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The Carmelite's Day


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The clang of a bell breaks the profound silence. A light gleams, breaking the impenetrable darkness of the long corridor where the cells are. A Sister, advancing about midway, kneels and claps three times with her little wooden clapper, calling in a high voice yet in tones of reverence "Praised be Jesus and the Blessed Virgin Mary His Mother. Come to prayer, Sisters, to sing the praises of God".


In a few minutes, the deserted corridors are animated; brown figures are outlined in the dim early morning light, as the clatter of the wooden sandals can be heard on the paved floor.

The procession forms, and two by two they converge towards the choir. The door is open and shows a ray of light; they enter, genuflect towards the altar and take their places. Kneeling, they begin at once with the invocation of the Holy Ghost, "Veni Sancte Spiritus et emitte coelitus lucis Tuae radium". Yes, that the spirit of light and love may come into their hearts and renew the vigor of their love; that it may penetrate and touch the very fibers thereof and draw divine harmonies from it, and like a sensitive musical instrument it will respond to the master hand that touches it. May He come with His gifts and warm their hearts, elevate and transform them, and transport them to His very Presence.


A reader gives out the subject of meditation ... then silence again. Like an angel who wraps his wings around him in the presence of the Majesty of God, so the Carmelite Sister retires into her innermost self to adore her God.


It is the hour of mental prayer that sheds its light on the rest of the day, and the spirit of the Rule teaches the Nun to fashion all her actions down to the smallest one in its radiance.

"Frequently invoke the Holy Spirit," recommends the 'Vade Mecum' for the Novitiate, "to clear your intelligence and stir up your will. Continually exercise your faith on the thought promulgated, renew the remembrance of the Presence of God, and mingle your meditation with pious aspirations that they may be as sparks to catch a light. Try to follow where the Holy Spirit leads you. Meditation has to open the Promised Land to the Carmelite. She has to rise to the 'prayer of quiet' as St. Theresa of Avila used to call it, or of simplicity, as Bossuet in his clear outlook defines it."





In meditation the soul ceases from reasoning, immerses itself in a pleasant contemplation that keeps it tranquil, alert and capable of receiving divine impressions communicated by the Holy Ghost.


The hour of meditation is over all too soon and it is now time to leave this intimate colloquy with the Celestial Spouse, to join the community in sending forth a hymn of praise.

At a sign from the Prioress the Sisters, still kneeling, make a low obeisance, kissing the ground and then rise and begin reciting the Breviary. "Deus in adjutorium meum intende! Domine ad adjuvandum me festina", followed by the hymn: "Jam Lucis orto sidere" which consecrates the whole day to God, so that from dawn to sunset it may be passed in purity and in the praise of the incessant glory of His Divine Majesty.


Ut cum dies abscesserit.


Mundi per abstinentiam.


Ipsi canamus gloriam.


The harmony of the psalmody, Prime, Terce, Sext, None, slow and placid, sung by two alternate choirs of which one stands and the other is seated, uplifts even those who are merely listening. It is a chanting by mystics to whom it hardly seems an interruption of their contemplation.


In the recital of these "Hours" we are told in some of the old rules that a longer pause coupled with the soul's devotion supply the deficiency of the solemn chant. "It would seem", says Banmann,[1] that St. Theresa, with the 'Recto Tono' that she imposed on Carmel, wished to eliminate from the very roots any vanity of vocal pleasure; never will you hear a solo or a voluntary in Carmel, in which some Sisters might be tempted to show off a beautiful voice."


Little by little the psalmody softens and gradually dies down to a murmur: "Fidelium animae per misericordiam Dei requiescant in pace"; then two by two the Sisters advance to receive the blessing of the Mother Prioress ... they prostrate themselves ... then leave the choir to go and fulfill the duties that have been assigned to them by obedience. On their lips echo the verse of the psalm: "Laudate Domino". The earth has given its fruit.


