TALBE OF CONTENTS
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Copyright © 1996 Carmelite Communications
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be
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prior written permission of the publisher.
Quotations from scripture are taken from the NRSV; those of the Second Vatican Council from Flannery. Quotations from other documents of the Holy See, various Congregations and the Carmelite Order have been re-translated for this edition.
The General Chapter in session # 35, 27th September1995, decreed the following:
The official text of the Constitutions is in Italian. Translations into English and Spanish will be prepared and approved by the Prior General, with the consent of his Council.
This translation was prepared by Ms Elena French and reviewed by Christopher O’Donnell, John Keating, Patrick Mullins, Redemptus Valabek, Paul Cahill, Jerome Watt, John Russell, Eamon Carroll and Wilfrid McGreal.
The final text was approved by the Prior General and his Council on October dd, 1996.
AA Apostolicam actuositatem, Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity, 18 November 1965
AG Ad gentes, Decree on the Church’s Missionary Activity, 7 December 1965
CD Christus Dominus, Decree on the Pastoral Office of Bishops in the Church, 28 October 1965
DV Dei Verbum, Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation, 19 November 1965
GS Gaudium et spes, Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, 7 December 1965
LG Lumen gentium, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, 21 November 1964
OT Optatam totius, Decree on Priestly Formation, 28 October 1965
PC Perfectae caritatis, Decree on the Appropriate Renewal of the Religious life, 28 November 1965
PO Presbyterorum ordinis, Decree on the Ministry and Life of Priests, 7 December 1965
SC Sacrosanctum concilium, Constitution on the Liturgy, 4 December 1963
UR Unitatis reintegratio, Decree on Ecumenism, 21 November 1964
CL Christifideles laici, Apostolic Exhortation of John Paul II on the laity, 30 December 1988
EE Essential elements in the Church’s teaching as applied to Institutes dedicated to works of the apostolate, Congregation for Religious and Secular Institutes, 31 May 1983
EN Evangelii nuntiandi, Apostolic Exhortation of Paul VI on evangelisation in the modern world, 8 December 1975
ET Evangelica testificatio, Apostolic Exhortation of Paul VI on the renewal of the religious life, 29 June 1971
LE Laborem exercens, Encyclical Letter of John Paul II on human work on the occasion of the 90th anniversary of the encyclical Rerum novarum, 14 September 1981
MC Marialis cultus, Apostolic Exhortation of Paul VI on Marian devotion, 2 February 1974
PdV Pastores dabo vobis, Apostolic Exhortation of John Paul II on priestly formation, 25 March 1992
PP Populorum progressio, Encyclical Letter of Paul VI on the development of peoples, 26 March 1967
RD Redemptionis donum, Apostolic Exhortation of John Paul II on religious consecration, 25 March 1984
RM Redemptoris missio, Encyclical Letter of John Paul II on the permanent vitality of the mandate for mission, 7 December 1990
RMa Redemptoris Mater, Encyclical Letter of John Paul II on the Blessed Virgin Mary in the life of the pilgrim Church, 25 March 1987
SRS Sollicitudo rei socialis, Encyclical Letter of John Paul II on the 20th anniversary of Populorum progressio, 30 December 1987
Can. Canon from the Codex Iuris Canonicis, 1983
DCVR Dimensione contemplativa della vita religiosa, Congregation for Institutes of the Religious Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, 12 August 1980
LH De Liturgia Horarum, General Instruction on the Liturgy of the Hours, Congregation for Divine Worship, 11 April 1971
MR Mutuae relationes, Congregation for Bishops and Congregation for Institutes of the Religious Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, 14 May 1978
PI Potissimum Institutioni, on the formation of religious, Congregation for Institutes of the Religious Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, 2 February 1990
RdU La recherche de l’unité, on the application of the principles and norms on ecumenism, Pontifical Council for the unity of Christians, 25 March 1993
RPU Religiosi e promozione umana, Congregation for Institutes of the Religious Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, 12 August 1980
SanP Il Santo Padre, and attached document Orientamenti e proposte, Congregation for Divine Worship, 3 April 1987
Gen. Congr. 1974 The Carmelite Today: Brotherhood as a Way to God, General Congregation, Frascati, 1974, [in TPB, pp. 38-43]
Gen. Congr. 1980 Called to Account by the Poor, General Congregation, Rio de Janeiro, 1980, [in TPB, pp. 82-97]
Gen.Congr. 1986 Carmel Faced with the Vocational Challenge, General Congregation, Niagara Falls, 1986, [Carmelite Communications Melbourne, 1986]
Gen. Congr. 1992 Evangelisation for Carmelites Today, General Congregation, Caracas, 1992, [Carmelite Communications Melbourne, 1992]
PrayComm Praying Communities at the Service of the People, Joint Letter of the General Superiors of the Ancient Observance and Discalced Carmelites on the occasion of the Vth centenary of the Evangelisation of Latin America, 16 July 1992 [in AOC 43 (1992) 157-163]
Rule The Rule of St. Albert, ed. H. Clarke & B. Edwards, Aylesford & Kensington, 1973
I Prov. Pledged to the service of brotherhood, First Council of Provinces, Madrid, 1972 [in TPB, pp. 14-23]
II Prov. “Lord, Teach us to Pray”, Second Council of Provinces, Aylesford, 1973, [in TPB, pp. 24-37]
III Prov. In the midst of the people: small religious communities and basic communities, Third Council of Provinces, Dublin, 1975, [in TPB, pp. 44-55]
V Prov. A Return to the Sources: an examination of the biblical significance of Mary and Elijah, Fifth Council of Provinces, Mount Carmel, 1979, [in TPB, pp. 68- 81]
VI Prov. Growing in Brotherhood, Sixth Council of Provinces, Heerlen, 1981, [in TPB, pp. 110-129]
VII Prov. Enchanted by the Mysteries of God, Seventh Council of Provinces, Aylesford, 1982, [in TPB, pp. 157-161]
IX Prov. Our International Dimension, Ninth Council of Provinces, Fatima, 1985, [Whitefriars Street, Carmelite Priory, Dublin, 1985]
X Prov. Message to the Order, Tenth Council of Provinces, Manila, 1987, [Carmelite Communications Melbourne, 1987]
XI Prov. Letter to the Carmelite Family, Eleventh Council of Provinces, Dublin, 1988, [Carmelite Communications Melbourne, 1988]
XII Prov. Carmelite Charism: Journey into God, Following the Word, Twelfth Council of Province, Salamanca, 1991, [Carmelite Communications Melbourne, 1991]
XIII Prov. Message to the Carmelite Family, Thirteenth Council of Provinces, Nantes, 1994, [Carmelite Communications Melbourne, 1994]
AOC Analecta Ordinis Carmelitarum, Rome, 1910-
Bull. Carm. Bullarium Carmelitanum, ed. E. Monsignani and J. A. Ximénez, 4 vols., Rome, 1715-1768
RIVC Ratio institutionis vitae carmelitanae, Forming Prophetic Brotherhood, The Carmelite Guide to Formation, General Curia of the Carmelite Order, Rome, 1988
TPB Towards a Prophetic Brotherhood, Documents of the Carmelite Order 1971-1982, The Carmelite Centre, Melbourne, 1984
25th March 1996
It gives me great joy to present the text of our new constitutions to you. These were approved at the General Chapter celebrated in September 1995. They are the fruit of all our contributions, of the work of various experts over a period of some nine years, as well as of the study and the evaluation of the chapter delegates themselves.
The first part outlines our charism and mission as a contemplative fraternity in the midst of the people.
The second part is dedicated to the fraternal life and it invites our communities to be a place of communion, of prayer and of service. In this way, they will become ever more a visible and credible image of the Holy Trinity.
The process of formation, in its various phases, is treated in the third part not so much as a list of things to do, but as a way of life. Finally the fourth part is devoted to government, considered as a function of service, guidance and inspiration.
Our lives and apostolates today as Carmelites will be enriched and animated by this text. For this reason it must not be simply left on the shelf as decoration. We must find the appropriate ways to deepen our appreciation of these constitutions and to live them out at a personal level. We must also make them known (at least the fundamental elements of them) to all the members of the Carmelite Family.
One way of achieving this goal will be to use aids prepared by the Order’s experts. Let us thank God that we have people well able to carry out this task. We wish to encourage them so that through study and reflection they will help us to appreciate, love and give flesh to the spirit of Carmel. On the eve of the third millennium this will make us feel heirs to a glorious past which is not to be belittled, but made living and active through the life and commitment to the Church and world of today.
Let us open ourselves to the Spirit of the Lord and welcome with gratitude the assistance of Mary, our mother and our sister. In this way we will be enthusiastic in considering and accepting this text as a humble but precious aid in our journey in the consecrated life.
Joseph Chalmers O.Carm.
(Translation by Fr. Bede Edwards, originally published in The Rule of Saint Albert, ed. Hugh Clarke & Bede Edwards, Aylesford and Kensington, 1973)
Albert, called by God's favour to be patriarch of the church of Jerusalem, bids health in the Lord and the blessing of the Holy Spirit to his beloved sons in Christ, B. and the other hermits under obedience to him, who live near the spring on Mount Carmel.
