THE CHARISM OF THE ORDER

From Carmelite Constitution

14.

“To live a life of allegiance to Jesus Christ

and to serve him faithfully

with a pure heart

and a clear conscience”:[1]

these words, inspired by St. Paul,

are the basis for all the elements of our charism;

they are the foundation upon which Albert constructed our way of life.

The particular Palestinian context in which the Order originated,

and the approval bestowed by the Holy See

at the various stages of the Order’s historical evolution,

gave new meaning and inspiration

to the way of life set out in the Rule.

 

Carmelites live their life of allegiance to Christ

through a commitment to seek the face of the living God

(the contemplative dimension of life),

through fraternity,

and through service (diakonia)

in the midst of the people.

 

15.

The spiritual tradition of the Order has stressed

that these three fundamental elements of the charism

are not distinct and unrelated values,

but closely interwoven.

 

Down the ages the Carmelites have emphasised the dynamic

of the desert experience as a crucial factor in unifying these values.

The desert experience is a Carmelite commitment

to make the crucified Christ - stripped and emptied -

the very foundation of their lives;

to channel their energies entirely towards him in faith,

tearing down any obstacles which may stand in the way

of perfect dependence on him

or impede perfect charity towards God

and towards others.

This process of detachment which leads to union with God

- the ultimate goal of all human growth -

is found in our spirituality in the expressions

“purity of heart” (“puritas cordis”)

and “total availability to God (“vacare Deo”)

These indicate a total openness to God

and a gradual self-emptying.

Through this process, when we come to see reality with God’s eyes,

our attitude towards the world is transformed
according to his love,

and the contemplation of the loving presence of God

will be seen in our lives of fraternity and of service.[2]

 

1. The contemplative dimension of our life

16.

From its earliest days,

the community of Carmelites adopted a contemplative style,

both in its structures and in its basic values.

This is clearly reflected in the Rule,

which describes a community of brothers,

totally dedicated to a prayerful attention to the Word,[3]

celebrating and praising the Lord with zeal.[4]

The Rule speaks of a community

whose members are open to the indwelling of the Spirit

and formed by the Spirit’s values:

chastity, holy thoughts, justice,

love, faith, the expectation of salvation,[5]

work accomplished in peace,[6]

silence which, as the Prophet tells us,

is the cult of justice and brings wisdom to word and action;[7]

and discernment, “the guide and moderator of all virtues.”[8]

 

17.

The tradition of the Order

has always interpreted the Rule

and the founding charism

as expressions of the contemplative dimension of life,

and the great spiritual teachers of the Carmelite Family

have always returned to this contemplative vocation.

Contemplation begins when we entrust ourselves to God,

in whatever way he chooses to approach us;

it is an attitude of openness to God,

whose presence we discover in all things.

Thus, contemplation is the inner journey of Carmelites,

arising out of the free initiative of God,

who touches and transforms us,

leading us towards unity of love with him,

raising us up so that we may enjoy this gratuitous love

and live in his loving presence.

It is a transforming experience

of the overpowering love of God.
This love empties us

of our limited and imperfect human ways of

thinking, loving, and behaving,

transforming them into divine ways.

 

18.

Contemplation also has a gospel and an ecclesial value.[9]

The practice of contemplation

is not only the source of our spiritual life;

it also determines the quality of our fraternal life

and of our service in the midst of the people of God.[10]

The values of contemplation

- when lived faithfully in the midst of the complex events of daily life -

make Carmelite brotherhood a witness

to the living and mysterious presence of God among his people.

The search for the face of God,

and openness to the gifts of the Spirit,

make us more attentive to the signs of the times

and more sensitive to the seeds of the Word in history,

seeing and evaluating facts and events

within the Church and within society.[11]

 

Through living like Christ,

in solidarity with the events

and the hopes of the human race,[12]

Carmelites will be able to make appropriate decisions

to transform life, making it conform more closely

to the will of the Father.

Moreover, for the good of the Church,

the contemplative dimension

will encourage those who feel called to an eremetical life.

 

2. Fraternity

19.   

A contemplative attitude towards the world around us

allows us to discover the presence of God

in the events of ordinary daily life

and especially, to see him in our brothers and sisters.

Thus we are led to appreciate the mystery

of those with whom we share our lives.

Our Rule requires us to be essentially “brothers”,[13]

and reminds us that the quality of interpersonal relationships

within the Carmelite community

needs to be constantly developed
and enhanced, following the inspiring example

of the first community in Jerusalem.[14]

For us to be brothers

means to grow in communion

and in unity,[15]

overcoming privileges and distinctions,[16]

in a spirit of participation and co-responsibility,[17]

in sharing material possessions,[18]  

a common programme of life, and personal charisms;[19]

to be brothers also means to care for one another’s spiritual

and psychological well-being,

through walking in the way of dialogue and reconciliation.[20]

 

20.

