A continuation of the Register's series celebrating the Year for Consecrated Life. See more stories here. In lieu of individual vocations stories for the Year for Consecrated Life, the Carmelite Sisters of the Carmel of Jesus, Mary and Joseph in Agnew submitted a description of their day-to-day life.
4:30 a.m. The day begins with the sounding of the traditional “clappers” and call to prayer, dating from the time of St. Teresa herself.
5:00 a.m. A Sister intones the “Deus in adjutorium meum intende” (O God, come to my assistance) which begins Lauds, the first hour of the Divine Office. The Breviary of the ancient Carmelite Rite, from which the Sisters pray their Office, is the same as used by St. Teresa herself.
5:30 a.m. An hour of silent prayer before the Blessed Sacrament follows Lauds. This is a most special hour for the Carmelite. “However softly we speak, He is near enough to hear us,” says St. Teresa.
6:40 a.m. After the hour of prayer, the Nuns don their white mantles and make their preparation for the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass which begins at 7 a.m. This is the most important time of the Carmelite day. The mantle symbolizes that purity with which the Carmelite wishes to adorn her soul out of love for Jesus Christ her Divine Spouse. Mass is then followed by a Thanksgiving after Communion, the Hour of Terce, and a small breakfast.
9:00 a.m. The rest of the morning is taken up with various household tasks. Many of our friends or family members ask us, “But what do you do all day?” And the Nuns want to say, “You would never believe all that gets done!”
First, there are usual household tasks of cooking and cleaning. There are many sewing jobs. All the habits, mantles and veils are made at the Monastery. Some Sisters make vestments or embroidery. The novices spend much of their time making scapulars. One nun is in charge of the Sacristy with its daily duties. Another will answer the Turn when one of our friends brings gifts of food to the Sisters or when someone wishes to speak to the Sister, perhaps to confide a very urgent intention. Much time and care is spent in answering letters, asking for the prayers of the community. Then there are the cows, chickens and the garden work and bread-making ....
10:40 a.m. Another bell is rung and the community gathers in the Choir once again. The Hour of Sext is chanted and an examination of conscience made before all the nuns process to the refectory (monastic dining-room) reciting the “De Profundis.”
11:00 a.m. In the refectory, there is a Latin quotation lettered on the wall which translates: “Go to the table as to the Cross and the Cross as to the table.” The monastic meals take place in silence while from the pulpit a Sister reads aloud Holy Scripture or some other spiritual book. It is ever a reminder that our soul needs nourishment even more than our body.
The dishes are then washed by hand, in order that the Sisters might have time to recite prayers aloud for the Holy Souls in Purgatory.
12:00 p.m. At this hour the nuns gather together in the recreation room as a family. They work while they converse. There is usually darning to be done or, perhaps, apples to be peeled. It is a time of much joy and laughter. On Sundays or Feast days the Sisters might take a walk together on the monastery grounds, or bring out the musical instruments.
1:00 p.m. Before a full afternoon, the nuns visit the Blessed Sacrament and thank Our Lord for the gift of the Eucharist. Then there is time for quiet and solitude in the cell. “What we need most in order to make progress is to be silent before this great God... for the language He hears best is silent love,” said St. John of the Cross.
2:15 p.m. The community gathers again in the Nuns’ Choir for the Hour of None and for the recitation of the Holy Rosary. This is followed by daily spiritual reading in the cell.
3:15 p.m. Continuation of the morning duties. All that matters for the Carmelite is to see everything as a chance to please Our Lord and showing charity to each other. St. Teresa says, “taking care of the sick, helping with household chores ... are all ways of serving the Guest who comes to be with us and eat and recreate with us.”
3:50 p.m. At this time the novices meet with the Novice Mistress and are instructed about the life and spirituality of Carmel. Here the younger Sisters learn about the aim of Carmel which is union of will with their Divine Spouse, Jesus Christ. They are guided in their journey toward this great pearl of infinite worth.
4:30 p.m. Vespers is followed by another hour of quiet prayer. St. John of the Cross writes, “There is much to fathom in Christ, for He is like an abundant mine with many recesses of treasures so that however deep men go they never reach the end ... but rather in every recess find new veins with new riches everywhere.”
6:00 p.m. Supper offers the Carmelite a light meal in the evening followed by another hour of Recreation.
8:00 p.m. Compline “completes” the liturgical day. At its end a bell is rung to mark the beginning of Grand Silence. From this moment until the next morning after Lauds, no words are to be spoken. A very sacred time begins for the Carmelite - these hours when Christ prayed alone on the mountain with His Heavenly Father.
9:00 p.m. Matins is the Office that anticipates the feast of the following day. Our Holy Mother St. Teresa chose this time of day to praise Almighty God, because it is a time when few people are thinking of Him.
10:30 p.m. The Carmelite retires grateful for the graces that brought her through this day. With her Holy Mother she says in her heart: “Oh, strong love of God! And how true it is that nothing seems impossible to the one who loves! Oh, happy the soul that has obtained this peace from its God....”