Monday, 24 November 2008

An obstacle?

The forms I received from Carmel are still waiting to be signed to say I'd like to enter as a Postulant. The reason? Not because I've changed my mind (although I do sometimes have the odd doubt and reality has not yet set in that I'm leaving) but because of my health.

Currently, I'm off work with a bad back and hip (likely to be linked). Unfortunately, I ignored the pain for so long, I've finally had to take time off. I wonder if this will prevent me from entering Carmel; in one respect it could, as you need to be fit to undertake the life. On the other hand, perhaps I could be accepted and avoid heavy lifting etc. All I do know, is that it's in the hands of the Lord.

Indeed, it could be a blessing that it has come to a head now, rather than later, as I have 2 whole months to rest and get treatment. I'm seeing a specialist in little over a week. So, God in His wonderful ways may have brought all this to the forefront in preparation for my entering, that my health can be resolved.

The only thing to wait for now, is for the Will of God to happen. Not for recovery. Just for His Will. And I thank Him that during this time, I am able to read the Bible and get to know Him better, as my knowledge of the Bible is poor. Who knows, I may write my next entry on my thoughts about God in Genesis!

Friday, 21 November 2008

I say YES!

Yes, I said! Lord, I want to be your spouse!

I came across an exercise for discerners which said to take 10 minutes and write as many reasons as you could for saying YES. I came up with the following - some of them greater in significance than others, but nevertheless, significant.

Here's what I came up with:
(I have slightly altered some of them to make more precise what I believe I meant at the time they were writtten)

1) Having turned away from God in the past, I now want to commit to Him
2) To make up for past sin
3) It feels right and when I contemplate Carmel, I have a deep sense of peace within
4) I’ve thought about it on and off for a long time, so think there is a strong possibility that this is what God wants of me
5) I am attracted to the life
6) In prayer, I have experienced the intense desire to give everything up to follow Jesus
7) I want to become more holy and work to save my soul
8) I want to live in the best way possible with Christ in me
9) When it comes to my faith, it feels like all or nothing
10) There are too many distractions in the world and I desire silence and contemplation
11) I love Him passionately
12) Everything seems to have been building up to this
13) My path is clear
14) I feel I’m suited to the life - I am a natural contemplative
15) I want to surrender to Him completely
16) I will be accepted for me; be able to be myself
17) It is a chance to live with like-minded people
18) I can learn and grow spiritually

After this, I noted down the areas of concern I have about going to Carmel. Of course, I have in fact made up my mind to go, so don't feel further discerning as such is possible at this point; there will be a chance for further discernment in the Novitiate. However, I feel it's important to be honest with myself about what fears I have in regards to Carmel and through facing them, I may be able to resolve them and better deal with them when I enter.

Here were those fears:

My family are against it and don’t think I’ll persevere
Only God and I know what I have experienced spiritually. Earthly parents aren't always right, yet God Our Father knows what is best for me. It is He Who I believe placed this desire within me, so He will help me to persevere should this be what He asks of me.

I will be giving up my family
"And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name's sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life." (Mt 19:29)

They will still be my family, despite the distance and they will receive a hundredfold, too.

It may not work out and I could end up with nothing
Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith? (Mt 6:30)

I might get bored with the life
A heart that turns [from God] becomes bored with its own ways, but a good person is satisfied with God's ways. (Prov 14:14)

It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? (Heb 12:7)

You will be hated by all because of My name, but it is the one who has endured to the end who will be saved. (Mt 10:22)

I wanted children
But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God. (Acts 20:24)

I then came across this quote:

“If you are what you are meant to be, you will set the whole world on fire.”~
St. Catherine of Siena, Doctor of the Church, Dominican Mystic (1347-1380)~

And on a Dominican website about confirming your vocation, I discovered this helpful paragraph:

Confirmation; experience peace with your decision. Seek confirmation by offering the decision to God asking for peace and inner joy. Look for confirmation from both external and internal sources. External sources may include sensing affirmation from people, circumstances seem to be supportive, etc. Internal confirmation usually includes a deep sense of peace, a real felt compatibility with the choice made, a sense of satisfaction, a time of tranquility sets in, etc. Although there may be some negative responses these do not change your deep convictions about the decision.


Oh Lord, I thank You. I did not have to ask You for inner peace and joy; in Your generosity, You gave it to me early on in my discernment. Lord, You have also made my way clear; there is no reason for me to stay away from You a moment longer! You have offered me a life in Carmel, to draw me nearer to You, and I accept, O Lord. I will hide myself away with You; seek only You. Let me hold Your Divine Hand and do not let go of me. May I persevere always for Your Sake.


