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OUT FROM ESSENTIALS
RETURNING TO WHAT IS ESSENTIAL
IN THE TERESIAN CARMEL
IN THE LIGHT OF OUR TERESIAN CARMELITE IDENTITY
Now that we have entered Lent of the year 2001, I would like to send you fraternal greetings first of all. May the Paschal mystery of Christ light up your life and fill it with peace and hope in the midst of the difficulties and challenges you have to face.
This letter is to present the Instrumentum laboris (Discussion Document) for our next General Chapter to be celebrated in Avila (Spain) in April - May 2003.
The present Instrumentum laboris is the fruit of the revising of the Consultation Document sent to you last year. The study of the Consultation Document was done with interest by the whole Order. From the friars we received replies from 30 of the 34 Provinces, from 3 of the 4 Semiprovinces, from 3 of the 4 Commissariats, 3 of the 6 General Delegations, 4 of the 6 Regional Vicariates, from 2 Provincial Delegations, from 5 monasteries and 4 friars. From the nuns we received replies from 25 of the 48 Association and Federations, from 2 provincial groups of monasteries, from 60 monasteries and 3 nuns. The Secular Carmel took part, sending replies from 12 Provincial or Regional Communities and 31 local communities. As well 4 groups and 5 persons associated with the Teresian Carmel took part in studying the document and sent in their points of view. As you see the participation of the Order was quite good. The study was mainly centred on the questions at the end of each chapter. There were not lacking, however, general evaluations of the Document. The great majority were positive. The judgement of 3 Circumscriptions, two friars and some nuns' monasteries was decidedly negative.
These contributions helped us to revise the Consultation Document in order to prepare what we called the provisional text of the Instrumentum laboris, which was the object of a detailed study and analysis during our recent Extraordinary General Definitory, celebrated in Nairobi (Kenya) from 28th of January to 7th February this year. In light of the observations made by the various geographical and language groups we have drawn up the definitive text of the Instrumentum laboris, which we are now sending you.
We would like to emphasise that this Document, like the last one, is destined primarily for the friars. If we are sending it to our sisters of contemplative life and to the secular members of the Teresian Carmel it is because we want to be enriched by their viewpoints and perspectives in order to renew ourselves..... In a certain manner were are trying to question the friars' lifestyle, to which they ought to apply creative fidelity, as the Church requests.
This Instrumentum laboris will be studied in the Order's Provinces and other areas of jurisdiction for the coming Provincial Chapters. The methodology for study will be the following:
1) Each friar will have a copy of the Instrumentum laboris for study and personal reflection.
2) Discussion of the text could be material for community meetings.
3) Discussion will concentrate on the second part of the text: Building our future in light of our Teresian Carmelite identity.
each one of the indicated aspects will be discussed
the operative conclusions will be discussed and others, at a general level, can be proposed to the Order.
operative conclusions can be proposed for discussion at one's own Chapter in order to apply the Instrumentum laboris to the circumscription's particular needs and circumstances
it could be opportune to appoint a Commission to make a synthesis of the replies from each community. This synthesis could be presented to a Plenary Assembly of the Circumscription before its Chapter.
the Chapter conclusions are to be sent to Rome to have them present during the September 2002 Extraordinary Definitory to be held in the Philippines.
The Associations or Federations of nuns and Secular Carmelites who want to contribute with their reflection and their suggestions, must keep in mind that the Instrumentum laboris is meant for the friars. There is no intention whatever of trying to interfere in their particular vocation within the family of Carmel.
The cut-off date for replies and suggestions from the jurisdictions of the Order is May 2002.
In communion within the Teresian Carmelite charism:
Rome, 19th March 2001
DISCUSSION DOCUMENT FOR THE
2003 GENERAL CHAPTER
1. We do have, or can have, a knowledge of our charism, possibly unrivalled in our history. Today, more than ever, our saints, the spirituality identifying our family, are in demand both within the Church and outside it by a great variety of readers, who legitimately request that we share this wealth with them. Our Constitutions, particularly the first chapter, describe in synthesis the essential elements of our charism. It is a formulation that is a fruit of a renewed awareness after Vatican II. At least, we must ask ourselves how can we reply, from our charism, to the demands of the signs of the times in the Church and the world, how can we reply to the great and legitimate human and religious aspirations of the new generations, so that they can fulfil in an efficacious manner, and bring into effect, the mission of the Teresian Carmel in the Third Millennium.
2. The experience the Order has had in the postconciliar period "should inspire in us new energy, and impel us to invest in concrete initiatives...In the cause of the Kingdom there is no time for looking back, even less for settling into laziness.... It is important however that what we propose, with the help of God, should be profoundly rooted in contemplation and prayer(1). These words of John Paul II trace out for us an itinerary for renewal that begins with contemplation of the suffering and risen Christ, so that we walk with Him, nourished by his word which we should listen to and proclaim. In this manner we can be "witnesses of love" and face up to present challenges: the problems of peace, the contempt for the fundamental rights of so many people, the ecological crisis, respect for the life of every human being, the latest advances of science. "Charity will necessarily become service to culture, politics, the economy and the family, so that the fundamental principles upon which depend the destiny of human beings and the future of civilization will be everywhere respected..... The ethical and social aspect of the question is an essential element of Christian witness: we must reject the temptation to offer a privatised and individualistic spirituality which ill accords with the demands of charity, to say nothing of the implications of the Incarnation and, in the last analysis, of Christianity's eschatological tension. While that tension makes us aware of the relative character of history, it in no way implies that we withdraw from "building" history(2).
