Introduction to the Life of an Anchorite
“Let us remember Our Holy Fathers of past days, the hermits whose lives we attempt to imitate. What sufferings they bore, what solitude, cold, thirst and hunger, what burning sun and heat! And yet they had no one to complain to except to God. Do you suppose they were made of iron? No: they were as frail as we are.”
~Our Holy Mother Teresa of Jesus~
The call to the cloistered community is truly a “call within a call”, but the call to leave even a cloistered life in common to scale the mountain with Moses, Elijah and the great prophets of the Old Testament can very much be seen as “a call, within a call, within another call.” Many, even in a community are afraid to be absolutely and completely alone with God. Man is not meant to be alone, but how can one truly be alone if they are living constantly in the presence of the Divine? The presence of Our Dear Lady, the angels and the saints.
IF IN THE PAST AGES, THE CHURCH HAD TO RELY ON HER ANCHORITES, WE NEED MORE THAN EVER TODAY THAT THEY SHOULD EXIST AND PROSPER.
~POPE PIUS XI~
Carmelite Hermitess of Our Lady of Fatima:
Hastening the Triumph of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
“I have also tried to ensure that this Rule of Our Lady and Empress shall be kept in its original perfection.”
~Our Holy Mother Teresa of Jesus~
- Desert Fathers and the Spirit of Carmel.
- The Marian Vow and Our Lady of Fatima.
- Traditional Latin Mass and the Carmelite Rite of the Divine Office.
- The First Saturday Devotion.
- Strictly Contemplative.
- Mental Prayer, the Law and Silence
The Desert Fathers and the Spirit of Carmel:
Hundreds of years ago our Fathers of the Church, in particular the desert Fathers, thought the greatest gift a soul could possess was to be totally secluded in the desert. This ancient call precedes life in common and has been lost, misunderstood or seen as a waste, when it is actually the Church’s greatest gift. The world teaches us that we always have to be doing something; even our best intentions in these actions can have some sort of vain glory in it. Many Catholics in our day see the true life of prayer as selfish, but what did Our Lord reveal to Moses and Elijah on the mount during His Transfiguration? WE do not know the answer, but the most glorious of all intimacies can be found on the top of the mountain of prayer if we simply take the risk and leave all to discover these choicest secrets.
However, the life of an anchoress needs a “spirit” to fuel her fire and that ancient “spirit” is that of Carmel. We often hear how most religious orders belong to Mary; especially that of Carmel but many do not know the REAL reason Carmelites belong totally to Our Lady. There was a group of hermits during Our Lord’s life, who, adopted the spirit of Elijah, lived on Mount Carmel and because Nazareth is so close to Mount Carmel OUR LADY OFTEN WENT TO INSTRUCT THESE HERMITS ON THE MOUNT! And on the way back from Egypt, Saint Joseph, Our Lady and Our Lord stopped and visited these hermits, on their return to Nazareth, on Mount Carmel.
So you see, Carmel really is Our Lady’s Order because She instructed these Carmelite hermits DURING HER LIFETIME. Thus, it made perfect sense, when the Order of Carmel came under attack and was on the verge of being expunged by the Holy See, that Our Lady appeared to Pope Honorius and said this in defense of Her Carmelites:
“My orders do not admit contradiction or delay. So that you might have faith in My words, know that your judges, who are the enemies of My order [Carmel], will feel the vengeance of God this very night and will die simultaneously a sudden death.”
Pope Honorious called the Carmelites to approve their rule and dismissed the two judges. The Holy Virgin spoke these impressive words in a vision to Pope Honorius III in 1226, ordering him to approve and protect the Rule of the Carmelite Order, that is, the Order of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. The next day, January 30th, Honorius III learned of the deaths of the judges whom he had convoked to resolve the case regarding the approval of the Carmelite Order. The Pope then called the Carmelite religious to appear before him, embraced them warmly, and proceeded to compose the Bull Ut vivendi normam, which confirmed their Rule. The institution was definitively approved on this date. The sons of Carmel gave thanks upon learning of this prodigy and the extraordinary protection of the Virgin Mary over their Order. The remembrance of this event was perpetuated by a feast, instituted by that same Pontiff at the request of St. Simon Stock, who was then Vicar General of the Carmelites in the West. This is the solemn feast day of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, recorded in the liturgical calendar on July 16th.
