Portraits of Carmelites
in sioux City, iowa, sister Marie
carmelsc.org) has discovered the reality that prayer imperceptibly and gradually helps transform
the one who lives it. After 15 years
in Carmel, she says, “now i feel freer
and more available to others. . . .
it’s a different dynamic than before.
Before it was ‘me, me, me.’ now it’s
‘you, you, you’ ”—a focus on God
and through God, others.
For both Carmelite contemplative nuns and the friars, prayer
includes daily celebration of the
Eucharist and the divine office, or
Liturgy of the Hours, in common.
But the anchor of the day is the two
hours of silent, contemplative prayer,
one in the morning and one in the
evening, that characterizes their life.
Father Michael Berry describes
these two prayer periods as “speed
bumps in the day” that force a
Carmelite to slow down. According
to the Carmelite community rule,
prayer and recollection should per-
meate the entire day. “But when you
have to sit down, stop all the busy-
ness, and sometimes just wait, that’s
both a great challenge and a great
gift,” he says. “it’s time to just be
present to the one who loves you.”
The climate of prayerful silence
that characterizes a Carmelite’s day is
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not aimed at being “penance,” as it’s
sometimes portrayed, but to enable
Carmelites to deepen their relation-
ship with God and one another.
As Trappist monk Thomas Merton
wrote, “The aim of the contemplative
life is not to teach a person to say
prayers, but to live in God.”
For sister Marjorie Robinson,
of the Carmel of Beacon, new york
carmelitesbeacon.org), this living in
God is what keeps Carmelites con-
nected with the whole human family.
“While our life may be out of sight,
it’s not out of touch,” she says. “it’s
the dynamic of prayer and commu-
nity living that helps” Carmelites
become their best selves, not only for
God but also to be able to hold the
needs of all God’s people in the heart
of their prayer. =
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