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Final Message of the Generale Chapter MMXIII of The Brothers of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel

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A WORD OF HOPE AND SALVATION (Const. 24)

0. We, Carmelite Friars, gathered in General Chapter at Il Carmelo, Sassone, Italy (3-20 September 2013) from all over the world, greet our brothers and sisters of the Carmelite Family: grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

1. We believe that God’s creative love revealed definitively in the Incarnate Word, Jesus Christ, in the power of the Holy Spirit calls us to continual transformation. Walking on this journey of transformation, enlightened by faith, demands both a personal and communal encounter with Jesus Christ who is the source of our hope and salvation.

2. Through conferences, reflections and group sharing over the days of the Chapter, we have been reminded and in turn remind you, our brothers and sisters, concerning the serious issues that confront us: understanding our world, discerning well the signs of our times and moving to act with grace and wisdom in our various contexts. To be able to offer any sense of hope in our various situations demands that we be brothers and sisters rooted in the experience of God, brothers and sisters of faith, hope and love. To be sharers of hope, we are challenged to be attentive and open to our world and the Word of God.

3. Discerning the Signs of Our Times

We are living through a period of rapid transition in a changing world. We are aware that these factors, in the hands of human beings, are both positive and negative. What we see, notice and recognize in our contexts demand that we offer responses following deep discernment of the signs of the times and interpreting them in the light of the Gospel. The world situation offers us opportunities for developing new ways of presence, accompaniment, dialogue and action inspired by our sense of Christian and Carmelite discipleship. We feel that we are called to walk with the people of our time through the varied experiences of rootlessness, dependency, isolation, activism and spiritual emptiness but only when we ourselves are rooted in communion with Jesus Christ and are of one heart and mind in our community living.

4. Acting in Response to our World

We are aware that we are a small Order regarding the number of friars. However, we have a rich spiritual tradition and history of over 800 years since we received our Rule from St Albert of Jerusalem, the centenary of whose death we are celebrating. Especially during the days with representatives of other groups in the Carmelite Family, we experienced that there is a large number of nuns, sisters, hermits and lay people who participate in our spirituality. We feel energized to make decisive but ongoing responses to the realities that weigh heavily upon the citizens of the world in our localities. Our sharing has challenged us to make a difference in our world by committing ourselves to:

a.      Being People of Prayer

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI has said: “You Carmelites teach us how to pray”. Pope Francis has challenged us to reflect more deeply on this value of prayer: ‘You speak of yourselves as contemplatives in the midst of the people... Prayer is that “royal road” that leads to the profound mystery of the One and Triune God, but it is also the narrow pathway to God in the midst of the people as pilgrims in the world towards the Promised Land… A Carmelite without this contemplative life is a dead body!’[1]. Indeed, our Order is rightly seen as a school of contemplation. Blessed Titus Brandsma reminds us that ‘God is so close to us. All things existing exist because of his work and in his presence… We should sense his presence and learn from our ancestors how they associated with him intimately, talked with him and listened to him. Life will look very different then’.[2] Through our being we are to sensitize people to the fact that Carmels are spaces for the quest of God in silence and solitude. We feel called to building praying communities,  whose major ministry is to teach people how to pray in the places where they are and in on-line ministry, by leading people into a culture of prayer, through our discourse, through our celebration of the Liturgy in a way that is participative and contemplative, through the practice of lectio divina and our attention to other forms of prayer. We value the monasteries of the nuns of our Order and we are proud of them. They remind us always of the values of prayer and the search for God. 

b.      Building Community

We seek to create Carmelite communities of encounter with Jesus Christ and other people, communities of trust, friendship, belonging, hospitality, collaboration and shared responsibilities. We note that the healthy balance between prayer and fraternity leads to tenderness and compassionate outreach. The integration between prayer and prophetic mission leads to greater conversion and the joining of  prophetic mission and fraternity leads to solidarity with our people. Therefore,  we are to renew our personal commitment to being  praying/ contemplative fraternities at the service of the Church and the world. We note that the non-negotiable elements of this community building are presence at community exercises: the Liturgy, community meetings, meals, and fraternal gatherings and a healthy balance between solitude and activity.

