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I just came back from a 6 night retreat at the hermitages of the Monastic Sisters of Bethlehem in Livingston Manor, NY and it was the most incredible retreat experience of my entire life.  Getting to spend almost a week entering in to their life of silence, adoration, and prayer was one of the greatest gifts I could possibly imagine!  

 

That place is truly unlike any other I have encountered...just being around them and being on their grounds you feel the peace and joy of being loved and in being in love with God.  These sisters love God so much.

 

As I am not a woman and am not considering the Monks of Bethlehem, it wasn't technically a vocation retreat.  But I realized how important interior silence really is....when you open yourself up to being loved by God and give Him the interior silence in which it is possible to hear Him speak, He will speak.  And it sheds so much light on your personal vocation.  Truly amazing.  I am so grateful to God for the gift of spending that time with Him. 

 

 

 

p.s. for any women discerners that haven't checked them out yet, they are very beautiful.  Given their way of life, I didn't get to talk with them much which was fine because I wasn't expecting that, but they were incredibly joyful and welcoming.  I would highly recommend them to any woman who was discerning a radical life of love with her Beloved!

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393 Our Lady of Lourdes Camp Road Livingston Manor, NY 12758 U.S.A. +1/845 439 43 00

I just came back from a 6 night retreat at the hermitages of the Monastic Sisters of Bethlehem in Livingston Manor, NY and it was the most incredible retreat experience of my entire life.  Getting to

They must now have heat in the hermitages! They didn't used to have them available during the winter months. BRING a lot of warm clothing. Often there is a 20 degree difference from the village to the

Yes, they are (I think you mean the one which they call themselves Bet Gemal. There might be different spellings).

 

Yes, it means "house of the camel" which is "gamal" in Hebrew, but I think "jamal" in Arabic.

 

There was an Israeli documentary film about them several years ago.  Looks like a lovely community.
 

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Kateri,

 

They are incredibly similar to the Carthusians, but they do have a few distinguishing factors.  For instance, solemnly professed members have a tabernacle with the Blessed Sacrament reserved in their hermitages/cells.  So they can adore in their own cell!   That is a huge difference right there and such an incredible gift.

 

Another is that while their Mass is of the Roman Rite, they chant the Byzantine Divine Office instead.  In that sense they embrace both Eastern and Western traditions of monasticism and hope to be something of a bridge between the two for greater unity within the Church.  Many also learn to "write" icons. 

 

There are probably a few others, but those 2 jump out real quick as the key differences as far as I understand their life. 

Edited by corban711
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So what is the difference between these Sisters and Carthusians?  The lifestyle seems almost identical.  Absolutely beautiful by the way!

 

 

Kateri,

 

They are incredibly similar to the Carthusians, but they do have a few distinguishing factors.  For instance, solemnly professed members have a tabernacle with the Blessed Sacrament reserved in their hermitages/cells.  So they can adore in their own cell!   That is a huge difference right there and such an incredible gift.

 

Another is that while their Mass is of the Roman Rite, they chant the Byzantine Divine Office instead.  In that sense they embrace both Eastern and Western traditions of monasticism and hope to be something of a bridge between the two for greater unity within the Church.  Many also learn to "write" icons. 

 

There are probably a few others, but those 2 jump out real quick as the key differences as far as I understand their life. 

 

Actually, they're not as similar to the Carthusians as they seem from the outside. I discerned with both the MFB and the Carthusians, and the Carthusians have WAY more silence and solitude than the MFB. Honestly, I felt like the MFB was more similar to the Benedictines, only with more of their prayer hours in cell.

 

Not all of the MFB sisters reserve the Host in their cells. I never got a complete answer to that question, but my understanding is that some sisters have Him, and others don't.

 

If someone is discerning a life of very serious solitude, I would not recommend the MFB. They don't guarantee it. The Carthusians do. Although the MFB talks a lot about desert spirituality, I really didn't get that vibe from them once I got closer to their life. (You can't get super close, though, as they don't allow live-in experiences. You either enter without one, or you stay on the outside forever.)

 

Personally, I felt like MFB spirituality was kind of a mash-up. They definitely like the early Church desert fathers, and they have a lot of pictures and statues of St. Bruno. But if you're totally into St. Bruno, go Carthusian, because the MFB won't "be enough" for you.