With all that being said thus far, it is not enough to simply be an anchorite, but a Carmelite anchorite, because the spirit of Carmel is this hermit’s guide to the mount of perfection.
Carmel dates back to far beyond that of Our Holy Parents, Teresa and John; so, one would ask: where did it all begin? In 1321, Our Lady revealed to Saint Peter Thomas that,
The order of Carmel is destined to exist until the end of the world.
This would be fitting because in theory, the very first monastic order to take form was under our original Carmelite Holy (Desert) Father who began his intense eremitical life on Mount Carmel where his original cell was that of a cave: Elijah. This prophet, who scripture tells us will also come back down to earth to prepare the world for the Second Coming of Christ, still has an important part to play. Many secrets have been revealed on mountaintops: God descended in a cloud of fire on Mount Sinai, the fire that consumed the sacrifices of Elijah. Abraham went to such a place to sacrifice his son, Isaac to God; on Mount Horeb God revealed Himself to Moses through the manifestation of the burning bush, then later received the Ten Commandments from Him while on top of a mountain.
Our Lord faithfully carried His cross uphill, to Mount Calvary where He sacrificed Himself. Was it not Elijah and Moses who were also next to Our Lord on a similar summit during His transfiguration? Finally, this very same prophet’s mysterious vision (described below) was seen on Mount Carmel; John of the Cross also has his famous map of perfection that leads to the top of a mountain. If we ponder the meaning of Our Lady’s mysterious prophecy of Carmel “destined” to exist until the end of the world, it would be only fitting that it’s father and founder would come back to be Carmel’s commander-in-chief for the decisive and final battle ahead. So what makes Carmel, the desert – or mountain – destined for greatness?
Prophets and apostles called to the desert/ mountain:
2.) John the Baptist (an austere hermit before preparing the way of the Lord)
4.) Saint Paul (fled to the desert- Arabia’s Mount Sanai- for three years before preaching to the gentiles)
5.) Mary Magdalen, who, lived the rest of her days in a cave of total seclusion in France until her death. Martha, Mary and Lazarus docked the same boat they shared in France. Lazarus became a bishop; Martha started a holy community of Virgins. That was not enough for the Magdalen; she did not join Martha in community life but entered into her predestined cave of solitude.
On mountain tops:
1.) God the Father is found and reveals Himself- “I Am that I Am.”
2.) Our Lord accepts “burnt offerings”- sacrifices.
3.) Christ reveals another part of His identity, that of fire- the burning bush.
4.) Reveals His Holy Will.
5.) His Law- beatitudes, ten commandments etc.
Hermits are called to a stricter and more intense way of life even than that of the cloister, because it is a life of direct service to Jesus and Mary outside of life in common. Contemplatives have been identified as the very heart of the Catholic Church; the cloister “grills” can be seen as the rib cage, which we know, protects that heart. Modernism has seeped its way into the rib cage and this heart is no longer seen as essential; we are well aware, however, that the body cannot go on living without this vital organ. Thus, we must look back to Elijah where it all began, the prophet who was chosen to foresee the glorious foot of Our Lady predicting this future war between the seed of Satan and the seed of Her own:
Elijah climbed to the top of Carmel [the mountain], crouched down to earth and put his head between his knees. Six times he looked out to the seas and saw nothing. And the seventh time the youth reported, ‘there is a cloud as small as a foot rising from the sea’…In Genesis, God the Father said to the serpent: ‘She will crush your head and you will strike Her Heel.’
Are Carmelite souls destined to form Her Heel? After all, it was Elijah on the top of Carmel who saw this Heel take shape. Only time will tell, however; at Fatima did not Our Lady appear on October 13th, 1917, as Our Lady of Mount Carmel?
