Carmelite Spirituality—Solitude and Prayer

Photography © by Carmelite Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Los Angeles


“Solitude is not an empty space, a void; it is an encounter with the God who loves us…”

Dear Sister,

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

Dear Friend,

The short answer to your question is solitude.

Here is the longer answer…

Since 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 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 remaining 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.

Applying this to the story of Mary and Martha in the Gospel… 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.

Sister Laus Gloriae, O.C.D.

To learn more about the Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Los Angeles, read their biography below and visit their website.

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If you hear God calling you to the religious life, I encourage you to visit their vocations page. – Deacon Mike

Or for more information, please contact:
Sister Elizabeth Therese, O.C.D., Vocation Directress
920 East Alhambra Road
Alhambra, California 91801

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By Carmelite Sisters

Promoting a Deeper Spiritual Life Among Families through Healthcare, Education and Retreats

The Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Los Angeles strive to give striking witness as a vibrant, thriving community of dedicated women with an all-consuming mission. It is our God-given mission, a mission of the heart, a mission of loving service to the poor, the sick, the needy and the uneducated. Our loving service overflows from each sister’s profound life of prayer. We strive to reflect His life and hope and His promise to all that light has come into our world and darkness has not overcome it.

A look at the history of our community, with its motherhouse in Alhambra, California, reveals how its life-giving presence has come about. During the beginning decades of the 1900s just as the epic Mexican revolution was subsiding, a ruthless religious persecution was gaining momentum in Mexico. This horrible persecution accompanied the birth and humble beginnings of our community, a legacy that Mother Luisita, our foundress, and her two companions brought with them as religious refugees entering the Unites States in 1927.

Those seeds planted by Mother Luisita, now a candidate for sainthood, have taken deep root in the United States since those early days. People and places have changed throughout the years, yet the heart of our mission remains. As an autonomous religious institute since 1983 we continue to carry out our loving service in our healthcare facilities, retreat houses and schools which remain to this day centers of life and hope. Today we are moving forward together “Educating for Life with the Mind and Heart of Christ” in schools, being “At the Service of the Family for Life” through health and eldercare and “Fostering a Deeper Spiritual Life” through individual and group retreats. At the heart of our vocation is a passionate mission of loving service which facilitates our life-giving encounter with the living God.

The heritage of the Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Los Angeles is rooted in the spirituality of Carmel, the Gospels, the Church, with our particular charism derived from our beloved Foundress, 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 roots in a long history and living tradition. The spirituality of St. Teresa and St. John of the Cross is rooted in this tradition. Carmel means enclosed garden in which God Himself dwells. The divine indwelling in the soul is the foundation of Teresa's doctrine. Thus our vocation is a grace by which contemplation and action are blended to become an apostolic service to the Church.

Our ideal finds a living expression in the life and charism of our beloved Foundress, Mother Maria Luisa Josefa of the Most Blessed Sacrament, whose spirit we faithfully preserve and foster.

Our life is characterized by: - A life of prayer and union with God - A deep love for Jesus in the Holy Eucharist - Devotion to our Blessed Mother - Steadfast fidelity to the Magisterium of the Church - Praying for priests - Commitment to works of the apostolate in ecclesial service