DISCERNING A CARMELITE VOCATION - IS CARMEL FOR ME?
Contact the Carmelite Vocations Director Here
A Carmelite vocation as a mysterious call from God
A deep desire to pray for souls
A longing to belong to Mary
A desire to live the vows of Obedience, Chastity and Poverty
God can make saints from sinners
Discernment with a spiritual father and the fathers of our community
A Carmelite vocation as a mysterious call from God:
A vocation is a mystery, and that's what it is supposed to be. A vocation springs from the depths of a person's soul, where the Most Holy Trinity sustains a person at every moment. A religious vocation is given to a soul at the moment of his baptism. When that soul is consecrated to God by the Holy Ghost in the matter and form of the sacrament of baptism, the Holy Ghost makes His decision and leaves His imprint upon the soul who is chosen to belong to Him alone. Since God's work is so far above our ability to understand, so is that special call to serve him in a deeper way above our ability to understand. It remains a mysterious thing until we see God face to face in heaven.
A deep desire to pray for souls:
But there are many signs of a vocation that God wants us to see and to follow. One major sign of a vocation is a deep desire for it. A father who is called to have many children and raise them in the faith has the desire for that vocation, because he is given the capacity to raise his children with great love. So it is with cloistered Carmelite religious. They are given a vast capacity to desire to save souls. They sense a movement of grace in their heart that gives them a fervor and a love for those who need prayers. They feel that raising children on a natural level, while beautiful, does not fulfill their desire, which is to obtain graces for souls on a spiritual level. They see the beauty of the active priesthood and love what the priest does for the church in the parish, yet have a deep understanding that the priest needs help to reach souls - he needs channels of grace obtained for souls by hidden religious in the cloister of Carmel. A man with a vocation to Carmel desires deep in his soul to be one of these religious.
A longing to belong to Mary:
Another desire that is a sign that a Carmelite vocation is at work in a young man's soul, is his desire to belong to the Blessed Virgin Mary in a profound way. When he longs to be completely consecrated to Our Lady, and do her bidding in everything, it can be a sign that he is called to follow Our Lady of Mt. Carmel through the vows of Obedience, Chastity and Poverty. A monk who makes his vows through Our Lady to the Most Holy Trinity, gives himself in a very profound way to her service and to her own apostolate. The Blessed Mother was a very hidden soul who did God's will perfectly, and through her unfathomable union with her Son, was the Mediatrix of all graces. Her love for God, which is unfathomable to us because of her Immaculate Conception, touches every soul who encounters Christ, even in the midst of her hiddenness. So she calls her cloistered Carmelites to take a small part in her apostolate of love in the heart of the Church. A desire for this deeper communion with Mary can be a sign of a Carmelite vocation.
A desire to live the vows of Obedience, Chastity and Poverty:
On a more practical level, a young man must desire to live the evangelical councils through the vows of Obedience, Chastity and Poverty. These are the three vows that all religious take in order to imitate Christ in a more generous way. A Carmelite's primary vow is obedience since we strive to give our free wills to God. It can be a challenge to give up one's own way of acting in order to do God's will, yet it obtains many graces for your own soul and the souls of those you pray for. Chastity is also important as it is the way we give our whole self, body and soul to God alone. It is a joy-filled life of spiritual fatherhood obtained by the gift of self to God through the vow of chastity. In the vow of poverty we find the perfection of our hope in God, who gives us what we need when we trust in His Fatherly love. If you feel the desire to give yourself to God in a deeper way through the religious vows, it can be a sign that you have a religious vocation.
God can make saints from sinners:
At the same time such a soul who is called to the Carmelite contemplative way of life may wonder if such desires are from God, since he feels very weak. He may have been a sinner in the past who struggled with certain predominant vices. He may be living a life of grace to the best of his ability, but isn't sure how God can use him as a weak vessel, to obtain graces for souls. Isn't that the job of saints? Maybe he cannot say like St. Therese did that he has done exactly God's will in everything from the age of 3. Maybe in fact he was a normal modern teenager who fell into quite a bit of sin, even mortal sins. But praised be to Christ and His Blessed Mother, who love to call those who are weak to participate in their mission of the salvation of souls. Christ came to save sinners, and after their conversions, when they are well established in the life of grace, to use them as channels of grace for other sinners. And God is very good at making sinners into saints. Therefore, as long as a young man is striving to live the life of grace and the sacraments according to the Church's teaching, God may still be calling him to a cloistered contemplative life if his desires for it are deemed a sign of a vocation by Fr. Prior and the Chapter monks of the monastery.
Discernment with a spiritual father and the fathers of our community:
The most important sign of a vocation to Carmel, is that your spiritual director wants you to pursue it and Fr. Prior and the other monks believe you have it also. As with everything in the Catholic Church, proper authority is what makes the final decision and discernment of the action of the Holy Ghost. St. John of the Cross explained that this is the ordinary way in which God likes to work; through your proper superiors. A humble soul is never fully convinced of God's will until it is confirmed by his spiritual father, since a humble soul realizes he can be wrong. This is why the discernment of the fathers of our community is the most important element of the sign of a vocation. If you have these desires, please contact us using the link below for the Vocations Director, and we will help you discern your call to Carmel.