A day to support cloistered life

By | November 11, 2009


The Carmel of the Holy Name of Jesus in Denmark is home for the Discalced Carmelite Nuns. Pro Orantibus Day is an opportunity to offer support and prayer to all cloistered nuns. (Rick Evans | For The Compass)

Several times a day, these pray-ers return to the monastic church to sing the praise of God in the Divine Office, the Liturgy of the Hours, and to intercede for the needs of the church. As they leave formal prayer to go about the ordinary duties of cooking, cleaning, gardening, etc., they are attentive to God, his presence and his love. Even the simplest works of the day become acts of prayer. For centuries cloistered monks and nuns have been called “friends of God,” and their powerful intercession has been experienced by believers and nonbelievers alike.

A life dedicated to prayer, then, is not about the formal prayer of the monastic community, but the way in which formal prayer leads to a “prayerful” life, a life filled with the awareness of God and the needs of the world. The cloistered nun brings the two together. Her life of prayer encourages me to take my own life of prayer more seriously. Her example, hidden within the walls of the cloister, should spur me on to a deeper relationship with Christ.

A diocese is spiritually “incomplete” without such a house of such pray-ers. It is a privilege to include within the diocesan boundaries a monastery of such spiritual strength and richness. Bishops, in particular, rely on the intercession of contemplatives for the success and fruitfulness of their ministry.

In founding the Discalced Carmelite nuns, St. Teresa of Avila wanted them to pray especially for priests. Both bishop and priests can rely on the support of Carmelite nuns in their vocations of personal holiness and apostolic zeal. The presence of a Carmel in a diocese is great blessing for everyone.

The church has named Nov. 21, the memorial of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, as a day to acknowledge the great gift of the cloistered religious life to the church. “Pro Orantibus” is a day to give thanks for those who spend their life in prayer. The nun is turned to God in praise and adoration, always presenting to him the needs of the world.

A monastery of cloistered nuns is like a lighthouse set high on a hill. It reminds the whole diocese of the presence of God in its midst and reminds us that our true destiny is to be with him forever in heaven. What the tabernacle is to the parish church, the monastery is to the diocese. Christ is there: waiting, calling, helping, healing and forgiving.

In establishing a contemplative monastery in a diocese, the faithful take on the responsibility of supporting the nuns in their material needs and encouraging young vocations to the cloistered life. The bishop and priests take on the duties of chaplains and confessors. A monastery of pray-ers is an important apostolic work in a diocese. Pro-Orantibus Day is the single time during the year when the hidden unseen of the cloistered nuns becomes “visible” through our prayers and gratitude offered to God for this great gift to the church and the Diocese of Green Bay.

Fr. O’Donnell, is academic dean of the pontifical faculty of the Immaculate Conception, Dominican House of Studies, Washington, D.C.

Related Posts

Scroll to Top