Immersed in peace and quiet, undisturbed at their work, the Sisters, at eight in summer and nine in winter, gather once more in church for the Conventual Mass.[2]

Sundays and feast days they have High Mass, as also every Saturday in honor of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, with its proper Office.


Mass is always heard in a kneeling position, without the body having any support to lean against because in Carmel there are no stalls in the true sense of the word, just a wooden bench which projects from and is attached to the wall. During Holy Mass which, says a Saint, is the most sublime means to contemplation, no particular prayers are prescribed to the Sisters, each one unites herself to the priest and tries to follow in herself all the liturgy of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.


Like the wise virgins at the triumphant clamor that announces the coming of the Bridegroom, the Sisters trim the lamps of their hearts to go and meet Jesus. Soon in that real incorporation with the Divine Victim, each Sister will become a living Host, holy and pleasing to God, forming not two beings but one, engulfed and penetrated by the infinite perfection of God.


A few more minutes and then out of the dead silence of the quiet church sound the words of the "Confiteor". The Sisters repeat this in profound adoration. This act of adoring prostration is full of sublime significance, which fits the solemnity of the moment.






After reinforcing themselves with a light breakfast, consisting of coffee and a small piece of bread, the Sisters retire to the privacy of their cells.


The cell is for the Carmelite a little sanctuary, where she can be in solitude. In the beautiful words of the Rule, "meditating, day and night on the law of God", watching in prayer, while being occupied in some manner so that --- the Rule is again quoted here --- "the Devil may always find you occupied, and not be able, through any indolence on your part, to find any means of entrance to your souls".


The cell, in one word, is the realization of the two big means Carmel has of reaching its final object ... solitude and silence in view of contemplation. Whatever the activities of a Carmelite may be, the chief one is to strengthen and augment her intimate union with God. Every now and then this duty is recalled to her by the sound of wooden clappers being sharply tapped together by a Sister going along the corridor.


The description of a cell will not take us long and will not come amiss: small and unadorned, with white-washed walls on which hang perhaps one or two small pictures uncolored and unframed; the bed is small with a hard straw mattress, the sheets are made of coarse wool, used even in summer, and an over blanket made of the same material as their brown habits; at the foot of the bed a small rough deal table with a cross on it and three books, indispensable to every Carmelite: the Ordinary or Ceremonial, the Constitutions and the Discipline of the Cloister. A plain, hard chair, a rough basin and water jug on the floor complete the furnishing of the place. Yet every Carmelite loves her poor little cell and looks upon it as a little corner of Paradise.


A few minutes before dinner, the Sisters unite again in choir for examination of conscience, and then descend to the refectory.


Refectories in Carmel are distinguished by a particular note of austerity. The walls are bare, save for some little paper picture or a maxim taken from the Gospel or a saying of St. Theresa: "See the birds of the air who sow not, neither do they reap, nor do they gather into barns, yet our Father Who is in Heaven feeds them"; "Consider the Heavenly Banquet and the food thereof, which is God; and the invited ones are the Angels; lift up your eyes to that feast and desire to partake of it".


Two long lines of tables on either side of the room face each other. At one end, there is a small table at which sits the Mother Prioress and the Assistant-Prioress, and which, with the two long tables mentioned, form a kind of horseshoe.

Everything denotes great poverty, in vain the eye may search for white napery, only the dark wood of the walnut table catches the eye, a small napkin marks the place of each Sister with the addition of a jug of drinking water.


A large black cross dominates the place.


The Sisters enter as usual, processionally, reciting the "De Profundis" and, after a genuflection to the Cross in passing, they go and stand in their places. "Benedic Domine ..." begins the Mother Prioress, "Bless us, O Lord, and these Thy gifts which we are about to receive from Thy bounty ..." After grace, "Oculi omnium" ... "All eyes are on Thee, O Lord, full of hope and thou wilt give them nourishment" is intoned.