Whilst this exercise started for my own purpose, having had a challenging day at home and facing doubts from others, I realised that this could actually help someone else who is discerning. I hope it does, as it's not easy.

Thanks be to God for the strength He has given me from the Holy Spirit, which makes me persevere!

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning. (James 1:17)

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Sorrowful mysteries

Recently, I have realised that the mysteries of the rosary can often fit into what is happening in our life, or in the lives of those around us. For example, praying the sorrowful mysteries on this Tuesday night, I have understood a little more about the pain my parents are experiencing in preparing for me to leave for Carmel in a couple of months.

I thought that I could explain this in more detail, so that maybe even one person can see how the mysteries can be applied to our lives.

The Agony in the Garden

Poor Jesus, so lonely in the Garden. Even His dearest friends could not see His agony and stay with him for an hour.

My poor parents. They suffer at this time and I cannot see their true anguish and sorrow. But though I don't fully feel their pain, I can still be there to comfort them as best I can, imagining that I am comforting the Lord Himself during His Agony.

The Scourging at the Pillar

Our dear Lord is once again alone. During His time of painful scourging, no one is there to embrace Him. He stands at the pillar alone, bearing His pain bravely and with love, yet knowing there is more to endure.

When we suffer, we often suffer alone, feeling that no one understands our suffering. Yet, what stops us from tending to the painful wounds of another dear to us who suffers, as if it were the Lord Himself?

My parents stand united in their pain, trying to be as patient and brave as they can in supporting me in my decision.

The Crowning with Thorns

How painful for Our Lord to be physically suffering, then to be mocked by people who did not know the purity of love in His heart.

I must be careful to not act out of stubbornness in pursuing my vocation and must ensure that my intention is to seek Christ alone.

Those who hurt Jesus got carried away when mocking Him. It is so easy to get carried away by doing something for the wrong reasons; all acts must be out of love, with love of Christ being before all else.

The Carrying of the Cross

Our dear Lord, how heavy was the cross; how wounded was His back from the scourging, which made it all the more difficult to bear. His tired body caused Him to fall 3 times, yet He got back up. Yet this was the first time during His suffering the Our Lord was not alone. Simon helped Him carry the cross. Veronica bravely and lovingly stepped forward to wipe His Precious Face.

My parents carry their cross at this time and I can try to follow the great examples of Simon and Veronica in stepping forward and trying to ease their pain. I can be gentle with them at every opportunity.

As for my parents, I pray that they pick themselves up and carry on, imitating the Lord as He bore His own cross. Enduring suffering and offering it up to the Lord can only be a good thing.

The Crucifixion

What pain Our Lord endured from this, not only physically, but spiritually. His poor body could barely take any more and He felt abandoned by His own Loving Father. Yet, the Father was close and Jesus commended His spirit to Him.

I place my family before the Lord, asking Him to help them during their suffering and to comfort them. Most of all, I ask that they do not despair.

I turn also to our Blessed Mother, who could never have foretold the pain her heart would one day endure, when she said yes to bearing Christ. Yet, she stood by Jesus throughout His life. She was there at His first miracle, supporting Him; she did not object when He left to Proclaim the Kingdom and she was there at the foot of the cross, so deeply saddened, yet trusting in God. Her maternal love for Jesus is also ours - we are her children - and tonight, I ask that she comforts my family, for she truly understands how it feels to grieve for a child.

Monday, 17 November 2008

Detachment from things

From sorting out many of my worldly goods, I have realised that I'm a bit of a hoarder when it comes to things with sentimental value. Given with love, before now, I dared not cast aside those items that represent love. For someone like me, with a poor memory, they have been a reminder of those who have shown their love for me and expressed their affection.

I have come across cards from my First Holy Communion, birthday cards from the age of 10, letters from pen-pals. I've been unable to throw all of them away and I debate over whether I should.

One of the reasons I perhaps should is to avoid pride, as some of the expressions of affection towards me could indeed make me proud. Secondly, I don't think I can take these things into Carmel; the point of my going is to leave all things behind, so that I can focus on my relationship with Jesus. Would then, these things become a temptation for looking at the past (which during times of difficulty, always looks better), would they become a form of escapism in that case, or demonstrate my inability to look forward? On the other hand, is it right to cast aside displays of affection that one has made towards me?

These are things I seriously have to consider on my journey.

Having thought about this, I recall how the disciples Jesus chose immediately left their families, their jobs and all of their belongings behind. They depended on the good will of others to feed them at times. Perhaps in my pursuit of holiness in going to Carmel, I have to do the same. What a sacrifice to make to the Lord, saying, "Lord, these things mean a lot to me, but I leave them behind for You." How pleased He must be that to save ourselves from any form of pride, we get rid of those things that can cause it (for me, this was leaving cards, which I received when leaving a job).

