The Spirit of Carmel encourages each person to engage in a contemplative life, one in which God is experienced in all dimensions of human life. Finding God in the ordinary experiences of life attunes us to our call to participate in the redemptive mission of Jesus Christ. Each day we are called to unite our daily “dyings and risings” with those of Jesus. Often our “dyings” are very simple experiences of loss, disappointment or frustration. At times they are more profound such as the death of a loved one, the diagnosis of a serious illness, the loss of a job or the betrayal by a friend. As followers of the Carmelite tradition, we are invited to embrace these experiences as our opportunity to unite ourselves with the Paschal mystery.
Our participation in the Paschal mystery enables us to also envision the face of Christ in the “risings” of our lives. Again our everyday joys may be as simple as the discovery of a new friendship, the completion of an undesirable task or the satisfaction of a well-prepared meal. As we participate in the ministry of Christ within family, among friends and within the church at large, these “risings” we may be even more conscious of the profound effects of redemption in our daily lives. Carmelite spirituality then, invites us to live as true contemplatives, persons who recognize the face of Christ in the many facets and faces of daily life.
Carmelite spirituality is blessed with many holy people who have modeled this way of life throughout history.
Mary, the Mother of Carmel, is the primary example for all Carmelites in her posture of listening to God’s Word and embracing it in all aspects of her life.
St. Teresa of Avila is considered the reformer of the Order of Carmel. St. Teresa wanted to live the Carmelite life in imitation of the hermits on Mount Carmel. As a 16th century woman in Spain, this was indeed a monumental task. Her reformed convents became models of a life shared in common, with no personal servants as had been the custom, and with a life of prayer like that of the first hermits of Carmel. St. Teresa was a prolific writer particularly on prayer and the development of the interior life.
St. John of the Cross was a contemporary of St. Teresa although much younger. He assisted her in the spiritual formation of the sisters and was extremely influential as one of the founding friars in the reform of the male communities of Carmel. St. John was a poet who expressed his love for God in beautiful images of God as the beloved. He found it difficult to express his relationship with God in ordinary language. His poetry is powerfully inspiring to the spirit.
St. Therese of Lisieux is perhaps the most famous contemporary Carmelite. Her charism has clearly been to grasp the reality of the commonplace ways in which God loves us. Although she lived her short life within the confines of a Carmelite monastery, she is designated as the patron of missions because of her vision of the world and her desire to spread the love of God to all people.
There are many other saints of Carmel who have been placed as guides throughout history. St. Edith Stein, Blessed Titus Brandsma, Brother Lawrence are but a few who provide expert direction for those who embrace the Carmelite way of contemplation.