Message of Pope John Paul II to the Order of Carmelite on her General Chapter 2001
To the Most Reverend Father
Prior General of the Order of the Brothers
of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel
1. It is with great joy that I learnt that the ancient Order of the Brothers of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel is celebrating its General Chapter and is animated by the desire to continue to serve Christ and the Church in complete fidelity to its charism and to the directives of the pontifical Magisterium.
This intention takes on a particular eloquence at the beginning of this third millennium on which the Church is embarking trusting to the future with her eyes fixed on Christ – the ‘Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the beginning and the end’ (Rev. 22:13). She makes every effort to complete the mission that He himself gave to her.
I cannot help but notice how the General Chapter also falls in the year of the 750th anniversary of the giving of the scapular. To mark this particular jubilee last 25th March I sent a special message to the whole Carmelite Family. This year also sees the 7th centenary of the birth of the great Carmelite bishop, Saint Andrew Corsini, who is rightly remembered as an example for all pastors and a model of consecrated life for all religious women and men.
While I am spiritually with you in your capitular assembly, I call the Spirit of the Lord down on your works and I greet you, Most Reverend Father, and thank you for the service you have rendered to the Carmelite Order and to the Church in this last 6-year period. I also greet the participants in the General Chapter who come from a variety of nations, and through them I extend my affectionate greetings to the whole Carmelite Order.
2. The theme of the Chapter is The Journey Continues. This reference to human experience is typical of Carmelite spirituality. Ever since the first hermits settled on Mount Carmel as pilgrims in the land of the Lord Jesus, life has been represented as an ascent to the holy mountain who is Jesus Christ our Lord (cf. Roman Missal, Collect for the Mass in honour of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, 16th July). Two biblical figures who are dear to the Carmelite tradition give direction to this interior pilgrimage: the prophet Elijah and the Virgin Mary.
The prophet Elijah burnt with zeal for the Lord (cf. 1 Kings 19:10) and made his way to Mount Horeb, and even though he was tired, he continued to walk on until he reached his goal. Only at the end of his somewhat difficult journey did he meet the Lord in the murmuring of a gentle breeze (cf. 1 Kings 19:1-18). Looking to him as an example, the Brothers of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel understand more profoundly that only the one who has trained himself to listen to God and to interpret the signs of the times can meet God and recognise Him in the events of daily life. God speaks in many ways, even in ways which can seem insignificant.
The other icon is that of the Virgin Mary whom you venerate under the titles of Sister and Beauty of Carmel. Mary set off on a journey to visit an ageing relative, Saint Elisabeth. As soon as she received the message on the part of the angel (cf. Luke 1:26-38) she left in all generosity, almost running along the mountain paths (cf. Canticle 2:8; Is 52:7), having learnt that Elisabeth needed help. When she meets her cousin a song of joy is released by her spirit: the Magnificat (cf. Luke 1:39-56). This is a song of praise to the Lord and a witness to her humble availability to serve her brothers and sisters. In the mystery of the Visitation each Christian finds his model of vocation. Let this be true for you in a special way, as you are gathered together in General assembly to give a new ascetical and missionary impetus to the Order. With a heart full of praise for the Lord as you silently contemplate his mystery, move forward joyfully on the paths of charity and open yourselves to welcoming all in a fraternal way as credible witnesses to the merciful love of the Word of God made man to save the world.
3. ‘The Journey continues’ Yes, my brothers indeed it does in the world today. You are called to re-read your rich spiritual inheritance in the light of today’s challenges so that ‘the joys, the hopes, the sadnesses and the anguish of humanity today, of the poor and above all of those who suffer’ are ‘the joys and the hopes, the sadnesses and the anguish of Christ’s disciples,’ (Gaudium et spes, n. 1) and in a special way of every Carmelite.
In the year when you are commemorating the 750th anniversary of the gift of the scapular how is it possible for you not to make your commitment more vigorous and more decisive and to allow yourselves to be clothed in Christ? (cf. Rom 13:14) Ask Mary, who is so concerned for and gentle to the child Jesus (cf Luke 2:7b) to clothe each one of you in the wisdom and love of her divine Son. You are well aware of the mission God has given to your order, so offer the world the witness of your fidelity so that Christ may be known by all and received as the only Saviour of humanity, yesterday, today and always. (cf Heb 18:8)
To this end I invoke an abundance of divine grace on you. Just like a second Pentecost, may the Holy Spirit descend on you and illuminate you so that you may discover the will of your heavenly and merciful father. In this way you will be able to speak to men and women in forms which are familiar to them and efficient. (cf Acts 2:1-13)
With these thoughts then, I impart a heartfelt Apostolic Blessing on you, on the Chapter brothers, on the entire Carmelite family, imploring for each one of you the maternal protection of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel, together with the intercession of Elijah and all the numerous holy men and women of the Order.
Castel Gandolfo, 8 September 2001
Johannes Paulus II