This is a thorough look into the spirituality of our order: the roots of our vocation, the Teresian charism, the chief elements of our vocation. 

Our Ideal

I. The roots of our vocation

1. The discalced Brothers of the Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel belong to a religious family endowed with its own special charism in God’s people and called to fulfill a specific role in the Mystical Body of Christ.

Each of us receives a personal call to this family. As a renewed form of an ancient order it entails both fidelity to the spirit and traditions of Carmel and a continual striving after renewal. This is–as it were–the dual heritage bequeathed to us by our Holy Mother St Teresa.

Mindful of this and docile to the voice of God, we cherish the spirit and way of life of our forerunners as we profess to be their descendants and heirs. Hence we regard the deeds of our ‘holy fathers and predecessors’ not as lifeless events of bygone days but as part of the providential shaping of our vocation in the living Church.

 

2. The beginnings of the Order, the title ‘Brothers the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel’ and the earliest authentic spiritual traditions provide ample evidence of the Marian and biblical character of our vocation.

Taking Mary as the mother and patroness of the Order, we look upon her life and her sharing in the mystery of Christ as a model of religious consecration.

Among venerable biblical figures Elijah stands out as Carmel’s source of inspiration, as he contemplates the living God and burns with zeal for his glory. We look upon his prophetic charism as the prototype of our own vocation to ponder God’s word and proclaim it to the world.

 

3. We find our earliest ‘pattern of life’ outlined in the Rule of St Albert. This remains basically the rule that governs our life today, urging us principally:

(a) to live in allegiance to Jesus Christ, serving him with a pure heart and a good conscience, looking to Him alone for salvation, as we obey our superior in a spirit of faith, with our mind more on Christ than on the superior;

(b) to ponder unceasingly the law of the Lord in the Scriptures and strengthen our hearts with holy thoughts, so that the word of God may be always in our hearts and on our lips and guide us in everything we do;

(c) to come together daily for the celebration of the sacred liturgy;

(d) to put on the armour of God, as we live an intense life of faith, hope and charity, in a spirit of evangelical self-denial and a generous commitment to work, after the example of Paul the Apostle;

(e) to enter into a genuine sharing of life, having at heart the good of the community and the salvation of souls, sustained by the charity of fraternal correction; to hold everything in common under the guidance of a superior placed at the service of his brothers;

(f) above all to lead a life of unceasing prayer in silence and solitude, in accordance with the gospel admonition to watch and pray;

(g) to use prudent discretion in all that we do, especially when this entails more than duty requires of us.

 

4. This way of life, in its original eremitical form, was duly sanctioned and approved by the Church. Subsequently the Order was granted mendicant status and entrusted with the apostolic ministry, but at the same time, urged to remain true to its original spirit.

II. The Teresian Charism

5. The origin of our family in Carmel and the very nature of its vocation are closely bound up with the life and charism of St Teresa, especially with the mystical graces which led her to undertake the renewal of Carmel and make prayer and contemplation its total commitment. The renewed Carmel – like the ‘little flock’ in the Gospel – was to be made up of a chosen few, totally pledged to living the Gospel and keeping the ‘primitive Rule’ in solitude and strict poverty.

6. Further stages of St Teresa’s spiritual experience contributed to the unfolding of her project and to a clearer perception of its significance. As she was mystically led to a deeper knowledge and, ‘experience’ of the life of the Church, its trials and sufferings, the recent break-up of its unity and especially the profanation of the Eucharist and the priesthood, she stressed more and more the apostolic spirit of the renewed Carmel. Its prayer, its withdrawal from the world, indeed the whole life of the first group of nuns were to be dedicated to the service of the Church.

7. Finally the renewed Carmel’s vocation was fully and clearly defined when the Holy Mother’s growing experience of the Church focused her attention on those who had not yet had the Gospel preached to them. Then the immense prospects of the missions dawned on her. As a result, her apostolic spirit fully evolved. Thus she made up her mind not only to have the first group of her nuns spread out into other foundations but to include in her project a group of friars who would share in the same spirit.

8. Her aim in founding a family of friars was to foster the fidelity and spiritual growth of her nuns through the assistance of brothers of the same spirit and to provide the Church with a manifold service of prayer and apostolic activity.

9. In all that she did, she wished to keep intact the heritage of Carmel. Its devotion to our Lady of Mount Carmel was faithfully kept and reinvigorated. She bequeathed to her followers her own affinity with the biblical forerunners, the great prophets and fathers of Carmel. She went back to the genuine spirit of the Rule and infused its observance with a fresh apostolic impetus.