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Peace to you Gabriela and to all who have an interest in this topic.  As you may know I have lived at the Bethlehem Monastery in Livingston Manor for the past three years and I have been going there for at least 12 years.  My experience isn't similar to Gabriela's so I wanted to share with you my perceptions of the Bethlehem life style.  First I can honestly say - the Sisters are the best, kindest and most integrated people I ever met.  Really! Here are some different perspectives on their life.  The Bethlehem Monastic Family have what they call Sisters (Brothers) in Solitude.  These religious spent their entire day in the solitude of their cells like the Carthusian Fathers.  They live in a special section of the monastery called the "Upper House'.  They leave the hermitage only for the liturgies that are celebrated in the church.  All of the religious take their one meal in their cells and that meal is delivered to them.   All of the religious go to their cells after Mass in the morning and they remain there until the work period which begins after Sext.  During the work period these Sisters work in solitude in one of the areas of the monastery a and a strict silence is observed.  If a Sister is assigned to the kitchen with another Sister one Sister will work in the kitchen and the other Sister will work in another area off the kitchen.  Most often if these Sisters need to communicate they do so with a written note. 

 

The foundation of their spirituality is based on the Fathers and Mothers of the desert.  The Monastic family relate to the Prioress and Formation Sister as the early monastics related to the Abba - with openness, honesty and transparency.  The Monastic Sister also - like the Desert Fathers practices continual prayer.

 

On Sundays - after the traditional long walk (which is a Carthusian custom) they chant Vespers early.  They then retire to the cell and do not emerge until about 5 pm on Monday for the community Mass (which is simple and quiet).  Monday is referred to as a desert day - another connection to the ancient desert seekers.  If a Sister is appointed to take care of the monastery on Monday she is given a desert day on a different day.

 

The Sisters arrange their schedule and life style within the cell with the advice and council of the Prioress.  Thus some Sisters will rise in the night to pray in solitude - this office is called the Office of Watching. 

 

With regard to the live in - there is a section in the monastery (at our monastery it's called Casalibus) where the observer stays.  She has her own hermitage.  She does not however sit in the monastic choir with the Sisters -. she sits in the guests' section of the church.  She may however take a meal with the Sisters on Sunday in the refectory.  After that if the woman discerns that she may have a vocation to Bethlehem life she returns to the monastery and is admitted to the first stage of formation called 'the School of Life' - this is really more close to what Gabriella is calling a 'live-in'.  The woman lives in a cell, she sits in the monastic choir, takes instruction from the formation directoress and lives the Bethlehem life.

 

If you are called to this way of life you are indeed blessed. And if you are called to the Carthusian way of life you are indeed blessed.  If you are called to the Benedictines you are blessed but for me I don't pick up a strong resemblance to the Benedictines. This vocation is a gift and it is rare.

 

May you be blessed

your brother

john

 

With regard to the live in - there is a section in the monastery (at our monastery it's called Casalibus) where the observer stays.  She has her own hermitage.  She does not however sit in the monastic choir with the Sisters -. she sits in the guests' section of the church.  She may however take a meal with the Sisters on Sunday in the refectory.  After that if the woman discerns that she may have a vocation to Bethlehem life she returns to the monastery and is admitted to the first stage of formation called 'the School of Life' - this is really more close to what Gabriella is calling a 'live-in'.  The woman lives in a cell, she sits in the monastic choir, takes instruction from the formation directoress and lives the Bethlehem life. 

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John (genesisweavers),

 

Peace be with you!   You are incredibly blessed to live there.  I have holy envy of you!  My friend and I were there for 6 days last week (the previous Saturday until Friday) and it was one of the most blessed and graced times in my entire life.  I feel like I could spend the rest of my life just unpacking the graces I received there. 

 

The silence and calm/peace is palpable and everything about it was an aid to entering more deeply into the Most Holy Trinity in silent prayer.  The sisters were so beautiful. They radiated the joy of belonging to Jesus and were very welcoming to us during our stay there.   I am so exceedingly grateful to God for my time there!

 

...so that you know who I am, I was the one on the right hand side of you with the glasses and the scraggly unshaven face.  My friend was on your left.  I had no idea you were a phatmasser when I was there...Of course we didn't talk because that isn't what we were there for, but it was a blessing to get to pray with you and share in your life and the life of the sisters for those 6 days nevertheless.  Even without talking you made me feel very welcome; so thank you for that! 