The reader for the week ascends the small pulpit in the corner and reads some appropriate verses from the Bible and then, and not before, the Sisters are allowed to sit at the table and unfold their table napkins. Before each of them is placed an earthen-ware bowl out of which they drink after making the sign of the cross over the water and portion of bread.

It is narrated of Sister Theresa Margaret, that one day, just as they were sitting down to their frugal meal, she noticed one of the Sisters whom she knew had been suffering the agonies of a tooth-ache that gave her no peace, day or night. The Saint, seized with an almost uncontrollable compassion for the suffering depicted on the young face, rose and bending over the little Sister with the grace and sympathy of an Angel, gently kissed her on the cheek on the very spot where the pain was worse. At the contact of those virginal lips, every trace of suffering left the young Novice and she never in her life suffered again from such an infirmity.


Abstinence is the daily rule at Carmel and fasting is more than frequent. The Rule says: "You will abstain from meat unless it is specially ordered as a remedy for some infirmity or weakness. You will fast every day except Sunday from the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross until Easter Sunday, unless you are ill or feeble, or for any other just cause that may prevent you from obeying the Rule, for necessity has no laws.


"On the fast days of the Church and on all Fridays of the year we prohibit the use of eggs, butter or cheese."[3]


The Sisters eat their frugal meal in silence, with eyes cast down; the lay Sisters who serve them move from table to table quietly.


The reader continues her task until such time as the Mother Prioress gives the signal to stop. At once, without even finishing a phrase, she stops and quietly says: "Tu autem Domine, miserere nobis".


The community immediately answers: "Deo Gratias".


There follows a short thanksgiving after the meal, then again chanting the "De Profundis" they retire to the hall for recreation.






The spiritual effort could not continue incessantly without fear of tiring, therefore a Carmelite has need of something to uplift her spirit with happiness. She mingles in simple cordiality with her Sisters. "What would become of our little house," said St. Theresa, "if we all hid; how poor spirited we would be. Let everyone show with humility what she can do to cheer the others. Do not imitate those poor people who, as soon as they have acquired a bit of devotion, assume a melancholy air, and hardly dare speak or breathe for fear their devotion should escape them."


This hour of recreation serves to preserve and augment the holy joy of charity, the dearest treasure of a family. It is a liberal expansion of spirit and a reciprocal exchange of views on something, heard or read. Intelligence is not suffocated in Carmel, nor the vein of sentiment dried up. Affection of family, country or nature is preserved within these walls, nay even refined and made almost sublime.


The soul of Carmel transforms everything into beauty. United to God, everything comes to them through Him. "In my Beloved I find the mountains, the lone valleys and woods, the unknown isles," sang St. John of the Cross. The smile of Carmel manifests itself in the hour of recreation, in an intimate joy which is almost difficult to understand, unless we recall the fact of the Theresian gaiety, that led the great reformer of Carmel to accompany her singing with a tambourine and castanets. "All this," she used to say to those who marvelled, "is necessary to make this life livable".


It has been written that every soul preserves in its depths the heart of a child. The Carmelites are more childlike perhaps than others because they are always in touch with the perennial Source of things eternal. They are constantly drawing on this God Who gives to His own a youth that knows no sunset.


"Ad Deurn Qui laetificat juventutem meam". It is in this hour of fraternal reunion that they disseminate their ideas, impressions and thoughts, with a simplicity of soul that is very near to Christ. In these conversations, animation and even friendly chaff is not lacking.