Many and varied are the ways in which our saintly forefathers laid down how everyone, whatever his station or the kind of religious observance he has chosen, should live a life of alegiance to Jesus Christ -- how, pure in heart and stout in conscience, he must be unswerving in the service of his Master.
It is to me, however, that you have come for a rule of life in keeping with your avowed purpose, a rule you may hold fast to henceforward; and therefore:
The first thing I require is for you to have a prior, one of yourselves, who is to be chosen for the office by common consent, or that of the greater and maturer part of you; each of the others must promise him obedience -- of which, once promised, he must try to make his deeds the true reflection -- and also chastity and the renunciation of ownership.
If the prior and brothers see fit, you may have foundations in solitary places, or where you are given a site that is suitable and convenient for the observance proper to your Order.
Next, each one of you is to have a separate cell, situated as the lie of the land you propose to occupy may dictate, and allotted by disposition of the prior with the agreement of the other brothers, or the more mature among them.
However, you are to eat whatever may have been given you in a common refectory, listening together meanwhile to a reading from Holy Scripture where that can be done without difficulty.
None of the brothers is to occupy a cell other than that allotted to him or to exchange cells with another, without leave or whoever is prior at the time.
The prior's cell should stand near the entrance to your property, so that he may be the first to meet those who approach, and whatever has to be done in consequence may all be carried out as he may decide and order.
Each one of you is to stay in his own cell or nearby, pondering the Lord's law day and night and keeping watch at his prayers unless attending to some other duty.
Those who know how to say the canonical hours with those in orders should do so, in the way those holy forefathers of ours laid down, and according to the Church's approved custom. Those who do not know the hours must say twenty-five Our Fathers for the night office, except on Sundays and solemnities when that number is to be doubled so that the Our Father is said fifty times; the same prayer must be said seven times in the morining in place of Lauds, and seven times too for each of the other hours, except for Vespers when it must be said fifteen times.
None of the brothers must lay claim to anything as his own, but you are to possess everything in common; and each is to receive from the prior -- that is from the brother he appoints for the purpose -- whatever befits his age and needs.
You may have as many asses and mules as you need, however, and may keep a certain amount of livestock or poultry.
An oratory should be built as conveniently as possible among the cells, where, if it can be done without difficulty, you are to gather each morning to hear Mass.
On Sundays too, or other days if necessary, you should discuss matters of discipline and your spiritual welfare; and on this occasion the indiscretions and failings of the brothers, if any be found at fault, should be lovingly corrected.
You are to fast every day, except Sundays, from the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross until Easter Day, unless bodily sickness or feebleness, or some other good reason, demand a dispensation from the fast; for necessity overrides every law.
You are to abstain from meat, except as a remedy for sickness or feebleness. But as, when you are on a journey, you more often than not have to beg your way; outside your own houses you may eat foodstuffs that have been cooked with meat, so as to avoid giving trouble to your hosts. At sea, however, meat may be eaten.
Since man's life on earth is a time of trial, and all who would live devotedly in Christ must undergo persecution, and the devil your foe is on the prowl like a roaring lion looking for prey to devour, you must use every care to clothe yourselves in God's armour so that you may be ready to withstand the enemy's ambush.
Your loins are to be girt with chastity, your breast fortified by holy meditations, for, as Scripture has it, holy meditation will save you. Put on holiness as your breastplate, and it will enable you to love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul and strength, and your neighbour as yourself. Faith must be your shield on all occasions, and with it you will be able to quench all the flaming missiles of the wicked one: there can be no pleasing God without faith; [and the victory lies in this -- your faith]. On your head set the helmet of salvation, and so be sure of deliverance by our only Saviour, who sets his own free from their sins. The sword of the spirit, the word of God, must abound in your mouths and hearts. Let all you do have the Lord's word for accompaniment.
You must give yourselves to work of some kind, so that the devil may always find you busy; no idleness on your part must give him a chance to pierce the defences of your souls. In this respect you have both the teaching and the example of Saint Paul the Apostle, into whose mouth Christ put his own words. God made him preacher and teacher of faith and truth to the nations: with him as your leader you cannot go astray. We lived among you, he said, labouring and wary, toiling night and day so as not to be a burden to any of you; not because we had no power to do otherwise but so as to give you, in your own selves, an example you might imitate. For the charge we gave you when we were with you was this: that woever is not willing to work should not be allowed to eat either. For we have heard that there are certain restless idlers among you. We charge people of this kind, and implore them in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that they earn their own bread by silent toil. This is the way of holiness and goodness: see that you follow it.
The Apostle would have us keep silence, for in silence he tells us to work. As the Prophet also makes known to us: Silence is the way to foster holiness. Elsewhere he says: Your strength will lie in silence and hope. For this reason I lay down that you are to keep silence from after Compline until after Prime the next day. At other times, although you need not keep silence so strictly, be careful not to indulge in a great deal of talk, for, as Scripture has it -- and experience teaches us no less -- sin will not be wanting where there is much talk, and he wo is careless in speech will come to harm; and elsewhere: The use of many words brings harm to the speaker's soul. And our Lord says in the Gospel: Every rash word uttered will have to be accounted for on judgement day. Make a balance then, each of you, to weigh his words in; keep a tight rein on your mouths, lest you should stumble and fall in speech, and your fall be irreparable and prove mortal. Like the Prophet, watch your step lest your tongue give offence, and employ every care in keeping silent, which is the way to foster holiness.
You, brother B., and whoever may succeed you as prior, must always keep in mind and put into practice what our Lord said in the Gospel: Whoever has a mind to become a leader among you must make himself servant to the rest, and whichever of you would be first must become your bondsman.
You, other brothers too, hold your prior in humble reverence, your minds not on him but on Christ who has placed him over you, and who, to those who rule the Churches, addressed the words: Whoever pays you heed pays heed to me, and whoever treats you with dishonour dishonours me; if you remain so minded you will not be found guilty of contempt, but will merit life eternal as fit reward for your obedience.
Here then are the few points I have written down to provide you with a standard of counduct to live up to; but our Lord, at his second coming will reward anyone who does more than he is obliged to do. See that the bounds of common sense are not exceeded, however, for common sense is the guide of the virtues.
From Constitutions of the Order of the Brothers of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel. Approved by the General Chapter celebrated in September, 1995 and published by the order of the Most Reverend Father Joseph Chalmers, Prior General.
Chapters have been renumbered since the Rule was published in 1995. The Chapter numbers used aboveare the result of a joint meeting of the General Councils of the Carmelites and the Discalced Carmelites in January, 1999.
Innocentian additions are given in italics.
Our Life as Brothers
The Mission and Charism of the Carmelite Order
and its basic characteristics
Through Jesus Christ,
Son of the Father
and “firstborn of all creation”,
we live in union with God
and with our neighbours
in a new way.
And so, we share in the mission of the Incarnate Word in this world,
and we form the Church,
which is in Christ “as a sacrament - a sign and instrument
of communion with God, and of the unity of the whole human race.”
Living in allegiance to Jesus Christ,
and embracing his Gospel as the supreme norm of our lives,
by the power of his Spirit
who distributes his gifts to each according to his will,
we seek to live together in mutual service of one another
and of all people.
In this way, we co-operate in God’s plan
to gather all men and women into one Holy People.
Among the gifts of the Spirit is the evangelical life,
which we profess as religious,
called by Christ to live and to spread
his transforming and liberating power,
and even evangelical life itself,
in a manner that is specific to us,
effective, and contemporary.
This life is characterised by an intense search for God,
in total adherence to Christ,
finding expression in fraternal life and apostolic zeal.
Inherent in this vocation
is the full acceptance of the conditions
which Christ sets
for those who wish to follow him in this kind of life.
It involves acceptance of God’s will,
as sharing in Christ’s obedience.
It also includes the life of poverty
and community of goods,
as an expression of our unity in Christ
and of mutual gospel-inspired union with our brothers.
Finally, it is consecrated chastity,
as an expression of our love of God
and of our brothers and sisters.
We look upon our consecrated life above all as an invitation
and a great gift from God,
by which he consecrates us to himself,
that we may serve our brothers and sisters
following Christ’s example.
This vocation perfects in us, through our shared brotherhood,
the power, which is also charismatic, a gift of the Spirit,
received at baptism and at confirmation,
binding us in a special way to the Church
and making us ready to serve God and humanity,
“to implant and strengthen the Kingdom of Christ in souls,
and to spread it to the four corners of the earth.”
In this context,
we the Brothers of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel
are engaged in a process of self-examination
and seek to define the characteristics
among the many existing charisms and vocations
which give our religious family its particular identity
within the Church.
At the time of the Crusades to the Holy Land,
hermits settled in various places throughout Palestine.
Some of these, “following the example of Elijah,
a holy man and a lover of solitude,
adopted a solitary life-style on Mount Carmel,
near a spring called Elijah’s Fountain.
In small cells, similar to the cells of a beehive,
they lived as God’s bees,
gathering the divine honey of spiritual consolation.”