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Actually, they're not as similar to the Carthusians as they seem from the outside. I discerned with both the MFB and the Carthusians, and the Carthusians have WAY more silence and solitude than the MFB. Honestly, I felt like the MFB was more similar to the Benedictines, only with more of their prayer hours in cell.

 

Not all of the MFB sisters reserve the Host in their cells. I never got a complete answer to that question, but my understanding is that some sisters have Him, and others don't.

 

If someone is discerning a life of very serious solitude, I would not recommend the MFB. They don't guarantee it. The Carthusians do. Although the MFB talks a lot about desert spirituality, I really didn't get that vibe from them once I got closer to their life. (You can't get super close, though, as they don't allow live-in experiences. You either enter without one, or you stay on the outside forever.)

 

Personally, I felt like MFB spirituality was kind of a mash-up. They definitely like the early Church desert fathers, and they have a lot of pictures and statues of St. Bruno. But if you're totally into St. Bruno, go Carthusian, because the MFB won't "be enough" for you.

 

Gabriela,

 

I can't speak to all of that stuff obviously since my personal experience is quite limited.  My brother belonged to the monks in Israel for a year so I know a little about HIS experience...but mine is limited to my 6 day retreat with the sisters!  Haha!  So I am far from an expert!

 

I actually asked the sister who was serving as our guest master about reserving the Blessed Sacrament in their hermitages though...she said that privilege is for those who have made final vows only! 

 

It is true that the Carthusians have a little bit more time of solitude...Because MFB uses the Byzantine Divine Office, their hours take much longer than the Carthusians.  The Eastern liturgy is on a 1 week cycle for all 150 Psalms while the Carthusians (like the rest of the West) are on a 4 week cycle for 150 Psalms.  That does mean that Bethlehem by its nature will have longer Offices and less time in solitude.   I also think that simple little touch of beauty added in by the use of icons takes off some of the "edge" of the austere feeling of the Carthusians I think. 

 

However, anyone seeking to live a life of love of God spent in solitude and in silent prayer would definitely get that opportunity in Bethlehem!  These sisters spend long hours alone with their Beloved.

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Gabriela,

 

I can't speak to all of that stuff obviously since my personal experience is quite limited.  My brother belonged to the monks in Israel for a year so I know a little about HIS experience...but mine is limited to my 6 day retreat with the sisters!  Haha!  So I am far from an expert!

 

I actually asked the sister who was serving as our guest master about reserving the Blessed Sacrament in their hermitages though...she said that privilege is for those who have made final vows only! 

 

It is true that the Carthusians have a little bit more time of solitude...Because MFB uses the Byzantine Divine Office, their hours take much longer than the Carthusians.  The Eastern liturgy is on a 1 week cycle for all 150 Psalms while the Carthusians (like the rest of the West) are on a 4 week cycle for 150 Psalms.  That does mean that Bethlehem by its nature will have longer Offices and less time in solitude.   I also think that simple little touch of beauty added in by the use of icons takes off some of the "edge" of the austere feeling of the Carthusians I think. 

 

However, anyone seeking to live a life of love of God spent in solitude and in silent prayer would definitely get that opportunity in Bethlehem!  These sisters spend long hours alone with their Beloved.

 

Mmmm... It's not just because of the Byzantine office that they spend less time in solitude. I can't speak to how MFB brothers live, but the sisters spend a great deal more time outside their cells than the Carthusians. They simply don't guard their solitude in the same way as the Carthusians. If something needs to be done outside the cell (or the monastery even), they have no hesitation sending a sister out. Sisters come and go all day long. In a charterhouse, that doesn't happen. Sisters work together in the same room/area, and talk if they need to. In a charterhouse, that doesn't happen. Etc. That's why I say the MFB looks to me more like the Benedictines than the Carthusians.

 

I emphasize this only because, when I discerned with the MFB, I was given the impression that their life is very like the Carthusians. But then I went and discerned with the Carthusians, and went back to the MFB (three houses in all), and they really aren't much like the Carthusians, honestly. They wear hoods, and sisters have hermitages (sometimes), but aside from that... Not much is similar. I just don't want someone on here going to discern with the MFB thinking that they'll be guaranteed Carthusian-esque solitude, when the MFB does not in fact guarantee that. I flew all the way to France to find that out. It was super disappointing.

 

That being said, the NY house is an awesome place to make a retreat. As a retreatant, you will have all the silence and solitude you could ever hope for.

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