Carmel seems to be the key ingredient to proclaiming victory over Satan. Carmel was in a very real sense, the first monastic order to exist with Elijah being the first ever founder and according to Our Lady, will it also be the last? The Blessed Virgin Mary has revealed extraordinary secrets of Her Heart through the holy prophets and order of Carmel: The gift of Her Scapular to Saint Simon Stock and the intense and disciplined rule of Saint Albert of Jerusalem; in no other (approved) apparition does Our Lady appear in a different habit, only the Holy Habit of Carmel. If we reread all that was written in regards to Fatima, the “Carmel destiny” and the future role of Elijah, we are reminded that Carmel is truly Our Lady’s order. Thus, we do not limit ourselves to strictly looking back at Our Holy Parents Teresa and John, but to the very beginning where it all began on the mountain of Mount Carmel. As Scripture has shown us, it began with Elijah, and it must end with him.
All are to remain in their cells or near them, meditating day and night on the law of the Lord and being vigilant in prayers, unless otherwise lawfully occupied.
~Saint Albert of Jerusalem~
The Marian Vow and Our Lady of Fatima:
After having brought the daughters of Our Holy Mother Teresa to France in the beginning of the 17th century, Cardinal de Berulle wanted them to add a fourth Marian vow to their three existing religious vows. But he had to renounce this idea due to the very strong opposition of the Spanish Carmelite nuns; this unexpected objection was headed by none other than Blessed Anne of Jesus and Blessed Anne of Saint Bartholomew. So, since that time, what has changed? Our Holy Mother St. Teresa of Jesus and Bl. Anne of Saint Bartholomew both faced a great crisis in their own times: the Protestant revolution. In our current time, we can simply look around and clearly see with adjusted vision the crisis infiltrating the heart of the Church.
That rib cage can be seen as the Catholic Hierarchy, without them- who protects the heart, the contemplatives? Our Lady always raises up great saints during times of instability or catastrophe. A fourth Marian vow that was not needed then, could certainly be needed now; not unlike a remedy or cure that was not necessary for an illness that did not yet exist in 1500. This vow could very well be another “key ingredient” that Our Lord requested through Our Lady at Fatima: devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary which could only lead to one thing – the triumph of that Heart. My intention therefore is not to change the Carmelite spirit in any way or to introduce some extraneous element to that spirit, but rather to enhance it with new grace. Notably, during the time of Our Holy Parents John and Teresa, Saint Maximilian Maria Kolbe was not yet born; he was destined to live during a time when Satan would begin his decisive and final battle with the Virgin. So, what did Kolbe introduce in this vow?
In the traditional Carmelite profession, the object of the vows is the evangelical counsels of obedience, poverty and chastity, but these vows are rendered Marian by the fact that they are offered to God through the Hands of Our Queen. My intention is to render this Marian dimension all the more explicit by adding sacred obligations beyond those commitments already listed. This Marian Vow on a spiritual level involves a total offering of self to the Blessed Virgin, establishing Her as the Sovereign Queen and Mistress of the heart, body and soul. To give Her the meritorious value of all prayers and works so that She can dispose of them as She wishes. According to Saint Louis De Montfort, this is not even done in religious orders:
They do not give Him by these vows the liberty and right to dispose of the value of their good works. They do not despoil themselves of what a Christian considers most precious and most dear – his merits and satisfactions.
Most particularly, the vow includes a specific daily self-offering as victim of holocaust to bring about the triumph of Her Immaculate Heart. This Marian vow is a concrete response to the message of Our Lady of Fatima who asked the shepherd children to offer themselves as victims and who spoke of Her Son’s burning desire that devotion to Her Heart be spread throughout the world. Maximillian Kolbe refers to this vow as “transubstantiation into the Immaculata, a living and breathing Immaculata in the form of a host”. What does he mean by that? Our Lord chose to transform Himself into a small white host for the entire world in every Church Tabernacle. As such, so the Immaculata wants to establish Herself, Her life and Her interior in the utterly simple soul of a Carmelite. Did not Saint Louis de Montfort say Our Lord desires “living copies of Mary”.
This vow allows the soul to give Mary ALL without holding anything back, a complete and utter victim who denies Her nothing. We only ever hear of demonic and evil possessions of a soul; picture one being possessed by the Immaculate Conception. Then and only then, will we ever be able to love Christ as He deserves and console that most Sacred Heart, by establishing in our own hearts devotion to Her Immaculate Heart. I am going to take it one step further, if you will: to be little hosts and tabernacles for Our Lady. We will no longer exist, only Mary; just as we see what appears to be only bread, is really the Body of Christ. To see a simple Carmelite, yet who is fully possessed by the Immaculata. Obviously, the triumph of the Immaculate Heart was not reserved for Our Holy Mother Teresa’s time; thus, this Marian vow has been reserved for:
The education of the great saints who will come at the end of the world are reserved for Mary.
