The rhythm of the day
Life in Carmel is very regular every day of the year with a very full and fragmented schedule, which allows us to better remain in the presence of the Lord. We do not work on Sundays and holidays.
In Thérèse's time, sunrise was at 4:45 a.m. (5:45 a.m. in winter) and sunset around 23 p.m. Prayer times (about 7 hours a day) are always with the community in the choir. The work is done as much as possible in the cell, in solitude and silence (except for the “lay sisters” in charge of heavy work and the kitchen).
Very big holidays give rise to “licences”, days when silence is lifted.
Life in the cell in Thérèse's time
« Let everyone remain alone in his cell or near it, meditating day and night on the law of the Lord and watching in prayer, unless he is legitimately occupied with something else."Rule of Carmel
The sisters therefore spend a significant amount of time in the cell: spiritual reading, free time, work time when it can be done alone in the cell, for example the mending of clothes. And of course toilet and night.
The cell has a bed made of trestles on which a mattress is placed, a low stool on which the Carmelite can sit. Near the window, a work corner with a work basket, an oil lamp, an hourglass to measure time and a writing desk. A bare cross and engravings chosen by the resident of the place adorn the walls.
Work in the Carmel in the time of Thérèse
« You will do some work or work with your hands, so that the devil finds you always occupied and that he has no entry into your souls, using your idleness as a door."Rule of Carmel
At the time of Thérèse, the Carmels lived in autarky, from the work of their hands, the products of their garden and a few donations. They spend little: no heating, kerosene for lighting, no social or other insurance, very simple food. The buildings were constructed from donations.
In the Carmel of Lisieux, the livelihood of the sisters is essentially produced by: the production of altar bread, ornaments and painted images. In addition to paid work, community services occupy a large part of their working time: sacristy, liturgy, accounting, cleaning, laundry, garden, making and repairing dresses and alpargates (homemade canvas sandals). The heavy work is done by the “lay” sisters, of whom this is part of their vocation; but they are helped when necessary for all the sisters.
The community meets in the choir of the Carmelites in the chapel several times throughout the day to say the Divine Office in the name of the whole Church. It includes psalms, hymns, short biblical passages, all in Latin, a language the sisters did not know.
In Carmel, particular emphasis is placed on oraison (silent prayer). The sisters devote one hour to it in the morning and one hour in the evening.
« Stay close to the Saviour. Let us consider that He is watching us, that we are keeping Him company. » Teresa of Avila Fri, ch.13
The meal is simple and sober. We never eat meat.
Each receives her portion from the waitress as a gift from the Lord, without judging what is presented as good or bad. She then eats with lowered eyes directed in front of her, without looking at the others.
The meal is taken in silence in the refectory according to monastic tradition. During the meal, a sister most often does a spiritual reading.
Feasts at Carmel
These are either the liturgical feasts of the Church, or the community feasts: feast of the monastery, of the prioress, jubilees of the sisters, etc.
These festivals which break the great regularity and enliven the austerity of ordinary days, are celebrated with great enthusiasm and joy. Celebration in the choir, celebration in the refectory, more festive recreation, poems or plays created by a sister… all the sisters put a lot of ardor into preparing it. Rooms can be decorated, meals are upgraded.