In the solitary conversation of consecrated souls there are prepared those widely visible events of the church’s history that renew the face of the earth. The Virgin who kept every God-sent word in her heart is the pattern of those listening souls in whom the High-Priestly prayer of Jesus is forever renewed.
– Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, OCD (Edith Stein)
Each Carmelite nun is called to be our Lord’s bride and good friend, totally surrendered to God in a profound and complete “fiat!” — yes! that allows God to use her as an instrument to carry out His divine plan of salvation for all people. “Therese of Lisieux and Elizabeth of the Trinity understood the act of total surrender to the triune God as the highest possible form of engagement on behalf of the world’s salvation. They knew that this calling burrowed itself into hiddenness even as roots disappear into the ground. Above ground the visible church and her activity feed from these roots.” (von Balthasar)
The call to Carmel is a call to this hidden but powerful encounter with God. It is standing before God for all people and drawing them to His mercy and love. Every vocation is part of God’s plan and is always a personal call that God speaks to a person’s heart. First of all, one must discern the call to Carmel as a way of life for her. Some questions that might be helpful in the process of personal discernment are:
- Do I have a deep desire for intimate friendship and union with the Lord?
- Do I believe in the power and effectiveness of prayer as an apostolate in the service of God and of others? Am I willing to forego all forms of active ministry and give up seeing the ‘results’ of my work of prayer?
- Does my desire to deepen my friendship with Jesus Christ enable me to:
- Generously give myself to a life of sacrifice and self denial?
- Live a life of solitude and silence that is balanced with sisterly sharing in community?
- Generously and freely embrace a life of simplicity and poverty, chastity, and obedience to authority? Do I see these as means toward greater inner freedom?
- Live a cloistered life: a life lived apart from the world’s attractions? Can I live a life that has limits on personal contact with family and friends?
If you are inclined to respond affirmatively to these questions, God may be giving you a vocation to Carmel. At the time of personal discernment, it is always helpful to seek the advice and help of an experienced spiritual director to clarify the movements of your heart.
When one’s desires for consecrated life are strong and seek to find expression in a life lived in community, a discernment process involving both the inquirer and the community begin.