~Saint Louis de Montfort~
In studying the lives of the Carmelite saints, one finds that many of them sensed an urgent need to make an ulterior offering above and beyond the commitments assumed with religious profession. St. Teresa Margaret Redi offered herself as a “victim of love” and her life was consumed at the young age of twenty-two. The sixteen Carmelite Martyrs of Compiegne recited a daily oblation as “victims of holocaust”, during the French Revolution’s “Reign of Terror”. After all the Carmelites were beheaded in their Holy Habits of Carmel on the eve of the Feast of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, just a few days later, the revolution ended.
Their united promise was heard by Jesus and accepted. Such confidence only came from the fruit of their daily offering; a supernatural courage gifted directly from the Divine. Therese also made her “Act of Oblation to Merciful Love” as a “victim of holocaust” in order to open the flood gates of Divine Mercy for sinners. With the help of the saints who came before us, it is a desire to follow in their footsteps and open the flood gates of the mercy that comes from the Heart of Mary, thus establishing the reign of Her Divine Son and Prince, Jesus Christ, in the hearts of all men.
The combined power of prayer, sacrifice and bond of these Carmelite martyrs had the power to soften Christ’s Heart and restore peace. This is the current goal- with the Immaculate Heart of Mary. It is the urgent mission for our times as requested at Fatima and it is a hope that this offering will be accepted by Jesus and Mary; to be blessed with the gift of white martyrdom, and perhaps even red martyrdom. Many Carmels have the preconceived idea that Carmelite spirituality reached its peak of perfection in the early years of the Discalced Reform and that anyone who has an aspiration to do something a little different is somehow insulting Our Holy Mother.
Let us consider all the Carmelite women’s communities that have formed in recent centuries: the Carmelite Sisters of Charity (Venerable Teresita Quevedo’s community, founded by Saint Joaquina de Vedruna), the Carmelite Sisters for the Aged and the Infirm (founded by Venerable Angeline McCrory) and the Carmelite Sisters of the Divine Heart of Jesus (founded by Blessed Maria Teresa Tauscher). You will notice that all these foundresses have titles like Saint, Blessed, and Venerable. If they weren’t authentically Carmelite, then would Our Lord have allowed them to receive such honors in the Church?
Traditional Latin Mass and the Carmelite Rite of the Divine Office:
I am worried by the Blessed Virgin’s messages to Lucy of Fatima. This persistence of Mary about the dangers which menace the Church is a Divine warning against the suicide of altering the Faith, in her liturgy, her theology and her soul. I hear all around me innovators who wish to dismantle the Sacred Chapel, destroy the universal flame of the true Faith of the Church, reject her ornaments and make Her feel remorse for her historical past.
~Pope Pius XII~
Liturgy was first on that list. The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is the very center of a Carmelite nun’s day; it is where she meets her Beloved and receives greater strength. The Mass IS her vocation. It is the place where, beside Our Mother of Sorrows, she learns to carry the cross alongside her wounded Bridegroom. It is also where the Carmelite becomes accustomed to standing next to the Woman Who never abandoned Her Son. Another effect of modernism are the enemies of the Church who want to remove the element of sacrifice; without that key function we reduce something as precious and sacred as the Mass to a mere “meal”.
The Traditional Latin Mass has produced hundreds of saints flowing from its aqueduct of rich graces. My personal favorite saints come to mind: John of the Cross, Isaac Jogues, Therese of the Child Jesus, Teresa of Jesus, Bernadette of Lourdes, Louis de Montfort, Teresa of the Andes, Venerable Teresita Quevedo, Edith Stein, Elizabeth of the Trinity, the Carmelite Martyrs of Guadalajara, the sixteen Carmelite Martyrs of Compiègne and Maximilian Kolbe. All the saints mentioned knew only this precious form of the Mass; the present vernacular was not introduced even during Saint Maximilian’s time, let alone the saints preceding him.