Later, St. Albert, Patriarch of Jerusalem brought the hermits together,
at their request, into a single “collegium”;
he gave them a formula for living
which expressed their own eremetical ideals (“propositum”)
and reflected the spirit of the so-called pilgrimage to the Holy Land
and of the early community of Jerusalem.
Moved by “their love of the Holy Land”,
these hermits “consecrated themselves in this Land
to the One who had paid for it by the shedding of his blood,
in order that they might serve him,
clothed in the habit of religious poverty,”
persevering “in holy penance”
and forming a fraternal community.
This way of life was approved successively by
Honorius III in 1226, by Gregory IX in 1229,
and by Innocent IV in 1245.
In 1247, Innocent IV approved it definitively
as an authentic rule of life,
amending it to suit Western conditions.
These adaptations became necessary
when the Carmelites began to migrate to the West
to escape persecution, and expressed a desire to lead a life
“in which, with the help of God,
they would have the joy of working for their own salvation
and that of their neighbour.”
As a result of the approval of the Rule by Innocent IV,
the Carmelites placed themselves at the service of the Church,
according to the common ideal of the Mendicant Orders,
also known as the Orders of Apostolic Brotherhood.
However, they retained the distinctive features
of their original charism;
and over the centuries the Order and the Church
found these features to belong to Carmelites,
especially because of the teachers of spiritual life
whom God raised up in the Order.
The Rule outlines the guiding thrust of Carmelite life
in allegiance to Christ,
according to the spirit of the Order.
We are to ponder the law of the Lord, by day and by night,
in silence and in solitude,
so that the word of God
may dwell abundantly in the hearts
and on the lips of those who profess it.
We are to pray with perseverance,
especially by keeping vigil and praying the psalms.
We are also to be clothed in spiritual armour;
to live in fraternal communion,
expressed through the daily celebration of the Eucharist,
through fraternal meetings in chapters,
through shared ownership of all material goods,
through fraternal and loving correction of failings,
and through a life of austerity, with work and penance,
rooted in faith, hope and love,
always conforming one’s own will to God’s,
sought in faith through dialogue
and through the prior’s service to his brothers.
Carmelite spirituality is characterised by two features.
The first is its Elijan trait
which the Carmelites developed living as they did on Mount Carmel,
the scene of the great prophet’s deeds.
Its second feature is an intimacy with Mary in our spiritual life,
eloquently witnessed by the title of being her brothers and
the dedication of the first Church on Mount Carmel in her honour.
As the human race enters into a new period of its history,
we seek, as Carmelites inspired by the Spirit at work in the Church,
to adapt our way of life to new conditions.
We seek to understand the signs of the times
and to examine them in the light of the Gospel,
of our charism, and of our spiritual heritage,
so that we may incarnate this way of life in different cultures.
“To live a life of allegiance to Jesus Christ
and to serve him faithfully
with a pure heart
and a clear conscience”:
these words, inspired by St. Paul,
are the basis for all the elements of our charism;
they are the foundation upon which Albert constructed our way of life.
The particular Palestinian context in which the Order originated,
and the approval bestowed by the Holy See
at the various stages of the Order’s historical evolution,
gave new meaning and inspiration
to the way of life set out in the Rule.
Carmelites live their life of allegiance to Christ
through a commitment to seek the face of the living God
(the contemplative dimension of life),
and through service (diakonia)
in the midst of the people.
The spiritual tradition of the Order has stressed
that these three fundamental elements of the charism
are not distinct and unrelated values,
but closely interwoven.
Down the ages the Carmelites have emphasised the dynamic
of the desert experience as a crucial factor in unifying these values.
The desert experience is a Carmelite commitment
to make the crucified Christ - stripped and emptied -
the very foundation of their lives;
to channel their energies entirely towards him in faith,
tearing down any obstacles which may stand in the way
of perfect dependence on him
or impede perfect charity towards God
and towards others.
This process of detachment which leads to union with God
- the ultimate goal of all human growth -
is found in our spirituality in the expressions
“purity of heart” (“puritas cordis”)
and “total availability to God (“vacare Deo”)
These indicate a total openness to God
and a gradual self-emptying.
Through this process, when we come to see reality with God’s eyes,
our attitude towards the world is transformed
according to his love,
and the contemplation of the loving presence of God
will be seen in our lives of fraternity and of service.
From its earliest days,
the community of Carmelites adopted a contemplative style,
both in its structures and in its basic values.
This is clearly reflected in the Rule,
which describes a community of brothers,
totally dedicated to a prayerful attention to the Word,
celebrating and praising the Lord with zeal.
The Rule speaks of a community
whose members are open to the indwelling of the Spirit
and formed by the Spirit’s values:
chastity, holy thoughts, justice,
love, faith, the expectation of salvation,
work accomplished in peace,
silence which, as the Prophet tells us,
is the cult of justice and brings wisdom to word and action;
and discernment, “the guide and moderator of all virtues.”
The tradition of the Order
has always interpreted the Rule
and the founding charism
as expressions of the contemplative dimension of life,
and the great spiritual teachers of the Carmelite Family
have always returned to this contemplative vocation.
Contemplation begins when we entrust ourselves to God,
in whatever way he chooses to approach us;
it is an attitude of openness to God,
whose presence we discover in all things.
Thus, contemplation is the inner journey of Carmelites,
arising out of the free initiative of God,
who touches and transforms us,
leading us towards unity of love with him,
raising us up so that we may enjoy this gratuitous love
and live in his loving presence.
It is a transforming experience
of the overpowering love of God.
This love empties us
of our limited and imperfect human ways of
thinking, loving, and behaving,
transforming them into divine ways.
Contemplation also has a gospel and an ecclesial value.
The practice of contemplation
is not only the source of our spiritual life;
it also determines the quality of our fraternal life
and of our service in the midst of the people of God.
The values of contemplation
- when lived faithfully in the midst of the complex events of daily life -
make Carmelite brotherhood a witness
to the living and mysterious presence of God among his people.
The search for the face of God,
and openness to the gifts of the Spirit,
make us more attentive to the signs of the times
and more sensitive to the seeds of the Word in history,
seeing and evaluating facts and events
within the Church and within society.
Through living like Christ,
in solidarity with the events
and the hopes of the human race,
Carmelites will be able to make appropriate decisions
to transform life, making it conform more closely
to the will of the Father.
Moreover, for the good of the Church,
the contemplative dimension
will encourage those who feel called to an eremetical life.
A contemplative attitude towards the world around us
allows us to discover the presence of God
in the events of ordinary daily life
and especially, to see him in our brothers and sisters.
Thus we are led to appreciate the mystery
of those with whom we share our lives.
Our Rule requires us to be essentially “brothers”,
and reminds us that the quality of interpersonal relationships
within the Carmelite community
needs to be constantly developed
and enhanced, following the inspiring example
of the first community in Jerusalem.
For us to be brothers
means to grow in communion
and in unity,
overcoming privileges and distinctions,
in a spirit of participation and co-responsibility,
in sharing material possessions,
a common programme of life, and personal charisms;
to be brothers also means to care for one another’s spiritual
and psychological well-being,
through walking in the way of dialogue and reconciliation.
These fraternal values find expression and nourishment
in the Word,
in the Eucharist,
and in prayer.
Hearing, praying and living the Word
- in silence, in solitude and in community,
especially in the form of lectio divina -
Carmelites are led, day by day,
to know and experience the mystery of Jesus Christ.
Inspired by the Spirit and rooted in Christ Jesus,
abiding in him by day and by night,
Carmelites allow every choice and every action
to be guided by his Word.
and in communion with the whole Church,
the brothers come together to praise the Lord,
and invite others to share in their experience of prayer.
Every day, if possible, the brothers are called,
from solitude and from their apostolic work,
to the Eucharist
- source and culmination of their lives -
so that, gathered together around the Lord’s table,
they may be “united, heart and soul,”
living true, fraternal koinonia in unselfishness,
in mutual service,
in faithfulness to a common goal
and in a spirit of reconciliation inspired by Christ’s love.
As a contemplative fraternity,
we seek the face of God and we serve the Church
in the world or possibly in eremetical solitude.
As a contemplative brotherhood,
we seek the face of God also in the heart of the world.
We believe that God has established his dwelling place
among his people,
and for this reason, the Carmelite brotherhood knows itself to be
a living part of the Church and of history
- an open fraternity, able to listen to the world it lives in,
and willing to be questioned by it;
ready both to meet life’s challenges
and to give an authentic, evangelical response
based on our own charism.
Carmelites will show solidarity and will be eager to collaborate
with all who suffer, who hope,
and who commit themselves to the search for the Kingdom of God.
The notion of travelling, hinted at in the Rule,
is an expression of the evangelical and apostolic style
of the mendicant orders.
It is a call to the Carmelite brotherhood to discern
and to follow the ways marked out by the Lord’s Spirit
for communities and individuals;
it is a sign of solidarity and of generous service
- both to the Universal and local Church,
and to the world of today.
The community residence is where the community “gathers” and lives;
for Carmelites, it is also a place of welcome and hospitality,
so that people share in a common spirit,
in fraternal reconciliation,
and in the experience of God lived in the community.
Finally, this way of being “in the midst of the people”
is a sign and a prophetic witness of new relationships
of fraternity and friendship
among men and women everywhere.
