Dear brothers and sisters of the Carmelite Family:
The solemnity of Our Lady of Mount Carmel is approaching and - like every year - I would like to send you my most cordial fraternal greetings on our patronal feast, in which we remember Mary under the beloved title of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. We commemorate Our Mother and Sister, the Domina loci (mistress of the place) that is at the center of our lives and that inspires and encourages us to live our Carmelite charism at the service of the Gospel, of the people of God and of all humanity.
During this time, the Church is preparing with a series of different initiatives for the XV Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, which will deal with the theme "the youth, faith and vocational discernment," to be held in Rome in October of this year. The intention is that, through various methods, the voice of young people may reach the Synod, so that it is not just an assembly "over" them, but also one in which their opinions, their impressions, their doubts and their illusions can be heard in the synodal assembly.
Likewise, in January 2019 World Youth Day (WYD) will take place in Panama, which - as on other occasions – will gather thousands of young people from different continents in a festive, prayerful and celebratory atmosphere. Our Order will be present at this ecclesial event, as it has been doing since 2008 in Sydney (Madrid 2011, Rio de Janeiro 2013 and Krakow 2016), through a "Carmelite day" that we will celebrate in collaboration with our Discalced Carmelite brothers. Logically (as has happened in each WYD) the majority of those present will be young people from the closest countries and, therefore, our brothers from El Salvador, together with the Province of Central America of the Discalced Carmelites, are those who are preparing this meeting where -God willing - I hope to accompany the young Carmelites as I have been doing in the previous World Youth Days.
Undoubtedly, both events remind us of the importance of young people for the present and the future of the Church. For this reason, I would like to ask you, first of all, to bear in mind this intention in the novenas to Our Lady of Mount Carmel, in your celebrations and in your preaching that will take place during these days of preparation for the feast. Mary, the young woman from Nazareth, knew how to welcome the undertaking that God entrusted to her with generosity and courage as a youth. We ask you now to pray for our young people, so that they may also know how to find the beauty of faith, the beauty of Christian life and the challenge and adventure of following Jesus Christ in a world as changing, complex and fascinating as ours.
Secondly, I would like to express my heartfelt gratitude to all Carmelites (religious men and women and laity) who work not only "for" but "with" young people. It is a ministry that is not always easy. It requires "being", "accompanying", "listening" and "sharing". It is understandable that other seemingly more rewarding ministries are preferred, but, in any case, no Province or entity of the Order should be closed to this ministry, in order to avoid what could be considered "pastoral suicide". May Mary Our Mother, the Virgin of Mount Carmel, symbol of beauty, inspire the Carmelites who accompany young people to be able to transmit the richness of our charism and our spirituality and give them the fidelity necessary to continue walking with young people with creativity and generosity.
Thirdly, I would like to expose young people to our charism, not only because its values, such as a personal relationship with God, spiritual depth, sensitivity, beauty and poetry, etc., which have always accompanied Carmel, are values that can motivate our young people, but also because our charism has a "countercultural" aspect today. In a society that is characterized by and promotes the immediate, the superficial, the bombardment of unnecessary information, virtual relationships, the provisional ... a call to the interior life, to the depth, to the personal encounter with the Lord, to the rediscovery of time as kairos, to prayer and to contemplation, can be revolutionary. Let's propose it to the young people we meet on our way, without complexity, without believing ourselves superior, not as an arrogant imposition or as indoctrination, but as a simple and affectionate offer.
The theme chosen by Pope Francis for the Synod also includes vocational discernment. In many parts of the world, Carmel continues to receive numerous vocations to the consecrated life, but in others (for many reasons that we cannot analyze here) we find ourselves in a serious and troubling vocational crisis. With the wisdom of discernment, with the humility to recognize possible errors, but without masochistic tendencies, with the responsibility of knowing that the Lord calls through us and having Mary as a model of listening and a generous response to God's call ... Let us commit ourselves to the vocation ministry that aims to help young people to discern their vocation (whatever it may be) and to live it with generosity and joy.
I would like these ecclesial events to help us to rejuvenate ourselves. I do not mean the “cosmetic youth”| which the world idolizes and which is superficial and often ridiculous. Our society treats old age with disdain, and, therefore, we try to disguise ourselves as young people, denying our age and not accepting reality. I do not mean any of that. I speak of "rejuvenating" in the sense that we should look with hope to the future, not dwell on pessimistic and defeatist ideas, but flee from the sclerosis of routine and our prejudices ... If we look to the future with enthusiasm, with confidence in Lord by the many aspects of our identity, we will stay young!
Finally, I would like to share with you two interesting events that, in their simplicity, do not cease to be meaningful and joyful for the entire family of Carmel. First of all, I would like to point out that, in Manila, the 400th anniversary of the arrival in the Philippines of the first image of Our Lady of Mount Carmel has been celebrated this year. It is an image that came from Mexico (since the Philippines was then part of the so-called Viceroyalty of New Spain) thanks to the Augustinian Recollects, who, in turn, had received it from the Discalced Carmelites of Acapulco. The image was installed in the convent of Bagumbayan and, shortly after, it went to the church of San Sebastián de Quiapo, where it has remained until now and where it has received and continues to receive the affection, devotion and prayers of the Filipinos, as I have had occasion to see personally on several occasions.
On the occasion of this fourth centenary a series of events have been organized in Manila. On May 4, after the procession with the image by boat on the bay, there was a solemn Mass of thanksgiving in Luneta (in the center of Manila). Cardinal Tagle granted a plenary indulgence to all those who participated in these celebrations with the proper dispositions.
Although there was already an earlier permission of Fr. Diego del Castillo (vicar of Andalusia), on August 19, 1691, the Prior General of the Carmelites, Fr. Pablo de San Ignacio, granted with joy the permission to erect the Brotherhood of the Holy Scapular, given the existing devotion to Our Lady of Mount Carmel.
Now, much later, I would like to join in the joy of my predecessor in giving thanks for this devotion so deeply rooted in the Filipino people. For this reason, I have personally congratulated the Prior General of the Augustinian Recollects, Fr. Miguel Miró Miró, thanking him for the pastoral service that his Order has been doing for four centuries, by spreading devotion to Our Lady of Mount Carmel in the beloved nation of the Philippines.
May the Virgin of Carmel grant both Orders a renewal of the missionary spirit that guided those Augustinians, and may She, whom we invoke as "Star of the Sea," open new paths of mission and evangelization.
The second event I want to highlight is that on July 28 the image of Our Lady of Mount Carmel will be canonically crowned in the town of Rute (Córdoba, Spain), of which she is a Patroness. This beautiful image, from the end of the 17th century, has enjoyed for centuries the veneration and devotion of so many faithful. The coronation of an image of the Virgin does not distance it from us, nor is it outdated, distorting its evangelical richness. The coronation of Mary is a sign of hope for all humanity, because in her (the simple woman of Nazareth, our sister), God crowns all the redeemed humanity. Mary becomes - as the preface of the day of the Assumption proclaims – “the beginning and the pattern of the Church in its perfection, and a sign of hope and comfort for your people on their pilgrim way”. In addition, as the magnificence of Mary is exercised in the service of the weakest, the commission in charge of this coronation has been developing a series of activities of a charitable type that remind us of the deepest meaning of this coronation.
May all of us, members of the Carmelite family throughout the world, continue to crown the Virgin of Carmel in daily life, living as she does in openness and listening to the Word of God and in service to the most needy and the least of our time.
Congratulations to all. May the feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel be a true time of grace, devotion, faith and conversion.
With fraternal affection
Fernando Millán Romeral, O.Carm.