3. The topic of our next General Chapter will be: On the journey with Teresa of Jesus and John of the Cross. Setting out from essentials. This involves thinking about the future of Carmel at the beginning of the Third Millennium and also on the future of consecrated life, which was begun in the Lisieux General Chapter. This, as says Vita Consecrata, "is an integral part of the Church's life"(3) and, as such, cannot be lacking in it(4). The same document, in looking to the future, presents with realism the possibility that Institutes "even run the risk of disappearing altogether" while in others "there is the problem of reassessing their apostolate"(5).
4. Certainly it is difficult to divine the future. At least, if we are capable of analysing the signs of times and places, we can discover in them the seed that can help us see in part what might happen. What, from this point of view, is the situation of Carmel, friars, nuns and laity? To reply requires an analysis of the situation of the world, the Church and the family of Carmel. This evaluation will establish us in fidelity to the essential lines of the charism of Teresa and St John of the Cross as expressed in our Constitutions, so that in this manner we can face up to the challenges of our age. It is the Spirit who impels us towards the future so that we can continue doing great things(6).
5. This Discussion Document (Instrumentum laboris) is destined primarily for the friars. If it is sent to our sisters of contemplative life and to the secular members it is because we wish to enrich ourselves with their outlook and their viewpoints in order to renew our own life. In a particular way we are seeking to examine our own lifestyle which needs, as the Church requests, a creative fidelity. The nuns, as well as the secular members of the Teresian Carmelite family, have a corresponding duty to reflect on their own life and on the renewal that the Spirit requires of them through the magisterium of the Church, particularly in the Synods on Consecrated Life and on the laity, along with their respective post-synodal documents.
6. Guided by the Magisterium of the Church we have the responsibility with her "of reading the signs of the time and of interpreting them in the light of the Gospel".....We must be aware of and understand the aspirations, the yearnings, and the often dramatic features of the world in which we live"(7). We accomplish this through our Teresian Carmelite identity and with eyes of faith. We point out only some fundamental traits of today's world, which are present, in one way or the other, with the normal differences that are found in the various social, cultural and ecclesial contexts.
I. A situation of exile and of hope
7. We live in an era which some have described as an exile. It resembles the time in Israel's history when it found itself despoiled of all its securities: the temple, the place of God's presence; Jerusalem, the Kingdom's capital and centre of unity for the people; the monarchy, reference point of its identity as a nation. In the Church and in consecrated life, specially in the West, we have lost many points of security which we had in the recent past. These have given way to search, uncertainty, diversification, bewilderment. Like the People of Israel, religious life has suddenly found itself without its central symbols which were a source of certainty.
Exile is not only an external happening. It is a spiritual experience: St John's ever-occurring "going out", the "Dark Night" effecting the whole of our spiritual journey, the inevitable journey into oneself "through new, unknown and unfamiliar roads" to "reach unknown lands"(8). These things are designed to bring us to this reality. Those who find themselves in a situation of exile are people who, even though they have had to cross frontiers, continue to carry in their heart spiritual bonds and nostalgia for what was left on the other side. There is suffering for what is lost, which continues to be a part of their identity. Consecrated life, as well as our own Order, has had to redraw boundaries as a result of a situation of exile. A profound spirituality is needed to face up to these new confines and frontiers.
New experiences made with prayerful discernment, far from causing us to lose identity, assist us to preserve it in a renewed form. Exile is an opportunity to take up the journey with hope, in order to face up to the constant challenge of returning to what is essential, to grow and mature in faith and in knowledge of God, while discovering what comes from historical conditioning as well as the saving designs of the Lord who works by means of them.
2. A world in permanent transformation and change
8. As Gaudium et Spes reminds us in its introduction, change in the world is rapid: only a short time is needed now for changes that took centuries before; universal: affecting everybody and everything; profound: affecting the whole human being and the personal, family and social environment. Instead of referring to change, it would be better to speak of a change of era marked by modernity and post-modernity, by subjectivism, and ideologies in crisis.
Other tendencies are also evident which are positive, such as awareness of the value of the person and his or her fundamental rights; the search for a new harmony between the human being and nature, its protection and defence; sensitivity to the problem of life, justice and peace; awareness of the value of individual cultures; the search for a new international economic order; the growing feeling people have of responsibility for the future; a new place for women in society; a greater awareness that religious and mystical experience serve as a means in the process of liberation and personal growth, and at the same time an authentic desire for spiritual life. Of particular note, and we wish to give them emphasis by discussing them a little, are the phenomena that have appeared such as secularization, liberation, globalization and the new ethics.