It is a prophetic message of justice and peace in society
and among peoples.
As an integral part of the Good News,
this prophecy must be fulfilled through active commitment
to the transformation of sinful systems and structures
into grace-filled systems and structures.
It is also an expression of
“the choice to share in the lives
of “the little ones” (“minores”) of history,
so that we may speak a word of hope
and of salvation from their midst
- more by our life than by our words.”
This option flows naturally from our profession of poverty
in a mendicant fraternity,
and is in keeping with our allegiance to Christ Jesus,
lived out also through allegiance to the poor
and to those in whom the face of our Lord is reflected
in a preferential way.
4. Elijah and Mary, our inspirations
All that we desire and all that we wish to be today was fulfilled
in the lives of the Prophet Elijah
and of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
In their own way, both had “the same spirit,
... the same formation, and the same teacher
- the Holy Spirit.”
By looking to Mary and to Elijah,
we can more easily understand and internalise,
live out and proclaim
the truth which makes us free.
In Elijah we see the solitary prophet
who nurtured his thirst for the one and only God,
and lived in his presence.
He is the contemplative,
burning with passionate love for the Absolute who is God,
“his word flaring like a torch.”
He is the mystic who,
after a long and wearisome journey,
learned to read the new signs of God’s presence.
He is the prophet who became involved in the lives of the people,
and who, by battling against false idols,
brought them back to faithfulness to their Covenant
with the One God.
He is the prophet
who was in solidarity with the poor and the forgotten,
and who defended those who endured violence and injustice.
From Elijah, Carmelites learn to be people of the desert,
with heart undivided, standing before God
and entirely dedicated to his service,
uncompromising in the choice to serve God’s cause,
aflame with a passionate love for God.
Like Elijah, they believe in God
and allow themselves to be led by the Spirit
and by the Word that has taken root in their hearts,
in order to bear witness to the divine presence in the world,
allowing God to be truly God in their lives.
Finally, in Elijah they see, not only prophetic wisdom,
but also brotherhood lived in community;
and with Elijah they learn to be
channels of God’s tender love
for the poor and the humble.
Mary, overshadowed by the Spirit of God,
is the Virgin of a new heart,
who gave a human face to the Word made flesh.
She is the Virgin of wise and contemplative listening
who kept and pondered in her heart
the events and the words of the Lord.
She is the faithful disciple of wisdom,
who sought Jesus - God’s Wisdom -
and allowed herself to be formed and moulded by his Spirit,
so that in faith she might be conformed to his ways and choices.
Thus enlightened, Mary is presented to us
as one able to read “the great wonders”
which God accomplished in her
for the salvation of the humble and of the poor.
Mary was not only the Mother of Our Lord;
she also became his perfect disciple, the woman of faith.
She followed Jesus, walking with the disciples,
sharing their demanding and wearisome journey
- a journey which required, above all, fraternal love
and mutual service.
At the marriage feast in Cana, Mary taught us to believe in her Son;
at the foot of the Cross, she became Mother to all who believe;
with them she experiences the joy of the Resurrection.
United with the other disciples “in constant prayer,”
she received the first gifts of the Spirit,
who filled the earliest Christian community with apostolic zeal.
Mary brings the good news of salvation to all men and women.
She is the woman who built relationships,
not only within the inner circle of Jesus’ disciples,
but, beyond that, with the people:
with Elizabeth, with the bride and bridegroom in Cana,
with the other women, and with Jesus’ “brothers”.
Carmelites see in the Virgin Mary, Mother of God
and archetype of the Church,
the perfect image of all that they want and hope to be.
For this reason, Carmelites have always thought of Mary
as the Patron of the Order,
its Mother and Splendour;
she is constantly before their eyes and in their hearts
as “the Virgin Most Pure.”
Looking to her, and living in spiritual intimacy with her,
we learn to stand before God,
and with one another,
as the Lord’s brothers.
Mary lives among us, as mother and sister,
attentive to our needs;
along with us she waits and hopes,
suffers and rejoices.
The scapular is a sign of Mary’s permanent
and constant motherly love for Carmelite brothers and sisters.
By their devotion to the scapular,
faithful to a tradition in the Order, especially since the 16th century,
Carmelites express the loving closeness of Mary to the people of God;
it is a sign of consecration to Mary,
a means of uniting the faithful to the Order,
and an effective and popular means of evangelisation.
The many and various embodiments of the Carmelite charism
are for us a source of joy;
they confirm the rich and creative fruitfulness of our charism,
lived under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit
- a fruitfulness to be welcomed with gratitude
All individuals and groups, whether institutional or not,
which draw their inspiration from the Rule of St. Albert,
from its tradition and from the values
expressed in Carmelite spirituality,
constitute the Carmelite Family within the Church today.
This Family includes ourselves
and our brothers of the Teresian Reform;
the women religious of both branches;
affiliated religious congregations;
the Third Orders Secular;
individuals affiliated with the Order through the sacred scapular;
and those who by whatever title or bond are affiliated with the Order;
those movements which, though juridically not part of the Order,
seek inspiration and support from its spirituality;
and any man or woman who is drawn to the values of Carmel.
Our Life as Brothers
The Holy Trinity, source and model of the Church,
is also the source and the model of our life as brothers.
The Trinitarian communion (koinonia) of knowledge
and love in which we share
comes to us as gift,
and urges us to open ourselves to knowledge and love of God
and of our neighbours.
Thus, growth in knowledge and in love within each local community,
open to the entire Order, to the Church and to the whole human race,
manifests ever more perfectly this fundamental element
of our identity as brothers of Blessed Mary of Mount Carmel.
Fraternal life modelled on the Jerusalem community
is an incarnation of God’s gratuitous love,
internalised through an ongoing process
by which we empty ourselves of all egocentricity
- which can affect groups as much as individuals -
as we move towards authentic centering in God.
In this way we express the charismatic and prophetic nature
of the consecrated Carmelite life,
weaving harmoniously into it the personal charisms of each member,
in the service of the Church and of the world.
We are therefore called to renew ourselves,
as brothers in dialogue with one another,
open to the signs of the times
- and therefore to all people -
welcoming those who are involved in our ministry,
especially the young and the poor.
We are also open to developing new forms of community
and new ministries,
that they may have a decisive impact on the Church and on society,
inviting all people to conversion.
Community life, lived in the spirit of Elijah
and under the protection of Mary, Mother of God and our Sister,
is thus the expression and the test of our fraternal love.
Communal life must tend towards deeper union,
in mutual knowledge and love.
To this end, our life in common has moments of particular intensity and importance:
a) in the shared participation in the Eucharist, through which we become one body, and which is the source and the summit of our lives, and therefore the sacrament of brotherhood;
b) in communal celebration of the Liturgy of the Hours;
c) in prayerful listening to the Word;
d) in meetings to be held periodically, according to the Provincial Statutes, to discuss issues which concern the life of the community;
e) in other community meetings, to be held periodically according to the Provincial Statutes, where - in a spirit of dialogue and discernment -
- we study the Rule, the writings of our mystics, and the official documents of the Church and of the Order;
- we examine our faithfulness to the charism and to the mission of the Order;
- we share our experiences;
- we develop our aims for community life; (progetto comunitario)
- we learn to read the signs of the times;
- we make pastoral choices in the context of the local Church;
f) in the common table and recreation together;
g) in common work, manual and other, whether within the community or elsewhere on behalf of the community;
h) in the sharing of joys, anxieties and friendships,.
All our activities outside the house
shall be closely related to our life within the house,
and shall form with it a seamless whole.
It is the very purpose of houses of apostolic Brotherhood
to be present among the people:
to be open and closely joined with them,
stimulating a critical reflection on their human needs.
In this way, our communities will be authentic expressions of faith,
hope and charity,
and will become places conducive to full human development.
By its very nature, community life must promote human,
intellectual, spiritual and pastoral growth of all religious,
so that they may be fully integrated into the community
and into its mission, according to personal qualities and aptitudes.
Thus, the expression of unity is to be sought in organic diversity
- not in shapeless uniformity.
Discernment at all levels must precede both the appropriate distribution of work
and the community’s choice of particular activities.
In some cases, experts and facilitators may be called upon
to assist us in community dialogue.
Moreover, communities shall ensure that no member is so overloaded with work
- be it apostolic or other -
that community life and religious exercises become impossible
or too difficult.
Provincial Statutes shall stipulate the length of the annual vacation for each religious.
§ 1. In order to promote the growth
of the contemplative and fraternal dimensions of our lives,
both excessive activity and undisciplined behaviour
should be avoided,
and likewise any life-style which is contrary
to the deepest aspirations of the consecrated life.
§ 2. Carmelites are to be aware of the growing importance
of world-wide communication in present-day society,
and of the major technological innovations in this field.
There is no doubt that the mass media can play
an important role in evangelisation;
the abuse and manipulative use of the media, however,
can endanger human dignity and freedom.
Our communities shall therefore evaluate the best ways
to make use of the mass media,
with a view both to safeguarding the contemplative
and fraternal dimensions
of our lives, and to increasing the effectiveness of our apostolate.
