Address: 27601 Hwy 1, Carmel, CA 93923
The full name of this beautiful monastery overlooking the Pacific Ocean is the Carmelite Monastery of Our Lady Mediatrix of All Graces and Saint Thérèse. The massive 1931 neo-Romanesque structure is home to a group of cloistered Discalced Carmelite Nuns living a life of prayer and service. The spacious interior of the chapel is adorned with several images of the patroness St. Thérèse of Lisieux including a spectacular mural decorating the apse behind the sanctuary. Inside are also beautiful images of Our Lady on the north side and an obscured statue of the Infant Jesus of Prague on the south side of the sanctuary. Messages in Latin decorate the interior and exterior of the chapel including the message over the front entrance of “LEVAVI OCULOS MEOS IN MONTES UNDE VENIET AUXILIUM MIHI” (I lifted up my eyes to the mountains from where my help would come) and “RECORDARE VIRGO MATER DEI DUM STETERIS IN CONSPECTU DOMINI UT LOQUARIS PRO NOBIS BONA” ( Remember the Virgin Mother of God while you stand in view of the Lord to speak good for us) on the arch over the sanctuary. The attractive grounds include walking paths and small shrines for additional focus. The special venue is open every day to the public for prayer, meditation and daily Mass at 8:00 (except Thursday). Sunday Mass is at 9:00 a.m.
Special things to see at the Chapel
• The tympanum on the façade of the chapel with the images of two Carmelite Doctors of the Church kneeling before the Blessed Mother and Jesus with their quotes in Latin:
• St. Teresa of Avila: “AUT MORI AUT PATI” (Either die or suffer)
• St. Thérèse: “ROSES MEMENTO SPARGERE” (I will let fall a shower of roses)
• The gold-gilded high altar rises fifteen feet at the rear of the sanctuary showcasing a ciborium-covered Crucifix and gold-doored tabernacle.
• A spectacular painted mural of St. Thérèse’s wish of being in heaven with the Blessed Mother and Jesus wearing a Carmelite habit. The roses bring to mind the Little Flower’s words, “After my death, I will let fall a shower of roses. I will spend my heaven doing good upon earth.”
• Architectural details inside the chapel: the arcades along each side supported by Tuscan-columns with Christian symbolism on each of the four-sided capitals; the six pairs of rounded-arch windows in the clerestory; and the wood truss-supported ceiling overhead.
• The Latin messages inscribed over the inside and outside of the doors to the chapel including “HONORIUS PAPA III REGULAM ORDINIS CARMELI APPROBAT” (Pope Honorius III Approved the Rule of the Order of Carmel [in 1226]) beneath the image of Pope Honorius III in relief sculpture over the entrance doors at the back of the nave.
• A statue of the Infant Jesus of Prague sits over a doorway on the south side of the sanctuary. The Carmelites have a special devotion to this image as the statue was given to the Carmelites of Prague around 1623; and it was a Carmelite priest, Father Cyrillus a Matre Dei who rescued the statue in 1637 from ruin and heard the Infant Jesus say, “The more you honor Me, the more I will bless you”.
• There are four images of St. Thérèse of Lisieux: in the tympanum on the façade; on the mural over the sanctuary; the south side altar statue; and in the rear of the chapel, the statue in the niche that also houses the crypt of the first Bishop of the Monterey-Fresno Diocese, The Most Reverend Joannes Bernadus MacGinley.
• On the wall in front the north side altar statue of the Blessed Mother & Jesus is a prayer intention box to leave requests for the Sisters of the monastery to pray for – the nuns are most happy to this and reportedly get about 20 requests per day.
Interesting Facts About the Monastery
The major benefactor for building the monastery in 1931 was the Sullivan family as a memorial to San Francisco attorney Mr. Francis J. Sullivan (1852-1930) who was the father of a Carmelite nun: Mother Agnes Sullivan. Mother Sullivan was a member and prioress of the Santa Clara Carmel Monastery. Earlier, the Sullivan Family financed a Carmelite monastery in San Francisco in 1908, to bring the Carmelites to the City and their daughter Sister Agnes, a Carmelite nun in Boston closer to home. The Sullivan Family linkage continued in 1917 when the Santa Clara Carmel of the Infant Jesus was, at least partly, financed by Mrs. Francis J. Sullivan’s (1860-1912) brother, U.S. Senator and former San Francisco Mayor James D. Phelan (1861-1930). The ancestors of the Sullivan and Phelan families were part of the 1849 California gold rush.