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The Carmelite Rule Today

From the writings of Fr Wilfrid McGreal, O Carm, Prior of The Friars, Aylesford Priory, Kent, England.

‘Carmel’ means ‘the Garden of the Lord’. It is a place, it is a tradition and it is a way of life. For many people the word ‘Carmelite’ means contemplative nuns, and perhaps a notion of remoteness and austerity. Perhaps it would be better to talk about ‘the Carmelite Family’, which includes the friars and the women Religious of both branches of the Carmelite Order, the many affiliated Religious Congregations, and the countless individuals who are drawn to seek inspiration and support from the values of Carmel.

The first Carmelites were a group of brothers who came together seeking a deeper way of following Jesus Christ. They were poor men, pilgrims who had made their way to the land of Christ’s birth in their desire to be nearer him and to live the Gospel simplicity. They sought Jesus Christ in solitude – but sought also to share that treasure through living together and serving the spiritual needs of people. Even when they left Mount Carmel itself, Carmelites carried with them a sense of solitude, even when living in cities and working in universities.

How do Carmelites, especially the Friars, see their lives today?
This passage from the Order’s Constitutions, which flesh out the ideals given in the Rule of Saint Albert, includes the basic elements of that vision.

Finally, this way of being
‘in the midst of the people’
is a sign and a prophetic witness
of new relationships of fraternity and friendship
among men and women everywhere.

As an integral part of the Good News,
this prophecy must be fulfilled
through active commitment to the transformation
of sinful systems and structures
into grace-filled systems and structures.

It is also an expression of
‘ the choice to share in the lives
of “the little ones” of history,
so that we may speak a word of hope
and of salvation from their midst
– more by our life than by our words’.

This option flows naturally
from our profession of poverty
in a mendicant fraternity,
and is in keeping
with our allegiance to Christ Jesus,
lived out also through allegiance to the poor
and to those to whom the face of our Lord
is reflected in a preferential way.

(Constitutions of the Carmelite Order)