local newspaper once described our
monastery as a refuge, an oasis. We had to laugh. Yes, it
is true that God has blessed us with plenty of land in
beautiful northern Michigan and abundant wildlife for our
delight. Yes, our beautiful chapel attracts the laity from
miles around as a sanctuary for silent prayer and reverent
liturgy in both English and Latin.
But we know better. Carmel is a
desert. God alone is the oasis.
loistered religious life can never
be an escape from “the real world.” Before entering
Carmel, a young woman must be able to embrace ordinary
life with its daily trials and difficulties as well as its
joys. Only then will she be able to find God in the
responsibilities of monastic life, whether she is chanting
God’s praises in the Divine Office, or baking altar
breads—our means of support—or doing the dishes or some
other humble task. For a Carmelite, every human experience
should become an experience of God.
armel’s written history began in the
12th century when hermits living on Mount Carmel obtained
a Rule from the bishop of Jerusalem. This band of
ex-Crusaders combined a chivalrous love for Our Lady with
the spirit of the prophet Elijah, whose exploits include a
mysterious encounter with God heard in a gentle breeze,
and a dramatic showdown with false prophets on Mount
Carmel. Our Order’s spirit is thus Marian, contemplative,
and zealous for God’s glory.
t. Teresa of Jesus renewed the Order
by founding the first monastery of Discalced (“barefoot”)
Carmelites in 1562. She revived the “hermit spirit” by
stricter enclosure, solitude and detachment lived in small
joy-filled communities, where her nuns would seek
friendship with Christ through loving surrender to His
will, both in prayer and in daily life.
ourageous women brought the
Carmelite Reform to Mexico in the 1600s, and then during
the religious persecution of 1913-1927, other heroic nuns
brought it to America. Two of these Mexican sisters, and
some of the first Americans who joined the exiled
community, founded our monastery in Traverse City in 1950.