The Carmelite Rule – by St Albert of Jerusalem, Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, 1206

[1] Albert, by the grace of God called to be patriarch of the church of Jerusalem, to the beloved sons in Christ, B. and the other hermits who are living under obedience to him by the spring on Mount Carmel: health in the Lord and the blessing of the Holy Spirit.

[2] In many and various ways the holy fathers established how everyone, whatever his order or whatever kind of religious life he has chosen, must live in allegiance to Jesus Christ and serve him faithfully from a pure heart and a good conscience.

[3] However, because you ask us to give you a formula of life in accordance with your commitment, which you must observe in the future:

[4] The first thing we establish is that you have one of yourselves as prior, who is to be chosen for this office by the unanimous assent of all, or of the greater and sounder part, to whom each of the others is to promise obedience, and strive to fulfil his promise in the reality of deeds, along with chastity and the renunciation of ownership.

[5] You may have places in solitary areas or where they are given to you which are suitable and convenient for the observance of your religious life, as may seem fit to the prior and the brothers.

[6] Furthermore, according to the site of the place in which you propose to dwell, all of you are to have separate individual cells, and these cells are to be assigned to each by the disposition of the prior himself and with the assent of the other brothers or the sounder part of them.

[7] Nevertheless, you are to eat whatever may have been given you in a common refectory, listening in common to some reading of Sacred Scripture, where this can be done conveniently.

[8] It is not permitted to any of the brothers to change his appointed place or exchange it with another, except with the permission of whoever is prior at the time.

[9] The prior’s cell is to be near the entrance of the place, so that he may be the first to meet those who come to that place; and everything that must be done subsequently shall proceed according to his judgement and direction.

[10] All are to remain in their cells or near them, meditating day and night on the Law of the Lord and keeping vigil in prayer, unless they are occupied with other worthy activities.

[11] Those who know how to say the canonical hours with the clerics are to say them according to the institution of the holy fathers and the approved custom of the Church. Those who do not know them are to say the Our Father twenty-five times for the night vigil, except on Sundays and solemnities, for the vigils of which we establish that the said number be doubled, so that the Our Father is said fifty times. And the same prayer is to be said seven times for morning lauds. Likewise for the other hours the same prayer is also to be said seven times each, except for the evening office, when you must say it fifteen times.

[12] None of the brothers is to call anything his own, but everything is to be held in common among you, and distributed to each according to his need by the hand of the prior, that is by the brother appointed by him for this task, taking into account the age and needs of each.

[13] It is permissible for you, however, to have asses or mules, as your need requires, and some provision of animals or poultry.

[14] An oratory, as far as it can be done conveniently, is to be built in the midst of the cells, where you must come together every day in the morning to hear Mass, where this can be done conveniently.

[15] On Sundays, also, or on other days when there is reason, you shall discuss the preservation of order and the salvation of souls, and at this time the excesses and faults of the brothers, if these are revealed in anyone, should be corrected by means of love.

[16] You are to observe the fast every day except Sundays from the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross until Easter Sunday, unless sickness or bodily weakness or some other worthy reason suggest the fast be broken, for necessity has no law.

[17] You are to abstain from eating meat, unless it is taken as a remedy for sickness or feebleness. And since you have to beg more frequently while travelling, outside your own houses you may eat food cooked with meat, so as not to be a burden to your hosts; but at sea even meat may be eaten.

[18] Because, indeed, a person’s life on earth is a trial, and all who wish to live devotedly in Christ suffer persecution, and also since your adversary the devil goes about like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour, you are to use every care to put on the armour of God, so that you may be able to withstand the deceits of the enemy.

[19] Your loins are to be girt with the cincture of chastity. Your breast is to be fortified with holy thoughts, for it is written, holy thought will save you. The breastplate of justice is to be put on, that you may love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul and all your strength and your neighbour as yourselves. In all circumstances the shield of faith must be taken up, in which you will be able to quench all the flaming arrows of the evil one, for without faith it is impossible to please God. The helmet of salvation also is to be placed on your head, that you may expect salvation from the only Saviour who saves his people from their sins. The sword of the Spirit, too, which is the word of God, is to dwell abundantly in your mouth and in your hearts; and whatever things you have to do, let them be done in the word of the Lord.

[20] You must have some sort of work to do, so that the devil may always find you occupied, lest because of your idleness he manage to find some way of entering into your souls. In this you have the teaching and the example alike of the blessed apostle Paul, in whose mouth Christ spoke, who has been appointed and given by God as preacher and teacher of the nations in faith and truth; if you follow him you cannot go astray. In toil and weariness, he says, we lived among you, working night and day so as not to be a burden to any of you; not as if we do not have the right, but so as to give ourselves to you as a model, so that you might imitate us. For when we were with you we used to admonish you that if anyone is unwilling to work, let him not eat. For we have heard that there are certain people among you going about restlessly and doing no work. We admonish people of this kind, then, and beseech them in the Lord Jesus Christ that, working in silence, they eat their own bread. This way is holy and good: walk in it.

[21] The Apostle, in fact, recommends silence, for he commands working in it; and also the Prophet testifies, Silence is the cultivation of justice; and again, In silence and hope will be your strength. And so, therefore, we decree that you keep silence from after compline until after prime of the following day. At other times, however, although so strict an observance of silence is not kept, talkativeness is nevertheless to be carefully avoided, for as it is written — and experience teaches no less — In talkativeness sin will not be lacking; and, the one who is careless in speech will meet with evils; and again, The one who uses many words injures his own soul. And the Lord says in the gospel: For every idle word that people speak they will render account of it on judgement day. Let each one, therefore, make a measure of his words and proper reins for his mouth, lest as it happens he stumble and fall in his tongue, and his fall be irreparable and deadly. Guarding his ways with the Prophet so he does not sin in his tongue, let him strive diligently and carefully to observe the silence in which is the cultivation of justice.

[22] And you, brother B., and whoever will be appointed prior after you, should always have in mind and observe in practice what the Lord says in the gospel: Whoever wishes to be the greater among you will be your servant, and whoever wishes to be the first among you will be your slave.

[23] You other brothers, too, honour your prior humbly, thinking not of him but rather of Christ who placed him over your heads, and who says to the leaders of the churches, whoever hears you, hears me; whoever rejects you, rejects me, so that you will not come into judgement for contempt, but for obedience will merit the reward of eternal life.

[24] We have written these things briefly for you, establishing a formula for your way of life according to which you are bound to live. But if anyone will have expended more, the Lord himself, when he returns, will repay him. Use discernment, however, which is the guide of the virtues.