So instead, I will take with me to Carmel the memories of those dear to me, as well as their intentions. I will put each person I love before the Lord and ask Him to bless them. Surely this is a far greater expression of love than to hold onto physical items, which I cannot take with me when I die. As for taking them to Carmel, they will only serve as a distraction and where does it end?

Saying this, I have kept some cards back that my parents gave me, as they may wish to keep them. I've decided to put a little box aside with things in that they can choose whether to keep or not once I have gone. Therefore, I leave as much as I can behind; some things for others; some things not. But what I do take with me, is those I hold dear in my heart.

Sunday, 16 November 2008

Perserverance and pain

My family is hurting so much. I see it each day. Sometimes there are tears, some fallings out and silence. What is sad is that we don't understand each other. The thing is, I am so joyful that I'm going to Carmel to be nearer to the Lord and this makes it hard to feel their pain. Perhaps the Lord is protecting me from this, as feeling their pain would weaken my resolve because I might start feeling guilty and give in altogether. The Holy Spirit helps me to persevere.

As a result of not being able to feel their pain, I try to be compassionate. It's not always easy though and I've become cross a few times. There are questions I have to answer and as Carmel is fairly austere, it is hard for others to understand enclosure, wearing sandals, having no possessions, not being able to receive gifts as before, praying several times a day etc. How can I make someone of little faith understand this? I can't.

It's sometimes frustrating that my parents cannot understand my happiness, but I remind myself of why; they think they are losing a daughter. They won't be able to pop over and visit me. I won't be able to visit them. Family outings, holidays and dinners will be a thing of the past. I will belong to Jesus. All I think of is sometime in the future when they will be happy for me. And I really believe this will happen, because they love me. All a parent wants is to see their child happy. And I have faith that Jesus will one day reward them for their suffering.

Heartless as I feel right now, I believe my pain will come nearer to leaving, or indeed when I have left. My tears will be between me and Jesus.

Saturday, 15 November 2008

Good news!

I'm going to Carmel! I received a letter this morning from Mother Prioress to confirm that I will be able to go in January. I'm so happy!

I'm hoping to go either on 24th January (St Francis de Sales) or 25th (St Paul's conversion). I'd like to go earlier, but I'm having one more birthday at home with my family. It would be good to go on the 25th since I went to St Paul's School and it's also the year of St Paul. It seems fitting that this date marks his conversion, too!

Yesterday, I started to sort some of my stuff out, as requested by my mom, who wants to put some of my things in the loft. It's not easy doing this, as it's become very real and it's actually quite hard to get rid of things, which I thought would be a lot easier. With books and games, I hope to take some of them with me for the library and recreation, but many things I will have to throw or give away.

It's really happening! Next, I've got to think about work and handing in my notice. And I can now officially step down from the job offer I received. I was going to work until January, but I'm not sure I will now. I'm having problems with my hip and I'm sure it doesn't help wearing heavy kit as I do. Perhaps I will work longer if they can find me something in the office. So much to sort out!

Then, I've got to start telling people; this I think will be the hardest as I don't know how people will react. Nevertheless, it has to be done and it's a time to remain strong and focussed on Christ.

Friday, 14 November 2008

Work of the Holy Spirit

Wow, it's been too long since my last post! And things have moved on a bit since then!

After my last post, it's probably become quite clear that I very much wish to enter Carmel and that I feel that this is where I am being led. The Holy Spirit has a very important part in discernment and has worked quite hard in my life lately to inspire me and guide me...and give me a nudge at times!

Two nights ago, I was reading a website about vocations, when I was suddenly overwhelmed by the desire to delay no more and write to Mother Superior and ask to enter Carmel in January. The Novice Mistress had asked me to wait a month so I was slightly reluctant - obedience being one factor and also, a month seems a reasonable amount of time to further discern.

However, I don't think you can put a time on these things when it comes to the Spirit. The feeling was so intense that I picked up my pen and wrote a letter to Mother Superior to request the forms I need to fill in prior to entry. The Holy Spirit was certainly responsible for this special stirring within!

On my way to work the next day, I posted the letter. For the previous 2 days, I had been debating about whether to tell my boss-to-be that I was actually not likely to take the job I had been offered. This came even more to the forefront of my mind as I came to post my letter, yet I decided, no, not until everything is sorted. I talked it over with my manager, who said the same. Alas, a higher up manager came to speak to me and ask how my 2 weeks in Carmel had gone...resulting in my telling him that it went very well and I was likely to enter in January. He said he would tell my boss-to-be that I was unlikely to take this job and I agreed, as I felt this was the right thing to do. To me, this was God making something happen that I was putting off due to my own interests, i.e. The Spirit working through my boss. I feel that this has taught me to trust in the Lord more in the future and act on something when I feel/know it's right. In practice, I know that'll be hard, but I will try. I also know that if I'm slow and God wants something, He will make it happen, or give a nudge in the right direction.