The Latin Mass dates back to the time of the Apostles, as history has shown us that Saint Peter helped write the Canon of the Mass. The Divine Office is the “completion” of the Mass; in a very glorious sense, they are inseparable. Together with the Carmelite Rite of the Divine Office used for hundreds of years and spanning back to the time of Our Holy Parents John and Teresa, it was even used by Therese of Lisieux. Like the Seraphim, it is a simple wish to join these celestial beings in intoning the Divine Praises at the very throne of Jesus and Mary: The King and Queen.
The First Saturday Devotion:
Many well-grounded and traditional Discalced Carmels stress that the spirit of Carmel should not be modified in any way with the addition of extra prayers and devotions citing the preservation of spirit of Carmel as sacred. This is one hundred percent my personal goal; the Carmelite way of life is such a gift that we come to Our Lady empty-handed, ready to be filled with the very gifts of Her Heart: Her interior. However, while many Carmels faithfully embrace the First Friday Devotion, the First Saturday is ignored. This devotion has not become a universal practice of the Catholic Church and Sister Lucia related that peace in the world depends on the faithful observance of this particular devotion. Our Lord told Sister Lucia that His Heart was moved to establish a devotion that would remove the five principle thorns that pierce Our Mother’s Broken Heart:
- The blasphemies against the Immaculate Conception.
- Against Her Perpetual Virginity.
- Against Her Divine Maternity, refusing at the same time to accept Her as Mother of all mankind.
- Those who try publicly to implant in the children’s hearts, indifference, contempt and even hate against this Immaculate Mother.
- Those who insult Her directly in Her sacred images.
This is heaven’s peace plan as Pope Benedict XVI said so memorably in 2013; Fatima is not concluded – it is for OUR times. It is a desire to have a life smothered in Mary’s Fatima message, as the triumph of the Immaculate Heart depends upon it, as well as the salvation of souls! The First Saturday Devotion will be treated with the upmost love and care, offering every small sacrifice possible to makes “amends” for these five wounds made against Mary’s Sorrowful Heart. The First Saturday of the month and daily life will center on consoling the Most Holy Virgin, Whom Sister Lucia claimed to have never smiled once during the apparitions:
The world in which we live shuns the contemplative souls and says: what a waste. The popular question: “what do you do all day?” is especially asked of hermits. Even faithful Catholics mutter, “well, I could never live such a life and so, you can’t either, then!” All is a grace and if Our Lord is calling a soul to the desert, He does not qualify the person, He qualifies the call, and the grace is sufficient. The thirty years of private life led by Our Lord is a mystery, to say the least. Yet Our Lord told Saint Faustina,
I keep the world in existence only because of you. You bind My Hands with your love!
That statement is shrouded in unfathomable mystery and romance. Such CAN be the power of a faithful bride of Christ, and such is the power of anchorites, cloistered monks and nuns; they are the beating heart of the Catholic Church. Anybody can have a heart, but does it beat? One may ask, wouldn’t you rather serve the poor, the sick, clothe the naked or preach? A confident lover of the Crucified can boldly answer: and who is there to serve Christ directly, at His feet with the Magdalen? The contemplative is free to love Our Lord without limits, to leave all for the sole purpose of loving Him. “To be alone with the Alone” as Carmelite and saint, Elizabeth of the Trinity so famously says.
It is not a question of loud or quiet personality to “persevere” in a life of solitude, it is only a matter of the heart; He looks only at the heart and how much it is willing to love and suffer with Him. The nun with a sense of humor is the one more likely to face the trials courageously in the war against self. Humor is a thing rooted in the Divine and since the greatest war is against powers and principalities (especially as a contemplative), we can’t take ourselves seriously if we want to judge ourselves in the proper “divine” light; we need only take God seriously.
Our Holy Mother Teresa was so “done” with the world that when she was starting new Discalced foundations, she kept her eyes cast down so as to stay exclusively recollected with her Lord. Yet, what did this accomplish? The souls who saw her on the street converted on the spot simply from seeing her. She did not preach; she didn’t need to. These “on the spot” conversions were the fruit of her precious Carmelite “desert” vocation. The world says, “what a waste!”, but Our Lord says “My beloved!”
Mental Prayer, The Law and Silence:
But when thou shalt pray, enter into thy chamber, and having shut the door, pray to thy Father in secret: and thy Father Who seeth in secret will reward thee.