9. Secularization brings with it a transformation affecting the relationship of the human person with nature, with others and with God. It is the phenomenon of desacralization which affirms the legitimate autonomy of the person, culture and technology. This is the source of some imbalance between autonomy of the human person and loss of the sense of transcendence leading to secularism, between religious values and the new myths and idols. On the other hand there is a contrary reaction, noted frequently in various parts of the world, of religious fundamentalism which carries with it the denial of liberty and autonomy of the person, of culture and of technology and also persecution of religious minorities.
10.. Another phenomenon we cannot ignore is that of liberation. Persons, groups, peoples and cultures do not want to be an object in the hands of those who wield power. They also want to have a role to play in a situation of equality, responsibility, participation and communion. Awareness of the dignity of the human person stimulates a search to bring this about through the exercise of their fundamental rights effectively recognized, protected and promoted. In this area we must include the feminist movement which is asking that women be given a fitting place in society and the Church. This happens when there arise new forms of oppression, exclusion and exploitation of those who are weakest, often constraining people to abandon their land, to find themselves among the increasing number of refugees.
11. An element also characterising the present time is globalization: technological, economic, political, cultural. Today's world is going through a process of unification caused by growing interdependence in all areas. Positive aspects of globalization are: the possibility of a great world-wide interconnection, access to information and the shrinking of distances that can improve the quality of human life. The negative aspects are: the disproportionate pursuit of financial gain which reduces the person to a consumer, which forces the poor to migrate in search of a worthy life, the growing gap between rich and poor, the destruction of cultures and ways of living which internationalization tries to make uniform. Faced with this the Church, particularly in her social documents, has underlined the dignity of the human person and the family dimension of the human race, which is "based on the awareness that humanity, however much marred by sin, hatred and violence, is called by God to be a single family(9). Because of this the concept of the individuality of the person ought to be filled out with the concepts of solidarity and responsibility in common, particularly in regard to the poor. Because of this, goods carry an inherent social responsibility, that is they have an intrinsic social function, "based upon and justified precisely by the principle of the universal destination of goods"(10). Present globalization is a new manifestation of the meeting of peoples, which carries with it hopes and fears, possibilities and risks. It can be an instrument for dialogue or an instrument of domination.
12. Underlying these changes is the crisis of the past ethics and the search for a new ethics far removed from religious institutions. It is an ethics which relegates God and religion to the private sector. We are bystanders in the development of bioethics. There is urgent need of an ethics based on the dignity of the human person created by God, the sole absolute. This ethics, based on the fundamental principles of Christian faith ought to be a morality having an attitude of search and discussion arising from dialogue, in order to accompany people in making decisions; a morality that listens to the cry of the poor and can be prophetic, capable of denouncing whatever opposes God's plan ,while proclaiming the alternative values of Christian faith as a source of love and authentic liberty.
3. A new situation in the Church and in consecrated life
13. If we except the first three centuries of growth in the Middle East, the face of the Church up until the beginning of the XX Century has been a European one. Now things have changed, nearly three-quarters of Christians live in the third world. This requires a transition from a monocentric, religious, cultural and theological attitude to a multi-centred one in these fields; changing from unity as uniformity to unity in plurality. The Gospels themselves give witness to this pluralism and call for inculturation. The same is applicable to consecrated life. It must be incultured. We have spoken amply about this in numbers 85 to 87 of Begin always anew, the document from the last General Chapter in 1997.
14. Consecrated life, "a gift of God which the Church has received from her Lord", belonging"to her life and holiness"(11), exists in and for the Church. For this reason the way of understanding it and of living it depends, in part, on the model of Church prevailing at a particular time. Vatican II teaches us to consider the Church as a People of God, living in communion, and to keep in mind the revaluation of the laity and the role of women in it(12).
15. Our Order also, as a part of the Church, lives immersed in a pluralist world, which calls for an openness to unity in multiplicity: "a pluriformity faithful to what is essential in our charism which is enriched by diversity in all that is secondary and cultural", as says the chapter document Begin always anew(13). At the same time, the Order, more than ever, understands itself as a spiritual movement within the Church with its numerous witnesses and the teaching of our saints, doctors and the blessed. It thus forms a universal family made up of friars, nuns and lay people, all on the journey towards a new humanity.
16. Taking into account the cultural challenges arising from a situation of exile and hope, from a world in change and permanent transformation, from the new situation in the Church and consecrated life affecting our charism, we propose to consider the fundamental aspects of our life. We would like to go deeply into our charism received from Teresa and John of the Cross, to look for new ways to bring it up to date and for restructuring of presences, beginning with the essential values of the Gospel and religious life.
17. The expression, "returning to what is essential", means simply the constant movement of re-taking the Gospel road, which invites us to continual conversion. "Return", in effect, means, among other things, to repeat or accentuate the essential values of our charism in the here and now. For this reason it is not to negate what has been realised in the recent or remote past, but to inject it with a growing dynamism which allows us to tend always towards the ideal traced for us by Jesus and the Holy Spirit, who guide the life of individuals, of groups, the Church and the world. To return is an effort to put into practice what our Holy Mother, Teresa of Jesus, said to us: "they had always to remember that they were the foundations on which would be built up those who were to come"(14).