Each community shall comprise a sufficient number of friars
to create an appropriate environment
in which a truly fraternal life can develop.
Any friar who, for reasons of health, study, or apostolate,
or for some other legitimate motive, must live outside his house,
shall be attached to a well-established community,
whose members shall encourage a fraternal relationship,
assisting him in his activities.
For his part, as far as he can, he shall visit the community on a regular basis,
and shall willingly take part in some of the community’s meetings,
in order to benefit more fully from the advantages of brotherhood.
Hospitality is a characteristic of the fraternal life,
and it is to be extended not only to the brothers within the Order
and to members of their families,
but also to others, insofar as possible.
To ensure that the economic structure of our religious life
does not resemble existing global systems of unjust inequality,
fraternity within the Carmelite family should find expression
in concern for and sharing with communities throughout the Order,
in particular the poorer among them.
It is necessary to foster attitudes of respect and gratitude
towards the elderly who have spent their energies
labouring for the Order
and for the Church.
The community shall welcome their contribution to its activities,
according to their abilities, and shall avoid evaluating individuals
on the basis of such anti-evangelical criteria as efficiency
Communities shall welcome as a gift the presence of sick brothers,
seeing in them the suffering Christ.
Our brotherhood must be expressed in a very special way
in the loving consideration with which we care
for our sick or infirm brothers.
Communities shall ensure that these brothers lack nothing
that might help them to regain their health;
they shall be sent, if necessary, to clinics or places of health care,
and shall have the support of every spiritual help.
To pray for the dead “is a holy and pious thought”;
we shall therefore devoutly remember in the Lord our dead brothers,
by offering Masses on their behalf and praying for them,
so that we may remain in spiritual union with them.
Provincial Statutes must define the particular intercessions
for the Supreme Pontiff,
for dead confreres within the Province or the house,
for members of the General Council who die in office,
for former Generals, and for the nuns of our Order.
The Prior General shall designate intercessions for religious
who are not attached to a particular Province.
On the death of a confrere, the local Prior
shall notify the Provincial Prior,
who, in turn, shall notify the Prior General
and every house within the Province,
providing a brief biography of the deceased,
to be published as soon as possible
in the official publication of the Order.
Daily conversion to the Gospel is essential
if we are to remain faithful to our vocation to fraternal life.
“Religious communities must be seen in the Church as prayerful
and in a constant process of conversion.”
We must seek concrete forms of conversion,
above all through a constant discernment of life
in the light of the Gospel,
of the signs of the times, and the experience of the poor;
and through the faithful fulfilment of our ministries,
taking into account the circumstances and traditions
of the local Church.
It is left to individual communities,
in accordance with their Provincial Statutes,
to develop the most appropriate ways to practise the spirit of penance.
Provided they do not contradict the prescriptions of canon law
or of the Bishops’ Conference of the country concerned,
norms concerning fast and abstinence
will be determined by Provincial Statutes,
in keeping with the Rule,
taking into account the customs and circumstances
of the local Church.
Our religious habit is “a sign of consecration,”
and consists of a brown or dark tunic, a scapular
and a cappuce of the same colour;
a leather belt shall be worn over the tunic.
Provincial Statutes may decide on a different colour,
if this is necessary for a particular reason (for example, climate).
On more solemn occasions, a white cloak shall be worn,
which is shorter than the tunic
and has a white cappuce of the same shape as the dark one.
Wearing of the habit inside or outside the house
is a matter to be decided by the Provincial Statutes,
with due regard for the rights of the local Ordinary.
In every house, there shall be an area for the brethren.
Its extent shall be determined by the community.
All friars shall respect the rules which apply
to this reserved area of the house;
for a just reason, the Prior may allow exceptions to these rules.
The essence and foundation of consecrated life
is the radical following of Jesus Christ.
The evangelical counsels of obedience, poverty and chastity,
publicly professed in the Church,
are a radical form of witness to the following of Christ.
As we follow the obedient, poor and chaste Christ,
we become less focused on ourselves,
and we orient ourselves in history to the search
for the Kingdom of God.
Our consecrated life,
configured to the life of Christ
by means of the three evangelical counsels
taken on by the vows, and by other evangelical values,
is a gift from God.
Its motivation is not that “of the world”,”
yet it places us in the world as witnesses to the value of life itself
as a precious gift.
This value, lived in the spirit of the beatitudes,
transfigures the world according to the Father’s design.
By means of religious obedience, genuinely observed in deeds,
we surrender our will fully to God.
Christ Jesus is the source and the reason of our obedience.
He lived his freedom not in self-sufficiency and personal autonomy,
but in obedience to the Father.
Christ’s obedience was not only a commitment to do his Father's works, it was also a faithfulness to humanity
and to the salvation of all.
Jesus obeyed because he loved his Father,
and because he loved us. Jesus was wholly of God,
and wholly for people.
The only purpose of his life was to bring about the Kingdom of God,
and to this goal he remained faithful unto death.
The Spirit of Jesus lives in us;
we are not under the law, but under grace.
Allowing the Spirit to guide us,
we shall be taught to discern the will of God,
and we shall be led to the complete truth.
For us today, following Christ in his obedience
means listening together to the word of God,
received and lived in the Church;
learning to read the signs of the times
in order to discern the will of God today,
and fulfilling faithfully, day by day,
whatever mission he entrusts to us.
This involves a constant and profound process of transformation
in order to internalise the will of God,
which is always creative and life-giving,
so that we may not only freely choose to act in accordance with the divine commandments,
but being purified we may adhere more and more fully
to the God who loves us.
We commit ourselves to obey God’s will not only as individuals,
but also as a community.
It is in community that together we seek to know the will of God.
We engage in this search in a spirit of mutual discipleship and co-responsibility,
as we listen to and fulfil the Word of God,
read in the light of the signs of the times
and in keeping with the charism of the Order.
In this way, we are brothers in obedience; side by side and together,
we face the challenges of the Gospel
and the coming of the Kingdom of God.
The Prior, conscious of the presence of Christ
and of his Gospel at the heart of the community,
shall place himself at the service of God’s will
and at the service of his brethren,
guiding them to mature and responsible obedience to Christ,
through dialogue and timely discernment,
while remaining firm in his authority
to decide and to command what must be done.
In the community, the Prior must be a stimulus
to live out our charism;
he must be a sign and a bond of unity.
The brothers are to “hold their prior humbly in honour,
thinking not so much of him
as of Christ who placed him over [them].”
In grave cases, a major superior may impose a precept
(praeceptum) on a member,
by virtue of the vow of obedience.
Such a precept shall be given in writing
or in the presence of two witnesses.
Jesus Christ the poor man, was born and lived in lowliness.
During his life on earth, he chose to be deprived
He took the form of a slave, becoming as human beings are,
and identified with the “little ones” and with the poor.
He shared all of his life with his disciples;
In this way, he became not only their master,
but their friend and brother.
On the cross, in keeping with the Father’s plan,
Jesus experienced absolute nakedness and radical poverty.
From the cross he gave himself up completely,
for the sake of humanity.
Rich though he was, Jesus became poor for us,
so that, through his poverty, we might be made rich.
As they followed Jesus, the poor man,
the early Christian communities, inspired by
fraternal communion (koinonia),
As we follow Jesus and take as our model
the life of the primitive Church,
we too wish to embrace willingly the gift
of the evangelical counsel of poverty,
by our vow to hold all things in common,
and by declaring that no object belongs to any of us personally.
We believe that all we have is gift, and that all we have
- all the spiritual, material, and cultural goods
that are obtained by our labour -
must be freely returned, in whatever way can best serve the good of
the Church and of our Order,
for the human and social development of all.
Poverty is a complex and ambiguous reality.
When it is the absence of the necessary means for survival,
resulting from injustice or personal and social sin, it is an evil.
But it can also be a Gospel form of life adopted by those
who trust in God alone, sharing all their possessions,
identifying with the poor in a spirit of solidarity, renouncing all desire for dominion or self-sufficiency.
In contemplation, we internalise the authentic attitude of poverty,
which is a deep process of inner self-emptying
through which we become less and less in control
of our own activity and ideas,
of our virtues and of our ambitions,
as we open ourselves to God’s action.
In this way, we become truly poor as Christ was poor,
even to the point of not owning the poverty we have chosen
in this process by which God’s love empties us.
Thus, we who freely chose poverty as our evangelical lifestyle
feel called by the Gospel and by the Church
to awaken people’s consciences
to the problems of destitution, hunger and social injustice.
We shall accomplish this purpose if
- first and foremost -
our own poverty witnesses to the human meaning of work
as a means of sustaining life and as service to others;
if we undertake to study and to understand
the economic, social and moral causes of that poverty
which stems from injustice;
if we use our possessions with restraint and simplicity,
making them available to others, even free of charge,
in the service of the human and spiritual development
of our fellow men and women;
and, finally, if we engage in healthy and balanced discernment
with regard to the ways in which we are present among the people,
choosing ways which foster the liberation
and the integral development of human beings.
Hence, solemnly professed religious
shall have no personal material possessions;
whatever they receive shall belong to the house, to the Province,
or to the Order, according to these Constitutions
and the Provincial Statutes.
