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What Aspect of Carmelite Spirituality is Most Helpful for Prayer?

September 13, 2013 by  
Filed under Carmelite Sisters, Carmelite Spirituality, Prayer

What aspect of Carmelite Spirituality do you find most helpful for your prayer? 

What thoughts have crossed your mind when you have read the Gospel narrative of Mary sitting at the feet of Jesus and Martha “stewing” in the kitchen because she was left alone to do the serving? Why didn’t Mary see the serving needs and get up and help? What she did see was the person of Jesus and that is where she began. Martha saw Jesus too but she began with what she thought He needed. She could have continued with the serving if she had used her activity as an opportunity for solitude going about her chores with a sense of adoration and peace.

carmelite spiritualitySince all prayer begins with adoration, the environment surrounding my prayer must be one of solitude where my faith is rekindled as I seek Him whom my heart desires. It is only through withdrawal from the many voices that bombard us throughout the day, the endless demands made on our time and energy, the ceaseless needs of a weary world that we can gain the perspective that we need by separating out the one voice that guides our life to know the Father’s will.

Jesus was constantly sought out by the crowds for His teaching and for healing. But there were times when He disappeared and went off to lonely places to pray. In this solitude He communed with His Father and received clarity for His human life that He might perfectly fulfill the Father’s will. In the Father’s will He was given the nourishment to carry out the ministry entrusted to Him.

How else can we discern when the “good things” we are doing are coming solely from ourselves to fulfill our own needs to be of service or when they are coming from God? Without times of solitude we cannot be sure that the voice we are hearing is our own voice or that of the Holy Spirit. Times of solitude allow us to step back from situations, evaluate them more objectively, seek counsel, if needed, and seek enlightenment in prayer.

The big question is probably, “Where do I go to find this solitude?” This may take a little planning and creativity depending on where you live. Where will you establish your secret hiding place? Some may be fortunate enough to have a nearby “nature” spot or at least a “nature” getaway a few times a year. Others may make use of a few moments throughout the day where a room, a place in the yard, a nearby church, or even a commute alone in traffic, provides time spent with the Lord.

Solitude is not an empty space, a void; it is an encounter with the God who loves us, a love-space where in the mystery of this encounter so much awaits us. Many distractions fill our day, and they affect our ability to focus and distinguish between the finite and the infinite. Through solitude, we are in a better position to “let go and let God” act in our lives, to surrender control, to know God loves us and be open to the path along which God is moving us.

What do you do within this time of solitude? Simply remain quiet for a few moments to distance yourself from the busyness of your day, and allow God’s presence to permeate your being. You may then choose to rest in the beauty of God’s creation, reflect on some thought from the day’s liturgy, read a passage of Scripture, recall some act of God’s graciousness to you, etc. The opportunities are countless.

Making this an essential part of your life will enable you to grow in your relationship with God and give you new life, an eternal life begun in the here and now.


Article used with permission of the Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Los Angeles.



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About Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Los Angeles

PROMOTING A DEEPER SPIRITUAL LIFE THROUGH HEALTHCARE, EDUCATION AND RETREATS. The way of life of the Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Los Angeles is rooted in the Gospel, the Church, and the spirituality of Carmel as lived out through the charism of our foundress, Venerable Mother Maria Luisa Josefa of the Most Blessed Sacrament. In His merciful goodness, God has graced our Institute with the Carmelite charism which has its foundation in a long history and living tradition. Our vocation is a grace by which contemplation and action are blended to become an apostolic service of the Church as we promote a deeper spiritual life among God's people through education, healthcare, and spiritual retreats. We are called by God to be a presence inflamed within our world, witnessing to God's love through prayer, joyful witness and loving service. Our mission flows from each sister's profound life of prayer as Mother Luisita, our foundress, wrote, "the soul of each Carmelite raises herself to Christ, Who is her heaven, while her shadow falls in charity upon earth doing good to all people."

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  • patricia

    Thank you Sister for the insight on prayer and creative ways of solitude this is a busy secular world we all live in and we do need to find moments of prayer in silence. I find late at night when everyone is asleep and early in the morning. A good walk on the bike trail helps me to reconnect with God.

  • ThirstforTruth

    I like the scenarios of nature trails, quiet walks, get away retreats,etc for those momentary experiences with God but for me not possible. I find just mentally going within several times in the day the best and most possible scenario to connect with my Creator …and seek His Guidance and Consolation when I am stressed by the moment. I agree Martha could have done this while serving her Lord and God and become less stressed….and Mary could have done the same, still listenng and also being helpful to Martha. But I bet the reality of Lazarus home was that this was always the way, the one sister doing while the other was more likely to be less involved in the household activities? Martha, for me, is easier to relate to as I also find it hard to just *sit* and *be*. It is not my nature. On the other hand, I live with a *Mary* who never seems to see the *need* for being busy or the thing at hand that needs to be done. I have to fill myself with the awareness of His Presence in order not to fill up with resentment toward *my Mary* and it is never easy. Instead of being resentful, I try to be grateful for the good health, and sklls I have been given, and enjoy being *useful* in what I do for the others in our household. Meantime, I am also grateful to have an easy going and unpressured *Mary* to share life with me. BTW, my *Mary* is really called Bill and is my husband!

  • Camila

    Great idea… to “remain quiet for a few moments to distance yourself from the busyness of your day, and allow God’s presence to permeate your being” — “Be still and see that I am God” (Psalm 45:11).

    Wonderful reminder!

    • LizEst

      Good to see you posting again, Camila. We’ve missed you!

  • Michael Brooks

    I live alone with a little Chihuahua named Bandit. I need constant reminders like this article. It seems that when I am home in my Solitude, I get more out of the Divine Intimacy Meditations than I do with Prayer Primer. Maybe deep down I am already in tune with things of a deeper Spiritual Nature of Carmel, as I was a Carmelite for 9 years til 2005. I am in Solitude most of the day, every day, but I do not see that most of that time spent wisely either. It could be that I need to reduce my time online, and just allow 2 hrs. a day or less online. How did people do it back in the days without TV, computers, mobile phones, ie; before all this technology flooded our world…they bring noise into the world. Though, I can no longer hear, there’s still noises, but they are visual noises. I don’t know if I am making any sense here.

    • LizEst

      Yes, you are making much sense. I just finished reading today’s Divine Intimacy meditation. It’s a terrific resource for prayer and meditation. Glad you find it conducive to your situation. Do you have a spiritual director? Your issues with spending time wisely would be a good subject for direction. If you don’t have one, I recommend you seek one. Since you can no longer hear, perhaps a director would consent to directing you on line. God bless you, Michael.

      • Michael Brooks

        It is very difficult finding a good Spiritual Director, and even a Confessor. I would go to the regularly scheduled times for confession, but it would not be fair for others in line waiting their turn, as my confession would be drawn out, and requires patience on the part of the Priest, since I do not know sign language. My Bishop has recommended a Carmelite priest by name for Spiritual Directions, and I am waiting til weather gets cool enough for me to venture out with any interactions with my medications that I am taking. Venturing out for confession is also a difficulty when it comes to the weather. I do not wish this kind of Cross on anyone….It is difficult.

        • Gabrielle Renoir

          Absolutely it is difficult to find a spiritual director, let alone a truly good one. I can empathize. I cannot find one myself. Many priests do not have the inclination or the time.

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