Slightly changing the subject, it's really tough at home as none of my family understand and don't want me to go. I feel incredibly guilty for putting them through all this and there's nothing I can say to make things right; each week it gets harder for them...and it's hard right nowbecause I'm beginning to sort out some of my things. I know it would be so easy to give in, but I wouldn't be happy and I'm sure I'd regret it in the future. I'm starting to feel the sacrifice now (as are my family, except it's harder for them as they're not especially religious). What's hardest is staying away from arguments and becoming doubtful based on what others say. I have to keep thinking of my consolations from the Lord and those feelings of peace deep within, which said "Yes, go to Carmel. Serve the Lord".

"Lord, I love you and I trust you and I know you will help me through this."

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Looking ahead

I've not written for about a week because it has been a very difficult one in terms of getting back to normal life. I was faced with many doubts about going to Carmel, mainly about my own level of commitment long term. However, I've discovered some works by St. Ignatious Loyola and St. Thomas Aquinas on vocations and have been very comforted by what they say.

Further to my previous post about work, I have been thinking hard and feel that yes, I could put Carmel off until April to keep my job open, but:

  • Is this showing faith in Our Lord, if Carmel is my true calling - no, I feel.
  • It would be easy to leave Carmel at the first hurdle if I knew I still had a job to go to.
  • In my current job, I don't feel spiritually fulfilled, so don't believe it's my calling
  • Why put off Carmel for another 3 months? St. Aquinas says that one should not delay any longer than they can help.

So, it seems that instead of keeping a 'security blanket', I will hopefully enter Carmel with more faith and love if I sacrifice my job. After all, it's never good to hold onto things that may keep you back.

I have realised that my doubts have no real foundation; they could actually be the work of the devil, to try and keep me away from Our Lord. On reflection, there is no reason for me to not to go to Carmel, since God appears to have made my path clear. That is one of the signs that is looked for in aspirants. About my concerns of my personal commitment, I have read and been told that if God truly wants you somewhere, He will give you the strength and graces required and so I need to have much faith in Him.

I was thinking of my vocation in a similar way to dating, engagement and marriage. After 2 weeks in Carmel as an Aspirant, I have kind of 'dated' and would like to, as Americans say 'go steady' as a Postulant before I become betrothed as a Novice. If, in the first 5-6 years in the novitiate I strongly feel Carmel is not for me, then I can leave and seek further afield as to where God wants me to be. I needn't be scared, as St Therese believed that God wouldn't place a desire in her that was not possible (she wanted to be a saint before she was one!). Therefore, as I'm sure that as God placed this desire within me, despite my various worries, it must be possible for me to become a Carmelite.

If I was to not go ahead, I have to consider whether I would deeply regret not giving it a try. I know for sure, I would.

To to other women or men discerning their vocation, I would say:

  • Recall frequently what first moved you towards considering the religious life or what signs you've had in your life.
  • Think of the spiritual experiences you have had and graces you have received. Treasure and thank God for them.
  • Consider keeping a spiritual journal to help you reflect on your journey.
  • It may help to have a spiritual director - others can sometimes see more clearly whether we are called or not.
  • Go to confession, Adoration and Mass frequently where possible.
  • Be cautious, as doubts can enter the mind as you come to make your decision. Pray about them, ask God to guide you and try to weigh things up in your mind to see if they are warranted. Don't give up at this point or rush to make a decision, there will be a moment when you will be able to see more clearly - never make a decision until you are sure.
  • Don't worry about your own weaknesses, as God will help you to achieve His Will
  • Read which I found useful. It's based on St. Ignatius of Loyola's Spiritual Exercises.
  • If you decide to become a religious, try to stay true to it and remind yourself as to why you have made that decision.
  • Have faith in the Lord. He will make sure everything works out.

About Me

My photo
I've just turned 27 and am entering Carmel on 24th January 2009. My first full day will be on 25th January, the Conversion of Saint Paul, of whose year this is and whose school I went to and sisters I loved. So I am depending on him to help convert me into a good Carmelite! I've wanted to become a nun on and off since the age of 11. Although I can't remember the moment I felt drawn to Carmel, I think it was partly because of reading about St Therese when I was 11 or 12. I feel I may have a natural inclination towards this way of life, altough getting up at 5.30 will not feel natural, I'm sure! I spent 2 weeks as an Aspirant in October 2008 and I loved it and came back feeling that I should go back and see if becoming a Carmelite is the Will of God and my route to holiness.

Saint Therese