30 September 2009

The Concept of Prayer in the Constitutions of the Secular Order

The Concept of Prayer in the Constitutions of the Secular Order
What I would like to do is an exercise – an exercise on how I think the Constitutions can be read and studied. I have a great respect for the words that have been placed in the Constitutions, because words communicate ideas. Words are very important. If I miss-say a word, I would communicate the wrong thing. If I don’t understand what a word means and I use it without understanding its meaning, I can communicate to someone who understands that word something I don’t mean.
There are 7 Chapters in the Constitutions. The seventh chapter is on government and organization and the sixth chapter is on the Process of Formation. Leaving those two chapters aside, the beginning five chapters are on the value that you bring to the Church and the world because of God’s calling you. Not because it was your idea, not because it was something you wanted to do. All of us who have been called by God to do something, have been called to do what He wanted us to do, not what we wanted to do for Him. We understand that, I mean St. John of the Cross’ famous saying “What good does it do for you to offer God what you want to offer Him when He wants something else from you?” So all of us have been called to offer God something, and this is why we have a vocation.
The first chapter of the Constitutions is on the identity the value and commitment. The second chapter is about following Jesus in the Teresian Secular Carmel, that is, the Promises - the commitment that Seculars make. The third chapter is Witnesses to the Experience of God, which is the chapter on prayer in the life of a Carmelite. The fourth chapter is on serving God’s plan. And the fifth chapter is on Mary, the Mother of Jesus. Carmel is the Marian Order of the Church. We wear her habit. But in the 5 chapters that discuss the purpose of the Secular vocation, the center of those five chapters, is the chapter on prayer. I want to look at what prayer is in the life of a Carmelite Secular as presented by the Constitutions, chapter 3.
I am not talking about saying prayers. We know about saying prayers, because all of us can say prayers from our memory like “Hail Mary full of grace…Hail Mary full of grace…but thinking “oh I wonder if I took that”…”I have to make an appointment. Yes, all of us can say prayers, and we have to admit we do say prayers. Saying prayers is of value, but that is not what this chapter is talking about. That is not what prayer is for a Carmelite. All Christians, Catholics especially, are called to pray. The Gospel that talks about prayer in the life of Jesus is the Gospel of St. Luke. St. Luke is constantly referring to Jesus praying. He refers to Jesus praying in two different ways. Going to the temple to pray. The Jews went to the temple seven times a day to pray. So whenever you hear the Gospels placing Jesus in the temple precincts or walking around or going into the temple, or the Apostles in the Acts of the Apostles, going in, going out, going in, going out they are going to pray, to say the ritual, the liturgical prayers. Jesus prayed the liturgical prayer of His people. Seven times a day, faithful Jewish people went to pray.
St. Luke’s gospel also presents Jesus as praying in a different way than ritually, as a matter of fact the apostles noticed Jesus praying. The apostles knew how to pray, they learned as little children how to pray. They learned how to make the right kind of movements and when to move and what to say when they were praying. But in St. Luke’s Gospel, I think it’s in chapter 10, the apostles see Jesus praying and they say to Him “teach us how to pray”. What were they asking? They weren’t asking for Jesus to teach them movements or to help them memorize. They already knew those things. What they were asking Him, they must have seen something in His prayer to the Father that they didn’t get, that they had not captured or didn’t understand in the liturgical prayer, in the recitation of prayers. What they saw was the relationship that Jesus had with the Father. They saw something…and they said “teach us to pray” and Jesus taught them because the Gospel says that Jesus said “when you pray, say ‘Our Father’”. Now we have been saying the Our Father since the time we were babies almost, so we know, and it is so familiar to us that we do not realize how shocking it was for Jesus to present to the apostles the fact that they had a relationship with God where they could call Him Abba, call Him Father.
We all take it for granted that we have a relationship with God, but it is shocking. The saints were shocked. St. Teresa, our Mother was shocked by the fact that she had a relationship with God, and so much so that at the beginning of the book the Interior Castle, in the first castle, she says that the saddest thing about being a human being is they do not realize that they are capable of conversations with no less than God. With no less than God, we are capable of conversation. So, with the word “prayer” in the Constitutions and prayer in Carmel, almost always we can substitute the word relationship for the word prayer. St. Teresa is famous for the definition of prayer, “mental prayer in my opinion is the dealing in friendship, taking time very frequently to be alone with the One whom we know loves us”, that is the definition of mental prayer, the definition of the relationship with God. The relationship with God is, in my opinion, a dealing in friendship, taking time frequently to be alone with the One whom we know loves us.
Every place in the writings of St. Teresa where she uses the word prayer, try substituting the words “relationship with God” and then you will understand the importance of prayer in our life as Carmelites, that it is a relationship with God, and we say certain prayers, liturgically, the Eucharist, the Liturgy of the Hours, and we perform them according to the Rite of the Church and we do it in order to unite ourselves with the whole Church in celebrating the presence of Jesus among us and in praising God.
But, prayer as the Constitutions present especially in Chapter 3 is a different prayer. It is the prayer the apostles saw in a relationship with God. First step – the title of the chapter, Witnesses to the experience of God. It does not say “witnesses to the experiences of God”. That is a big difference. If we are going to be witnesses to the experiences of God, then what interests us are visions and apparitions and locutions and experiences that people, saints, good saints, have of God. But that is not what we are called to be. We are not called to be witnesses to apparitions and visions and locutions and experiences, phenomenal experiences. We are called to be witnesses to the fact that GOD IS. That is our lives, the entire breath and length of our lives is an experience of the relationship with God. Some people might be called for some particular reason to have some exceptional experiences of God, but all of us are called to live in relationship with God. But people are missing the ordinary, not the extraordinary. People are missing the ordinary relationship with God that takes place through living the Sacraments, through praying every day, even through just saying prayers every day. So God needs witnesses.
When I get up in front of you or in a sermon in church and I talk about the value of sacrifice in Christian life, you can all look and say “isn’t that a beautiful sermon”. But in the back of your mind there is this little voice that says “What does he know about having 5 kids?” “What does he know about having a wife or a husband that demands my time, my energy?” I can give a good sermon on sacrifice, and what I say will be true, but my sister can get up and talk about the value of sacrifice – and you can’t escape by saying “but what does she know about having 5 children?”, because she has 5 children. What the world needs is not more preachers, more speakers of the word. What the world needs are witnesses – doers of the word. People who are witnesses to the value of prayer, to the fact that God is, that God lives.
So this is what your vocation is, to be witnesses. Last week I was talking about this chapter in Romania and some of it, I was talking abut it in Italian and someone was translating it for me into Romanian. The word in Romanian for witnesses is “marteri”, which is the exact word that “marteri” is in the Greek language. It is the word for witnesses. We need martyrs. We do not need martyrs who shed their blood, because they only last for a certain time. We need martyrs who last our whole lives in our society and in our culture that has so many things out of place. So many values distorted. We need martyrs, witnesses to the value of God, witnesses to the experience of God.
The first sentence in #17 of the Constitutions is “The vocation to the Teresian Carmel is a commitment to live a life of allegiance to Jesus Christ.” Now let me point out what I think is the operative word. There are a few words of course, it’s a vocation, and it’s a calling, a calling that requires a commitment. You have to dedicate yourself to it. Your response has to be “ok, my free time of...” …we don’t need your free time, we need your time. God needs your time, because you have to dedicate yourself to live a life. It is a call to live a life. It’s not a call to pray…you’re not called to pray, you’re not called to wear brown, and you’re not called to do external things. You are called to live a life. You are called to LIVE something. Live the relationship with God. You do that when you go to work. You do that when you are in your family, when you’re making dinner, when you are praying, when you are going to a Secular Order meeting. You live whatever you do that you live, that’s when you are being a Carmelite. You don’t have to go and do something special to be a Carmelite. You don’t have to go away from what you are doing, you have to live what you are doing as a life in allegiance, loyalty to Jesus Christ. You have to live a life. It is a commitment to live a life in allegiance to Jesus Christ, pondering the Lord’s law day and night, and keeping watch with him.
So here is when prayer first comes in as something that Carmelites do. What is described as prayer is: Pondering the law of the Lord day and night. Where is the law of the Lord? Scripture…the first thing that the Constitutions put in your hand for your relationship with God in prayer is the Scripture. You have noticed I am sure that in every Mass when we read the Gospel, we stand. In Morning or Evening Prayer when we read the Magnificat and the Benedictus, we stand. Why do we stand? Because those words are from the Gospel. We stand because that is what witnesses do. When you stand in these instances you are standing because you are witnesses to the truth of this Gospel. When you read the Magnificat and Benedictus you stand in witness. It is a symbol of what your life is, to be a witness to Jesus.
Pondering the law of the Lord day and night. The law of the Lord is given to us in our hand in the Scriptures, and that’s the first fruit of information which produces in us the formation of our minds and our hearts. Do you want to know what God thinks? Read the Scriptures. Do you want to know how God feels about what’s happening in His creation? Read the Scriptures. It is the only prayer book written by the Holy Spirit. Every other prayer book has been put together by somebody else, but the Scriptures are the relationship with God inspired by the Holy Spirit. I am sure all of you are just like me. If I go into a church where I have never been before one of the first things I look for is the sanctuary light, to find our where the Eucharist is so that I can acknowledge the Presence, the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist.
The Bible is the inspired Word of God in your home. Your Bible is the presence of the Holy Spirit in the form of inspired words. When you go into your home perhaps you already have your Bible in a certain place in your home as the Word of God…it is the law of the Lord which is the first thing the Order says is given to you for your relationship with God. Acknowledge the presence, recognize that is the presence of the Holy Spirit, you are not alone. You are not abandoned. God is present through His Word in your home.
The relationship with God is communicated to us. God comes to us in His Word. We look to the Scriptures, we look to the presence of God, of the Holy Spirit through the Word of God, and we look to that as what gives us nourishment and sustenance in our relationship with Him. He is communicating to us. We can touch His Word. If you are alone, read the Word out loud, then your mouth is saying it, your eyes are seeing it, your ears are hearing it. It is coming into you, the Word of God, God’s thoughts. You are not alone. St. Teresa says “Faithful to this principle of the Rule”…she placed prayer as the foundation of basic exercise of her religious value. The foundation is not saying prayers. The foundation of Carmelite life, of the Teresian Carmelite life is the relationship of God that is communicated to us in His Word, and that’s what we live, that relationship with God through the Scriptures that comes to us. It feeds and nourishes us.
The next sentence in # 17 of the Constitutions is: “For this reason Carmelite Seculars are called to strive to make prayer penetrate their whole existence.” A very important word in that sentence is the word “strive”. What does strive mean? Strive means to try hard. It doesn’t mean to be successful. It means you try hard. So faithful to the principles…for this reason Secular Carmelites are called to “try hard” to make prayer penetrate their whole existence.” You are not called to be perfect, you are called to go on the way to perfection, because you cannot be perfect for God. So you will not do this perfect thing for God. You can be perfect with God, but not for Him. Because it takes God’s grace to respond, it takes God’s energy to move us along, so we have to be in relationship with God in order to grow in the life of prayer.
So, we are called to strive, we are called to make ourselves open to try every day. If I strive today and don’t strive tomorrow, what is the point of striving today? But I strive every day, I work hard. I try. This is in order to walk in the presence of the Living God, the presence of God. What we proclaim is the presence of God, that we are in His presence.
When I was in Catholic School in Philadelphia, and in the Catholic School at the Sisters of St. Joseph, the boys were all in one room and girls were all in the other room and so the first boy in the class, the first grade, was given a little bell and then when the clock reached 9:00 o’clcock, no matter what sister was teaching the boy had to ring the bell and say “excuse me sister, excuse me class, it is time to bless the hour”, and sister would say “let us remember that we are in the holy presence of God” and all the children would say “let us adore His Divine Majesty”, and sister would say the first part of the Our Father and the children would say the second part of the Our Father and then she would turn right around and start teaching again. Then the boy passed the bell to the boy behind him. Then 10:00 o’clock came and he was watching and giggling “excuse me sister, excuse me class, it is time to bless the hour”, and sister would say “let us remember that we are in the holy presence of God” and the children would say….and so on through the hours every day for eight years we stopped at every hour and we remembered the presence of God.