In this first part of the Instrumentum Laboris we will call
to mind, one after the other, the central points of the Gospel,
of consecrated life, and of the experience and teaching
of our Holy Parents, Teresa of Jesus and John of the Cross, and what our
renewed Constitutions put before us, particularly in the first
I. RETURNING TO WHAT IS ESSENTIAL IN THE GOSPEL
18. Christ is the centre of life and of Christian experience (Col 1: 15-29; Ep 2:20). He, the Son of God, took flesh to reveal to us the Father's design and to communicate a new life to us (Jn 1: 1-18), to reveal the truth about God and about ourselves, a God who communicates himself to us, who are his children, called to union with him. To return to the essential values of the Gospel means, above all, to draw near to Christ by means of the New Testament and to be receptive to the inspiration of the Spirit. Moved always and in all things by the Spirit, Jesus carried out the work entrusted to him by the Father, with authority and liberty, he kept faithful to his sole response to the will of the Father, "Here I am, I am coming...to do your will" (Hb 10:7). St John of the Cross sums up the entire life of Jesus in this manner: "He had no other gratification, nor desired any other, than the fulfilment of his Father's will"(15). In our own life we too experience Jesus present and near to us, walking with us through the power of his Spirit.
19. In Christ, God has revealed us everything. We can never say we know him perfectly: "There is much to fathom in Christ, for he is like an abundant mine with many recesses of treasures, so that however deep individuals may go they never reach the end or bottom, but rather in every recess find new veins with new riches everywhere"(16). We must always begin with Christ: "First, have habitual desire to imitate Christ in all your deeds by bringing your life into conformity with his. You must then study his life in order to know how to imitate him and behave in all events as he would"(17). He is the centre of our life and in him we possess everything: "Mine are the heavens and mine is the earth. Mine are the nations, the just are mine, and mine the sinners. The angels are mine, and the Mother of God, and all things are mine; and God himself is mine and for me, because Christ is mine and all for me"(18). For each generation, Jesus appears as the one who reveals the latest plan of God for human beings and for the world. To each person Jesus directs his call to follow him to become, like him, free from all form of slavery.
20. Jesus is the living Gospel, "both the messenger and the message"(19). He is the one whom Holy Mother Teresa of Jesus experienced as a "living book": "His Majesty had become the true book in which I saw the truths. Blessed be such a book that leaves what must be read and done so impressed that you cannot forget!"(20). The whole of Jesus' existence, every human act of Jesus was revealing-liberating, a proclamation of the Good News of God. Not only when he proclaimed the Good News by word but also when he acted in favour of those who suffered, the poor, sinners; when he denounced everything opposed to God's plan in human history. "Anointed with the Holy Spirit...Jesus went about doing good" (Acts 10:38). In this way he is the open book from which we can all take inspiration for guiding our human and Christian existence and consecrated life.
21. Attentive and prayerful reading of the Gospels permits us to recognise the fundamental features of Jesus. He appears as a person free before everyone and everything that could hinder his mission of announcing the Good News of the Father: social and religious pressure, family and friends, political and religious power, legalism. He is a free man because he loves everyone and lives to serve them, particularly the poorest and those in need, to liberate them for every form of slavery. He finds his strength in communion with his Father - Abba and teaches his disciples to pray to the Father with the confidence of children. Prayer marks the life of Jesus. We see him praying in all the most important moments of his life: at baptism (Lk 3:21), in the desert (Lk 4:1-13), before the great miracle of Lazarus (Jn 11:41-42), and his exclamation "Father, I thank you" (Mt 11:25), before choosing the apostles (Lk 6:12-13). He prays for Peter (Lk 22:32), passes nights in prayer (Lk 5:16; 6:12), he blesses the bread (Mk 6:41), takes part in the pilgrimages (Lk 2:41-42). While he was praying he was transfigured (Lk 9:28). He arouses the desire to pray which led his apostles to ask him to "teach us to pray" (Lk 11:1). He prayed unceasingly during the agony (Mk 14: 32-39), while suffering on the cross (Lk 23:34). At the hour of death (Lk 23:46); Mk 15:34).
