Well, it’s been a whole year since this picture was taken just moments after I had been received into Carmelite formation on 21st Feb 2015. For those of you new to the blog, I am not a nun! I am a secular (3rd order) Carmelite. We are ordinary men and women who live in the world, go to work, sometimes get married and raise families etc. The difference is that we all have the vocation of Carmelites – that is to say that we feel an unquenchable pull towards Carmel, towards the interior life with Christ.
There are 2 branches of Carmel today, the O’Carm’s which is the ancient observance, and the Discalced who were reformed by Teresa of Avila in the 1500’s. I am a Discalced Secular Carmelite.
A good friend of mine who was also a carmelite gave me a few words of advice on preparing to enter formation: “Hold on – you are about to experience the ride of your life!” I had no idea what she meant at the time. I do now 🙂
She wasn’t talking about some crazy lifestyle or mega exciting party season or other equally ‘exciting’ rubbish like that. No, she was talking about my interior life. You see, once you start taking steps into the interior life you very quickly realise how completely unprepared and totally inadequate you are. The more you learn about detachment, you realise how attached you are to everything. The closer you draw to God, you realise that your preconceived notions of Him are just ways of comforting yourself. My formation does not simply consist of following a syllabus of knowledge (although we do that too) but also is very much about observing our lived experience of Carmel. How is it affecting me? How am I changing? How is my relationship with Christ – and with those around me developing?
There is nothing fluffy about Carmel. But without a shadow of a doubt I can tell you that it is home for me. The more I get to know the members of the Carmelite community – whether they be on earth or in heaven, I find myself being able to relate in a way I never thought possible. I spent so many years not knowing what this feeling was within me, and not being able to share it with anyone.
I always had this nagging feeling I should have become a nun. But being married and having 3 kids kinda ruled that one out!! And besides, I was happy being a wife and a mother. So you can imagine my amazement when I discovered 2 years ago that it was possible to belong to Carmel as a secular!
I think the highlights of my first year would be:
1. Beginning to grasp the notion that we cannot divorce our relationship with Christ, and our relationship with each other. I still have trouble putting this into practice btw!
2. Understanding what it means to be under the protection of Our Lady of Mount Carmel: I quite often forget to put God in the first place in my life – even when I ponder/contemplate things in my heart. I often ponder things from my own perspective, favouring my own wants and desires, rather than pondering them from God’s perspective as Mary did.
3. Through my carmelite connections I got to read a bidding prayer at the Vatican during the canonization Mass of Louis and Zelie Martin (parents of St Therese of Lisieux) and then chatted to their living relatives afterwards!
I love being a Carmelite! I am home, and I am happy. And I am lucky to be part of such an amazing family.