The rule of Saint Albert of Jerusalem will be strictly observed, as well as some of Our Holy Mother Teresa’s constitutions, all edited to be lived outside of life in common, as an anchoress. A Carmelite Hermit’s entire day is shrouded in prayer and the studying of the Laws of Holy Mother Church. Charity is the fulfillment of the Law and with that, apart from the two hours of mental prayer in the morning and the evening, Divine Office and the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, it is the duty of a bride of Christ to constantly be thinking of Our Lady and Christ Crucified in all she does.
Those Two must become her identity, her reason for rising in the morning and the reason for laying down her head at the day’s end. Brother Lawrence of the Resurrection said he would not so much as pick up a piece of straw on the ground if it were not done for pure love of God. The life of a Carmelite Hermitess must be filled with some kind of work; never being idle, but ever letting her soul rest in Jesus and Mary while she works. Devotions such as Ignatian Meditation and Lectio Divina are considered too “complex” for a Carmelite; it is really much simpler.
It is a seeing, a being in constant conversation with the Beloved. It is setting aside the imagination, stilling the faculties and remembering the presence of that King and Queen resting in the very center of our souls, as if in a tabernacle. Brother Lawrence was so adamant on this “practice of the presence of God” that he said he no longer believed in God; he SAW God.
In silence and in hope shall your strength be.
Silence is something the world will never understand, but as Our Holy Father John of the Cross writes, it is God’s first language. Our Lord’s voice is a soft whisper which can only be heard in the silence of our hearts. Exterior silence is the perfect atmosphere for this interior practice. This is a life of no longer “conversing with men, but with angels” (Our Lord to Our Holy Mother Teresa). Trials and sorrow are saved to share with Our Lord and Lady alone. Apart from a learned confessor, sorrow is seen as an opportunity to go first and foremost to the Beloved, to share those trials with Him. Only in this, does one truly learn the power of silence. Before Mental Prayer, Our Holy Mother gave her daughters twenty minutes to prepare for the hour of prayer, with the reading of scripture. Even though our day is based on sacred scripture: the chanting of the psalms, the lessons and gospel at daily Mass, we come to know our Bridegroom by reading His Law and living it to its’ full splendor and capacity. Conversing with Our Lord and reading His word must be in-sync and in full harmony.
When there was tumult in the Church after the great persecutions around the year 300, [causing] the first wave [of eremitical vocations], and again around the year 1000, [causing] the second wave, lay people and monks guided by the Holy Ghost left their homes and monasteries to seek out solitary places in the desert to pray and regain their solemnity and fervor. And so, eremitical life was born.
(Latin Mass time depends on parish)
11:45 p.m. Rise
Midnight Miserere Psalm before Matins/Lauds
1:00 Return to bed
6:00 Angelus, Prime
6:25 Mental Prayer
*Holy Sacrifice of the Mass*
8:50 Breakfast followed by work
11:40 Sext, Examen
12:00 Angelus, Lunch, followed by Dishes
1:00 Seven Sorrows Rosary
2:00 None and Litany of Our Lady
3:00 Chaplet of Divine Mercy
5:30 Mental Prayer
6:30 Angelus, Collation, Dishes
7:15 Rosary, Examen-Compline, Spiritual Reading
8:30 De Profundis Psalm and Retire
OHM Teresa said a Carmelite should eat well, laugh well and sleep well!
We cannot for a moment doubt the power of prayer. Think of Exodus, when Moses stayed to pray while Joshua was sent to battle. Moses noticed that when his hands were lifted in prayer, they were winning the battle, and when his hands were lowered, began to suffer defeat. Joshua understood this power of prayer, as he sent some of his men up to hold up the arms of Moses. Such was the power of ONE man in the site of God the Father.
 The Way of Perfection by Teresa of Jesus; Chapter 11.
 Carmelite Rule
 John of the Cross encourages souls on the road to perfection to set aside the use of the imagination. Teresa of Jesus, over-time, clearly set aside the use of the imagination in order to reach the 7th mansion, as her discalced foundations do not use Ignatian meditation, today (unless there is a preached retreat with the exorcises, but even then, my own former Mother Superior, once the exorcises were complete, said, “finally, I can pray again!”)