Thursday, 24 October 2013

Inside the Carmelite Monastery

Paddy, the Carmelites dog
This weeks theme for lectures was Community Life so after an early start and a lecture in the morning, the SPES community headed for the Carmelite Monastery in Notting Hill. We were quite apprehensive as to what to expect, considering the most that some of us knew about Carmelites was from a short film about St. Therese! We were greeted by a nun and a lovely big dog who immediately befriended Ambrose who we, of course, had brought along with us.

The grill from our side of the parlour, before it was opened
Entering the parlour room, we were faced with a closed window that led into another room. We heard what sounded like a stampede of elephants entering the room on the other side of the wall however, when the grill was finally opened we were met by 17 radiant Carmelite nuns all eager to see us and introduce themselves! The age varied among them as did the accents; from Scottish to Malaysian to South African! After such a warm welcome from the nuns, only two were able to stay to give us a talk on community life. One of the nuns was from Yorkshire which seemed to excite one of our community members and they spoke in a strange language for a couple of minutes that the rest of us could not understand... These nuns had both been in that Carmelite monastery for almost 30 years, compared to our just over 3 weeks in SPES, so they had a lot of experience on the topic we were to discuss.
The sisters kindly gave us a run through of what their typical day is like. They wake up at 5.20am which is slightly similar to us although we have breakfast together at 6.30am. They pray the hours of the day and have a very structured timetable, similar to ours, squeezing as much as possible into the little time available. They have work time which includes making of the hosts for the surrounding parishes and is where they get their main income from, gardening, making the habits that they wear and doing the washing, cooking and cleaning. They are in total silence apart from recreation time which is twice a day and during this time they sit around in a circle and talk to each other while doing something for fun like knitting for example. They spoke about the importance of sharing as a community because otherwise you don't fully know the people that you are living with, so they thoroughly enjoy and appreciate these recreation times they get to spend together.
We were curious as to what their rooms were like and were told that they in fact were called 'cells' and were very simple rooms with a bed, a desk and some drawers but that this was sufficient and one of the sisters even called them fashionable because most of the decor in the room is wooden!
The joy that radiated from these nuns was infectious and gave us hope, because if these ladies can live together for almost 30 years and still be so joyful, then we will definitely be able to survive these next 9 months!!
(Photo of Paddy and Sister's cell from Carmelites website )

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