Solitude - Carmelite Monastery - Knock, Tranquilla
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The roots of the Carmelite family go back to about 1209 when a group of hermits came together on the slopes of Mount Carmel in the Holy Land. They were inspired by the prophet Elijah and called the Brothers of ‘St. Mary of Mount Carmel’.

They were given a ‘Rule of life’ by St. Albert, the Patriarch of Jerusalem, outlining a simple lifestyle of prayer, solitude, work and community life which still inspires the Carmelite spirit in our own day.

1st. Mount Carmel for top of Solitude page

St. Teresa, going back to the roots of Carmel, provided a similar lifestyle for her nuns, adapted to life in the Spain of her day. Instead of individual hermitages each sister has a monastic cell – her own room. Apart from time spent with the community in prayer, shared meals, recreation or working elsewhere in the monastery, a Carmelite returns to her cell as to a spring of living water.

‘Each of you is to stay in (her) own cell…
pondering the Lord’s law day and night and keeping watch
in prayer unless attending to some other duty’
– from the Carmelite Rule

Each sister’s monastic cell is totally private. Staying here, and keeping watch with Jesus, we learn our need of Mercy and call on it for ourselves and the whole world. About an hour each day is set aside for spiritual reading in the cell. As St. Teresa says:

‘Good books are as necessary for the soul as food is for the body’

2nd pic. for solitude page

Monastic enclosure, or cloister, provides the space and atmosphere for our life of prayer and solitude. We choose to live our lives within it and leave it only when necessary. Monastic cloister is not just the physical space of our monastery and grounds, it points to a far deeper reality:

‘(Our) need to be about (our) Father’s business.’

Everything in our lives revolves around that and we make, and limit, our choices accordingly.

In case of misunderstanding, cloistered nuns do not have the monopoly of contemplation in the Church! Yet the Church continues to confirm the Lord’s call to some of her children to keep watch in prayer.

‘Come apart into a lonely place…’