It was just in one of these recreations that a thing happened that was afterwards registered in the process of canonization and held to be somewhat of the prophetic. A Nun of lively disposition and vivacious character, Sister Theresa of Jesus Crucified, by name Abbergotti, who was partly concerned with the coming of Redi to Carmel, after having whispered something in the Mother Prioress's ear, raised her voice and said: "Sisters! I have to ask you to come and kiss a famous relic". She then held up to them a little piece of paper folded in half which they all kissed with veneration but without in the least knowing what the paper contained, as Sister Theresa of Jesus Crucified would not tell them. When it came to Sister Theresa Margaret's turn, she was told she must kneel to kiss it and she, ever meek and obedient, knelt and kissed the relic with devotion. Then Sister Theresa of the Crucified told them: "I want you all to know that this holy relic is merely some of Sister Theresa Margaret's hair!" The Sisters all laughed heartily at the joke, but our poor little Saint, all confused and very red in the face, ran away to hide, and never again mentioned the subject except once when later she met Sister Theresa of the Crucified, and finding her alone, said to her sweetly and without any resentment, "I would never have expected such a trick from you!" In truth, comments Father Stanislaus, it was a strange joke, for today it has become a reality. The most notable of all the relics of the Saint is her beautiful hair, since her incorrupt body is entire and therefore cannot be touched.[4]


Recreation over, the bell is rung, words are clipped on the lips. The smile which graced the face, fades to give place to a more becoming gravity.

After an Our Father and Hail Mary recited aloud and collectively, every Sister kisses the floor in turn and retires in silence to her cell. She will emerge later, to go to recite Vespers with the others, but that again is followed by spiritual reading and her work in private.





At five o'clock in the evening, the community meets again for mental prayer followed by supper and recreation. Evening advances. The Carmelite day is nearly over; now, more than ever, the Nun will hide herself in the shadows, silence and solitude. It is the rigorous silence of Carmel that begins immediately after Compline and lasts until the reciting of Prime the following day.


Then is forbidden, even in the cells of the Superiors, any word that is not absolutely urgent, or that can wait until a more fitting opportunity.


This discipline of silence does not burden or depress one, it is a happy silence and the Carmelite uses it to unite herself more closely to God.


At 9 o'clock, the church bell awakens the convent from this silence and, as in the morning, the sound of the little wooden clapper calls the Sisters to prayer. Every cell door opens noiselessly, the Sisters move along quietly with lighted tapers, which are put out when they reach the choir. Matins is then recited. Outside in the city, the world begins its pleasure and dancing, a time of excitement and sin. In this luminous comer --- real light in darkness --- in which prayer takes refuge, souls consecrated to suffering and love, in the name of the Church, make themselves hostages of praise for adoration and reparation in union with the Divine Victim for this sinful world.


Matins is over ... it is nearly half past ten. The Sisters remove their white mantles and retire to their cells. The bell rings out the hour of repose. After a few minutes, while all is again silence, the little clappers again give the signal ... the cell doors open and the Sisters kneel while one of them pronounces the "Spiritual Sentence", and she moves along the corridor repeating it so that all may hear. The "Sentence" is a sort of aphorism, which is in relation to the Office of the following day: For example, "Servants of Christ, let us remember: In order that the cloister be the stairway to Heaven, a Carmelite must change herself into an Angel". Falling into the intimacy of the soul, the "Sentence" will be the little flame that remains alight without one being aware of it and is found there on waking. The voice ceases. The Mother Prioress passes before every cell and blesses her daughters one by one, wishing them a quiet night and a happy end: "Noctem quietam et finem perfectum concedat tibi Dominus omnipotens". Every door closes quietly. The great peace wraps the convent in its shadows and all sleep after a soft murmuring of prayer.



1. Banmann 'T. Certosini. Pistoia'.

2. In some Carmels the hour of Mass is advanced for convenience' sake and follows the Canonical hours immediately.

3. Carmelites never avail themselves of any indults or dispensations allowed by the Church to the Laity.

4. The precious bit of paper in which the hair was wrapped is still preserved in the convent and on it is written in the handwriting of S. Theresa of the Crucified: "Notable relic that when applied to any malady with faith, one can hope for a perfect cure."


from: http://www.stteresamargaret.org/DSP/DSPCarmeliteDay.htm


Edited by graciandelamadrededios
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THE CARMELITE'S DAY   The clang of a bell breaks the profound silence. A light gleams, breaking the impenetrable darkness of the long corridor where the cells are. A Sister, advancing about midway,