How many of you have cell phones? How many of you ever send messages on your cell phone? Well, maybe you should start sending messages to each other to say “Let us remember that we are in the presence of God,” You could be interrupting someone who is having a terrible day, health-wise, work-wise, family-wise. And you just send that message and bring that reality to them, that they are in the presence of God. We are called to live in the presence of God. Elijah stands in the presence of God proclaiming that he is His servant. We are His servants. We have to proclaim it to each other. If we remember that we are in His presence we are going to live like we are in His presence. If we forget that we are in the presence of God, we are not going to live like we are in the presence of God. So remind each other and so remind yourself.

So, “for this reason, Secular Carmelites are called to strive to make prayer penetrate their whole existence in order to walk in the presence of the living god through the constant exercise of faith, hope and love”. The three theological virtues which have been communicated to us in baptism when we were infused with the Holy Spirit. Whose hope we hold in our hand to reinforce our lives lived in faith, hope, and love.

“In such a way that the whole of their life is a prayer a search for the union with God. The goal will be to achieve the integration of experience of God with the experience of life.” That we in living our lives experience the presence of God. He is not interrupting us with visions, or we might not be hearing His voice through our ears, but we will know His presence. We will know that HE IS and our lives will be witnesses to it, because we will live differently.

All of us know, if something goes wrong, for a few seconds we might forget about God, and we feel desperate, we start crying, we start to get confused, we don’t know what is going to happen, and we all know the moment we remember God everything gets better. We feel stronger. We feel that there is something we can do. We don’t know what it is but we are filled with hope. We remember God. When we remember god, and when we turn to Him, our lives proclaim the presence of God, and… “The goal will be able to achieve the integration and the experience of God, experience of life to be contemplatives in prayer and the fulfillment of their own mission”.

“Contemplatives in prayer and the fulfillment of their own mission.” We are called to be contemplatives. We are not call to cloistered pray-ers—there is a difference between being a contemplative and being a cloistered person. Cloistered persons may or may not be a contemplative and most contemplatives are not cloistered. People confuse the two and we tend to think that in order to be a contemplative person we have to look a certain way. For a lot of people who “look” contemplative are still wanting to be contemplative.

The nuns have their vocation and that vocation is to be contemplatives in the context of a cloister. I am a Carmelite, but I am not a nun. I don’t live in a cloister. We have cloisters in our Monasteries, or our houses which are reserved in order to have a community life because our buildings can become public buildings sometimes, everyone just moves in and we have no space unless we protect the space. This is where the community lives. I a not a cloistered person, but I am 100% Carmelite, you are 100% Carmelite but you do not live in a Monastery. Your life does not take place in a Monastery. Your vocation does not develop in a Monastery, it develops in a home. It develops in a family. It develops in a workplace and it develops in a local parish and in a diocese. That is the context where you integrate the experience of God with your life, and you become contemplative because in order to become contemplative, just like the nuns, just like us, you also must fulfill your mission in the Church, but not as we do, or not as the nuns do. The world really needs you. As contemplatives in the world, who live in the world who don’t look like nuns, who don’t look like friars, but look like people who know the value of God in their lives.

Constitutions #18: Prayer, a dialogue of friendship with God”…so there is another definition of prayer. Prayer is not, although a lot of it can be, trying to talk God into your wants, even trying to bribe Him a little…saying ‘if you do this I will do this’. We enter into a dialogue with God, and those dialogues are very important even when we are trying to bribe God. He will not be bought, but He will change our minds.

St. Thomas Aquinas says that the purpose of this intercessory prayer is for us to change our minds, not to try to change God’s mind. So we do enter into a dialogue of friendship with God. There is probably no married couple who has not had an argument, who has not fought. In a dialogue of friendship you say what you think, and you hear what the other person has to say, even if you don’t agree with it, and then you work through the not agreeing in order to arrive at the friendship. The friendship is more valuable than even the dialogue, but the dialogue cannot be realized without the friendship, and the friendship is only on paper until it is real.

So we enter into a dialogue of friendship with God. No one could speak more honestly with God than the prophets. I love Jeremiah and he could really get annoyed with God. “You seduced me Lord”. You tricked me, and I let You do it, I am so stupid. The dialogue with God is not ‘O Lord, you are so wonderful…’” When you are feeling like “what are you doing?” So you enter into a dialogue of friendship. You speak to God from your heart. You don’t do it out loud like I just did. You do it in your heart. You communicate.

So prayer, a dialogue of friendship with God ought to be nourished by His Word. Again, Scripture, the foundation book of our prayer is not anything written by any other saint, or by another person, the foundation book of our prayer is the Scriptures. Most especially the Gospel. This year we recognize it in the place of St. Paul in the revelation of who JESUS IS. So the New Testament, but the whole of Scripture, serves as the basis for the dialogue of friendship with God. This is important in reading the prophets and seeing how angry they could get, how frustrated they become in living the relationship with God, in doing God’s will. St. Teresa also. You remember her famous saying “If this is the way you treat your friends, it’s no wonder you have so many enemies.” Their relationship with God is a dialogue of friendship which is not fake, it is not pretence, it is real and some days that reality can make us very honest with God. He can take it and we need to give Him that honesty or we are not giving Him ourselves, we are still acting before Him, by not being ourselves with Him.

So we honestly present ourselves to God, doing it using especially through the words of Scripture. On thing I like, and I started it many, many years ago – for mental prayer, during the time in the Monastery. We have two hours of mental prayer, we give an hour in the morning and an hour in the evening. That is very nice, we don’t have children, we don’t have a family, we don’t have to go out to work, that’s why we have two hours a day to give to mental prayer. Most of you do not have two hours a day, but you have some time each day. But you have some time each day, maybe 30 minutes is what you are supposed to do according to your statutes, but if you cannot do 30 minutes maybe you can do 10 minutes and 10 minutes, 5 minutes and 5 minutes. Maybe you have to divide the time up in order for it to be realizable. What do you use for those 10 minutes? If you go and set your timer for 10 minutes and you try and you say, I will turn the radio off, nobody’s home yet, I am alone, I will just listen…Snore…and; you fall back asleep. But if you take those 10 minutes and you take the reading for the Gospel of the next day, and you look at the reading of the next day, and you ask the Lord to show you something from the Gospel. Don’t pick up the Bible and look for something that you want to read, let the liturgy form you. Use the Scriptures. For Mass each day there are two readings provided each day, and three on Sunday, so the first reading and second reading you can go one year and use all the first readings, the next year the readings change and you can use that, and third year you can use the Gospels. There are different ways you can use the readings for Mass but use the Liturgy for your Scripture input in a way that you are praying the Gospel. If you do that every day, you may know more than the priest who is saying the Mass the next morning because you have meditated and the Holy Spirit has opened up your eyes,, and opened the eyes of your heart and filled your mind with His communication to you. You may not hear voices, but He is communicating. Because it says “ought to be nourished by His words so that this dialogue becomes time that we speak to Him when we pray, “we hear Him when we read His Diving Word” I love that expression “We hear Him when we read His Divine Word.” We do not hear God with our ears. We hear God with our eyes, because He is revealing Himself most certainly through the Scriptures. So we see those words and we hear what He has to say. We hear Him.

On thing I am sure of is that in the your parishes, especially during Lent, there might be a Bible study program, or scripture program, or reflection on one of the Gospels. If you can it is good to assist in these things. Participate in them because you want to understand Scripture. You want to be able to see “what is the Word of God saying?”

Because if you understand it more clearly, you will know…the other day we had the Feast of St. Jerome one of the most wonderful people in the history of the Scriptures in the catholic Church who translated the Scriptures into Latin. On the Feast of St. Jerome we read a reading in the Office of Readings that said “Ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ.” And so knowledge of the Scriptures brings knowledge of Christ. So we participate in anything that can help us to understand the Word of God in Scripture. So that when we read, we can hear what He has to say to us.

The next sentence in #18 of the Constitutions says “God’s word will nourish the contemplative experience of Carmelite Seculars and their mission in the world.” God’s word will nourish, it will be food, it will give energy and strength. Very few of us eat without planning to eat. We plan to eat. If you have a family, you have to plan meals. So we have to plan the reading of the Word of God. It does not just happen unless we plan, so we plan to have regular nourishment on the Word of God and that’s what the Constitutions say is the place of Scripture. It is the regular nourishment that we need in order to feed our experience of God, so that we become contemplatives. It doesn’t happen by just putting time in. It happens by opening our eyes to the Word of God.

The next sentence in #18, “Besides, personal contemplation. This is a very important sentence and it touches upon the purpose of meetings. Besides personal contemplation, listening to the Word ought to encourage a contemplation that leads to sharing the experience of God in the Secular Order community.” It is not just a personal experience. You are not called to be Carmelites just so you can be some sort of personal Carmelite. You are called for part of a community, even those who are in some sort of long distance relationship with a community are part of a community.

Community is a very important symbol. St Teresa’s idea of hermit was never someone who lived alone. Her hermitages were inside monastery grounds. We live a relationship with God that is within us, the hermitage of our hearts, the desert of our souls, but we live in a relationship with other people and that the Word of God ought to nourish the experience of contemplation as a community. So, symbolically it might be a good idea in the center of your community table, or where ever you meet, that at the beginning of your celebration you enthrone the Word of God, and you light a candle next to the Word of God for the time of the meeting to remind yourselves of the presence of God through His Word. You cannot study St. Teresa or St. John of the Cross without a quote of Scripture. So it is not possible to study Carmelite spirituality without studying Scripture. So the place of Scripture then, in our formation as Carmelites and the formation of our prayer is primary. So as a symbol of that primary relationship with God, that comes through His revelation of Himself to us, the Word of God ought to be placed in a place that it can be seen and understood as the center of this meeting. As the Constitutions say “listening to the Word ought to encourage a contemplating that leads to sharing the experience of God in the Secular Order Community.

We do not come together to just chit-chat. That is not the purpose of meetings. Fellowship is part of the meeting, and we chit-chat when we have fellowship. But there is a very important aspect of coming together in a meeting and that is to build up the experience of God in each other. So I already made reference to the fact that maybe sending a message on the text message to somebody to remind them of the presence of God. The reason why we go to meetings is to remind each other that there are other people who are trying to do what we are trying to do, and it re-enforces, it strengthens us. It re-enforces our vocation because if you are trying to do it, and I am trying to do it, we can remind ourselves that it is difficult to pray every day. That it is difficult to put that time apart and pray every day. But we do it because we know that other people are trying to do it.

I was giving a talk to the Secular Order at a congress and a lady came up to me and told me that one of the things that she does. There was a woman who was a Secular Order member who used to attend meetings all the time, but was now very old and bed-ridden, and could no longer attend meetings. So every morning at 8:00 o’clock in the morning this lady calls the lady who is homebound, and they say morning prayer together over the phone. “O God come to my assistance”, “O Lord make hast to help me”…when they finish they hang up. Then she calls again at 6:00 and does the same with evening prayer.

You are called to be together so that you can share the experience of your relationship with God, not so that you can chit-chat. Chit-chatting is very important, that is why we have fellowship, that’s why we have all the time during Congresses to be able just to talk and get to know each other, and to be able to express our affection for each other. But, if we miss the cement of the community, which is the relationship with God which holds us together, we are missing something very valuable and that is equally part of our life of prayer. By this means the community together seeks to discern God’s ways, maintain a permanent energy of conversion and live with renewed hope. It is easy to be converted for one day. It is not easy to be converted every day. So we need a permanent energy of conversion. To return home for the rest of the month doing what you are supposed to do. And then, even if after two weeks or two and a half or three weeks it might get a little bit harder, you might make a few more exceptions of not doing what you are supposed to do, by the time the meeting begins and everything is stronger. We need each other. God calls us together for this reason of calling us together, not because we like each other, and we might, or we might not, but that’s secondary. We love each other. God called us together for this reason, so we can strengthen each other in our vocation.