Without prejudice to the canonical validity
of all that is set forth in article 55,
in countries where civil law does not recognise
the effect of solemn profession, members may perform
certain juridical acts (donations, wills, etc.) in civil courts
and with civil validity, in favour of the house, the Province,
or the Order.
In those cases where civil law does not even recognise the house,
the Province, or the Order as juridical persons,
members may act, in civil courts, as if they were owners,
but always without prejudice to the canonical validity
of the laws set forth above.
In our use of material goods, it is our responsibility before God
to observe faithfully the poverty which we have freely professed,
keeping in mind that we make the vow of poverty
in order to live a simple life, individually and within our communities,
avoiding whatever might offend the sensibilities of the poor.
Provincial Statutes shall decide what amount should be made
available to each religious for his personal expenses,
taking into account that needs may differ
from one country to another.
Rules concerning fasting and abstinence, set forth in article 40,
should also encourage us to live simply and to help the poor.
Let us remember that in our time the best way to make manifest
our vow of poverty
is to faithfully fulfil the common law of work.
Let us, therefore, embrace with enthusiasm the precept of the Rule,
which invites us to work assiduously,
for we know that by our toil we co-operate in God's work of creation
and, at the same time, develop our own personalities;
by our active charity we assist our confreres, and all others;
and we contribute to the good of the Order.
Moreover, we perpetuate the dignity Jesus gave to work
- for he never disdained manual labour -
and we follow the example of the Blessed Virgin Mary,
whose life on earth was full of ordinary concerns and work.
The God of the Kingdom and the Kingdom of God
are the essential points of reference
and the universal framework for our celibate lives,
and for all Christian existence.
“Only God’s love can call us decisively to religious chastity.
This love demands a fraternal charity so powerful
that it will lead religious to live more deeply with
their fellow men and women
in the heart of Christ.
The gift of self, to God and to others, will then be
the source of profound peace.”
Christ Jesus, the chaste man,
dedicated himself wholly to the cause of the Kingdom.
He loved everyone, especially the “little ones” and the poor.
totally dedicated to the service of his brothers and sisters.
His life was limpid and the epiphany of the face of the Father.
As we follow Jesus in his chastity,
our celibacy also takes on the quality of a full and total love for God
and for every human being.
Aware of God’s love, which stands over every individual,
Carmelites must be continually transformed
by this disinterested and unconditional divine love.
Such internalisation occurs through a process
of continuous transformation of all our affectivity,
so that we become truly chaste through full personal development.
Through the power of such chaste and undivided love,
our interpersonal relationships grow in truth and in transparency.
In a world often torn by struggle and division,
the one who is new and chaste in the Spirit
is the epiphany and radiance of the liberating presence of our Lord.
Love lived out in celibacy has for us
- as it had for Jesus -
both mystical value and social or political value:
it is at the same time the undivided love of God
- the only Absolute who gives meaning to our existence -
and a preferential, gratuitous and liberating love
for the humble and the poor,
in order that the values of the Kingdom of God
- equality, solidarity, and dignity of the human person -
may take root and spread throughout the human community.
The charism of consecrated chastity is a gift from God;
but we know that we carry this gift in earthen vessels,
that is, in our weak and fragile humanity.
For this reason, we feel the need to live according to values
which promote a balanced and mature integration of our affectivity
and of our capacity for a tenderness with evangelical attitudes,
in a way that is coherent with our way of living.
If our celibate life, chosen for the Kingdom,
is to be a suitable vehicle for our maturity as human beings
and for our growth in faith,
we need to be instructed,
first of all in authentic brotherly love;
in communication and community dialogue;
and in the ability to love others not possessively,
but appreciating them as persons.
We must learn also the meaning of gift, of gratuitous service,
and of straightforwardness in friendships.
Finally, we must come to understand silence
as attentiveness to the Word,
and Christian asceticism as that which purifies our feelings
and re-establishes our authentic relationships with others,
sharing in the Cross of Christ,
who carried to the limit his selfless love for his Father
and for his brothers and sisters.
1. Prayer in general
The Holy Trinity draws us into communion with themselves
and with one another, in faith, in hope and in charity.
These virtues are experienced, nourished and expressed in prayer,
as we turn our attention to God, in adoration and in love,
in obedient listening, in sincere contrition,
and in hope-filled petition.
Prayer is the fruit of the action of the Holy Spirit in us
and in our lives.
It is the Spirit who gives us words when we can find no words;
who leads us to unity with the entire Church;
who helps us to deepen our experience of intimacy with God.
The Carmelite tradition of prayer is built
on the concrete prayer experience of its members throughout history.
This experience tells the story of the loving presence of God
in the lives of Carmelites,
so that they can say, with the psalmist, “O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together.,”
and “O taste and see that the LORD is good; happy are those who take refuge in him.”
From the beginning, the Carmelite Order has taken on both
a life of prayer
and an apostolate of prayer.
Prayer is the centre of our lives,
and authentic community and ministry spring from this source.
The prayer of the Carmelite community is
a sign of the praying Church to the world.
It recalls the example of Mary, Mother of Jesus,
who “kept all these things and pondered them in her heart,”
praising the wonders that the Lord had worked in her.
By meditating and entering ever more deeply into
the mystery of Christ,
we become more obedient in following him,
deepening our commitment to work as his disciples
for the redemption of humanity.
In the Our Father, Jesus taught us to pray in a way that
unites heaven and earth.
Thus in our spirituality we integrate our love for the world
and our sense of the transcendent.
Seeking inspiration in the authentic sources of Christian spirituality,
we bring together our sense of God and our human experience.
When we pray, we keep in mind the needs and the concerns
of the world we live in, together with an awareness of our own calling
to serve all the members of the Church.
This may require communities to search for new ways of praying,
such as shared meditation, communal biblical prayer,
and also other new forms.
Prayer can assume a variety of forms,
according to the needs of the community and of each individual;
it is nourished by the constant search for God,
supported by lectio divina,
and by the sacraments.
This constant search for God must be the foundation
and the highest expression of community life.
The silence of solitude which individuals
and communities must cultivate
makes us docile to the voice of the Holy Spirit.
In all the houses of the Order we must therefore create and foster
an atmosphere of silence, recollection and solitude.
This will enable us to engage more easily in personal prayer,
and to make our study and other activities more fruitful.
However, specific norms on such matters shall be decided
by local Chapters, according to the Provincial Statutes.
It is extremely desirable that wherever possible
Provinces and Regions establish and develop centres of spirituality, retreats and study, and to make these available,
both to the brethren and to others
who are drawn to the spirituality of our Order,
for retreats and spiritual exercises.
Moreover, regional and international co-operation among existing
spirituality centres and houses of study shall be promoted.
As in the primitive Church, as religious we are called
to celebrate together the Eucharist and the Liturgy of the Hours.
Liturgical prayer is the highest form
of communal encounter with God,
and brings about what it celebrates.
Personal prayer is intimately linked with liturgical prayer;
one flows from the other.
The daily celebration of the Eucharistic Sacrifice is to be
“the centre and the culmination of the life of the community.”
It is our way of expressing our desire to go with Christ to the Father.
We offer him in total sacrifice our daily lives
intimately united with Christ’s paschal mystery,
so that we may be perfected daily in union with God
and with one another,
through Christ the Mediator,
and so that God may finally become all in all.
In the celebration of the Eucharist, as we share
in the table of the Lord
and participate in the effects of Christ’s sacrifice,
community is built,
and our unity with the entire family of believers
is established and made manifest.
The sacred liturgy unites us with the apostolic witness
and with the faith of the entire Church.
Communal liturgical celebrations are moreover
a central characteristic of our Rule.
In addition to a diligent preparation of our liturgies,
we must grow in love for liturgy and in our concern for its renewal.
In this way, we hope to deepen our contemplative participation in the mystery which we celebrate.
The public prayer of the Church is the manifestation
of our participation in the Church at prayer,
which, together with Christ,
“is ceaselessly engaged in praising the Lord
and interceding for the salvation of the entire world.”
From its pre-eminence as the public and official prayer of the Church,
it is a fruitful source for the spiritual life of those who share in it.
“The Liturgy of the Hours extends praise and prayer
to the different hours of the day,
making present the mysteries of salvation,
the prayers of intercession,
and the foretaste of heavenly glory
which are offered to us in the Eucharistic Mystery.”
Together with the Eucharistic celebration,
the Liturgy of the Hours unfolds for us continuously
throughout the liturgical year
the mysteries of the redemption
accomplished for us by Our Lord Jesus Christ,
so that we may encounter them and thus be filled
with the grace of salvation.
The Liturgy of the Hours is to be celebrated in common;
provision should therefore be made to allow
all members to participate.
Where special difficulties exist in a particular community,
at least Morning and Evening Prayer shall be recited in common every day.
Those parts which, for whatever reason, are not recited in common,
shall be said in private.
In places where we engage in pastoral work,
it is fitting that we celebrate some part of
the Liturgy of the Hours with the faithful.
We shall confess our sins frequently to the Church
in the sacrament of reconciliation,
also celebrating it communally in keeping with the practices
of local Churches.