I was in a Carmelite monastery for almost a year and a half and there are certainly customs and other traditions that I wouldn't share online or even talk about to people face to face. Hopefully those

"The land that was desolate and impassable shall be glad, and the wilderness shall rejoice, and shall flourish like the lily.  It shall bud forth and blossom, and shall rejoice with joy and praise. T

This replicates almost exactly our daily life in the cloister when I entered. I think I said elsewhere that I was unaware how austerely we lived until I read such documents on phatmass.

The only difference was that we had work 'in common' in the work periods, and were free to do our afternoon meditation and lectio outdoors - or anywhere we wished. There were lots of little alcoves and nooks into which one could tuck up with a choir mantel.


I always bewailed that we did not have a cloister or cloister garth 'proper', just a corridor with windows overlooking the front gardens (outside the enclosure, so we were meant to keep well away from the windows. I was often doing penance for hanging out of those windows!)


Thanks for posting......

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O my God, I wake on this break of Day to think of Thee, to love Thee and to serve Thee.  Behold me, O my God, Thy holy will shall be mine, I will observe it with all my heart the whole of this day.    




Lord, prepare my soul interiorly while I prepare my body to go to Choir.  Clothe me, O my God, with the fervor of Thy Divine Spirit and with the precious gifts of Thy grace


PUTTING ON THE HABIT                                    


Clothe me, O my God, with Thy holy religious practices so that I may appear before Thee such as our habit and profession require.                                       


THE GIRDLE                                                           


Unite me to Thee, O my God in an     intimate union and attach me to Thee in the bonds of charity the links of which may never break   


THE TOQUE                                                                                  


Conside, O my soul, the whiteness of this toque represents the purity of conscience you should have in order to please God.  O Lord, grant me this grace, to die rather than to defile my soul by any sin. Purify it in Thy Precious Blood and grant me perfect contrition for my sins.       


THE VEIL                                                                                                        


This veil should teach me, Lord, that I should die to the world and to myself so as to live no longer but for Thee.  Grant me, therefore, the grace that nothing of this miserable life may remain in me, which prevents my union with Thee. 


THE SCAPULAR                                                                                                                       


Lord, grant me the grace to carry with joy and love Thy yoke and burden all the days of my life.




O spotless Lamb of God, adorn Me with the purity with which all those are adorned who follow Thee.




Live, Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, now and at each hour! Into the wounds of Jesus and in the sweet hearts of Mary and Joseph I commend myself.  O my God, I offer Thee all the movements, my life, my work and my death.  In the name of Jesus and in the hearts of Mary and Saint Joseph I wish this day to commence, offer and terminate everything.  Lord I unite myself to all the Holy Communions, to all the holy Sacrifices of the Mass, to all the good works, and to all the indulgences of the Catholic Church in which I wish to participate and apply to the souls in Purgatory.




Do me the favor, my Lord and my God, that my heart remain in solitude, never losing Thy divine presence, but that I may ever remain united to Thee, my Way, my Truth and my Life.  All for Jesus and Mary! Judge me not, O my God according to the purity of Thy Eternal Son, but consult rather Thy mercy in my judgment and place the blood and death of Jesus Christ between Thee and Thy poor creature. Amen, sweet Jesus, Amen.




Carmel of St. Joseph

Seattle, Washington, USA





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Is this from a book published by the Seattle Carmel? When was it published? Is it from the "Vade Mecum"? Yes, this is wonderful indeed! :pray:

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Is this from a book published by the Seattle Carmel? When was it published? Is it from the "Vade Mecum"? Yes, this is wonderful indeed! :pray:


It's not really "published" but a typewritten Custom of the monastery. 

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It's not really "published" but a typewritten Custom of the monastery. 


Does it say around which dates? Pre VII or after? Thanks for answering my many questions! :)

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