Number 19 of the Constitutions. Occupying a privileged place in nourishing the prayer life of the Carmelite Secular will be the study and spiritual reading of Scripture then we have the writings of our saints, particularly those who are Doctors of the Church St. Teresa, St. John of the Cross and St. Therese. The Church’s documents are also food and inspiration for commitment to follow Jesus. Our most basic library for our prayer life then is the Bible, the works of the Carmelite saints and the Catechism of the Catholic Church plus the documents of the Church. If you have that library, you have a lot to read. If you do not read that, you do not have a vocation to be a Carmelite. But if you do read that then your identity is constantly reaffirmed. You are not confused about who you are. Each of us should have, and I think most of us do have the basic elements of that library in our homes. But above all, the place of Sacred Scripture is most important.

Number 20 of the Constitutions: The Carmelite Seculars will make sure to have special times set apart for prayer, as times of greater awareness of the Lord’s presence and an interior space for a personal and intimate meeting with Him. Again, if you do not plan it, it will not happen. You must plan to pray. It has to become almost a part of your schedule. You create a design of how to organize your time. Many of you have lots of commitments every day. I would like to add up the amount of time it takes you to do your spiritual responsibilities as a Carmelite Secular.

The first thing is, let us say meditation. It is primarily the most important thing and something that you can do every day. You do not have to go someplace to do it. You can do it at home. According to your Statutes it is about 30 minutes a day. So there is 30 minutes. Then according to the Constitutions you are supposed to say Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer. A moderate reciting of Morning Prayer when you are by yourself might be 7 minutes. About 7 minutes…wait, wait, I said, ‘a moderate’/ If you want to make it longer let us ad up the time. You have Morning Prayer and then you have Evening Prayer so that is 30 minutes, then 15 more minutes that’s 45 minutes. Wait a second you do not have that much time. Forty-five minutes and then you are going to go to Mass. When I go to Mass, I roll out of bed and roll into the sacristy and I am ready for Mass. When you want to go to Mass you have to get up, go out of the house and get into the automobile, then drive someplace. Sometimes depending on the day and the time let us say it takes, 10 minutes to get to your parish. Then there is Mass. Mass on a weekday, depends on the priest. Some priests are really super duper and can say Mass in 20 minutes and others to say Mass takes half and hour. Anyway let us say the average Mass is 30 minutes. But going and coming is another 10-20 minutes. So there we have 45 minutes plus 45 minutes already. Mental prayer, Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer that is 45 minutes plus. Mass 45 minutes an hour and a half. Oh, then we are suppose to have devotion to Mary every day, so let us add another 10 minutes to say the rosary.

How much time does it take for you every day to be faithful to your obligations? If you make thee obligation exaggerated you are going to have to start skipping them if you have family or work. So you must be reasonable in your expectations. If you say to yourself – ‘Oh if I take less than 20 minutes to say Morning Prayer it is offensive’. No it might be offensive to take 20 minutes to say Morning Prayer. Maybe your obligation is just to simply let those words flow into you and later on during the day have the Holy Spirit work in you. You do not have to look up each word and try to drag the meaning out of each word.

You pray Morning and Evening Prayer not as something personal but you pray it as a liturgical prayer because it is the prayer of the Church. It is not your prayer. It is not my prayer. So we pray it as it says to pray it. When the Holy Father wakes up and in Rome he says Morning Prayer, the same prayer that we will say in Canada, in the States, in the Philippines. The Order of Carmel joins with everyone else in Morning Prayer, wherever we may be and we are all saying the same prayer.

As busy people, you have an hour and 45 minutes to two hours every day of responsibility to fulfill. You don’t have that much time. So do what you are suppose to do is the best that you can. Not every day can you make Mass because of different reasons. You might not have the automobile because of other obligations. Or you might be sick. You might be ill. If you are sick and ill you may not even to able to say Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer. You can meditate. You can take time to be alone with God in your heart, in your mind. But you may not be able to do that for 30 minutes. So in your relationship of prayer you take time to do what you can do so that it fulfills your obligations, so that you, in fulfilling your obligations, are living the relationship with God.

Now in about an hour’s time I just went through a few numbers of the constitutions to look at what it says. I suggest that this is how you should read the Constitutions. What do the words say? What do the words mean? And from those words you will see what the value of your vocation is for the Church. You might be clear about what that is for you. But you will never understand its real value if you do not understand what your vocation means for the Church and for the Order. Because understand what your vocation is, understanding what your responsibility is, to be men and women of prayer, makes you noble in the eyes of God. And understanding the nobility that God has given you in calling you to this vocation makes it a task happy to be borne, and an easy yoke, a light burden. But not understanding that nobility, it will only be something to do. What the Constitutions intend to communicate is the value and purpose of the Secular vocation.

01 October 2006

The Secular Orders – from then to now.

If a person looks for the history or origin of the Third Orders or Secular Orders and wants to go back to the earliest mention of those Orders, that person finds at the bottom of this search the figure of Saint Francis of Assisi. It was Francis of Assisi who understood, even if only intuitively, that the way to weave the spirituality of his new religious family into the fabric of daily life was through the establishment of an Order of lay persons or diocesan clergy who lived in the world and faced the daily struggles of Christian life. Pope Honorius III approved the first rule for the Franciscan Secular Order in 1221. They were then called “The Brothers and Sisters of Penance”.

By presenting the rule to the Pope for approbation, Saint Francis recognized that what he was doing was something “ecclesial”, not just something particular to his new Order. This “ecclesial” event is reflected in canon 312 of the Code of Canon Law which states that only the Holy See may establish universal or international associations. This authority of the Holy See is delegated to the General of each mendicant Order, and specifically to the General of the Discalced Carmelite Order by the Pope Clement VIII in two Papal documents, Cum Dudum, 23 March 1594 and Romanum Pontificem, 20 August 1603.

Certainly, religious life and religious families existed before Saint Francis. Monastic life had flourished in Europe thanks to Saint Benedict. The Benedictines and other forms of monastic life had the institutions of “oblates” for centuries. The identity and structure of oblates has gone through many changes in history. They are, however, always attached to the basic identity of monastic life, that is, identified with one particular monastery for life.

Mendicant life, beginning with Orders such as the Franciscans, Dominicans, Carmelites, etc., had a different structure and purpose. The articles in the Catholic Encyclopedia point out the differences that exist in the spirituality and apostolate of monastic life and mendicant Orders. Basically, roughly, and only in the broadest way, one might say that the involvement of lay persons with monastic life was to bring those persons in the world into the spirituality of the monastery, and the involvement of lay persons with mendicant life was to bring the spirituality of the Mendicant Orders into the life of lay persons in the world.

The mendicant Orders sought to live a spirituality and exercise an apostolate that grew out of the spirituality that they lived. Many congregations of religious life have existed for a period of time and have gone out of existence because the reason or reasons for their existence ceased. These congregations of religious life based their identity on the specific apostolate for which they were founded. Some active congregations of Sisters today, which have made major contributions to the good of society, are actively seeking a renewed identity because their identity has changed. Some others have decided to stop seeking vocations and to go out of existence because work by them is no longer necessary. A generation or two ago Catholic hospitals always had Sisters as a mainstay of the nursing staff.

In any case, mendicant Orders do not base their identity on an apostolate, but on a spirituality, and the spirituality guides and directs the apostolates to which they dedicate themselves. The spirituality of the mendicant Orders reflects elements or an element that belong to the essence of the Church in the world. The dedication of the Dominicans to higher education is a fruit of Dominican spirituality of the preacher who spreads the word. Much of the Franciscan apostolate is a dedication to working with the poor. This is the fruit of the Franciscan desire to follow Jesus in the purity and simplicity of the Gospel. Augustinian spirituality is based on a desire to discover Jesus in the midst of community life which leads them to a dedication to many social apostolates. And the Teresian Carmel’s charism is based on the place of the personal relationship between God and the person found in prayer. From that base flows the work to which Carmelites dedicate themselves.

The Secular Order of the Mendicant Orders is not just an associated laity. Through the connection to the friars of the different Orders, the Secular Order communicates the spirituality of the Orders to the world around it. It can honestly be said that if the Secular Order did not exist something would be lacking in the spirituality and presence of the Mendicant Orders.

The Secular Order is not conventual nor monastic, but definitely secular. That is, it does not exercise its responsibility in the convent or in the monastery, but in the world (saeculum). The Secular Order is definitely Order because of the essential relationship that exists between the friars and the seculars. The relationship between the friars and the seculars is not incidental. It is essential. The Secular Order is a distinct branch of the Order as the Constitutions indicate. The seculars, however, do not exist as an independent branch of the Order. Distinct, yes. Independent, no. It is for that reason that the Holy See gives the faculty of establishing Secular Order communities to the Superior General of the friars.

There has been a development over the centuries of the role and identity of the Secular Orders and that includes the Secular Order of the Discalced Carmelites. This development is directly related to the development of the role and identity of lay persons in the Church. Of all the documents I might be able to quote about the role of the Secular Order in the life of the Order, the most concrete and forceful comes from a document directed to the consecrated life, not the lay persons. “Today, often as a result of new situations, many Institutes have come to the conclusion that their charism can be shared with the laity. The laity are therefore invited to share more intensely in the spirituality and mission of these Institutes. We may say that, in the light of certain historical experiences such as those of the Secular or Third Orders, a new chapter, rich in hope, has begun in the history of relations between consecrated persons and the laity.”

I have noted in other places that the new element in this text is the responsibility to “share more intensely in the spirituality and mission.”. Spirituality was always understood. But mission is new. And is specifically this directive to the Orders that made necessary a more serious commitment on the part of the Order to the development and formation of the members of the Secular Order. The necessity of the General to have a delegate became more apparent as the Secular Order was growing. Another necessity was that of placing the communities of the Secular Order that were established in places where there are no friars directly under the General Secretariat.

Remembering that the Secular Order is ecclesial and international by its own nature, it was also necessary for the Center of the Order to take a more active role in guiding and developing the formation programs of the OCDS. If a Secular Order member lives the spirituality of the Order and becomes active in the mission of the Order, then the Order better be the one to guide the formation. In a very real sense, the formation of the Secular Order members is subject to approval by the Center of the Order. Formation is not the private project of a particular community or even of a Province. Formation is the responsibility of the Order.

Within the bounds of the relationship between the friars and the seculars the seculars certainly have their autonomy. In the Discalced Carmelite Order, that autonomy has always been expressed in the various rules that existed before the Manual, in the Manual of 1922, in the Rule of Life on 1979, and in the current legislation of the Constitutions. The autonomy touches upon matters of formation, leadership and governance.

There are extremes that distort the autonomy given to the Secular Order: either excessive independence or excessive dependence on the part of the seculars; and on the part of the friars either complete lack of interest or an immature desire to control.

In these extremes there is a failure or impossibility of collaboration under the direction of the legitimate superiors of the Order as outlined in the Constitutions. As well, there is the failure to develop the lay members of the Order to the stature and responsibility that the Church and the Order wish them to have. The Secular Order therefore remains trapped in a model that will not serve to present the Secular Order as adult and capable of representing to the world the spirituality of Carmel.

In summary, Saint Francis of Assisi, who initiated the idea of establishing an Order of lay persons identifiably part of the Order, and the Church, through the approbation of Honorius III, recognized that the Secular Order was indeed ecclesial. The current legislation of the Church in the Code of Canon Law, as well as the current legislation of the Secular Order of the Discalced Carmelites, recognize the relationship that exist between the friars and the seculars. The Order as a whole, friars and seculars have a responsibility to work together, especially in the area of formation of the members so that they might represent to the world in which they live the spirit and mission of Carmel. The responsibility of the Center of the Order is to insure and guide the development of the adequate formation of the members of the Secular Order.

