The Vocation to Carmel & Discerning the Call
Each vocation or call is part of God’s plan and contributes to the work of Christ in a particular way. Our call is lived out in a small community where prayer gives meaning to our relationships, study, work, and leisure. In turn, all these activities both feed our prayer and flow from our prayer. Solitary prayer is the primary expression of our eremitical roots; the Eucharist is the center of our community. Through the Eucharist we are united with Christ and linked to all other Christian communities. The Liturgy of the Hours extends our worship and helps us to pray with the whole church for the whole church and for the whole world. This prayer forms the main thrust of our contribution to the work of Christ.
Although we do not always or even often see the results of our prayer, we do embrace Christ’s assurance that “Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (Matt 18:20). It is the presence of Christ that is truly transformative, and we can see evidence of Christ’s presence in our relationships with others.
The Process of Entrance
First there is a period of mutual acquaintance in which a person visits the monastery for short periods of time, getting to know the sisters and sharing increasingly in the community’s prayer, work, and leisure. Eventually, together with the Prioress and the Vocation Director, she will arrange for a “live-in,” a more lengthy stay, ideally three months. During this stay, she participates more fully in all the life of the community and continues to discern her sense of call with the help of the sisters. At the end of the live-in, she returns home while she and the sisters evaluate her experience. She may decide at this point to apply for entrance to the community.
Entrance and Initial Formation
Initial formation takes place in the monastery. The stages are the postulancy, the novitiate, and temporary vows. During the postulancy, the candidate remains financially independent but lives at the monastery and begins her integration into the community. She is introduced to the many aspects of community life and to solitary prayer and silence. She continues her discernment, meeting regularly with her Formators and with the Prioress. She also participates in the New England Carmelite Inter-community Novitiate, an educational program shared with two other Carmels. This introductory time generally lasts for a year. The Novitiate marks the candidate’s formal entrance into the community. She ceases to be financially independent, and she is increasingly integrated into the community. Her education continues, and her prayer deepens.