22. Jesus is a person who lives for others. He is ever at the side of those excluded by society. Jesus was close to those who had no place within the existing social system: publicans (Lk 18:9-14, 19:1-10); lepers received and healed (Mt 8:2-3, 11:5; Lk 17:12), the sick cured on the Sabbath (Mk 3:1-5; Lk 14:1-6, 13:10-13), women form part of the group that accompany Jesus (Lk 8:1-3, 23:49-55) children are presented as teachers of adults (Mt 18:1-4, 13-15; Lk 9:47-48). Jesus had a special love for humble people and stated that they understood the mystery of the Kingdom better than the wise and learned (Mt 11:25-26). Samaritans are presented as a model for the Jews (Lk 10:33, 17:16). Those hungering for guidance are welcomed as a flock without a shepherd (Mk 6:34; Mt 9:36, 15:32), he gave them to eat (Jn 6:5-11) and encouraged in them the solidarity of sharing (Jn 6:9). He restored sight to the blind (Mk 8:22-26, 10:46-52; Jn 8:6-7), while the pharisees are declared blind (Mt 23:16). Curing cripples is a sign that Jesus can pardon sins without blaspheming (Mk 2:1-12) He cares for the possessed as a sign that the Kingdom of God has arrived (Lk 11:14-20). The adulteress is received and defended against the law and contrary to tradition (Jn 8:2-11) and prostitutes are invited to conversion (Mt 21:31-32; Lk 7:37-50). Foreigners are welcomed and taken care of (Lk7:2-10) and the Canaanite woman manages to change Jesus' mind (Mt 15:22). Sinners are called to be Jesus' disciples (Mk 1:16-20), so much so that there was no doctor of the law nor scribe in the group of twelve. Zealots were in Jesus' group (Mt 10:4; Mk 3:18) along with Levi, the publican (Mk 2:14).
These concrete attitudes of Jesus represented a very great risk for the system of the Jews, as well, Jesus welcomed the "immoral" (prostitutes and sinners), the "excluded" (lepers and the sick) "heretics" (Samaritans and pagans), "collaborators" (publicans and soldiers), the "weak" and the "poor" (who had neither power nor wisdom).
23. Jesus denounced all divisions and fought against them by means of definite attitudes. The existing divisions and oppositions of that time came from work relationships, from race and religion, all mixed together. This all contradicted the will of the Father, since they were the means of excluding many people, leaving them to one side without hope of being able to obtain a better life. Many times this situation was misunderstood and made legitimate in the name of God through an erroneous interpretation of the Bible. The division between neighbour and non-neighbour disappears with Jesus. He states that being neighbour no longer depends only on race or exterior observances, but on the disposition each one possesses of approaching others no matter what they be (Lk 10:29-37). Another division was between pagan and Jew. Jesus destroyed this when he was willing to enter the house of the centurion (Lk 7:6) and heard the request of the Canaanite woman (Mt 15:28). The division between sacred works and profane (prayer, Mt 6:5-8, fasting, Mt 6:16-18, 6:1-14 and other activities) is given a new dimension. The division between pure and impure was suppressed when Jesus questioned all the legislation concerning legal purity (Mt 23:23; Mk 7:13-23), and even ridiculed it (Mt 23:24). The division between sacred and profane time had no meaning for Jesus. For him the Sabbath was made for man (Mt 12:1-12; Mk 2:27; Jn 7: 23-24). Lastly the division between sacred and profane sites loses its meaning when Jesus teaches that God can be adored in any place at all, when it is done in spirit and truth (Jn 4:21-24; Mk 11:15-17; Jn 2:19), and not just in the temple.
By acting in this manner Jesus shook and made relative the pillars of the Jewish system: observance of the Sabbath, the temple, holy works such as fasting, prayer and alms, the law of legal purity (Mt 23:25-28), justice as dispensed by the Pharisees (Mt 5:20), even the law of Moses (Mt:5: 17, 21, 23, 31, 33, 38). Jesus denounced the attempt to reach God through one's own efforts and merit: "we are useless servants!" (Lk 17:10). In this way he set people free from the tyranny of the Law, from the tyranny of those interpreting the law, from the tyranny that, in the name of its greater wisdom, imposes heavy burdens on ignorant people (Mt 23:4). He proposes a new order: he reveals God as the Father of all, who is asking for fraternity among human beings. He unites love of God to love of neighbour and seeks that power is exercised as service. Jesus remains faithful in fulfilling the will of the Father, to whom he prayed with open confidence until death.
25. The apostolic letters Tertio Millennio Adveniente and Novo Millennio ineunte invite us to "contemplate Christ's face"(21) and to live in a special manner the Christological dimension of Christian life(22). The Second Vatican Council, in speaking of consecrated life, insists in various places on the fundamental aspect of its commitment to follow Jesus, by saying that "the final norm of the religious life is the following of Christ"(23).
26. In returning to the essentials of the Gospel we come in contact with the Holy Spirit's presence and action which is always close by, with and in the Christian community, in order to guide it to the fulness of truth (see JN 14:16-17, 16:3). He is the one who moves the Church in every age to give witness to Christ and to continue bringing into effect God's plan for humanity (see Acts 1:4-8). From the viewpoint of the Synoptics, the Spirit is the person inspiring Christ and believers (Mt 14:1; Lk 4:14, 2:26) and helps the disciples in moments of persecution (Mt 10:20). In the Acts of the Apostles, the Spirit is continually guiding the Church. His action creates community (Acts 2:42-47) and the gives stimulus to evangelise with audacity (Acts 2:29, 4:13, 29, 31). At the same time he defends liberty by helping to overcome the attachment to menacing and oppressive legalism (Acts 15:1-5, 28). For Paul, the Spirit is the new law (Rom 8:1-17); it is a Spirit of communion and diversity of charisms that he communicates (1Cor 12: 1-13); dwelling within us (1Cor 3:16), transforming us into children of God (Rom 8:14-15) and producing fruit (Gal 5:22). In John's Gospel what is mainly emphasised is the proximity of the Spirit in the Christian community (Jn 14:16-17) as the teacher who helps us to know and penetrate Jesus' teachings (Jn 14:25-26, 16:12-15) and as an Advocate, he defends Christ and convinces the world of sin for refusing to believe in Jesus, of justice because he proves that Jesus has triumphed, and of judgement since evil has been conquered by Christ (Jn 16:5-10).
