The creative balancing of solitude and community is part of the history of monasticism, and the history of our Order. An atmosphere of silence and solitude is essential to our life of prayer.
In solitude, we learn to surrender to the work of God, to know God’s presence in a deep and intimate way, and to rest in that presence. As we open ourselves to the tender embrace of Christ we experience our solidarity and communion with all the peoples of the world. In the heart of God, we are all one!
In times of solitude we are brought by God to deep self-knowledge, a necessary part of the life of prayer. Solitude, which is both purifying and transforming, helps us know the truth of our being and what we are living for.
Daily Prayer in Silence and Solitude
Chapter 10 of the Carmelite Rule says that a Carmelite is to stay in or near her cell, always watchful in prayer, unless occupied in some other necessary occupation. From our earliest beginnings on Mount Carmel, Carmelites have dedicated themselves to contemplative prayer in solitary places.
According to our ancient Rule, the cell is the Carmelite’s intimate place of encounter with God where each sister is challenged to give her life totally to Christ whose love educates and transforms her desire.
The Carmelite life is a movement from the individual cell, the place of encounter with God in the depths of our being, to the chapel at the center of the cells and then returning to the solitude of the cell. Listening to the Word of God and celebrating Eucharist together strengthen all of us to return to the struggle in the cell, and from our struggles with the false self in the silence of the cell, we bring a purified heart to the service of others. – Fr. Joseph Chalmers, O.Carm.
Each sister is committed to at least two hours of personal prayer every day, in her cell or other solitary place. Our beautiful grounds provide ample room for solitary reflection and contemplative prayer.
We take one hermit day each week when we keep silence in solitude the entire day, except when we gather in the evening for Eucharist. These days are spent with greater focus on prayer and spiritual reading. At other times, we maintain a quiet atmosphere in the monastery and do our work in silence, when this is possible.