These fraternal values find expression and nourishment

in the Word,

in the Eucharist,

and in prayer.

 

Hearing, praying and living the Word

- in silence, in solitude and in community,[21]

especially in the form of lectio divina -

Carmelites are led, day by day,

to know and experience the mystery of Jesus Christ.[22]

 Inspired by the Spirit and rooted in Christ Jesus,

abiding in him by day and by night,[23]

Carmelites allow every choice and every action

to be guided by his Word.[24]

 

Inspired by the Word

and in communion with the whole Church,

the brothers come together to praise the Lord,[25]

and invite others to share in their experience of prayer.

 

Every day, if possible, the brothers are called,

from solitude and from their apostolic work,

to the Eucharist

- source and culmination of their lives[26] -

so that, gathered together around the Lord’s table,[27]
they may be “united, heart and soul,”[28]

living true, fraternal koinonia in unselfishness,

in mutual service,[29]

in faithfulness to a common goal

and in a spirit of reconciliation inspired by Christ’s love.[30]

 

As a contemplative fraternity,

we seek the face of God and we serve the Church

in the world or possibly in eremetical solitude.

 

3. Service in the midst of the people

21.

As a contemplative brotherhood,

we seek the face of God also in the heart of the world.

We believe that God has established his dwelling place

among his people,

and for this reason, the Carmelite brotherhood knows itself to be

a living part of the Church and of history

- an open fraternity, able to listen to the world it lives in,

and willing to be questioned by it;

ready both to meet life’s challenges

and to give an authentic, evangelical response

based on our own charism.[31]

Carmelites will show solidarity and will be eager to collaborate

with all who suffer, who hope,

and who commit themselves to the search for the Kingdom of God.[32]

 

22.

The notion of travelling, hinted at in the Rule,[33]

is an expression of the evangelical and apostolic style

of the mendicant orders.

It is a call to the Carmelite brotherhood to discern

and to follow the ways marked out by the Lord’s Spirit

for communities and individuals;

it is a sign of solidarity and of generous service

- both to the Universal and local Church,

and to the world of today.[34]

 

23.

The community residence is where the community “gathers” and lives;

for Carmelites, it is also a place of welcome[35] and hospitality,

so that people share in a common spirit,

in fraternal reconciliation,

and in the experience of God lived in the community.

 

24.

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.

It is a prophetic message of justice and peace in society

and among peoples.

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.[36]

It is also an expression of

“the choice to share in the lives

of “the little ones” (“minores”) 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.”[37]

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 in whom the face of our Lord is reflected

in a preferential way.[38]

 

from Carmelite Constitution


[1] Prologue to the Rule; 2 Cor 10:5; 1 Tim 1:5.

[2] XII Prov., p 48.

[3] Rule, ch. 7

[4] Rule, ch. 8

[5] Rule, ch. 14

[6] Rule,  ch. 15

[7] Rule,  ch. 16

[8] Rule,  Epilogue

[9] PC 7; Can. 674

[10] Gen. Congr. 1986, p. 4

[11] GS 41; II Prov., p. 32

[12] GS 1

[13] Rule, ch. 2, 3, 5, 9, 11, 17, 18; also Gen. Congr. 1974, p. 40

[14] Rule, ch. 7-11, and Acts 2:42-46; 4:32-36.

[15] Rule, ch.10, 11.

[16] Rule, ch. 1-3, 5, 17-18.

[17] Rule, ch. 1-3.

[18] Rule, ch. 3, 4, 9.

[19] Rule, ch. 11.

[20] Rule, ch. 11, 12, 13.

[21] Rule, ch. 4, 7.

[22] Phil 3:8.

[23] Rule, ch. 7

[24] Rule, ch. 14.

[25] Rule, ch. 8.

[26] PC 6, 15; LG 11; PO 5.

[27] Rule, ch. 10.

[28] Acts 4:32.

[29] Rule, ch. 17, 18.

[30] Rule, ch. 11

[31] MR 12.

[32] Gen. Congr. 1986, pp. 30-39

[33] Rule, ch. 13.

[34] MR 11, 18.

[35] Rule, ch. 6.

[36] Gen. Congr. 1986, p. 18; Gen. Congr. 1974, pp. 4-42; Gen. Congr. 1980, p. 90

[37] Gen. Congr. 1980, pp. 89-90

[38] I Prov., pp. 18-19; Gen. Congr. 1980, p. 89