Ever since the General Chapter of 1971 the call to justice and peace has appeared frequently in the statements and in the commitments of the Carmelite Order. Over these years Carmelites have worked on the question of justice in the world through study, reflection and ministry to and with the poor and the other victims of injustice in the world.
Carmelites recognise the need to respond to the situation of the poor, to the demands of the Gospel, to the social teachings of the Church and to the rediscovery of the Order's identity and charism in the years since the Second Vatican Council.
In addition to what Carmelites share with all christians, there is a further motivation to be found in the history, spirituality and traditions of the Order. The following of Jesus urges Carmelites to stand by the poor and to proclaim Good News for them and among them. The law of love demands that all the children of God be loved and come to their full dignity as brothers and sisters of one another in the human family. The early christian community inspires Carmelites to dwell on the Word of God, to share their goods, to prayer together for the coming of the Kingdom and to build communion through the Eucharist. Mary as Mother, Sister and Virgin is a model of new relationships based on listening to the Word of God and responding in total obedience. She unites her song with the hopes of the poor and looks forward with them to a world of justice among the marvels worked by God in her. Elijah, the prophet, the other great inspiration for Carmelites, stands in the presence of the living God. Torn apart by the destruction of his people he opposes the idolatry of king Ahab and queen Jezabel which causes that destruction, and he proclaims the justice of the one true God. As a prophet he mapped out the way of solidarity by standing by the people, the way of justice by restoring their human dignity, and the way of conversion by giving back to the people their sense of identity through their faith in Yahweh.
This kind of understanding has come as the result of many meetings, much research and a deep desire to be faithful to the calling of Carmelites in the world of today. United in p
rayer and fraternity, this service of justice forms the pattern of life for Carmelites today: prayer, fraternity and service integrated in one approach to life in the convent and among the people. Over the years various forms of service have emerged. In many parts of the Order there are Justice and Peace Commissions whose task it is to motivate the members by reminding them of what the Order and the Church have said and guiding some of the initiatives the members might decide to take. In many places there are centres to take care of the poor, with food, clothing, health and hygiene, counselling. Many of the churches of the Order are located in places where the vast majority of the people are very poor. By basing their preaching on the scripture, and with a keen eye to what is happening in society, Carmelites are giving a message which is aimed at moving people to conversion of the kind that leads to action for justice as well as, and sometimes instead of, the traditional devotional practices of the Church. In some instances, such as the Philippines, Zimbabwe and Brazil, Carmelites have engaged in the struggles of the people against oppressive regimes. Some members have stood out for the radical nature of their commitment.
For Carmelites this call has become part of their identity. The Constitutions of the Order give a clear statement to this effect. The Carmelite 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" (C.24). The Carmelite commitment to justice and peace looks towards the building of liberating relationships between people and God, between people among themselves, between people and the whole of creation. The ancient Carmelite Rule, far from being a dead letter, captures this kind of integration and balance in relationships, uniting the wisdom of the 13th century with the wisdom and needs of today.
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For further information please contact
Carmelite International Commission for Justice and Peace
Curia Generalizia dei Carmelitani
Via Giovanni Lanza 138, 00184 – Roma (RM) – Italia
tel: (+39) 064620181 / fax: (+39) 0646201847