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Life in Carmel

Much like the life of the Holy Family in Nazareth, a rhythm of prayer and work, in solitude and community, characterizes the life of a Carmelite nun.

We, the Discalced Carmelites in Erie, Pennsylvania, begin our day with the Angelus and the Morning Prayer of the Liturgy of the Hours at 6 a.m. Throughout the day, we pray together the Divine Office. An hour of silent, personal prayer follows before another part of the Office and the celebration of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass at 8 a.m. As other contemplatives, Carmelites represent Christ “contemplating on the mountain.” As the oldest order dedicated to Our Lady, Carmelites imitate Our Lord in His love for His Blessed Mother. After all, other than Jesus, who loved Our Lady more than Saint Joseph?

After a light breakfast, we begin our daily work—usually in solitude—doing all in the presence of God and for His love. We cook, wash, iron, clean, garden, sew, make rosaries, do the bookkeeping, attend to the sacristy and turn. The modest exterior of the monastery conceals 10-11 acres of woodland which we walk and work in good weather. Maintenance jobs are never lacking and community correspondence is faithfully answered. Each nun is assigned tasks in keeping with her abilities (although an unexpected challenge can draw out unsuspected talent!).

Before noon, we gather again for the Office. We have our main meal at midday, normally eaten in silence while listening to readings or audio recordings of spiritual books or conferences. According to the rule, we observe the traditional monastic fast from September 14 until Easter, and we perpetually abstain from meat. Our meals are simple, but well-prepared and nourishing.

The Carmelites in Erie follow the Primitive Rule of St. Albert and the Constitutions of St. Teresa of Avila (1990). Papal enclosure is observed, creating an “oasis of prayer” to help us attain our distinctive apostolate: To seek the fullness of Divine intimacy on behalf of the Church by praying and sacrificing especially for her priests.

We continue our work in the afternoon, stopping for another part of the Office and a time of spiritual reading. Each nun reads alone in her cell from Scripture, the Carmelite saints, and other sources which help each one foster and deepen her life in prayer. At 4:40 p.m., the community meets in choir once again for Evening Prayer of the Liturgy of the Hours, which is followed by another hour of silent prayer.

A light supper is taken at 6 p.m. and after clean-up, we come together for an hour of recreation. A time of informal conversation follows, noted for its laughter and the Christian joy that is a fruit of the Holy Spirit. We also customarily do some hand work, such as sewing, while we converse. On Sundays and Solemnities, our recreation has a more festive tone in the spirit of holy Mother St. Teresa of Avila.

Compline, the beautiful Night Prayer of the Office, brings the liturgical day to a close, and a time of “Great Silence” begins. At 9 p.m. we pray the Office of Readings, anticipating the coming day in the ancient monastic tradition. Throughout the night and day, our every act and whole being is consecrated to God by the vows of obedience, chastity, and poverty, so that all becomes a praise of the glory of God and service of His Church.

Our chapel remains open to the public throughout the day. All are welcome to join us for daily Mass or quiet prayer. Like Saint Joseph, to whom Saint Teresa had great devotion, we remain in hidden love service to Jesus and Mary, and carry on the work and traditions of the great Carmelite saints. The latest of these saints raised to the altars are St. Mariam of Jesus Crucified, O.C.D., (canonized May 17, 2015) and soon-to-be St. Elizabeth of the Trinity (fall 2016).

St. Mariam of
Jesus Crucified, O.C.D.

St. Mariam of Jesus Crucified, O.C.D. (Mariam Baouardy) was born in Abellin in the Holy Land on January 5, 1846. She was of Greek-Melchite Catholic family. An orphan at the age of two, she spent a very difficult childhood in Palestine, Egypt, Lebanon and France. Finally, in 1867, she entered the convent of the Discalced Carmelite Nuns at Pau in the foothills of the Pyrenees, as a lay sister. Co-Foundress of the Carmel in Mangalore, India, in 1870 (it was there she made her religious profession Nov. 21, 1871) and of the Bethlehem Carmel (1875), she died in the latter convent on Aug. 26, 1878. In her humility and simplicity she had a special gift of sharing in the mysteries of Jesus, of understanding the mission of the Holy Spirit, and of a deep love for the Church and for the Pope. At all times and in all places she made her life a gift of joy and peace. She was beatified by Pope John Paul II on Nov. 13, 1983 and has become a sign of blessing and hope for the peoples of the Middle East whom she represents so well.



St. Elizabeth of the Trinity

St. Elizabeth of the Trinity (Elizabeth Catez) was born July 18, 1880 near Bourges, France. In 1901, she entered the Discalced Carmelite Monastery of Dijon. Her life of prayer, her practice of the virtues, and her lively faith enabled her "to find her heaven on earth" in the loving presence of the Trinity in her soul with whom she sought ever to remain united in adoration. She wished to be "conformed to Jesus Crucified" in order to become the "Praise of Glory" of the Trinity. She died Nov. 9, 1906, after exclaiming, "I go to light, to love, and to life." Pope John Paul II, who reveres her as one of his best teachers in the spiritual life, beatified her Nov. 25, 1984, Solemnity of Christ the King.