14 July 2006

“The Rule” and Constitutions

For eight hundred years there has been only one document in the tradition of Carmel that goes by the title “rule”. That document is the Rule of Saint Albert. That Rule, together with the Rules of Saint Augustine, Saint Benedict, Saint Francis of Assisi and Saint Dominic for the Western Church and Saint Basil for the Eastern Church, have been the official guides for religious families since the 1200’s.

The Rule of Saint Albert is the one document which all Carmelites of both the O. Carm. and O.C.D. traditions have in common.

The OCD Friars have as official legislation the Rule of Saint Albert and the Constitutions approved by the Holy See which serve as a way to live the spirituality of the Rule for current times.

The OCD Nuns have as official legislation the Rule of Saint Albert and the Constitutions approved by the Holy See which serve as a way to live the spirituality of the Rule for current times.

The OCD Seculars have had a different development in history. They are not an independent branch of Carmel. As the Constitutions recognize in article 41, they are a dependent branch of the Order but with a distinct identity.

Before 1922 there were various regulations in different parts of Europe which guided the OCDS or third Order Carmelites according to countries. But remember that before 1922 the greatest majority of Catholics lived in Europe. From 1922 until 1974 (52 years) the OCDS had the first attempt at a common legislation which was called the Manual. This first attempt at a universal and common legislation was a result of the first Code of Canon Law which became obligatory in 1918.

After the Council the Order asked a committee of Friars from different parts of the world to update the Manual. The result was the publication in 1974 of the document known as the Rule of Life. It was finally approved in 1979. Of course, the Manual ceased to be valid because the Church approved the Rule of Life.

The word “rule” used with this document was perhaps a misnomer because it may have caused confusion with the Rule of Saint Albert.

In any case, this legislation on 1979 was followed by a number of documents of the Church which necessitated a new approach. Those documents were the New Code of Canon Law (1983), Christifideles Laici (1987) following the Synod on Lay Persons in the Church and Vita Consacrata (1997) following the Synod on Consecrated Life.

As a result of these documents it was mandatory for the Order to look at the legislation of the Secular members and bring that legislation into line with the law and theology those documents expressed.

Recognizing the place of Secular members within the family and Order of Carmel it became understood that like the friars and nuns, it was time for the OCD Seculars to have as official legislation the Rule of Saint Albert and the Constitutions approved by the Holy See which serve as a way to live the spirituality of the Rule for current times.

These Constitutions, submitted to the Holy See, were approved finally and definitively in June of 2003. THE CONSTITUTIONS REPLACE ENTIRELY THE RULE OF LIFE AS THE RULE OF LIFE REPLACED ENTIRELY THE MANUAL. Anyone, priest or layperson, Carmelite or non-Carmelite who says differently is entirely mistaken. Are these Constitutions infallible or irreplaceable? Absolutely not. It will be necessary to redo them again in another 30, 40, 50 years. Why is that? That is because the nature of Constitutions is to help the members (friars, nuns and seculars) to live the spirituality of the Order in response to the needs of the world as the Church indicates and demands.

07 August 2005

Conference given at the OCDS International Congress in Mexico, September 2000

Carmelite Seculars and the Apostolate of the Order.

It is not my task to present the theories or principles of Carmelite spirituality or the theology of the Church on the role of lay persons. That has been done by the others who spoke here and in the First International Congress in Rome of 1996. The purpose of my talk is to present some of the practical aspects of those principles and propose possibilities for a new vision of the Secular Order as that vision might be expressed in a constitutional form.
I would like to begin with two quotes, one from our Holy Mother, Saint Teresa of Jesus, and the second from an Anglican priest, very devoted to Teresian-sanjuanist spirituality.
Teresa VII Mansions “This is the reason for prayer, my daughters, the purpose of this spiritual matrimony, the birth always of good works, of good works.”
Truman Dicken , an Anglican priest wrote a book, the purpose of which he expressed in the preface. He said that he wanted his book “The Crucible of Love” a synopsis of Teresian and Sanjuanist spirituality, not to be just another theoretical dissertation on the spiritual life, but he wanted to make a practical contribution to “the most urgent pastoral problem of our times: to teach our people to pray.”
Keep those two thoughts in mind: Saint Theresa says that the purpose of prayer is the birth of good works and Truman Dicken says that the most urgent pastoral problem is to teach people to pray.

Proposals for a Review of the Rule of Life.

Teresian Charism in the Rule of Life

A few preliminary notes of clarification:
It is necessary to recognize that the Teresian Carmelite charism is lived in three distinct styles of life. What are these styles of life? The life of the friars, of the nuns and of the lay persons, who by ecclesial commitment form the one Order known as the Discalced Carmelites. The Teresian charism is one and is distinct from the style of life in which it is lived in each branch.
The vocation of the friars is contemplative, mendicant and apostolic. It is mendicant in that the friars are obliged to live in communities that form parts of a province but not obliged to one specific monastery. They can be moved within the province or to other provinces for various reasons. And the friars are apostolic in that they exercise ministries in the service of the Church. Those friars who are ordained are obliged by ordination to exercise sacramental ministry and to preach the word.
The vocation of the nuns is contemplative, monastic and cloistered and from the monastic cloister they exercise their apostolate. Their style of life is monastic in that they commit themselves for life to one monastery. They are not transferred except for the rarest of causes or to make a new foundation. They are cloistered in that they are obliged by the laws of the Church to observe papal enclosure. The specific apostolate that the nuns exercise is that of the service of prayer for the church.
The vocation of the secular is contemplative, lay and apostolic. It is lay in that the secular is called to live in the world in the community of the proper family in most cases or in a single state of life and are called to form communities with other seculars who have the same Carmelite vocation. It is apostolic in all of the senses that the Second Vatican Council and Pope John Paul II have emphasized in the documents Apostolicam Actuositatem and Christifideles Laici. The vocation to be a Carmelite deepens and directs the call to personal sanctity so that personal sanctity becomes the means to exercise an apostolic service in the world.
The nuns, the friars and the seculars all have one common vocation: to realize personal sanctification through the charismatic tradition of Teresa of Jesus and John of the Cross. This personal sanctification then becomes the source of graces and gifts for the Church, the basis of apostolic service. Apostolic service is a necessary fruit of personal sanctification. Without apostolic service, the efforts of the friar or the nun or the secular to be holy become frustrated. What we do not have in common is the style of life in which that realization takes place. One possible identification of the Teresian charism might be the following: inspired by the life and teaching of Saint Teresa of Jesus, to seek the face of God so as to be of service to the Church and the World.
It is necessary to distinguish well between contemplation and cloister.
A common misunderstanding is to think that the nuns are the true Carmelites because they are cloistered and the rest of us do our best to imitate them, but always in some watered down version. It is not true. The Teresian Carmelite charism is ecclesial. Teresa, John and Therese are Doctors of the Universal Church, because their teaching applies to the universal church and is not confined to the world of the cloister. The nuns are not imitation friars or seculars, the friars are not imitation nuns or seculars, and the seculars are not imitation friars or nuns. The grace of our vocation is to be Carmelite in everyway possible.
In a broad way, and for the purpose of making this distinction, I would venture to say that most cloistered persons are still waiting for the grace of contemplation, and the greatest majority of contemplatives do not live in cloisters. All Carmelites of whatever style of life or vocational state are called to “meditate day and night on the law of the Lord.” This is a responsibility imposed by the charism, but more importantly, born of the interior needs of our vocation. I would say that this need to “meditate on the law of the Lord” is precisely the interior impetus that brought us to Carmel. The cloister of the nuns is a requirement of the Church put in place as means to protect the style of life in which the nuns perfect their response to the Lord’s call.

God has a purpose for calling us to this vocation.

The writings of Saint Teresa and the other Carmelite authors confirm that God has a purpose for calling us to this meditation. And God’s purposes always take us out of ourselves and beyond our intentions. In the discernment of a vocation within the Church and within the Order there are always two questions that need to be asked. The first question is why do you want to be a Carmelite. Each one of us, friar, nun or secular has our individual and personal response to that question. The second question is why does God want you to be a Carmelite. The answer to that question comes from an understanding of the teaching of the Church on the different states of life of baptized persons. Applying this to the vocation to be a secular, the identity of the lay person within the Church and the understanding of the Order of the place of lay persons in this religious family must be clearly understood. The answer to this second question is not personal and individual. It is “institutional” in the sense that the answer comes from outside the person. The answer comes from the Order. This second question and answer purifies our personal motives and perfects them so that what God wants is done. It is also a life-long process.

The Call of the Church

In order to better know how to read the Teresian charism in the context of the needs of the Church and the world of the 21st century I think it would be helpful to cite the call of the Church expressed in the Synod on the Laity and the post-synodal document Christifideles Laici. There are three specific texts that are helpful here.
The first is a definition of the expression “charism”. “Whether they be exceptional and great or simple and ordinary, the charisms are graces of the Holy Spirit that have, directly or indirectly, a usefulness for the ecclesial community, ordered as they are to the building up of the Church, to the well-being of humanity and to the needs of the world.” If our vocation as Carmelites is a true charism of the Holy Spirit, and it is, the Church recognizes it as such, then then we must ask ourselves and express ourselves in our legislation as to how precisely our ecclesial charism is useful for “building up the Church, the well-being of humanity and the needs of the world.” (CL, #24)
The second is the specific reference to those lay groups juridically identified with religious families. “In recent days the phenomenon of lay people associating among themselves has taken on a character of particular variety and vitality. In some ways lay associations have always been present throughout the Church's history as various confraternities, third orders and sodalities testify even today. However, in modern times such lay groups have received a special stimulus, resulting in the birth and spread of a multiplicity of group forms: associations, groups, communities, movements. We can speak of a new era of group endeavours of the lay faithful. In fact, "alongside the traditional forming of associations, and at times coming from their very roots, movements and new sodalities have sprouted, with a specific feature and purpose, so great is the richness and the versatility of resources that the Holy Spirit nourishes in the ecclesial community, and so great is the capacity of initiative and the generosity of our lay people"(CL #29).
The Holy Father says that “in modern times such lay groups have received a special stimulus.” What is the special stimulus in modern times for the Secular Order of Our Lady of Mount Carmel and Saint Teresa of Jesus? I think that the special stimulus is the pastoral problem to which Truman Dicken refers and the responsibility of lay people as developed in the Council and CL to participate in the evangelization of the world. The world has a need of what Carmel has to offer and Carmel has a responsibility to speak its message to the world. The days of relying on the priest to do everything have long passed, as most of you already know. Every vocation brings a responsibility. Being a Carmelite is not a spiritual pastime, it is a spiritual responsibility.
The third citation is very important because it expresses clearly what the Church hopes for in the collaboration of lay groups:
“It is always from the perspective of the Church's communion and mission, and not in opposition to the freedom to associate, that one understands the necessity of having clear and definite criteria for discerning and recognizing such lay groups, also called "Criteria of Ecclesiality".
The following basic criteria might be helpful in evaluating an association of the lay faithful in the Church:
- The primacy given to the call of every Christian to holiness, as it is manifested "in the fruits of grace which the spirit produces in the faithful" and in a growth towards the fullness of Christian life and the perfection of charity.
In this sense whatever association of the lay faithful there might be, it is always called to be more of an instrument leading to holiness in the Church, through fostering and promoting "a more intimate unity between the everyday life of its members and their faith".
- The responsibility of professing the Catholic faith, embracing and proclaiming the truth about Christ, the Church and humanity, in obedience to the Church's Magisterium, as the Church interprets it. For this reason every association of the lay faithful must be a forum where the faith is proclaimed as well as taught in its total content.
- The witness to a strong and authentic communion in filial relationship to the Pope, in total adherence to the belief that he is the perpetual and visible center of unity of the universal Church, and with the local Bishop, "the visible principle and foundation of unity" in the particular Church, and in "mutual esteem for all forms of the Church's apostolate".
The communion with Pope and Bishop must be expressed in loyal readiness to embrace the doctrinal teachings and pastoral initiatives of both Pope and Bishop. Moreover, Church communion demands both an acknowledgment of a legitimate plurality of forms in the associations of the lay faithful in the Church and at the same time, a willingness to cooperate in working together.
- Conformity to and participation in the Church's apostolic goals, that is, "the evangelization and sanctification of humanity and the Christian formation of people's conscience, so as to enable them to infuse the spirit of the gospel into the various communities and spheres of life".
From this perspective, every one of the group forms of the lay faithful is asked to have a missionary zeal which will increase their effectiveness as participants in a re-evangelization.
- A commitment to a presence in human society, which in light of the Church's social doctrine, places it at the service of the total dignity of the person.
Therefore, associations of the lay faithful must become fruitful outlets for participation and solidarity in bringing about conditions that are more just and loving within society.
The fundamental criteria mentioned at this time find their verification in the actual fruits that various group forms show in their organizational life and the works they perform, such as: the renewed appreciation for prayer, contemplation, liturgical and sacramental life, the reawakening of vocations to Christian marriage, the ministerial priesthood and the consecrated life; a readiness to participate in programs and Church activities at the local, national and international levels; a commitment to catechesis and a capacity for teaching and forming Christians; a desire to be present as Christians in various settings of social life and the creation and awakening of charitable, cultural and spiritual works; the spirit of detachment and evangelical poverty leading to a greater generosity in charity towards all; conversion to the Christian life or the return to Church communion of those baptized members who have fallen away from the faith.” (CL #30)