c.       Promoting  Vocations, Initial and Ongoing Formation

We urge all Carmelites, personally and communally, to take responsibility for vocation promotion by: authentic and joyful living of the Carmelite way of life; being interested in youth ministry; participating in communal projects of vocation promotion; cooperating with community, provincial and diocesan vocation promoters and other orders. Acceptance in the Carmelite formation program marks the beginning of human, intellectual, spiritual and pastoral formation that lasts a lifetime. We urge that capable candidates be chosen for higher studies in keeping with our charism.

d.      Cultivating Discernment

A deep Christian and Carmelite quality is discernment. Making our communities places of welcome, we need to renew our commitment to silence, listening and discernment of the will of God in the events of our daily life and the people we come across. Considering the sense of fragmentation and dis-connectedness that is the experience of many persons, we urge the cultivation of the right balance in ourselves and others in all realities: between individuality and community; silence/solitude and speech;  prayer and ministry/action; mysticism and social involvement. Community meetings are precious tools for practicing discernment.[3]  

e.       Taking the Right Decisions

To be effective in our localities, we need to promote accountability, listening, responsive and servant leadership qualities at all levels of Carmelite governance structures. We are conscious that certain difficult decisions will need to be made considering our declining numbers in certain regions as well as those regions experiencing growth in numbers. Whatever the decisions, the guiding principles that should be at the fore are faithfulness to Christ, fidelity to the charism of the Order and discernment of the signs of the times.

f.        Engaging in Mission

Our mission is to live our charism. The heart of our witness is to realize the contemplative dimension of the Order, to be lived, cultivated and transmitted.[4] Let us witness to the effectiveness of the gospel through transformed lives as well as engaging in dialogue with the poor, with cultures, religions, and systems. People will be drawn to Christ when they notice our gospel based lives of simplicity, solidarity with the marginalized, celebration of unity in diversity, and the creation of safe environments for the children, teens and adults to whom we minister. Thus we hope to share in our own particular way in the new evangelization to which the Church is insistently calling us.

5. Keeping Hope Alive

The present situation of our world is not a cause of despair; rather what humanity is experiencing presents us with opportunities of expressing who we are. It is as if the world is saying: will Carmelites stand up and be counted? Let us therefore stand up and be seen to be authentic and credible witnesses in the Spirit. It is because of our adoption as sons and daughters of the Father and our faith in Christ, that in the power of the Holy Spirit, we see so many hidden opportunities in these challenges. Christ Jesus is the Word of hope and salvation and so we hope to make the difference in our communities and localities by the way we live.

With Mary our model and inspiration and the Prophet Elijah who stood in the presence of God, we want to learn to wait in hope for the salvation that comes from the Lord alone. We entrust ourselves to their support and guidance as we journey into the future.

Issued on this, the 20th day of September 2013, at Il Carmelo, Sassone, Italy

 


[1] Letter of Pope Francis to the Prior General, Fr. Fernando Millán Romeral.

[2] Titus Brandsma, Fragmenten. In: Mystiek Leven. Editor: Bruno Brochert. Gottmer. Nijmegen, 1985, 159.

[3] Rule of St Albert, chapters 10 and 15.

[4] Letter of Pope Francis to the Prior General, Fr. Fernando Millán Romeral.

As Carmelites We live our life of allegiance to Jesus Christ and to serve Him faithfully with a pure heart and a clear conscience through a commitment to seek the face of the living God (the contemplative dimension of life), through prayer, through fraternity, and through service (diakonia). These three fundamental elements of the charism are not distinct and unrelated values, but closely interwoven. 

All of these we live under the protection, inspiration and guidance of Mary, Our Lady of Mount Carmel, whom we honor as "our Mother and sister." 

 



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