Victim Adorers of the Holy Face of Jesus, O.C.D.

In early 2003, the world was introduced to Sr. Irene (a Consecrated hermit nun living in the West of Ireland) through the edifying YouTube video “Selling God’s House.”

That video can still be viewed here:

I was recently inspired to track down Sr. Irene, and rejoiced to learn that she had constituted a new community of semi-eremitic Carmelite Nuns on the Emerald Isle.  I asked her a few questions about this community, and the responses left me even more edified than the video.

Sr. Irene is living proof that Our Lord still calls ladies to leave everything for His sake, and to give themselves completely to the practice of unceasing prayer, penance, perfection, and contemplation.

For those who have the vocation, it would seem Providence has created an opportunity, even in these tumultuous times, for women who long to give everything for His sake, and the happiness this self-emptying affords.

What you will read below may not suit everyone: 

I am not aware of another English speaking Congregation like it in the traditional Catholic world at the present time.  Primitive and ascetical by today’s standards (as indeed were all Discalced Carmelites  prior to Vatican II), the Horarium (i.e., daily schedule) brings to mind the Camaldolese hermits and/or Carthusians.  
Sister Irene assures me, however, that “there is nothing more difficult nor burdensome in their way of life than what was found in any enclosed monastery  prior to the Second Vatican Council reforms. Our way of life is not as reclusive as the Carthusian.  We share many exercises in common, though not as much as Teresian O.C.D. Carmels”.    

Chapter III  Rule of St Albert
The Separate Cells
“Next, each one of you is to have a separate cell, situated as the lie of the land you propose to occupy may dictate, and allotted by disposition of the prior with the agreement of the other brothers, or the more mature among them.”
(Original Rule of the Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel, given by St. Albert of Jerusalem between 1206-1214;
Approved by Pope Innocent IV in 1247).


Chapter VII 
Solitude and Continual Prayer:
“Each one of you is to stay in his own cell or nearby, pondering the Lord’s law day and night and keeping watch at his prayers unless attending to some other duty.”

Chapter X
“An oratory should be built as conveniently as possible among the cells, where, if it can be done without difficulty, you are to gather each morning to hear Mass.”

About the Victim Adorers of the Holy Face of Jesus, O.C.D.

Question: What is the name of your new community?
Sr. Irene:  Victim Adorers of the Holy Face of Jesus, O.C.D.  There is, in France a Contemplative Community of Nuns known by a similar title and mission -“Victim Adorers of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.” Our vocation is not unlike this community in it charism, to comfort the Sacred Heart of Our Divine Lord by sharing His work of Redemption for the salvation of souls.  The most striking difference is that they are “Cenobitic”, (meaning they share all community exercises in common).  We too are a community, but for the sake of greater silence and recollection, we each have a separate cell according to the Rule of St Albert, and some of the Liturgical Hours are prayed in private.   

Question: How many are you at present?
Sr. Irene: At present, I alone have the honour and privilege of keeping Our Divine Lord company in the Tabernacle.  A beautiful young lady will be joining us very shortly. We are also in correspondence with others who are showing an interest. Never a day goes by where I do not hear the echo of our dear Lord’s pleading invitation:  

“I seek Veronicas to wipe and honour my Divine Face which has few Adorers.”
-Revelation to Sr. Mary of St Peter. OCD. 

I want to cry out: “Lord You are the Divine Gardener. You Yourself know where to find these courageous “Veronicas”. If it pleases Thee, gather these generous souls from the four corners of the globe and plant Your Vine here in this little garden”. (Carmel means Garden of God).

(It is no small coincidence that this small piece of land was formerly called “Corran Garden Centre.”  
The sign is still nailed to a tree on our property.)

Question: Who is presently administering sacraments to the Victim Adorers of the Holy Face of Jesus
Sr. Irene: At present we have Fr. Ballini, who’s Priory is just four miles from our Hermitage. When he is in Ireland, Fr. Edward MacDonald offers Holy Mass. Other priests visiting Fr. Ballini have come to us from the Philippines and France.


Question: What might others find particularly challenging about this vocation?

Sr. Irene: Our simplicity might present a challenge to some, and the absence of modern every-day conveniences we so take for granted (e.g., centrally heated house on awaking in the morning, hot showers, modern kitchen and laundry utilities, electricity, etc.).  Others will find the silence and solitude quite challenging at first. When a girl leaves the world and enters Carmel, she expects a hard life. Strangely, the things we expect to be difficult­ (like separation from family and friends, lack of worldly amusements, change of diet, sleep on a hard bed), these we may finds relatively easy. The things we never expected would be difficult (like prayer, fatigue, silence and obedience, and the endless accumulation of little exactions throughout the long day), these can present a real challenge in any cloistered congregation. Sooner or later we come to understand how exacting love can be. The life of a Cloistered Carmelite Nun is above all, a life of love.  Another challenge for the new arrival (and not so new), is to always remain faithful to the daily Horarium whether seen or unseen by others.

Chapter XV: 
You must give yourselves to work of some kind, so that the devil may always find you busy; no idleness on your part must give him a chance to pierce the defenses of your souls.

Common Possessions
You may have as many asses and mules as you need, however, and may keep a certain amount of livestock or poultry.

