|Br. Roy Scivyer|
If it is right to call my path to Carmel a ‘journey’, then it was one made by following the breadcrumbs scattered by those who have gone before me, both literally and metaphorically. I first encountered a Carmelite over beer and pizza at the University of York Catholic Chaplaincy, which is maintained by a small community of friars. They were down to earth, friendly folk, nothing like I expected them to be.
I remember arriving at University that autumn in the heady days of the late ‘noughties’, when iPods were merely pocket sized and programmes were still viewed on television. I was exhilarated to be alone for the first time, yet I also bore within me a lot of questions about who I am and what I believe in. The Carmelites offered me a space in which to share these feelings as well as the friendliness of a cup of tea or a simple meal. Although they were not perfect, they seemed to radiate a sense of love for all they encountered, even if it was not always apparent.
As time went on, so I grew as a Catholic Christian. Alongside the Carmelites I felt very much at home, a tremendous sense of belonging that I had never felt before. I ate with them in what I now call Eucharistic moments of brotherhood and unity, and enjoyed their company greatly (I should add I still do!). I began to look at those questions I brought with me with Carmelite eyes, and began to find the traces of answers. Here were ordinary men doing extraordinary things.
The decision I took to enter the Carmelite novitiate has become harder with time. After I graduated from University I worked in Germany for a year and discovered a world of possibilities and freedoms that I knew I would be sacrificing if I entered Carmel. There was a point when I decided to leave the Carmelites as a memory, a relationship at University that had run its course. Yet I could not escape the fact that, at the end of the day, the longing I had in my heart could be for God and could be satiated by the Carmelite way of life, and that the only way to find out if this was true was to accept their invitation to come and see.
St. John of the Cross often used the metaphor of a wounded lover to describe his relationship with God, and saw the path to healing as a lifelong journey towards God. I have been told time and time again that we do not become Carmelites, but are Carmelites and that through God we shall be transformed into that which we are called to be. I arrive here ragged and torn between two worlds, though with the desire to find out not merely if God wants me here, but if this is really who I am called to be and whether I can grow here.