27. It was the analysis of the biblical foundation of religious life that helped in rediscovering it as a form of following Jesus(24). It appears that, while Christ was alive, various groups followed him. This continued on afterwards in the life of the Church by attempting to express in various ways the following of Jesus. One of these groups is consecrated life. It resembles the group of apostles, but with its own interpretation, it tries to lead a life resembling his and to give witness that the fulness of life is found in Jesus.
Consecrated life therefore is a way of following Jesus. St John of the Cross asserts this when he writes to the community of Carmelite nuns in Cordoba, "Let them know what you profess, which is the naked Christ, so those who are inclined to join you may know with what spirit they ought to come"(25). The total commitment to God which we express through the vows represents a new way of realising personal and community vocation.
28. A re-reading of the following of Christ,
guided by the inspiration of the Spirit, is what gives rise to
consecrated life in the People of God. This re-reading is made by
reflecting on Christ's doctrine with its demand for total giving and by
contemplating his example: he was born and lived in poverty and
dedicated his whole existence and energy to the service of others in a
celibate life obedient to the Father's will. All followers of Jesus must
place the Kingdom of God before family and goods and they are invited to
take up the cross of fulfilling their own mission, discerned in the
light of faith (Lk 14:25-35). In consecrated life these three demands
are interpreted in such a way that leads to a total commitment to God
and service to others by means of consecrated chastity, poverty and
RETURNING TO THE ESSENTIALS OF CONSECRATED LIFE
29. Following Christ leads us to live what is essential to consecrated life, through the evangelical councils, and to reproduce Jesus' lifestyle under the impulse of the Spirit who "constantly renews the Church and leads her to perfect union with her Spouse"(26). Religious life is governed by the same dynamism. Religious Institutes rose up as a gift of the Spirit to the Church, to live and express particular gospel values in a radical way, and to reply to crisis situations as well as meeting the needs of people. In this way they fitted admirably into the circumstances of the era and spoke a vital and intelligible language for their contemporaries. The Holy Spirit has raised up various forms of consecrated life throughout history. Those that are new do not destroy the previous, but help them to renew themselves and return to what is essential.
30. Charisms tend continually to be changed through experience, to be understood more deeply, to find expression in many forms according to the historical moment, propelled also by the signs of the times that stimulate them, as so many actions of God in history. This internal evolution of charisms and the forms and structures in which they must express themselves in order to be read, is what constitutes the vitality of charisms and each moment of their development. The manifestations of our charism in history are the work of God and of human beings. As works of God they are perfect; but as the work of human beings they are fragile, imperfect and transitory. Hence it is necessary to remain open to what is new in a discernment of faith (see 1 Thes 5:19-21). The years after the council have been marked by this tension in the effort to assimilate the changes and face up to the challenges arising from them.
31. The postconciliar Apostolic Exhortation Vita Consecrata emphasised the essential aspects of the whole of consecrated life: consecration, communion and mission. These essential elements of consecrated life are better understood when we contemplate them from the human and Christian aspect. Christ, through his life guides us towards encounter with God (Faith), with others (Love) and with created reality (Hope). This leads us to encounter God, to be open to others and to the creative and committed work of transforming the world according to God's plan (Hope). Basically, consecration is an expression of faith in a personal God, the sole absolute to whom we owe loving obedience; communion is a help, supported by charity, which leads us to form a family gathered together in the name of the Lord; the mission to announce and give witness to the Gospel, in all its consequences and social demands, is a vocation of every Christian; consecrated persons seek to emphasise this in a commitment of active hope by dedicating themselves completely to the service of others.
32. These three key elements of human and consecrated life encounter with Christ, fraternity and mission cannot be separated. There is an interdependence and reciprocal causality between them. Encounter with Christ manifests itself in love of neighbour, and both inspire a commitment to transforming person and society by witness, prayer and work. If God sets people apart and consecrates them, it is to resend them with the maximum freedom on mission to the world. Consecrated people consecrate themselves to God through Christ in a spirit of willing service to others according to the plan of God's Kingdom. Our Holy Mother, Teresa of Jesus, wished to give this apostolic dimension to the whole of the Carmelite life of prayer and fraternity(27).
33. Up until the XII century, consecration was specifically expressed by just the one vow (the vow of monastic life: conversio morum). This sole vow implied the whole of religious consecration. From the XII century onward, religious began to express their consecration by making explicit mention of three vows: chastity, poverty and obedience. These stimulated commitment to God and to the mission of service to others. In so far as they set the person apart for God, they imply a total and generous gifting of self to divine love. They signify the urge within human nature to seek the absolute and through it to feel free in the face of all. Renouncing the world is not an escape, but rather a more radical way of relating with it. The vows do not break relationship with the goods of this world (poverty), nor with society (obedience), nor with woman or man (chastity). Rather, through the vows these relationships acquire a different dimension through their total dedication to God. The vows consecrate, dedicate, make people free and available for the cause of the Father and Christ in the world, guided by the workings of the Spirit.