10. The way of life she proposed to us was to be marked with a distinctive style and character. She wanted social virtues and human values to be duly fostered. She inculcated a joyous family spirit, affability in community life, nobility of soul and mutual respect. Our young religious were to be carefully trained. Study and culture were to be encouraged. The ascetical practices of our communities were to be at the service of a deeper theological life and geared to the demands of the apostolic ministry. There was to be a bond of unity between our communities and of evangelical friendship amongst our religious.

11. To achieve this, Providence gave the Holy Mother an associate, St. John of the Cross. When she first became acquainted with him and found that the Holy Spirit had already given him the same aspirations as herself, she told him of her plan for spiritual renewal within the Order of our Lady. She led him to share in her spirit and put before him the pattern of life she had introduced for her nuns. That is the way of life, adapted according to the mind and spirit of St. Teresa, which St. John then set about establishing at Duruelo.

Later, when St. John was her spiritual director, she looked upon him as the ‘father of her soul’. He in turn proclaimed her the mother of the new Carmelite family, and ascribed to her that charism which God bestows upon founders of religious Orders.

Together they introduced a renewed lifestyle into Carmel, both among the friars and the nuns, and ‘as it were, laid anew the foundations of the Order’.

12. The Holy Mother’s life and mystical experience were in effect God’s way of preparing for us a guide and model of life.

In St. John of the Cross, too, we have a living image of the true Carmelite. We can apply to him the words of St Paul: ‘Take me for your model, as I take Christ’ (cf. 1 Cor 4:16; 11:1). The vocation of the renewed Carmel is mirrored in St. John’s life and his teaching.

13. Our ideal finds a living expression in these two Saints and is clearly portrayed in their writings. Their charism and the spiritual lifestyle they propose to us – even their intimacy with God and the experience of things divine – are not just purely personal gifts of their own, but part of the heritage and vocation of the Order.

14. This is the grace that God in his merciful goodness graciously offers to every member of the Order. It is the Carmelite charism we must learn to appreciate, to cultivate and to develop according to the gifts given to each of us by the Holy Spirit.

III. The chief elements of our vocation

15. Having considered our roots in history and our Teresian charism, we are now in a position to outline the principal elements of the way of life we profess:

(a) We are committed to a consecrated life of allegiance to Jesus Christ. In this we are sustained the companionship, the example and protection of our Lady. Her life of union with Christ we regard as the prototype of ours.

(b) Our vocation is a grace by which we are called to a ‘hidden union with God’ in a form of life and fraternal sharing in which contemplation and action are blended to become a single apostolic service of the Church.

(c) This call to prayer embraces our whole life. Sustained by the word of God and the sacred liturgy, we are led to live in intimate friendship with God. By growing in faith, hope and above all charity, we deepen our prayer life. With our heart thus purified, we are enabled to share more closely in the life of Christ himself and prepare the way for a more abundant outpouring of the Holy Spirit. In this way, the Teresian charism and the original spirit of Carmel become a reality in our lives as we walk in the presence of the living God.

(d) The very nature of our charism demands that our prayer and our whole religious life be ardently apostolic, and that we put ourselves at the service of the Church and of all mankind. This must be done in such a way that ‘our apostolic activity stems from our close union with Christ’. Indeed we must aim at that most fruitful of all apostolates which derives from the ‘state of union with God’.

(e) It is for this twofold service, contemplative and active, that we share life as brothers in the community. United by the bond of love in fraternal life, we also bear witness to the unity of the Church, faithful in this to our Holy Mother, who wanted her communities to resemble ‘the college of Christ’.

(f) This way of life, based on the primitive Rule and the teaching of our Holy Parents, must be sustained by constant evangelical self-denial.

16. This form of life, appropriately tested and found satisfactory by the Order, has more than once been given the approval of the Church, and we have been frequently exhorted by her to keep it faithfully. The Order, thus approved, has been granted ‘clerical’ and ‘pontifical’ status. It also enjoys exemption, by which it is directly and immediately subject to the Pope. In this way it is made more available for the service of the Church everywhere and better equipped to provide for its own life and development.

17. The Holy Spirit has deigned to make the Order, thus approved, bear fruit in the life of the Church. He has given it saintly men and women who are considered masters in the ways of the Spirit. He has caused other religious families to grow out of Carmel, and share in various ways in its mission and work in God’s vineyard. We are closely united with them by our vocation and spirit.

18. From the beginning our Holy Parents took great pains to ensure that the charism bestowed on them should be embodied in a way of life rendered more stable by suitable legislation. That is why we too, while taking the following of Christ according to the Gospel as the supreme law of our life, keep the Rule of St Albert, Patriarch of Jerusalem, approved by Innocent IV, according to these Constitutions.