While we can say that the first three criteria are well in place in the structure of the Secular Order, what needs to be more clearly expressed in the Rule of Life are the last two criteria. The point of these principles of ecclesiality is not the individual apostolates of members, but the apostolates of the group or the community. The idea expressed over and over again in Christifideles Laici is the participation in evangelization of the group. Before the Council and before the changes in the world and church that have taken place in the last 30 years, the participation of lay persons in the apostolate of the Church was generally understood as auxiliary to the apostolate exercised by the clergy and religious. With the Council and, above all, with Christifideles Laici, the movement of the Holy Spirit is the need for a more concentrated participation of the associations of lay persons in collaboration with the structures of the Church in the evangelization of the world. Applying this principle to Carmel and to the Secular Order of Carmel, there is a need for a greater collaboration in the apostolate of our charism. Every vocation is ecclesial – in and for the good of the whole church. If you have received the grace of a vocation in Carmel, it is so that you might give what you have received. It is your children, your parents, your brothers and sisters, your neighbors, your co-workers, your fellow citizens who need what your have received. Again, I repeat, the question is not addressed to you as individuals. The question is addressed to your communities or fraternities. “What can WE do as a community of Carmelites to share with the church and the world the spirituality of Saints Teresa of Jesus and Saint John of the Cross?”

Specific Points for Review

To look at the actual Rule of Life, as it is and make observations on it and discuss how to improve it, is not a negative comment on what is there. It is simply a process to see what might be included to make it express what the vocation is.

Rule, Constitutions, Norms or Statutes?

My first point for review is the use of the title Rule. In the history of spirituality, the word rule has been reserved for the most part to designate the original inspiration of the great spiritual traditions of religious orders in the Church. Generally the Rules are the Rule of Saint Benedict, the Rule of Saint Francis, the Rule of Saint Augustine and the Rule of Saint Albert in the western Church and the Rule of Saint Basil in the eastern Church. These rules are approved by the Church. The entire family of Carmel has only one rule, that of Saint Albert. By the phrase “the entire family of Carmel” I mean the friars, nuns affiliated and aggregated institutes, both religious and secular of both branches of the Order. In addition to the Rule of Saint Albert, and for the purposes of clarification and application, we all have constitutions and/or norms that accompany the Rule. The only group of Carmelites that has another “rule” is the Secular Order. I would like to propose that the Secular Order join the rest of the Order in preserving the word Rule for the Rule of Saint Albert, and, in place of the word Rule designate the proper legislation of the Secular Order as Norms for Carmelite Seculars. I think that it would help us all to unite together under the one Rule.

What follows now is a series of questions on various topics the purpose of which is to clarify the following points:
1. Exactly what is the Secular Order?
2. Who has a vocation to the Secular Order?
3. What is the relationship (charismatic and juridical) of the Secular Order to the other parts of the Order?
4. What are the responsibilities of this vocation?
Remember this, if nothing else that I might say, please remember this: to be a Secular Carmelite is not a privilege. To be a Secular Carmelite is a responsibility.

Structure and maintenance.
1. Who is responsible for the structure and maintenance of the OCDS?
2. How do they exercise that responsibility?
3. What local, jurisdictional, national and international structures are necessary for a viable functioning of the OCDS? How should these structures be presented in legislation?
a. What kind of relationship should exist between the General Secretariat and the Provinciail Secretariats? Communications? Economic support?

Discernment and formation.

I want to begin with a quote from Christifideles Laici. Number 63 on formation.

“In the work of formation some convictions reveal themselves as particularly necessary and fruitful. First of all, there is the conviction that one cannot offer a true and effective formation to others if the individual has not taken on or developed a personal responsibility for formation: this, in fact, is essentially a "formation of self". In addition, there is the conviction that at one and the same time each of us is the goal and principle of formation: the more we are formed and the more we feel the need to pursue and deepen our formation, still more will we be formed and be rendered capable of forming others.
It is particularly important to know that the work of formation, while having intelligent recourse to the means and methods available from human science, is made more effective the more it is open to the action of God. Only the branch which does not fear being pruned by the heavenly vinedresser can bear much fruit for the individual and for others.”

Do not fear being pruned.


1. How does a formation program help in discerning the vocation of a Secular Carmelite?

2. Which jurisdictions of the Secular Order have a formation program in place? Does the formation program include an adequate teaching of Apostolicam Actuositatem and Christifideles Laici?

3. What is the purpose of the various confraternities of associated laity?

A. Confraternity of the Brown Scapular of Our Lady of Mount Carmel.
B. Confraternity of the Infant of Prague
C. Confraternity of Saint Therese of the Child Jesus.
D. Who should be directed to these confraternities?

Apostolate and service.

1. Accepting the call of the Church expressed in Christifideles Laici with the principles of Ecclesiality (CL #30), what does this call ask of the Secular Order of Our Lady of Mount Carmel and Saint Teresa of Jesus?
2. One by one, how do we express the five principles of ecclesiality in the legislation of the OCDS?
3. The first of the actual fruits given in number 30 of CL is “the renewed appreciation for prayer, contemplation, liturgical and sacramental life.” How can the communities of the OCDS serve the needs of the Church and world by making these fruits an “actual fruit” of its Carmelite vocation?


We are not here to discuss the theories of the theology of the lay person in the Church. We are here to discover how to express in our legislation the richness and the responsibility of the charism of those lay persons who have been called to live the spirituality of Saint Teresa of Jesus at the service of the Church.
One element of the Teresian Carmelite charism is eremitical. One element is contemplative. One element is service. One element is community. One element is Marian. Please do not profess one o two elements to the exclusion of the other elements. Gilbert Chesterton, and English Catholic commentator defined a heretic as “one who has a part of the truth and thinks he has the whole truth.”
Your vocation is rich. And it is also a responsibility. And you only discover the fullness of its richness by living its responsibility.

02 August 2005


I have put some pictures on another page to leave this one for documents. The pictures may be found by following the link provided on the right side of this page.

29 July 2005

The Beatitudes as Integral Part of the Promise

I think that the promise is the most neglected part of formation programs that I have seen. There are many different religious orders. Right? There are Franciscans, Dominicans, Oblates, Missionaries of Mary Immaculate, and there Jesuits; there are all sorts of different religious traditions and religious families, but what makes the friars, or the priests, or the brothers, and the nuns and sisters and what makes us religious is that we make vows. I am a priest because I was ordained, not because I am a Carmelite. I was professed and the Church recognized in my profession my dedication of myself as a religious and as a Carmelite.

What makes you a member of the Secular Order is that you have made the promise

It is the promise that you make, that makes you members of the Secular Order. That distinguishes you from many, many, many other people who live and love Carmelite spirituality, but have not made any sort of commitment to the order and whose commitment has not been recognized by the Church. What makes you a member of Secular Order of Discalced Carmelites is not that you live Carmelite spirituality, because there are a lot of other people who may even live it better than all of us put together, who are not members of the order.

What makes you a member of the Secular Order is that you have made the promise. Your promise has been recognized by the Church. There are a lot of other people who are part of the Carmelite family who are not part of the order. There are a lot of people who know a lot of things about Carmelite spirituality and really are experts but are not members of the order.

How does this come up in a practical way?

Let me give an example, I bet in some of your communities you have the experience of people who got through the entire formation program, make definitive promises, may even make vows and then you never see them again. If you do see them…."well I say my office every day, I make mental prayer every day, I read St. Teresa, I read St. John of the Cross, I study them", but they have no idea of what it means to be a part of the order. I am asked that question. I know that is the truth because, no matter where I go in the world, somebody asks me about people who made the promises – the promise (it is singular, one promise) and then never come to meetings again. I have asked to look at many formation programs and most formation programs have zero in it about making or what the promise is, the content of the promise.

Why is there a promise?

What is the effect of making the promise?

It is almost like I want to say that there is too much formation in spirituality in the initial stages and not enough formation in what it means to become part of a community; because it is the promise that incorporates you into the order. So, I have a chance because I have been asked to talk about the Beatitudes, the Beatitudes in not just a Bible study program. It is incorporation, it is part of your commitment to incorporate yourself to become part of this family. The friars, the nuns, we live in community, it is our structure. Your structure is to make community. You don’t live in community, you live in community of your families, you live in the community of your parishes; but you make a community of the people who share something very basic, about your Catholic Christian identity, namely, Carmel.

In order to put the Beatitudes in the context of the promise I want to read in the new Constitutions what it says about the following of Jesus in the Teresian Carmel, because that is where it talks about the promise. It does not talk about prayer. The third chapter talks about prayer. The second chapter talks about incorporation. It does not talk about spirituality and the formation for spirituality or rather the information for spirituality. That is the fourth chapter. The first chapter is identity, values, commitment, which leads to the second chapter which is following Jesus in the Teresian Secular Carmel and that has to do with the promise. It is how you follow Jesus. Let me read a few of the numbers in the constitution.

Constitution number 10 : Christ is the center of our lives and of Christian experience. Members of the Secular Order are called to live the demands of following Christ in union with Him, by accepting His teachings and devoting themselves to Him. To follow Jesus is to take part in His saving mission of proclaiming the Good News and the establishment of God’s Kingdom. There are various ways of following Jesus: all Christians must follow Him, must make Him the law for their lives and be disposed to fulfill three fundamental demands: to place family ties beneath the interests of the Kingdom and Jesus himself; to live in detachment from wealth in order to show that the arrival of the Kingdom does not depend on human means but rather on God’s strength and the willingness of the human person before Him; to carry the cross of accepting God’s will revealed in the mission that He has confided to each person.
Constitution number 11 : Following Jesus as members of the Secular Order is expressed by the promise to strive for evangelical perfection in the spirit of the evangelical counsels of chastity, poverty and obedience and through the beatitudes. By means of this promise the member’s baptismal commitment is strengthened for the service of God’s plan in the world. This promise is a pledge to pursue personal holiness, which necessarily carries with it a commitment to serving the Church in faithfulness to the Teresian Carmelite charism. The promise is taken before the members of the community, representing the whole Church and in the presence of the Delegate of the Superior of the Order. By the promise made to the community in the presence of the Superior of the Order or his Delegate, the person becomes a full member of the Secular Order.