There is a Trinitarian dimension to religious vows, which was emphasised in the post-synodal Apostolic Exhortation Vita Consecrata(28).
34. In this way consecrated life took on, from its beginning, a communitarian ideal: in imitation of the twelve apostles as a group, and the Christian community at Jerusalem. Since Vatican II, this fraternal dimension of consecrated life has been rediscovered. This is presented as a fraternal living together of the Gospel in a Church of communion. This is precisely one of its principal testimonies. It is a way of making the salvation of Christ Jesus present, rendering possible communion between human beings. In 1994, the Congregation for Institutes of consecrated life and Societies of apostolic life published a document called Fraternal Life in Community "Congregavit nos in unum Christi amor". The document recalls the changes wrought in ecclesiology and canon law in regard to life in common, which led to the emphasis being placed, within consecrated life, more on fraternal life in community rather than on life in common. It also points out the evolution of aspects of human life in society which had a decisive effect on the community of consecrated people: movements for political and social emancipation in developing countries, demands for personal freedom and human rights, the advancement of women, the communications' explosion, along with consumerism and hedonism. "All this has been a challenge, a call to live the evangelical counsels with more vigour, and this has helped support the witness of the wider Christian community"(29).
35. In the call to consecrated life, as in Christian
life in general, "the task of devoting themselves wholly to
'mission' is therefore included in their call; indeed, by the
action of the Holy Spirit who is at the origin of every vocation and
charism, consecrated life itself is a mission, as was the whole of
Jesus' life. The profession of the evangelical counsels, in making a
person totally free for the service of the Gospel, is important also
from this point of view. It can therefore be said that a sense of
mission is essential to every Institute, not only those dedicated
to the active apostolic life, but also those dedicated to the
contemplative life"(30). Mission is
nothing else than the apostolic dimension of Christian life that is
lived as much in prayer as in evangelizing service. This explains why St
Therese of Lisieux, doctor of the Church, a contemplative nun, was
declared Patroness of the missions.
III. RETURNING TO WHAT IS ESSENTIAL IN OUR CHARISM AND SPIRITUALITY
36. The charism of Teresian Carmelite life is inserted in the great movement of following Christ in the religious life. There are three fundamental elements in Teresian Carmelite life: the Rule our inspiration, the experience and doctrine of St Teresa and St John of the Cross, and the post-council expression of our charism and spirituality in our Constitutions.
Returning to essentials implies a renewed awareness of those elements which constitute the central nucleus of our charism in the Church. This will allow us to face up to the challenges of the signs of the times in the Church and in the world
1. What is essential in the Rule of St Albert
37. Our Constitutions clearly sum up the fundamental elements of the Rule of St Albert when they speak of our earliest 'pattern of life' in Carmel. This synthesis appears in the list of the principal prescriptions governing our life, which are as follows:
a) "to live in allegiance to Jesus Christ, serving him with a pure heart and a good conscience, looking to him alone for salvation, as we obey our superior in a spirit of faith, with our mind more on Christ than on the superior.
b) to ponder unceasingly the law of the Lord in the Scriptures, and strengthen our hearts with holy thoughts, so that the word of God may be always in our hearts and on our lips, and guide us in everything we do;
c) to come together daily for the celebration of the sacred liturgy;
d) to put on the armour of God, as we live an intense life of faith, hope and charity, in a spirit of evangelical self-denial and a generous commitment to work, after the example of Paul the Apostle;
e) to enter into a genuine sharing of life, having at heart the good of the community and the salvation of souls, sustained by the charity of fraternal correction; to hold everything in common under the guidance of a superior placed at the service of his brothers;
f) above all to lead a life of unceasing prayer in silence and solitude, in accordance with the gospel admonition to watch and pray;
g) to use prudent discretion in all that we do, especially when this entails more than duty requires of us"(31).
38. These points of the Rule continue to be valid, but we need to incarnate and live them with the nuances of the signs of times and places. These fundamental elements of the Rule of St Albert ought to be looked at today from the various ecclesial, social and cultural viewpoints, which are like different windows which help us discover its integral richness and pertinence for responding to the new challenges for our Teresian Carmelite life, expressed in various cultures. These basic points of the Rule continue to have validity, but they must be expressed and lived in the framework of the signs of times and places. In this way, while still searching with dynamic fidelity, we will discover the value and pertinence of the experience of those who have gone before us(32). A re-reading of the Rule of Carmel made with this attitude, as the Order already has been doing and has crystallised in the Constitutions, will make it possible to unite our experience as today's Carmelites with that of our antecedents who, guided by the Spirit, lived and transmitted to us a charism and a spirituality: "Let us keep before us our true founders, those holy fathers from whom we descend, for we know that by means of that path of poverty and humility they now enjoy God"(33).
