Welcome to the Website of the Discalced Carmelite Sisters of the Monastery of Our Lady and St. Joseph, informally known as Concord Carmel.
We are contemplative religious women called to live in the Presence of God and to pray for the needs of the Church and the world.
We seek to be formed as women of deep prayer who walk in friendship with Jesus Christ, learning to love God, serving God’s people in all their needs through our presence to them and our ministry of prayer. The roots of our way of life are ancient. In 1207, St. Albert of Jerusalem wrote a Rule of Life for a group of hermits who were living under obedience to “B” on Mount Carmel, near the spring that medieval pilgrims identified with the prophet Elijah because Mount Carmel was the site of Elijah’s triumph over the prophets of Baal (1 Kings). These early hermits revered Mary, contemplative, sister and mother. Albert prescribed that “B” and his hermits “live in allegiance to Jesus Christ and serve him faithfully from a pure heart and a good conscience.” From these beginnings grew a tradition of prayer and community that proclaims a prophetic witness to the loving presence of God, always active in our world. As part of the Carmelite family world-wide, we still take Elijah as our model and patron; it was Elijah who heard God in “the sound of sheer silence” and opposed human injustice. We are equally close to Mary, who pondered all the angel’s words to her and believed God’s promise of the Incarnation. Inspired both by Mary and Elijah, as well as by our Carmelite ancestors, we live our contemporary allegiance to Jesus Christ according to St. Albert’s Rule as revised by Pope Innocent IV in 1247.
We are also the spiritual daughters of St. Teresa of Avila, 16th-century mystic and foundress of the Discalced Carmelite Sisters.
St. Teresa intended her communities to be small but strong centers of prayer which would provide the sisters with sufficient silence and solitude to support their progress toward union with God. For St. Teresa, prayer began with friendship with Jesus: a friendship that deepened and deepened until it led her into the mystery of God’s love and life. With equal emphasis, however, St. Teresa stressed the importance of community life. As she says in The Way of Perfection, “all must be friends, all must be loved, all must be held dear, all must be helped.” Prayer supports our lives of service while our efforts to serve one another support our lives of prayer. The relationship between solitary prayer and community life is mutual; you cannot have one without the other. The sisters of Concord work to create a loving community which will help each member to grow in virtue and prayer. In attending to both prayer and loving service, we all experience the pain of overcoming a selfish resistance to Christ and to each other. This pain is not an evil; it is a normal part of the path of self-knowledge. As we persist, seeking God’s help and living in community every day, we find our hearts expanding to embrace each other as well as our neighbors, some of whom live close to us, here in Concord, and others far distant from us. We believe that our concrete efforts to grow in love constitute a channel for God’s own transforming love which is always creating, always redeeming our world.
Indeed, St. Teresa intended this growth.
Her sisters were to believe that Jesus was truly leading them through prayer and service to union with him and with his Father in the Holy Spirit. She encouraged the sisters to speak freely to Jesus Christ as to a friend. Yet she warned them not to devote all their prayer-time to personal and passing concerns. The sisters were to remember that the prayer of Carmel is a responsibility and a power for good, God’s mission to them. They were never to forget that the world around them, torn by the wars of religion in the sixteenth century, needed their prayers for courage and peace. “The world is all in flames,” she said; we must pray with the conviction that the Lord really uses our prayers, that he unites them to his own redemptive action in the world. Whatever our background and experience, then, we can be certain that Christ’s love knows no limits. As we place our trust in him, we will be freed from despair and self-centeredness to strengthen one another and to pray well for the needs of the world.
Here in Concord Carmel, we undergird our love and service with some practical structure. As Catholic religious women we make solemn vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. Although these vows can be understood easily according to common parlance, each one has hidden depths of meaning, revealed only as individual sisters and communities actually practice them in their lives. As a community, we meet to reflect on various aspects of our life, to plan our activities and raise practical issues of concern to all, and we gather regularly to share our experience of praying the Scriptures with one another. We invite our newcomers into this sharing. Each sister opens up a unique facet of the scriptural passage and enriches others with insights not yet thought of. We make a yearly two-week retreat as a community; the sisters also make private retreats during the year. Daily work and common meals teach us to know ourselves and others by experience; we discover our gifts and our limitations and offer both to one another and to God. Most important, we sustain one another silently, in prayer and by our quiet presence to one another. Times of silent prayer are solitary but they are not empty. As you pray quietly and listen for the guidance of the Lord, you can sense the support of all the other sisters, whose desire for union with God and service to God’s people form a common bond.