“As the Lord lives in whose service we stand”. Many of us have often meditated upon these words of the prophet Elijah, the great inspirer of the Carmelite Order. However, the period of construction and relocation of the new monastery gave us the opportunity to experience their validity in a powerful way. In the words of Pope Francis, God has called us to the “periphery”, where, paradoxically, we are much closer to the people than in the centre of the big city. Every day we can feel how God does his utmost for us and how, in a place that seemed to be “forgotten by all”, we can bear witness to the contemplative life and also invite others to the fullness of life. We would now like to introduce you to our often “adventurous” story, which is still being written...
We are a community of Discalced Carmelites, living a contemplative way of life in papal enclosure. Our mission is prayer and sacrifice for the intentions of the Church and for the salvation of all people. Our community, Carmel of Saint Joseph in Prague (Czech Republic), was founded in the 17th century by the Servant of God, Mother Mary Electa of Jesus. A native of Terni, Italy, she later founded monasteries in Vienna, Graz and Prague.
The journey to the “periphery”
In 2005, we decided to look for a more suitable place to live. In the monastery on Hradčany Square (next to Prague Castle) we had only a very small garden, because the building was not originally conceived for a cloistered order. In addition, the noise was growing ever louder in the area. In 2018, we bought a former farm in Drasty, a town near Prague. We moved there in early 2020 and handed over the Prague monastery to our brothers, the Discalced Carmelites. Thus, we began to build a new spiritual centre in Drasty, which will serve partly as our monastery, while another part will be open to the public.
Beginnings in Drasty
Confiscated during the communist regime, the farm property was returned to the Church only 25 years after the Velvet Revolution. It was therefore in such a terrible state that many did not believe it could be restored. It seemed as though someone had decided to turn what had once been an agricultural business into one big dumpsite, which later became overgrown with trees. In order to save money, in 2018 we started going to Drasty for the initial construction work, for which we received a dispensation from the papal enclosure, for the duration of the construction. At first, we worked alone, but later, Saint Joseph, to whom we have always entrusted ourselves daily, began to send us many generous helpers.
Years of intensive work
After years in a very confined space, we took up the outdoor work with great enthusiasm. Looking back today, we see how God miraculously strengthened us. In the first months, our main activity was loading the containers with waste. Then came weed removal and the removal of other unwanted plants — whipper-snippers and chainsaws became essential equipment. Some of the sisters also learned to drive a tractor and a Bobcat digger.
Moving from Prague
When we were finally able to move, we tried to do as much as possible on our own and with the help of volunteers. And the Lord worked mightily again. After all kinds of preparatory work, we managed to move to Drasty in forty days — which we see as very symbolic — with God’s help and with the help of dedicated people. In the end, professional movers were only needed once, and only for a few bulky items of furniture. They were days of great, exhausting effort, which nevertheless brought us together and enriched us.
The farm continues to change before our very eyes. Thanks to the work of a construction company, for example, the dilapidated “Manor House” (now the “House of Visitation”) looks like a cultural monument once again, and it should welcome guests in the future. It will allow us to host individuals, families and groups, both for rest and relaxation and for various spiritual programs. For now, we, sisters, live here, at least until the most essential parts of the new monastery are completed.
Building the monastery
After a long process of selecting a construction company, construction of the monastery began in the autumn of 2021. The monastery will consist of the former granary building and three new wings, which will include a chapel dedicated to Saint Teresa of Avila that will also be open to the public. At the end of 2022, the rough construction of the entire quadrangle was completed. All work is now concentrated on the interior. However, we are still short of funds to complete the project. You can visit our website www.karmeldrasty.eu for more information.
Life in Drasty
Drasty has become our home — a place where we can live much more naturally, in touch with nature and in a new intimacy with God the Creator, whose help and protection we have experienced almost “tangibly”. When the building will be completed, the environment here will be even more conducive to prayer and fullness of life with God. But we already feel his presence strongly, and so do many others... Although the site is not yet complete, people from all walks of life come to us, and use what little space we can offer them. Those who come often speak of the peace and joy they experience in this place. So we are hopeful that Drasty will one day become a life-giving place for the whole area.
By Sr Marie, ocd