The Carmelite Order came into being on the slopes of Mount Carmel in the dawning years of the thirteenth century. The hermits who lived on Mount Carmel were drawn together by a deep desire to place God at the very centre of their lives. They dedicated themselves to following Jesus Christ with the example of the prophet Elijah and Mary, the Mother of Jesus, before them. In about 1208, they asked Albert the Patriarch of Jerusalem to give them a way of life.
This way of life was approved as a Rule by Pope Innocent III in 1247 and has regulated and shaped our lives ever since. It has proved to be an excellent guide for Carmelites over the centuries. Albert’s Rule is simple yet radical. It speaks to twenty-first century Carmelites just as it challenged those in the the thirteenth century. At the heart of the Rule is a life of service to Jesus Christ by which we are brought into intimacy with God.
In 1247, the hermit brothers of Mount Carmel, now flourishing in Europe, became friars and formed praying communities in the midst of God’s people. They were poor men who depended on the people they served for their livelihood. Although the friars no longer lived in remote places, they still kept a sense of solitude.
The official title of our Order is “the Brothers of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel”. We see ourselves first and foremost as brothers. Within that brotherhood, some have been called to the ordained ministry, while others feel called to be friars but not within the clerical state. Every Carmelite friar takes the same vows and follows the Rule of St. Albert. Ordained and non-ordained form one family.
Christ is our centre, he is the reason we are together. His mission is at the centre of our lives and his friendship is what really invites us in the end. Prayer is at the heart of the Carmelite way of life. We like to think of it as being “a continuous conversation with God”.
We come together to pray the Liturgy of the Hours (the Prayer of the Church) at the main “hinges” of each day, in the morning, at midday and in the evening. We also try to celebrate daily Eucharist together when at all possible. It is up to each friar to make space daily for his own personal time for God.
Our religious life is a choice to share our commitment to Christ within a community, so that we may be strengthened and supported and made more effective in our ministry. Thus we pray together and work together.
Living in community is in itself part of our mission and service to the Church and the world. It bears witness to this world in which individualism is rife that real community is possible, however imperfect.
Just like Christ, service of people is very dear to us. Above all else we under-stand ourselves to be praying communities at the service of the people among whom we live. Carmelites work in many and varied ways, welcoming people to participate in their life and spirituality, bringing a sense of Christ to many people’s hearts in a way that is uniquely Carmelite.
A characteristic of Carmelites down through the centuries has been their readiness to accommodate themselves to the needs of the people of God. One can meet Carmelite friars working in a busy parish or teaching. Some are engaged in general pastoral work, caring for the sick and the needy; some are involved in directing retreats and missions; others are chaplains in hospitals and prisons.
The often unpredictable demands of our day to day ministries lend richness to our lives. They centre around meeting the needs of people, whether they be young people in school, families preparing to celebrate the sacraments, the sick, elderly, angry, hurt, or imprisoned. We try to share our lives with others and to reveal Christ in all we do and say.
A contemporary American Carmelite expresses a sense of the Carmelite tradition as it speaks to people today:
The Carmelite tradition speaks to those who long to be apart, to separate from a smothering existence. The tradition offers the lure of the wilderness, mountain retreat, vast expanse of desert. In solitude, in a place apart, we searchers hope to hear our heart’s desire more clearly, to reassess life, to dream, to be be nourished by hidden springs, to meet the One whom others speak of with great assurance. Those who are drawn by the Carmelite tradition are often pilgrims
to places unknown, trusting the testimony of others who have taken the same ancient path.
John Welch O.Carm.
A Vocation Desire
I hope that you find
that which has deep meaning for you. Something worth living for,
maybe worth dying for,
something that energises you,
enables you to move ahead.
I can’t tell you what it might be
- that’s for you to find,
to choose, to love.
I can encourage you to start looking
and support you in the search
(Sr Ita Ford, MM. martyred in El Salvador)
For further information on the religious life in Carmel contact:
(Fr) Philip Brennan, O.Carm.
St. Colmcille’s Parish
Knocklyon, Dublin 16.
Tel: (01) 494 6842 or 494 1204
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