don’t think so!

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Isn’t it funny when you begin seriously discerning your Carmelite vocation and you go on holiday, walk into a chemist and the chemists middle name is Carmel?!

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Or when an hour later you are at a farm and the farmer tells you that the big row of pine trees are are unique in this area because he had them all shipped in from Carmel in San Francisco?!

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And when you get home and a new ballet school opens up in the church hall where you are supposed to go for your first Carmelite meeting?!

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And when it happens to be Carmelite All Saint’s Day (Nov 14th) and you receive a surprise package in the post containing this: “Got this for you from the Carmel in Lisieux…”

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And then when it happens to be Carmelite All Soul’s Day (Nov 15th) and you get another surprise package (because you forgot you ordered it!) of the Divine Office morning and evening prayers.

I love co-incidences! I love the fact that I don’t believe any of these were co-incidences! I love being (almost) Carmelite!