The Mystery Hidden Behind the Carmelite Grille
The main apostolate and charism of the Discalced Carmelite nuns is to be ardently united to Jesus Christ by love
“In the heart of the Church, my Mother, I will be Love!” —St. Thérèse of Lisieux
Behind the cast-iron grilles and beautiful, solemn, reverent chapels of Carmelite cloisters all over the world lies a mystery — a mystery of divine faith, ardent love and unfailing hope.
“When I was 12 years old, I read a children’s book on the life of St. Thérèse of Lisieux and I was so taken by her passionate love for Jesus and how she gave herself to him in Carmel at such a young age,” says a young solemn-professed nun from Pleasant Mount Carmel in the Diocese of Scranton. “From that moment, I felt a similar desire in my heart to love him intensely and wanted to give myself only to Jesus, as his spouse.”
Three months later, she attended a Mass to foster vocations, and realized the beauty of her calling from God in an intimate way.
“I was so excited!” she says. “At that Mass, I received the grace to be totally confirmed in my vocation, and I knew from that day forward that I would be a Carmelite. I wanted to give up everything and belong totally to God.”
After begging her mother to visit a Carmel, she was overjoyed to discover one in Brooklyn, New York.
“I wanted to enter a Carmel that was strict, traditional and faithful to its Carmelite charism,” she explains. “One day, at a Eucharistic Congress at our parish, I heard about a new Carmel that had just opened, so we went to visit. When the curtain in the speak room was opened, and I saw all the young faces of the sisters behind the double grille, I thought I was in Heaven.”
With an open heart, she surrendered her entire life to Christ, trusting him to lead her the whole way home to Carmel.
“It was everything that I could have wanted!” she says. “I entered there a week after my 17th birthday. I wanted to give myself to Jesus in the springtime of youth. The prioress had told me, ‘Don’t give God your old bones; give him the best years of your life!’ After entering Carmel, I have been so happy here, with a solid conviction of my vocation and identity as a Carmelite, which I have retained to this very day, by the grace of God. I have truly seen that ‘God grants all our desires,’ just as St. Thérèse said.”
Now, after years in Carmel, she appreciates the spiritual maternity, which is fully integrated into her vocation.
“As a mother of souls, I feel rewarded the same way a mother feels when she loves and nurtures her children, giving herself selflessly, and she doesn’t do it for a reward, but simply out of love,” she says. “Also, because through our contemplative life, we are called to be ‘love in the heart of the Church.’ Since love is what makes all of the Church’s members act, as St. Thérèse said so beautifully, I can aid all souls in every walk of life by living intensely a life of love.”
The Carmelite Charism
Sister’s story is an inspiring, compelling testimony of the breathtaking wonder of the Carmelite vocation.
“As a Carmelite, you can be everything — both a contemplative and a missionary; by charity, you can embrace the whole world without going anywhere,” remarks Mother Ana Maria of the Child Jesus, superior of the Monastery of Our Lady of Mount Carmel and St. Joseph in the Diocese of Scranton. “In this way, we can help the Church, for as our holy mother St. Teresa of Ávila says, ‘Although enclosed, we fight!’”
The main apostolate and charism of the Discalced Carmelite nuns is to be ardently united to Jesus Christ by love, and from this union, a hidden apostolic fruitfulness overflows from the secret recesses of Carmel into the life of the entire Church.
“By living the evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity and obedience, as perfectly as possible, we assist the preachers and theologians who are fighting in the front lines in the battle for souls,” Mother Ana Maria explains. “Carmelites strive to live a hidden life of solitude, silence, prayer, manual labor, penance and fraternal charity, embracing the evangelical counsels and desiring to be united to Our Lord Jesus Christ in all things. The enclosure wall and the grilles all help to create a desert, both exteriorly and interiorly.”
Brooklyn Carmel Relocates
Earlier this year, the Carmelite nuns from the Monastery of Our Lady of Mount Carmel and St. Joseph relocated from Brooklyn to a temporary location near Clarks Summit, Pennsylvania. They have plans to build a new monastery on land in Pleasant Mount in Wayne County. The focal point of the monastery will be the chapel.
“While Our Holy Mother St. Teresa wanted her Carmels to maintain an interior austerity and poverty, she permitted the chapels to be large and beautifully adorned as befitting the King of Kings, in honor of Our Lord’s Real Presence in the Blessed Sacrament,” Mother Ana Maria says. “This is reflected in the design of the chapel of the new monastery — which follows Renaissance, early Baroque and Carmelite architecture — as well as in the arrangement of the chapel for the Traditional Liturgy.”
The nuns have several priests of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter meeting their spiritual needs.
“All of the priests from the Fraternity have excellent liturgical and theological training,” Mother Ana Maria says. “We experience countless blessings by having them offer Holy Mass for us. The beautiful liturgy of the Traditional Latin Mass and their homilies have really helped us grow in the knowledge of our Catholic Faith, as well as in our devotional lives.”
Each day, the Carmelites of Pleasant Mount are deeply grateful to partake in the Traditional Latin Mass, the recitation of the Traditional Divine Office, the recitation of the Holy Rosary in community, personal spiritual reading, refectory reading, and two hours of mental prayer.
“These practices are a constant wellspring of graces and afford much material for meditating on the Scriptures throughout the whole of our day,” Mother Ana Maria says. “How could we not be joyful when we live so close to Love itself, in the Blessed Sacrament? Further, we also have a great devotion to the Holy Face of Jesus, which is a powerful means of making reparation to Our Lord and obtaining graces for souls, through the merits of Our Lord’s Holy Face.”
Baking Communion hosts is a main work of their community. In recent years, they have baked around 6 million hosts annually and sent them to about 250 parishes all over the country.
To those young women who may be discerning a call to the Carmelite vocation, Mother Ana Maria has some helpful words of wisdom to share:
I advise them to dedicate more time to prayer, find a spiritual director who will help them discern God’s will in their lives, read the writings of Carmelite saints or books about Carmelite spirituality, go to Holy Mass as much as possible, and foster devotion to Our Blessed Mother. If a woman feels an attraction to Carmel and especially to our community in particular, it would be good for her to visit our Carmel.
Donations for the stunning new monastery that the sisters are building are very much needed at this time.
“Helping to found a monastery is a true investment that will always yield interest, and for all of eternity!” Mother Ana Maria says.
Young women who are interested in the Carmel of Pleasant Mount may contact Mother Ana Maria by writing:
Mother Ana Maria of the Child Jesus, OCD 1755 Great Bend Turnpike Pleasant Mount, PA, 18453