Question: What dispositions might indicate a lady could have a Carmelite vocation, and a particular calling to the Victim Adorers of the Holy Face of Jesus?
Sr. Irene: A deep practicing faith; living a virtuous life; a great love and devotion for Our Blessed Lady; a longing desire to consecrate one’s whole being to God and to serve Him alone; a persistent call to Religious Life over a number of years; a desire to live a humble and hidden life of prayer and penance in silence of solitude, and in community; a love for the holy traditions of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church; a willingness to work hard; a willingness to live under obedience; good physical and mental health; aged between 18 and 40 years.

Question: What will be the primary charism of the Victim Adorers of the Holy Face of Jesus?
Sr. Irene: The charism of our particular life in the Church is to unite with the Divine Saviour in his victimhood and to imitate it in religion and charity. Our life is a Work of Reparation. (“…the most beautiful work under the sun …,” according to Our Lord’s  own words to the saintly 19thcentury Carmelite nun, Sr. Mary of St Peter.).  By our total self-oblation we wish to render the same service to Our Divine Lord as did the holy and courageous Veronica and His Blessed Mother. Through our union with Christ in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, and by a hidden humble life of prayer, and penance in the silence of solitude and in community, we offer the service of adoration and honour the Divine Face of Jesus hidden in the most Holy Eucharist.   
We are Roman Catholic Carmelite Nuns faithful to holy Tradition without compromise and the unchanging Magisterium of the Church.  We are here to comfort Our Divine Lord; to focus all our love and attention on pleasing the all Holy God who is so much offended, and to appease His Divine Justice for the sake of saving souls.

Our daily life is based on the Primitive Rule of Saint Albert which is the Rule of all Carmelites.   We live a semi-eremitical life according to that Rule. This means we experience the healthy combination of both solitude and community. 


Question: What will be the spirit of the community?
Sr. Irene: Our Spirit is Marian. From its beginnings, Mary is the Mother of Carmel, its Queen and Beauty.
The early hermits built a little oratory dedicated to her in the midst of their cells, calling themselves the Brothers of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. For them, for us, Mary is mother and sister, model and guide. Her presence pervades our whole Carmelite life. This gives a special Marian tone to our prayer and our community life. In Our Lady we contemplate the ideal of the Carmelite Order lived to perfection. Her example inspires us to follow in her footsteps. She takes the lead among the Lord’s poor and little ones. She best exemplifies contemplative life in the Church.

Question: In what would a typical day for the Victim Adorers of the Holy Face of Jesus consist?
Sr. Irene: Roughly this is typical day at the Hermitage (Keep in mind that I am presently “alone”, so all exercises are solitary, until our Postulant comes early March 2017): This timetable is not written in stone and must be slightly adjust according to Mass times.

4.40 AM:  Morning Call “Laudetur Jesus Christus” (wake-up call with clapper)
5.00 AM   Matins/Lauds  (In Common)
6:00 AM   Mental Prayer, Prime   
7:20 AM   Return to Cell 
8:00 AM   Holy Mass
8:45 AM   Collation
9:00 AM   Terce,  & Lectio Divina (in cell)
10:00 AM Work or Class
12.00 PM Angelus, Sext, examination of conscience (in cell)
12.30 PM Dinner in Refectory (wash-up)
1:00 PM   Siesta
2:00 PM   None (in private)
Work in private
4:30 PM   Vespers (in common)
5:15 PM   One Hour Mental prayer 
6:15 PM   Collation in Refectory
7:00 PM   Examination of Conscience, Compline 
9:00 PM   Retire
(Note: We normally have about 4 periods of Recreation in common per week.)     

Question: How is engagement into the Victim Adorers made?
Sr. Irene: A typical formation of a cloistered nun:
Postulancy: 6 months – 1 year
Novitiate: 2 years
3 years Temporary Profession of Vows: Poverty, Chastity and Obedience
Final Profession

Question: I understand that a website is currently under construction, which will feature contact information, and donation instructions.  Meanwhile, how may donations be sent?
Sr. Irene: Donations may be sent via cheque, cash or bank draft made payable to Sister Irene Gibson.( I use my own name at the moment, since we are still in the early days, and we have not yet set up a bank account with a particular name.)  Donations may also be sent via Pay Pal at our address-   We do not have internet service at the Hermitage so if donations are sent by electric means, we would be grateful to hear from our benefactors via snail mail.

Our needs are very basic. It is not our intention to build a large monastery with great cloisters etc. But we do need to build a solid house which will withstand the damp Irish climate. To enable the Sisters to live a regular monastic life, a monastery must contain certain rooms such as a Refectory, Library, Nuns Choir, Chapter room, Kitchen, Laundry etc. There should also be a visible enclosure wall or fence around the land so the Sisters may be able to observe their rule of enclosure and separation from the world.

At present we have but one main building measuring 24x18ft and which has been temporarily divided up with curtains to serve as an Oratory, Sacristy, Kitchen, Refectory/Library. We have no electricity, running water (well) or sewerage treatment facilities.

We pray daily for all our benefactors and have a monthly Mass offered for their intention.  

People may write to us with their prayer intention:

Sister Irene of the Holy Face, OCD
Holy Family Hermitage
Co. Cork