My vocation story began aroound the age of eleven. My oldest sister Maire who was soon to enter a Carmelite Convent gave me a prayer to say for a vocation. I prayed it almost every day and had it off by heart.. The prayer ended with a quotation from Francis Thompson “And I was sore adread lest having Him I should have nought besides…” Although I still continued for years to add this quotation it did not really ring true with how I felt. And I remember mentally adding ” I am not afraid to give up everything for the love of Jesus.”
However I was not to enter Carmel for another ten years. In the meantime although never losing sight of my resolution, it was put on the long finger, occasionally getting nudges from the Holy Spirit. For example, a distant bell tolling each evening as I returned from a busy Dublin office seemed to call me. It was a daily invitation to respond to God’s personal love. It was about this time my sister Kathleen left home to enter with the Dominicans.
Eventually at the age of twenty three I took the step having sought the advice of a Carmelite priest who directed me to New Ross Carmel. Summing up all my courage I went for the interview. Later in life, when reflecting on the event I knew there was an inner strength doing it, which was not my own. The happy faces of the Sisters behind the grill reassured me and I thought to myself ” It must not be such a hard life if they are so happy”, for despite the ups and downs, life in Carmel is a very happy and fulfilling one. I saw it then and still do, as an adventurous journey into the unknown, towards God.
For Carmelites prayer and contemplation are our main points of focus. Our Rule tells of “meditating on the Word of God day and night”. It does not mean we stay up during the night! Having handed over our whole life to prayer, everything is prayer. “I sleep but my heart is awake”. In carrying out her mission of uninterrupted worship and prayer the Carmelite sister is helped by enclosure, silence, solitude, recollection and poverty, keeping her eyes on Jesus who sought always to please the Father. Mary, who pondered the Word of God and kept it in her heart is our model and sister. A Carmelite Community tries to be another Nazereth in its simplicity, warmth and sisterly love.
Our vocation is not just for ourselves. It transcends our own personal stories to embrace all who need our prayer.