We shall thus obtain forgiveness
through God’s mercy
for the offences we have committed against him,
and shall at the same time be reconciled with the Church.
Every member of the Order can confess to any priest
in full communion with the Church;
by virtue of these Constitutions, the priest immediately receives
the necessary jurisdiction, if there is need of such.
Christians are certainly called to pray together;
however, they must also draw apart and pray to the Father in secret.
The practice of the presence of God,
which is a Carmelite tradition,
has become increasingly difficult in these modern times.
We must therefore make special efforts to help one another
to seek God through prayer
that is intimately linked with ordinary daily life.
In the same way Carmelites are called to a deeper experience
of those forms of prayer
which are most in harmony with our own particular spirituality.
We are encouraged to seek new forms of prayer in line with our charism.
Spiritual formation shall be closely linked with doctrinal
and pastoral formation,
and shall be presented in such a way
that it may teach us to live in intimate communion
and friendship with the Father,
through his Son Jesus Christ,
and in the Holy Spirit.
Let us live the paschal mystery
and seek Christ in our daily lives;
in active participation in the Eucharist
and in the Liturgy of the Hours;
In people, especially the poor,
the sick, children
and those who have no faith.
Our entire lives must be imbued with a deep religious sense,
so that we may view the events of our own lives
and of the world around us
in the light of God.
Thus our whole life must be deeply contemplative,
so that we may come to see all that happens
as if with the eyes of God.
Contemplation in the Carmelite tradition
is truly a free gift from God.
God takes the initiative, he reaches out to us
and fills us ever more deeply with his life and his love;
we respond to him by allowing him to be God in our lives.
Contemplation is an attitude of openness to God,
whose presence we discover everywhere.
In this way we follow the examples of the prophet Elijah,
who ceaselessly looked for God,
and of Mary,
who pondered all things in her heart.
Silent prayer is of great assistance
in developing a spirit of contemplation;
we should therefore practise it daily for an appropriate length of time.
A life of prayer also requires us
to examine our way of life in the light of the Gospel,
so that prayer may influence both our personal lives
and the lives of our communities.
Lectio divina is an authentic source of Christian spirituality
recommended by our Rule.
We therefore practise it every day,
so that we may develop a deep and genuine love for it,
and so that we may grow in the surpassing knowledge of Christ.
In this way we shall put into practice
the Apostle Paul’s commandment,
which is mentioned in our Rule:
“Let the sword of the spirit, the Word of God,
live abundantly in your mouth and in your hearts;
and whatever you must do,
do it in the name of the Lord.”
It is suggested that lectio divina be practised communally
on a regular basis,
so that the brethren may share their experience of God
and respond together to the challenges of his Word.
The reading of spiritual books,
especially the works of authors of our Order,
is highly recommended.
Retreats and days of recollection shall be decided by communities,
according to the guidelines given in the Provincial Statutes.
The one indispensable thing is
that prayer permeate our lives,
so that, in faith, hope and charity,
we may be able to glorify the name of the Father on earth,
in union with Christ. “We must pray at all times!”
During her life on earth,
the Blessed Virgin Mary showed herself to be
the perfect image for the disciple of Christ.
For this reason, in her apostolic mission
the Church follows the example of the Virgin Mother of God
- the perfect model of the following of Christ -
especially in her commitment to our redemption,
which Mary actively participated in from her “Fiat” to the Incarnation,
to her presence at the foot of the Cross,
and in her solidarity with the first Christian community
gathered in prayer.
Veneration of the Blessed Virgin Mary,
and the obligation to spread this devotion,
are intrinsic parts of the Order’s mission within the Church.
In keeping with the intention of the Church itself, therefore,
let us generously promote veneration of the Blessed Virgin,
especially in the liturgy.
The example of the Blessed Virgin Mary,
as it emerges from the liturgy itself,
will inspire the faithful to imitate their Mother
and, through her, her Son.
This will lead them to celebrate the mysteries of Christ
with the same dispositions and attitudes
with which the Virgin contemplated
her Son in Bethlehem, in Nazareth,
and in his self-emptying,
and exulted together with all of her new children
at his Resurrection.
We have great respect for the pious practices and devotions
to Mary recommended over the centuries
by the teaching authority of the Church.
While traditional forms of Marian devotion
(such as the wearing of the scapular
and the recitation of the Holy Rosary)
should be preserved, new ones may also be introduced.
As Carmelites, we express our devotion to
the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel
by celebrating her Commemoration every year with special solemnity.
All other Marian feasts included in the liturgical calendar
shall also be celebrated solemnly
and, when liturgical law permits,
the Votive Mass of the Blessed Virgin of Mount Carmel
and the Office of Mary are recommended on Saturdays.
Moreover, it is recommended
that each community gather daily to sing
the Flos Carmeli (Flower of Carmel),
the Salve Regina (Hail Holy Queen),
or some other Marian antiphon,
in keeping with the liturgical season.
During the liturgical year, the Church celebrates
the paschal mystery of Christ
realised in the saints.
Carmelites are called to celebrate their saints with particular devotion,
finding in them the most intense and authentic expression
of the charism and spirituality of the Order through the centuries.
The feast of the prophet Elijah
and the memorial of the prophet Elisha,
and the feasts of the protectors of the Order
- St. Joseph, St. Joachim and St. Anne -
are to be celebrated with particular solemnity.
The Carmelite scapular is a sacramental of the Church;
as such, it is a fitting symbol
to express our devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary
and the affiliation of the faithful to the Carmelite Family.
The scapular calls to mind the virtues of the Blessed Virgin
with which we are to clothe ourselves
- in particular, intimate union with God
and humble service to others in God’s Church,
in the hope of eternal salvation.
The Marian shrines in which we exercise our apostolate
and to which the faithful traditionally come in large numbers,
are to be held in high regard.
They are to become more and more centres
where the Word is prayerfully heard
and where there is liturgical life
with appropriate celebrations (Eucharist and Reconciliation).
In particular, our shrines shall increasingly become
centres of reflection
on the path taken by Mary
and centres of evangelisation,
with special attention to popular devotion to the one
who is Mother of God,
of the Church, and of all
they are places of welcome, attracting vocations;
places of solidarity, providing services to needy brothers and sisters;
places of ecumenical commitment with meetings and prayers.
Our Carmelite mission shares in the mission of Jesus,
who was sent to proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom of God
and to bring about the total liberation of humanity
from all sin and oppression.
Our ministry as Carmelites is, therefore an integral part
of our charism.
We are guided in this by the teaching of the pastors of the Church;
by our tradition
and by the values it upholds;
by the signs of the times;
and above all, by attentive listening to the Word,
having regard also for its interpretation
from the perspective of the poor.
We are to evaluate and renew our service (diakonia) in the Church,
so that we may better respond to the questions raised
by the cultural, social and religious circumstances of the people.
In our mission, we must take into account
the talents and charisms of the brethren,
and be aware of the natural limitations of our contribution.
We Carmelites must fulfil our mission among the people
first and foremost through the richness of our contemplative life.
Our prophetic action may take many and different forms of apostolic service.
Since not all forms of apostolic work easily fit in with our charism
or with the resources of an individual community,
we must always discern among the various options presented in any given situation.
Inspired by the fundamental directions of our charism
and by present-day ecclesial and social contexts,
the following guidelines are offered
for the discernment of our apostolic mission:
- a life of brotherhood and prayer in the midst of the people;
- a response to the needs of the local and universal Church;
- a preferential service to the poor and the marginalized;
- a special attention to issues concerning women;
- a commitment to justice and peace;
- a care for those who show an interest in the spirit, the spiritual heritage, and the life of Carmel.
In these ways we commit ourselves to listening to God,
as he speaks to us in Scripture and in the history of our people.
We shall therefore study needs and demands,
both religious and social, in every time and place
so that we may strengthen our witness
to a spirit of community among all the People of God,
by means of various appropriate apostolic activities,
initiated and implemented in a spirit of fraternal co-operation.
Faithful to the spiritual heritage of the Order,
we shall therefore channel our diverse works
to the goal of promoting the search for God
and the life of prayer.
In our various apostolates we shall be inspired by Mary:
her presence among the Apostles;
her motherhood of the Church,
which she received at the foot of the Cross;
her attentiveness to the Word of God,
and her total obedience to the divine will.
To this end, we shall foster and nourish among the people
the memory of Mary and devotion to her.
In the Scriptures and in Carmelite tradition,
the prophet Elijah is respected as the one
who in various ways knew how to read the new signs
of the presence of God
and who was able, not least,
to reconcile those who had become strangers or enemies.
As Carmelites, heartened by this example
and by our strong desire to put into practice our Lord's teachings
of love and reconciliation,
we shall take part in the ecumenical movement
and in inter-religious dialogue,
promoted by the Second Vatican Council.
Through the former we shall promote relationships
with the Orthodox and other Christians.
Through the latter we shall promote dialogue at various levels
with Jews and Muslims,
with whom we share devotion to the prophet Elijah as a man of God;
we shall enter into dialogue also with Hindus and Buddhists
and those of other religions.
Moreover, Carmelites are to make themselves available
to accompany those who genuinely desire
to experience the transcendent in their lives
or who wish to share their experience of God.
