In Salt Lake City, a recently held fair to support a nearby Carmelite monastery gave a local Fox News outlet a rare opportunity to capture footage of the cloistered life of Carmelite nuns. Reporter Kelly Chapman and her camera crew were allowed access to the Immaculate Heart of Mary Monastery, where she was given a tour of the grounds and taken through a day in the life of a Carmelite nun by Mother Therese, Prioress of the community.
Viewers are taken out of the world at large for the duration of the brief six-minute glimpse into cloistered religious life, transported to the scenic eight-acre property that makes up the entirety of the nuns’ cloistered world. To be cloistered is to completely remove oneself from secular life, placing the focus of each day on devotion to the Lord Jesus Christ. These nuns do not leave the monastery’s grounds for any reason other than health care or similar needs, which is best displayed by two of the community’s original members, now in their 90s, who have spent the majority of their adult lives on site.
Mother Therese explained that each day, the 11 nuns who reside in the monastery wake up around 5:15 a.m. to begin their day. She explained that the community lives modestly, without modern comforts like air conditioning, while limiting the size of meals and the use of amenities like electricity and heat. While the nuns do spend time on work – like sewing vestments and baking Communion hosts – much of their day is spent at prayer.
Seven times throughout the day, a bell is rung to call the community to prayer. The sisters pray the Liturgy of the Hours, sing hymns, and pray for the intentions of lay people who have mailed in requests. Mother Therese noted that mail and email are the only windows to the outside world that the monastery has, as the community eschews television and other forms of media. In total the prioress estimated that the community spends at least 6-and-a-half hours per day at prayer.
While she acknowledged that “in the eyes of the world this is not an easy vocation,” Mother Therese explained that none of the nuns of the Immaculate Heart of Mary Monastery feel that they are missing out on world events:
“I don’t know why people think we are missing out … truly, I don’t feel sorry for myself at all, I don’t feel sorry for the nuns at all … we feel so blessed and like we have everything,” said Mother Superior Therese, adding, “We are so blessed to be here to offer our lives to pray for the Church and all God’s people.”
From the beaming contented smile on Mother Therese’s face during the entire interview, it is clear that she derives a great deal of peace and satisfaction from the cloistered way of life. She extolled the virtue of maintaining a solid prayer life and the smile only faded from her face as she lamented that lay Catholics do not place as great of a priority on prayer as they once did.
“The most serious problem that I as a religious see right now is people losing their faith in God. They put their faith in things that are not important. We pray that humanity repents and they come back. They don’t have to be Catholic. As long as they believe they will find peace.”
She concluded the interview with a message to the faithful:
“Here in Utah, here at this humble monastery, there is a group of nuns who pray for them day and night.”
Learn more about the Immaculate Heart of Mary Monastery and the cloistered life at the community’s official website.