So the promises, the promise, I keep saying promises, but the parts of the promise, that is the fact of the act of committing yourself. It is not just personal, as it says in other parts of the constitution, it is ecclesial. Your promise is an ecclesial act. You are more part of the Church, because you are a member of the order. Those of you who may have read in the Clarion, or seen or heard the tape of a conference I gave in New Orleans a couple of years ago, about the Profile of a Discalced Carmelite Secular Order member, essential element, the element that distinguishes, as I have already said every other person who follows Carmelite spirituality is that you make a commitment to the order and the order makes a commitment to you.

That commitment is recognized by the Church. For that reason it is not just a club. See many people have a club mentality about the Secular Order, that’s why they stop coming, or they come when it is convenient or they come when it is almost time for elections. I can always tell that there are some things that are universally truths. People generally admit that they know somebody that does that. Club membership can hardly be the correct mentality for forming a community with people. That mentality that says I come when I come when it convenient for me, that mentality that says I come so that I can learn all this and do it for myself. That I say the office, I read it myself; I say my prayers, I mediate every day, I might even meditate an hour and a half or two every hours every day. I might read and know all about St. Teresa and St. John of the Cross.

One of the things that is in the Constitutions when it talks about Provincial Councils and Provincial Statutes, the first thing that Provincial statutes are to do is to develop an adequate program of formation. Not just a program of information, most of the time when people say we need a program of formation they are talking about a program of information. We want to know what to teach in this period, in this period, this period, this period and this period. What books to use in this stage and this stage, and this stage. That is not formation, that is a program of information. Formation is much more than information. Good formation depends on good information, that’s true. You get bad information you have bad formation. Formation is much more, than just information. Information is what Formation is how.

So a program of formation is: how do we train people, how do we educate people?

How do we inform people so that they make progress in the stages of formation they can commit themselves to us?

The promise is made to the community into which the person is incorporated. So the formation of the person is to be able to commit himself or herself to us, with the right information. I have seen so many programs of information for formation programs, a lot of spirituality but not a lot of corporality, you might say incorporation. Remember what St. Teresa says? That is useless or it is silly to think of ourselves as angels as long as we have these bodies. The Secular Order is an extension of the Church. It is a realization of the Church, which is, by nature, incarnate. It has a body and soul. The soul is the spirituality but it gives life to a body which is the incorporation of people with each other. Many times this is the reason why people have been satisfied with learning a lot about spirituality but not being able to incorporate it, and cease to participate, because they do not see the necessity.

The promise is as the Constitution is saying: to strive for evangelical perfection in the spirit of the evangelical counsels of chastity, poverty and obedience and through the Beatitudes. The evangelical counsels are traditional, are, of course, what the friars, the sisters, the nuns, what religious make, as their vows as the incorporate themselves into the community in which they are members. The evangelical counsels are time honored, long standing. It defines a way of living Christ’s life. Poverty, chastity, obedience or whatever order you want to put them in, chastity, obedience, poverty, those vows, those counsels, they are evangelical counsel.

As you know there are many people, especially after the Second Vatican Council, there was in the Church and in the order also a movement to really make the Secular Order independent of the friars and nuns in the sense of having their own forms. Forms that are different from our forms.

There was a movement, after the Second Vatican Council, that wants to de-religousize the religious, de-religiousize the Secular Order. They wanted take away even poverty, chastity, and obedience and say there has to be something else. In every group, in order for a group to function, to survive, to have history, and to continue in history, it is necessary to have three things: discernment of who is part of the group, formation of the people who are discerned to belong as part of the group, and the commitment for the purposes of the groups. Commitment is necessary.

Poverty, Chastity, And Obedience

As time went along and different people were trying to come up with different things, we realized that poverty, chastity, and obedience are evangelical counsels. They are not counsels to religious. They are evangelical counsels. They are ways of evaluating yourself in the light of Jesus. Because the vows we make as religious and the promise you make as seculars are not to live our poverty, our chastity, our obedience, but to live the poverty, and the chastity, and the obedience of Jesus. My chastity is not going to save anybody, but it is the poverty, and the chastity, and the obedience of Jesus that saves. So we live, Jesus that person, second person of the blessed Trinity, God and man, who lived his life on Earth and in that life saved all of humanity, whose life is found in the pages of the Gospel and in the experience of the tradition of the Church, and the sacraments and prayer and meditation. That person becomes the standard by which we evaluate ourselves, under those three rather radical categories of human life. Loving, possessing, and being in obedience, how we are. In a certain sense it is that poverty, that chastity, and that obedience of Jesus that in our promise, in my vows, in your promise that we make that become the standard for us to evaluate our lives. How we are living, how we are moving, how we are being, how we possess things. We possess things, but how do we possess them? We love, and we love deeply and humanly but with what clarity do we love. We are and we are incorporated with each other, we are parts of community, parts of family, parts of society, parts of the Church, but how?

At the time of The Rule of Life in 1974, when The Rule of Life was written, the commission that was set up to evaluate the Rule of Life wanted to add something, inspired by basically the Vatican Council's document on the laity, Apostolicam Actuositatum and added as an integral part of the promise to the personal evaluation of Jesus as standard of personal life, they wanted to add the Beatitudes. They wanted to add the Beatitudes for a very specific reason because the Beatitudes are not just a personal evaluation of one's own person, of one's own approach, attitude, living of life; but they are a measure of relationship to the world.

The Beatitudes

What does the catechism of the Catholic Church say about the Beatitudes? There are two numbers in the catechism, number 1716 and 1717.

1716 : The Beatitudes are at the heart of Jesus’ preaching. They take up the promises made to the chosen people since Abraham. The Beatitudes fulfill the promises by ordering them no longer merely to the possession of a territory but to the kingdom of Heaven.

1717: The Beatitudes depict of the countenance of Jesus Christ and portray His charity. They express the vocation of the faithful associated with the glory of His passion and resurrection. They shed light on the actions and attitudes characteristic of the Christian life. They are paradoxical promises that sustain hope in the midst of tribulations. They proclaim the blessings and rewards already secured however dimly for Christ’s disciples. They have begun in the lives of Virgin Mary and all the saints.

The Beatitudes depict of the countenance of Jesus Christ and portray His charity. They express the vocation of the faithful associated with the glory of His passion.

Remember this is a result of the Second Vatican Council document Apostolicam Actuositatem which then becomes even more highlighted and underlined, and enhanced in the document Christifideles Laici on the role of the apostolate of lay persons. It is essential, your role. It is not just because there are less vocations that your role is more important than before. It is because it is the time where the Holy Spirit wants this role. The Church doesn’t need friars, the Church doesn’t need nuns, and the Church doesn’t need seculars.

The Church needs what we have to offer. The Church needs the witness of St. Teresa and St. John of the Cross. The Church needs that spirituality. The world needs that spirituality. The world needs what we have to offer, to the extent that we do not offer it, we are useless to God. We are useless to God to the extent that we do not offer what He has given us in our vocation. This commitment that we have made, you through the promise, I through the vows, is to be present in the Church, to minister to the Church, and this is the role specifically underlined, revealed most in the Second Vatican Council and after the Second Vatican Council through the different Synods about the role of lay persons in the Church. Vita Apostolica and Vita Consecrata are documents centered on the religious life. Paragraph 55 says that because of the new circumstances in the history of the world it has become apparent that lay people are called to share not only the spirituality but the mission….not just spirituality but the mission of the religious family.

The Church needs to know what St. Teresa and St John of the Cross says and it’s our job to tell them, to let them know. There are 40,000 of you. There are 4,000 of us. You are ten times more present than we are. We have to read the Beatitudes as a way to remind us of how our relationship to the world as communities is.

Beatitudes As A Way To Remind Us Of How Our Relationship To The World As Communities

We Americans have a big problem in that we are always tempted to be individualists. Right? ( This also applies to Malaysian too, I believe. – S.Tai)

We are tempted to always think of what does this mean I have to do. Begin to think now as communities.

What does this mean for our community as a Secular Order community?

Not what does this mean for me. Nobody has to quit their job, leave their families to become a Carmelite Secular if we do things in thinking in terms of our community.

Let’s read the Beatitudes. There are two sets of beatitudes. Not just Matthew, but also Luke. There are two sets of beatitudes. We are used to thinking of eight beatitudes, there is sort of a ninth one that some texts include in the eighth one in St. Matthew’s Gospel. There are six or seven in St. Luke’s Gospel.

(Matthew 5:1-12 )

(1) Seeing the crowds he went on the mountain and when he was seated, his disciples came to him.

(2) Then he began to speak and this is what he taught them.

(3) How blessed

(There is always a problem is it blessed, or blessed. This is a point not just the word because it has to do also with the meaning. Other translations, I think the New American Bible first said, the one that we read at Mass or used to read at Mass in English, how happy. So it is happy or blessed or blessed. They have different shades of meaning. )

Blessed are the poor in spirit, the kingdom of heaven, is theirs.

(4) Blessed are the gentle they shall have the earth as inheritance.

(5) Blessed are those who mourn they shall be comforted.

(6) Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for uprightness.

That’s the New Jerusalem Bible translation. Most of us are familiar with Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for justice, they shall have their fill.

(7) Blessed are the merciful, they shall have mercy shown them.

(8) Blessed are the pure in heart, they shall see God.

(9) Blessed are the peacemakers, they shall be recognized as children of God.

(10) Blessed are those who are persecuted in the cause of uprightness (justice) for the kingdom of heaven is theirs.

(11) Blessed are you when people abuse you, persecute you, and speak all kinds calumny against you falsely on my account.

(12) Rejoice and be glad for your reward will be great in heaven for this is how they persecuted the prophets before you.

St. Luke’s version. (Luke 6:20-26)

(20) Then fixing his eyes on his disciples he said: “how blessed are you who are poor, the kingdom of God is yours.

(21) Blessed are you who are hungry now, you shall have your fill. Blessed are you who are weeping now, you shall laugh.

(22) Blessed are you when people hate you, drive you out, abuse you, denounce your name as criminal on account of the Son of Man.

(23) Rejoice when that day comes, and dance for joy, look your reward will be great in heaven. This was the way their ancestors treated the prophets.

(24) But alas for you,

I like the other translation WOE, woe to you who are rich for you have your consolation now.

(25) Alas for you, woe to you who have plenty to eat now, for you shall go hungry. Alas for you, woe to those who are laughing now, you shall mourn and weep.

(26) Woe for you when everyone speaks well of you, this is the way their ancestors treated the false prophets.

Again as poverty, chastity, and obedience were the measuring, were the life of Jesus: Jesus as poor, chaste, and obedient in the Gospel, in his life, in the tradition of the Church, that person becomes then the measuring stick of our own relationship to the Father, especially. The Beatitudes become the measuring stick for where do we identify ourselves, as our communities. Because when we do this in communities, this is again part of that incorporation. When we do this in community, we support each other doing it.

We are not left to wondering how or all on our own; but where do we identify ourselves? With whom do we identify ourselves?

Because the Beatitudes, as everybody, you can read many things and commentaries of the Beatitudes to understand that they are the introduction to the Sermon on the Mount, and Jesus and the Sermon on Plain in Luke. The Sermon on the Mount is very much about the relationship of one to another. Including of course to pray the Our Father.

How do we identify ourselves as persons who live a life of allegiance to Jesus Christ? This Carmelite life? The Rule of St. Albert?

A life of allegiance to Jesus Christ and that allegiance to Jesus Christ brings us to identify ourselves with certain people and to see in certain aspects, and certain virtues and certain approaches to living how we have to live in order to be in allegiance to Jesus Christ, in order to be loyal to Jesus. The structure of the eight Beatitudes that are more famous, form the fifth chapter of St. Matthew’s Gospel and you see sometimes hanging on walls, you can see it when you go to religious gift shops and see a plaque that has the eight beatitudes. People look at them like they belong on a Hallmark card, you know, but they are really very demanding and they are not so cute. They are cute on the card, but they are not so cute in living them out because they are demanding an attitude of us. That doesn’t come naturally to us in certain ways. I do not think that it comes naturally to us as Americans - to live the Beatitudes the way the Gospels teach the Beatitudes. And they certainly don’t come naturally to us as an approach to us to living life.