While preserving its universal character,
the Order shall endeavour to be fully involved
in the life of local Churches.
This implies close co-operation with the various elements
of these Churches.
Within local Churches, we shall offer the contribution of our charism
to the task of evangelisation
by fostering a deeper grasp of the contemplative dimension of life,
of fraternity, and concrete commitment to justice.
To the extent that it is possible, we shall be prepared to undertake
- in keeping with the legal and pastoral provisions of the Church
and of our Order -
various forms of apostolate requested by the Church,
in accordance with the needs of time and of place.
We achieve this through parish work,
service to the faithful in churches,
instruction of young people in schools and elsewhere,
preaching of retreats, study, spiritual direction,
guidance about spiritual problems,
and other initiatives.
Guided by the Magisterium,
by the official documents of the Order,
and by the signs of the times,
we shall willingly invite and introduce the faithful
to our rich tradition and to the experience of contemplation.
We shall encourage lay people to develop
their own particular gifts and charisms
so that they may be involved in the mission of the Church.
Let our mission,
inspired by the criteria set forth in articles 93 and 97,
be one that both evangelises and is evangelised within the Church
- a mission that is particularly concerned
for those who have lost their way.
We also accomplish our mission through the work we do in parishes
in response to the pastoral needs of local churches.
A new parish is accepted by means of a written agreement
which shall be drawn up, in accordance
with the requirements of canon law,
between the Prior Provincial, with the express consent of his Council,
and the local Ordinary.
Provincial Statutes shall define the criteria to be applied
when accepting parishes.
If a parish is erected in a church belonging to the Order,
the above agreement must clearly define the relationship
between the parish and the religious community,
particularly with regard to the use of the church
and to financial matters.
§ 1. For the conferral of offices in a diocese,
the Prior Provincial, after consultation with his Council,
shall admit or present to the bishop those brethren
who give sufficient evidence of suitability.
§ 2. As religious, those friars who are engaged in diocesan duties
in accordance with some agreement remain subject
to the authority of their own superiors.
In matters pertaining to their duties,
they are subject to the authority of those
in whose service they are employed.
Those who are engaged in any type of ministry within a diocese
are subject to the jurisdiction of the Bishop,
in keeping with canon law,
in all matters pertaining to the faithful execution
of their pastoral duties.
Provincial Statutes may determine whether or not
the offices of pastor and local prior may be held by the same person,
and set the maximum time for which a religious may hold the office
of parish priest in the same parish;
they may also define the relationship between
the parish priest and the community of religious,
as regards co-operation in the apostolic activities of the parish.
The mission ad gentes
- in other words, the task of announcing the Gospel
in places where it is not known -
is one of the fundamental activities of the Church,
for the Church is missionary by its very nature.
The main agent of the mission ad gentes is the Holy Spirit,
who inspires Provinces and Commissariats
to appoint members to this task.
It is the Spirit who gives the missionary charism
to those who are sent.
In this work the Order recognises “immense opportunities
in such areas as charity, evangelical proclamation,
Christian education, culture,
and solidarity with the poor, the marginalized, the oppressed,
and those who suffer discrimination.”
All our communities shall support this essential task
with their prayers and by encouraging the faithful
to become personally involved
and, according to their circumstances, to provide material help.
Missionary work requires a specific spirituality
and a process of inculturation;
we are confident therefore, that the mission ad gentes
will reveal the heart of the Carmelite charism in a new way
for the good of the Church and of the Order.
The Apostle enjoins us to do good to everyone,
especially our brothers and sisters in the faith.
Therefore, the members of the Order shall develop
a love and concern for those who are inspired
by the same Carmelite ideal.
Since the Carmelite charism is given to the whole Carmelite family,
all its members have an important role in the formation of others
in whatever sphere these are found,
so that the various expressions of Carmelite life
may be mutually enriched.
We shall accompany the Carmelite nuns
and we shall support each other as far as possible.
A Provincial Delegate for the nuns shall be appointed in each Province
in accordance with the Provincial Statutes,
in provinces where there is at least one monastery of Carmelite nuns.
In addition, a General Delegate shall be appointed,
who shall be responsible for developing relationships
between monasteries and exchanging information.
The General Delegate shall work in collaboration
with the Religious Federal Assistant, where there is one.
Mutual co-operation with the sisters of institutes affiliated with the Order
is to be promoted.
The Carmelite Order is enriched by the faithful who,
inspired by the Holy Spirit, order their lives according to the Gospel
and in the Carmelite spirit.
The Third Order and the other forms of Carmelite laity
influence the spirit and the structure of the entire Carmelite family.
Let us help them to reach the goal they have set for themselves:
of healing and developing human society
through the leaven of the Gospel.
A General Delegate shall be appointed for the various forms of Carmelite laity.
Provincial Statutes shall provide for delegates at other levels.
Christ did not bring about the salvation of the human race
as an outsider or as a stranger to the history of the world.
On the contrary, he identified both with his people
and with the whole human race.
Those who “claim to be followers of Christ must heed his call,
especially when he says:
‘I was hungry and you gave me to eat;
I was thirsty and you gave me to drink;
I was a stranger and you welcomed me;
I was naked and you clothed me;
I was sick and you visited me;
I was in prison and you came to me.’”
We live in a world full of injustice and disquiet.
It is our duty to contribute to the search for an understanding
of the causes of these evils;
to be in solidarity with the sufferings of those who are marginalized;
to share in their struggle for justice and peace;
and to fight for their total liberation,
helping them to fulfil their desire for a decent life.
The poor, the “little ones” (minores),
constitute the vast majority of the world population.
Their complex problems are linked and, to a large extent,
are caused by current international relations
and, more directly, by the economic and political systems
which govern our world today.
We cannot turn a deaf ear to the cry of the oppressed
who plead for justice.
We must hear and interpret reality from the perspective of the poor
- of those who are oppressed by the economic and political systems
which today govern humanity.
Their problems are many, and we must set priorities
in responding to them.
In this way, we shall rediscover the Gospel as good news,
and Jesus Christ as the liberator from all forms of oppression.
Social reality challenges us.
Attentive to the cry of the poor, and faithful to the Gospel,
we must take our stand with them,
making an option for the “little ones”.
“There is a growing desire within the Order to choose solidarity
with the “little ones” of history,
to bring to our brothers and sisters
a word of hope and salvation from their midst,
more by our lives than by our words
... We recommend this option for the poor,
because it is in keeping with the charism of the Order,
which can be summarised as
‘a life in allegiance to Jesus Christ’;
allegiance to Jesus also means allegiance to the poor
and to those in whom the face of Christ is mirrored preferentially.”
Our Elijan inspiration, which our prophetic charism is founded on,
calls us to walk with the “little ones”
along the paths the prophet travelled in his time
- along the path of justice, opposing false ideologies
and moving towards a concrete experience of the true living God;
along the path of solidarity,
defending the victims of injustice and taking their part;
along the path of mysticism,
struggling to restore to the poor faith in themselves
by renewing their awareness that God is on their side.
To prepare and educate ourselves so that we may take on
“the circumstances of the poor” in an evangelical manner,
we propose to re-read the Bible,
also from the perspective of the poor,
of the oppressed and of the marginalized;
to consider the Christian principles of justice and peace
as an integral part of our formation at every level;
to immerse ourselves in the circumstances of the poor;
to use the tools of social analysis, in the light of faith,
as a means to discover the presence of sin
incarnated in certain political, socio-economic
and cultural structures;
to defend and to encourage even the smallest traces of vitality.
Carmelite formation is a specific process through which a person learns to identify fully with the Carmelite ideal of life, which consists in contemplative fraternity lived in the midst of the people.
Carmelites learn to be more and more authentic disciples of Jesus Christ through their formation, participating in the offering he makes of himself to the Father, and sharing fully in his mission for the good of humanity, in keeping with the specific charism of the Carmelite Order.
Carmelites are called to maturity in Jesus Christ by virtue of baptism and confirmation and are therefore engaged in a continual process of conversion of heart and spiritual transformation. This is a life-long process which brings them into ever deeper communion with Jesus Christ our brother, in a spirit of solidarity and interdependence with all those in need of liberation and with the whole of creation which awaits redemption.
Through this process of growth in maturity, religious are enabled to grasp objectively a reality which is both personal and communal, to evaluate critically and then express the difference between theory and practice, and to grow continually in interpersonal and community relationships.
Our communities are to develop a lifestyle which will show this conversion and continual development of life in Christ, expressed in a spirit of thanksgiving for the vocation they have received. In this way their very existence will evangelise, attracting and inviting new vocations.
The following guidelines are offered for candidates in initial formation. They reflect the process of formation in which we are engaged. The relationship between professed religious and new candidates should be based on interaction and openness to the promptings of the Holy Spirit. Committed members personify what the Order demands and the living charism of our tradition; new candidates challenge and stimulate us through the personal gifts they have received from the Holy Spirit, thereby enriching and renewing Carmelite life.
The process of formation in its various stages shall be entrusted to formators who are mature, both in human experience and in the consecrated life, and capable of providing guidance and of accompanying the candidates on their journey.