The eight Beatitudes, you can almost divide them into two sections of four. How I am going to read the traditional ones that I remember from grade school.

1. blessed are the poor in spirit, the kingdom of heaven is theirs.
2. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted
3. Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
4. Blessed are you who hunger and thirst for justice, you shall have your fill.
5. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
6. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
7. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God.
8. Blessed are those who are persecuted for justice, for the kingdom of heaven is theirs.

There are two sets. The fourth one and eighth one go together, almost as a refrain, the way we do sometimes in the Psalms Response. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for justice, for they shall have their fill. Blessed are those who are persecuted for justice, for they shall have their fill. The justice that exists in the Bible, is not the justice that you and I understood, when we say justice is going to be done. We mean justice as punishment. We mean justice as revenge. That is not at all evangelical. That is not at all scriptural. It is not at all the justice of God. I often wonder especially when I am read the Gospels, it sort of shocks me sometimes, as the day of the Lord is when we let everybody out of prison. We find so many reasons to keep people in prison, because justice has to be done.

We are very conditioned in our attitudes; we get a lot more information about how to live from the television, from the newspaper, the means of communication than we do from the Gospels. So, we have a tendency to skip over what these things say to us because they are conditioned by how we understand. Blessed are those that hunger and thirst for justice. It is almost like we might exaggeratingly say we understand these as vigilante groups who go out to punish people. They are doing justice. They are not seeking forgiveness.

• Justice is to look out for the poor.
• Justice is to make sure people eat.
• Justice is to make sure people are clothed.
• Justice is to make sure people have what they need to be human and to live humanly.
• Justice is to forgive. Sister said, “actions speak louder than words.” Sister said “God’s justice was God’s mercy.”

Through all of tradition so many things, all Christian tradition, in theology, in philosophy, so many other things have interrupted almost, or infused themselves, or inched their way into spirituality, into scripture, into following Christ that we almost get political in the way we interpret or understand our approach to life, to living. It comes from whom we identify with One of the things about in the American system of justice is that we have the death penalty. Yet the Holy Father so strongly speaks against the death penalty. And, at least according to surveys, a majority of Catholics are in favor of the death penalty.

So our American idea of justice is more important than Jesus’ idea of justice. Again, I’m trying to be practical in pointing out that this is not easy, to live an evangelical life. Yet it is what you promised to do, and that is so solemn that promise, that the Church says that’s how you become a member. You can quote St. Teresa up and down, St John of Cross left to right, St. Therese, everything, but if you do not follow Jesus, you are not a Carmelite.

Importance of Community Meetings.

This also point to the importance of meetings. The reason why meetings are so important is you can’t do this alone. You need to be in touch with, and be supported by and support others who are trying to do it too. It is for that reason a little bit why we have inched away from, some people have said maybe we have moved miles away from the idea of isolate members. Long distance, members from a distance, maybe in others ways, but they have to be associated with other people. It’s too difficult to do this, it is too inhuman. It is not practical to set up a spiritual life and a solemn life, all alone. If it is not practical, it’s not Carmelite. Carmelite spirituality is supremely practical. It can be done and it can be practiced under certain conditions and in certain way and for this reason community life, whether it is for us who live in communities, or for you who make community, it is indispensable.

Does that make sense?

So you have the mistake that people make when they say :

“Oh, I don’t need to go to meetings anymore.”

I am not talking about the sick. I am not talking about those who are reasonably, rationally excused or those that miss because their daughter is getting married, or their husband is sick. I am talking about people who don’t come. They don’t come and they say :

“Oh I say my Office everyday and I meditate everyday.”

There is more to it than that. It is not a training ground for individualists. Matter of fact, the one thing we loose is our individualism, not our individuality of course, but our individualism. What grows in a person who makes this promise, who tries to live these beatitudes as an apostolate, is the need to have others, to understand what is the right thing to do. And the people who need to know this don’t come any more. So this is why we have to really re-look at the way we do things. We cannot continue to make the mistake of forming individualist.

I have a whole program of formation, in parenthesis, because it is actually a whole program of information, all written out, that I have sort of gleaned from looking at formation programs from around the world. What can be done at different stages, but it’s too early to give it out, because we still are not clear about the formation. If we just continue giving information to people as they go through formation classes, almost as if, you’ve seen the mistakes, and the mistakes come at voting time, and the council “Well, she’s so intelligent. She really loves St. Therese, she knows everything about her, or she really loves the Blessed Mother. She loves the scapular. Goodness sake she wears it night and day, all the time, but you know she is a little disagreeable in community, just a little disagreeable. You notice that every time she comes into the meeting. (Or he, the he(s) can be a lot worse than the shes.) Every time this person comes into the meeting everybody shuts up. They don’t want to set her off. When it comes time to vote, she really does know what she is talking about.” It is not a matter of knowing what. It is a matter of knowing how. The how depends on a good what. It is knowing how to live this life.

Why do we make people parts of our community that we would never want to live with?

What does it do to the community?
How does it affect the community?

You’ve seen in the talk that I gave in New Orleans and you have seen it in other places where I have written where I talk about people who talk about Our Lady of Medjugorje hours and hours. It is obvious how that throws the community off. So everybody can really see how if you really have wrong things, things that aren’t Carmelite things, you can see why that person doesn’t belong.

This is a far more fundamental question about people who can live these evangelical counsels, the spirit of evangelical counsels and the Beatitudes. They have to have a certain human capacity for conversion. Human capacity not spiritual conversion. Not aversion from sin. Not practicing virtues heroically, but a human capacity. There has to be an ability to be part of other people. That is your responsibility as Council members when it comes to vote. You can give a written test on Carmelite spirituality, on the Catechism of the Catholic Church, on all the documents that have ever been written, and a person can get A, A, A, B+ and still invite someone to become part of your community who does not belong.

Number 36 in the Constitution talks about formation, and again the formation touches upon the promise. The gradual introduction. It’s gradual. It’s step by step, nobody starts out at the finish point. Everybody starts out at the beginning point. The gradual introduction to the life of the Secular Order is structured in the following manner:
A sufficient period of contact with the community for no less than 6 months. The purpose of this stage is that the applicant might become more familiar with the community. More familiar with the community, with the people. The style of life and service to the Church proper to the Secular Order of the Teresian Carmel. This period also, you might want to say, the main reason, is to give the community the opportunity to make an adequate discernment of the candidate.
What are you looking at?
Not their intelligence, not their wisdom, not their knowledge, but their ability to relate to the people in the community. This is not a private school of spirituality. This is an organization of Christ’s faithful people, part of the Discalced Carmelite Order. It is a community of people. You are looking at the capacity of this person to be part of the community.
After the initial period of contact, the council of the community may admit the applicant to a more serious period. Very important… the council of the community may, may, may - this is not a factory that produces Secular Order members. It’s the council of the community may and may not. The council of the community may admit the applicant to a more serious period of formation that usually lasts for two years leading up to the first promises. There is a purpose for the formation. It’s to get the person in a position; mentally, emotionally, psychologically, intellectually, spiritually to commit himself or herself to the community.
Is that what guides the period formation that is given in the first two years?
That this person is going to incorporate herself or himself with these people?
It’s the promise that does that. So what is the formation for the promise?
At the end of this stage, with the approval of the Council of the Community, the applicant may, may be invited to make the first promises to follow the evangelical counsels and to live in the spirit of the beatitudes for a period of three years.
In the last three years of initial formation there is a deeper study of prayer, the Scriptures, the Documents of the Church, the Saints of the Order and formation in the apostolate of the Order. At the end of these three years the applicant may be invited by the Council to make the Definitive Promises. The period of formation has for its purpose of making the promise.
So you are looking at, who are these people who can form community with us?
How does this person help me live my commitment to evaluate myself through Jesus, poor, chaste, obedient, in relationship to the world that suffers?
How is this person going to help me do this? How can I help this person do this?
The rest, the soul, that’s the body of being a member of the order. It is that body that receives its energy, its power, its light, its guide from the spirituality of St. Teresa and St. John of the Cross, St.Therese, St. Edith Stein, St.Teresa of the Andes, Elizabeth of the Trinity. That’s the energy, that’s the light, that’s how we know what we are doing, and that’s how we do it as members of our order. We have all of our lives to study that. One of the things I want to say is that in some programs of formation there is too much in the initial stages and not enough body, not enough that weighs us down. Because if we put too much spirit in the formation, this is too much to handle. It becomes too heavy. Am I making sense? Do you follow what I am saying?
This is what the Church needs of us. If this is what the Church needs of us, then guess what, it is what God wants of us. You might have heard me, I don’t know if I said it on the tape and in the talk in New Orleans, but all of us come to Carmel for our reasons. That all of us stay for God’s reasons. Our reasons grow and change. As you know I was a diocesan priest before I became a Carmelite, in Philadelphia. I knew the nuns in Philadelphia, basically. This was before all sorts of divisions that exist now among the nuns, it was before then. When I went to Carmel, I really thought I was going to be contemplative. I know, I really thought I was going to live in a monastery someplace and have a lot of time for reading. Now, here I am after twenty some years, I’ve put a hundred thousand miles in the air a year and it’s your fault. We don’t stay in Carmel for our reasons. If we do stay in Carmel for our reasons, we never grow up, we never mature. We stay in Carmel for God’s reasons.
Some of us did not know that God was going to ask of us the commitment that he asks of us. As we read the documents of the Church, for that reason we are fortunate in the United States, we have all the footnotes, read the footnotes to the Constitution, they explain why in the words of the Holy Father, the Pope, in the words of our Holy Father, St. John of the Cross and the words of St. Teresa, in the words of laws of the Church, the canon law and explain why. The Beatitudes in the context of the promise, the promise in the context of your vocation is the pledge to do what God wants done.
In a nutshell, people, basically what is Carmelite spirituality?
Carmelite spirituality is to know God, so that God may be known. Not to just know God. God has his reasons for wanting us to know Him. For wanting us to have this relationship with Him. The Beatitudes, in a most concrete way, drive us, to show us, where it is that we must show God, the poor, the meek, the mourning, those who suffer. That’s where God wants us to be.
There is a word that is part of formation that wasn’t always part of formation and the word is accompaniment. You accompany people in the process. Good formation depends on good information. It is not wrong to have the information, but it’s wrong to settle for the information as the formation. It’s not only necessary only that we help people understand what they are suppose to do. It is necessary to understand how they do it. So there is an accompaniment, this is why you cannot have all the formation on one person.
Other people have to be involved in helping the formation program. If I am going to have classes where I’m giving information, fine then give it all to me. I’ll do it all, formation for the people in the first six months, formation for the people in the first two years, the people in the second period of three years, and the formation, I can give classes. Yeah, you can see how much I can talk. I can give classes all you want, but if you want me to actually accompany these people on the way, not being their spiritual director, not an invasion of their privacy, but there is a spiritual accompaniment that goes along. Those of you who do formation, you develop a relationship with the people in formation. They begin to talk with you about difficulties as they get to different points. So this is very true in some places.
It is very true in the Philippines, they have thirty-five to forty people in formation in their communities, in initial formation. They divide them up and have four people for the first stage and four people for the second stage, they divide them up. It is a new approach of how to do the formation.
Before, maybe forty, fifty, or sixty years ago, the formation was on how to do mortification or penances. I think this was true of the order, if you asked me when I first wanted to become a Discalced Carmelite, which was 1965, and somebody asked me why I wanted to become a Carmelite. Well, Carmelites don’t eat meat, they sleep on boards, they do penances and mortification for the Church. They were ideals for me. That was how people defined who we were. They didn’t define us as people who lived the spirituality of St. Teresa and St. John of the Cross. They defined us by the external things that we did. In many ways the formation, even of the tertiary, in those days in the Secular Order was the formation of how to do penances and what days you fasted on, and what days you had feasts on.
Information has changed now. All the friars who can remember, what were the three books? The Constitutions, The Ceremonial and The Manual or something like that……. Instruction. It was all about doing the external things right because you wanted to please God. There was nothing wrong in the sense of they were not making a mistake. They were doing what their times taught them to do and they did it for the glory of God, and so that they could know God and become saints and die and go to heaven. We have different materials and different responsibilities now. So, part of the mistake we made in learning all this was we changed the information, but didn’t change the formation. We are still learning how to do this. Now, we are learning. We have learned. We have to accompany people to do these things. It is not just sufficient to give a good class.
It is necessary to accompany these people in understanding this, gently. That is why all these periods of formation say no less than six months, two years, and three years. Rule of thumb, practical experience of the Church, the Church allows in law, if there is a set period of formation, you may add up to one half of that set period as an extension. If you say six months, and at the end of six months they are not sure, you are not sure and it is more important for you to be sure, by the way, if you are not sure, you can add three more months. If they are for two years in that period of formation before First Promises, they’re not sure, you’re not sure, you can add up to one more year. At the end of three years, they’re not sure, you’re not sure, you can add up to a year and a half, in segments, three month segments, six month segments; because you want to make the right decision and you want them to make the right decision.
I was Provincial in my Province three times. I sent eleven people home in those three times. Sometimes I sent people home I liked and sometimes I accepted the profession of people I did not like; because liking people has nothing to do with it. It is not whether you like them or not.
Are they whole?
Do they have these requisites?
If they are nice people, especially if it’s your brother’s, sister’s, husband’s, mother-in-law’s daughter, that doesn’t mean she has an in to make profession. Right?
This becomes, I think it becomes clearer with practice than it can be in theory. No, these lawyers, I'm telling you, Oh. The question was; is there a criterion or set of criterion that can be used in order to say no, if it is necessary to say no? My response to that is that I think that it is something that becomes clearer as the practice goes of accompaniment, because you begin to see things. Pay attention to doubts. You are the formatter, you pay attention to doubts. You don’t make them a cause for a persecution and you don’t white wash them away. You pay attention until they go away. If they stay there is something there. If they stay and it’s not the first time, you wait, you have six months in getting people familiar, maybe nine months if it is necessary.
If you are a formatter, we have so many means of communication available to us, through e-mail, through telephone. You keep in touch with people along the way.
If you are formatter, you want to keep in touch because you want to accompany them. At times, you have nine months. They haven’t made a promise yet but they are beginning to have two maybe three years before they make the First Promise.
We are not assembling Carmelites. We are forming Carmelites. I think it becomes apparent when a Formation Director says to the Council, “this person I think, really has it.” The Council has the opportunity to make observations objectively, that might help make the Formation Director have an answer or might open the Formation Director's eyes to something that they are not seeing because they are too close. It works out with practice. The criterion is not set, because it’s not objective, in the terms that it is not a test that you can pass or fail on. It is more under the influence of the Holy Spirit today.
I do want to make one little correction in the way you use order. The order is not you and us. It’s us. How does the order make a commitment to you, when you make a commitment to the order? Because they receive your commitment. They provide a place for you to meet. Mainly, your other people in your community who are part of the order, you’re meeting with them. They’re there every month for you. Not just you there every month for them. The order makes a commitment.
No Carmelite, it would be impossible even for the friars, to take every course available to every Carmelite friar. There are certain people who go from certain provinces, I’m one with maybe two or three others, four others from my province in different years, we went to Avila for one year to study. The Philippines send a layman, the Secular Order members, not the Friars, the Secular Order members from the Manila community paid for one of their people to go in Washington for two years. He is returning now that he’s finished. He has returned now to be part of the formation team - a secular, a man, OCDS. Not everybody in every community needs to go, but a community can decide to support one of its members that might have the free time to go. So that person comes back and then shares with the community through the formation program that they help design.
The commitment of the order is to be there. This is your commitment to be there. The order is not the friars, the order is not the nuns, the order is not the seculars. The order is the friars, the nuns and the seculars. Part of our mutual support is your mutual support to each other. If you lived over in one of those houses over there and you wanted to become a Carmelite, you couldn’t do it alone. You would have to find other Carmelites, and you found them. The order made a commitment to you, it is there. At the end of six years it is definitive. That is why it is called definitive, you are a member of the order. Now it is your job to be there for others. The friars make a mistake all the time about the word order, they think it is us, meaning friars. A little way of correcting that word, and understanding the word, how is the order there, in the same way you are there for the people coming who are coming to your meeting now. The order sets up a structure for us, for the nuns, and for you. We all become a part of that structure to be present. And in the second part is that not everybody can come. When you are paying for courses that you’re inviting people to come to teach, and they’re coming from other places, you have to pay their airfare along the way. I don’t know why things cost they way they cost, but they do.
[Response to question from audience] No, you need be an accompanier. I am against being satisfied with information. In my province we made a mistake by confusing intelligence for capacity, or intellectual with intelligent.
[Response to question from audience] No, we are incarnate. It’s not just the Holy Spirit. We learn from each other, this is part of being community.
[Comments from audience] Again, I am not defending anything of any course of action. I am defending the principle. The principle is that formation is not information. Formation is being accompanied in the process. You get someone joining Carmel, who has been formed personally in Our Lady of Medjugorje, who can take the information and twist it. If you don’t have people who know what the information means, then it is not going to be the same information. You can take somebody who takes St. John of the Cross and the Ascent of Mt. Carmel and so distorts the words of St. John of the Cross, that you have people actually insulting the spirituality of St. John of the Cross by living a kind of rigidity and mortification that is offensive to God. Using the words, because they don’t understand what is put to death in mortification. It is not you, it is not the self. There really has to be someone trained to give that information. To know what does it mean. This is the whole tradition of accompaniment in formation.
[Response to question from audience] It does. Now, we have to thank you. You opened up a theme that is also very important. Why is that some people come to some communities and turn away. Because they do not see in the community, the example of people who are living Carmelite spirituality. Especially if they come in and find groups, cliques, divisions. They can find that in the office. Why do they need to go on Sunday? It depends on how the community is functioning as a community.
Is the community functioning as a community?
This leads us to how the Council functions as a Council. Many times the divisions that exist in communities come from Councils that are divided. Especially if the Council has on it a perpetual member. One of the advantages I have is that I don’t know anybody or anybody’s community, so I can come in and say things that nobody else can say. But the structure that is given in the Constitution on Councils, in order for someone to be a third time President, you have to get the Provincial permission. Two times is enough because the Council has to be able to function. It has to function, rationally speaking it has to function with respect for each other. I am trying to say what sometimes are the roots of divisions that exist in communities and why the community does not reflect or have the ability to live that experience is because as a community there’s divisions that exists because this person was not elected. They were not elected as President and they’re on the Council and they are upset, because they really wanted to be president, why? whoever knows. They set up sort unconsciously many times, a co-presidency. Or an anti presidency. There is a division in the community. Or it comes times for the Council to vote on people and somebody says something against somebody or a negative opinion about something and one of the people on the Council goes out and tells the person. It happens, I think, where people say things, that are said in the Council. Then the Council stops functioning as a Council because the person who is spoken about, her feelings get hurt, then her friends side with her and it leads to silly division, because the Council did not function as a Council. The Council has to function as a Council as long as there is respect for what is said in the Council.
What do they call that?
Confidentially, the persons, or members of the Council have to be able to speak their mind clearly. If they can do that, and the people understand that the way the Holy Spirit works, because it is according to the Constitution which is also the same in the Rule of Life (article 24 in the Rule of Life): the superior of the community is the Council, not the president. The president is not superior of the community. The president is not even superior of the Council. The president is the spokesperson of the Council, the mouthpiece. Some mouthpieces are very mouthy. The President speaks for the Council. It is the Council that decides. If you have three councilors who say “yes, mame” to the president, you don’t have a council. The Council discusses, the president, the three councilors, the formation director. Those five people make up the Council, who discuss for the good of the community. Remember in the Rule of Life, it said the Council was supposed to meet once a year. Right? Now, in the Constitutions, when it talks about the Council, it says in number 47, it says the Council meets frequently and always when necessary in reference to taking care of formation programs and the growth of their own community.
Constitution Number 46 says: The Council composed of the president, three councilors, and the director of formation constitutes the immediate authority of the community. The primary responsibility of the council is the formation and Christian and Carmelite maturing of the members of the community. The Council has to function as a Council. Confidentiality, respect for what is said in the Council, understanding that’s the way God arrives at decisions in our community is through the Council functioning. Also, it says the President, when it describes the president, is not to favor one person over another in the community, but is to be president actually of everybody in community. So, if we can avoid, and it is normal and natural, it happens among us, it happens with the nuns, and it happens with you, is that we like some people more than we like other people. It’s natural. That’s not what makes us brothers and sisters in Carmel. What makes us brothers and sisters in Carmel is that we are committed to something beyond ourselves. When that works, then communities can and do. The communities form more by example, than they do by classes. This is the purpose of accompaniment in the formation process. You can talk about Christian charity in your formation class, but if they go into the community and hear back biting or gossip…if you’re a gossiper, go home now. Send them home now, because it ruins the ability for the community to function as a community. And as the community functions as a community, that shows. It guides the example of what is given in classes. You’re right, but there is a condition on that.
[Response to question from audience] I think that basically it is true, because the more you look inward without abandoning the outward, the more integrated you would become with the outward. There are some people who look so inward that they disconnect from reality. The reality of life, the reality of family, the reality of work everyday, the reality of food to be eaten and prepared, the reality of schedules, they just disconnect. I think if you’re connected to the outside, the more you become an inward person, the more you, I am not saying this very professionally, but the more integrated you become as a whole person in connection with the world.
[Response to question from audience] Well let’s clarify one thing. Many of us when we use the word contemplative, especially as Carmelites, we have in mind probably a lot of times the example of St. Therese of the Child Jesus and St. Teresa. There are almost too many Carmelite nuns as saints, because we confuse contemplation with cloister and a cloistered style of life. Contemplative style of life is not a cloistered style of life. There are many people who have lived in cloisters, for many years who are still waiting to become contemplative, because contemplation, in Carmelite spirituality, is a gift of God. It is a quality of life as lived, gifted by God to be in relationship with Him in that certain way that enhances that life. Whether it is a nun in a cloister, a friar in a monastery, or a secular in a family, in work, in a parish of a secular priest. First thing is to clear up what do we mean by contemplation. We do not mean cloister, cloistered style of life. One of the readings I love is on the feast of St. Francis de sales, which is in office of readings, one of the examples he is using, if you’re a mother of a family, you can’t live like that of a Poor Clare Nun. I talked about this when I talked about Mary on Sunday. How much time it takes out of your day to do what you are supposed to do as lay people. You can still be contemplative because it depends on God, number one. We don’t practice contemplative prayer unless God gives us contemplation. There is no sense in feeling guilty about not being contemplative because it is up to God, not up to you. It is the quality of life that improves with this knowledge of God that comes through prayer, through meditation, through dedicating ourselves to sometime for that contemplation.
[Response to question from audience] I sometimes say that Carmelites have the temptation to feel themselves dispensed from what the Church teaches because we are Carmelite. I got this a lot when I sent out original drafts about things and the importance of Christifideles Laici and all that Christifideles Laici says about the commitment necessary on the part of lay people in the Church. It is like St. John of the Cross says that if you are contemplative you don’t have to do anything else. Well that depends on if God gave you contemplation, not whether you are making mental prayer, number one. Number two, it is a misunderstanding of what St John said and they know nothing about St. John of the Cross’ life. So there is a temptation to think that because we are Carmelites we do not have to do anything else that the Church says. In the formation programs that we hope are being developed in provinces now, after the new Constitution. (I have seen them, because some have been submitted already to Rome), it is not necessary to cover everything about St. Teresa or everything about St. John of the Cross in the first six years. It is necessary to see if the person has the stamina and the commitment to make themselves available to this life style in those six years, then we have the whole rest of life. Ongoing formation is so important, because it gives us the opportunity for all of this to deepen.