39. We need to take up the rereading of the Rule made by our Holy Parents and, setting off from our vocational experience, remain open to what reveals in the best way its richness and structure for coming generations. The Rule guides us to what is essential in our vocation: purity of heart, forming an interior world that must be purified in order to be receptive to the living God. The Rule offers a plan for life based on the gospel, simple and unifying, centred on Jesus Christ and within ecclesial communion, with its place in salvation history. It also offers a structured plan for the individual. It states clearly and with restraint the three relationships within the human person: with God (prayer), with others (community acts) and with oneself (spiritual life and personal meditation). The Rule offers a plan for community life where community has its place, existing in dialogue with authority in the Church and those living in community, including those from outside (guests or people helping the friars) as well as with other communities. In a society where everything has its price, the Rule emphasises the importance of the gratuity of love.
At present the Order is found in all the continents and in the most diverse of cultures. This requires us to assume the fundamental elements of the Rule in the attempt to express them in other cultures. It is also important to keep in mind a feminine re-reading of the Rule.
40. Our Holy Parents fashioned, in this way, the re-foundation they made: the absolute primacy of God (to live in allegiance to Jesus Christ), the contemplative dimension as avid listeners to the Word, personal and community life, marked and re-clothed with the weapons of God, by the "penance of reason and discretion"(34), by the Teresian ideal of love, detachment, humility(35)
41. Teresa came in contact with the Rule well on in her spiritual life, when she was giving shape to a new plan to live her vocation and was interested in underlining the connection between the new way of life and Carmel in its origins. She adopted the Rule as the basic law of the house; she applied it with spiritual liberty and enriched it with the experience of her vocation. St John of the Cross has no explicit allusion to the Rule, however his teaching reveals and deepens for us its fundamental values: allegiance to Christ, God the sole absolute, abnegation, listening to the Word and responding to it through faith, hope and charity.
42. Our Holy Parents made a "re-foundation". In going back to the roots of Carmel they opened up new horizons for the Order, in this way replying to the challenges of their era. First of all came their experience which they set down in their writings which shed light on our own journey. We have to go back to this experience and to this doctrine if we are to recover what is essential in the charism and spirituality of the Carmel of Teresa and John of the Cross.
2. What is essential in Teresian experience and teaching
43. Our Holy Mother was always innately very gifted for interpersonal relationships and friendship. Her own experience lies at the source of our vocational identity in the Church. She was centred on God, "caught up" by him and in him, the Trinitarian mystery. Her conscious awareness was totally occupied with the Divine Persons (God) which launched in her a strong and vivid interpersonal relationship, immersing her in the life of intra-Trinitarian relationship. She experienced the presence and nearness of the Father. "All one need do is go into solitude and look at Him within oneself"(36). In her Spiritual Testimonies she speaks to us about her experience of the Father who drew near to her and spoke very pleasant words. "Among them, while showing me what He wanted, He told me: 'I gave you My Son, and the Holy Spirit'"(37).
44. By assuming our human nature through the working of the Holy Spirit, the Word of God, our Holy Mother tell us, not only assumed our frailty, work and limitations and thus understands our weakness, but he also reveals the direction and the limits of our divine filiation: our human condition and, because of this, he is a companion and true friend: "We are not angels but we have a body. To desire to be angels while we are on earth.... is foolishness... and in times of dryness, Christ is a very good friend because we behold Him as man and see Him with weaknesses and trials and He is company for us"(38). For this reason St Teresa was opposed to the opinion of many theologians who demanded that one leave aside the humanity of Christ in order to be able to ascend to higher grades of contemplation. She states strongly that there is never need to separate oneself from Christ's humanity(39). According to Teresa's teaching, following Jesus under the action of the Spirit also implies accepting our human nature and living it as a grace, as a vehicle of grace. This also means experiencing its limitations and weaknesses. To become like Christ is also to become human, or if you wish, to become a person, to be a person.
45. Naturally, St Teresa teaches us as well that, joined to this process of humanization, there happens a process of divinisation. She also defines for us this combination of the human and divine. All Teresian asceticism searches for liberation and the strengthening of the human, the adornment of the person, so that we can be transformed into signs and instruments of the Man-God and the God-Man: "the holier they are the more sociable they are with their Sisters....be affable, agreeable, and pleasing to persons with whom we deal"(40). Teresa communicates to us her delightful discovering of God and his demands that reach into the core of our human relationships. According to her, the fact that God became human, opens the way for us and makes possible our own humanization, that is carried into the humanization of every structure, always for the service of persons, as Vatican II reminds us: "the human person is and ought to be the beginning, the subject and the object of every social organization"(41). In her project of renewing Carmel, Teresa was totally committed to this alleviation of structures. She managed to pass from a rigid, hieratic attitude, to a gospel humanism: "understand, my father, that I am a friend of intensifying virtue, but not rigour, as will be seen in our houses"(42). St Teresa always defended tolerance and humanism in structures and in applying laws, since "a weighed down soul cannot serve God well"(43).
46. Joined to the experience of Father and Son, St Teresa was aware of the presence and action of the Spirit in her life. "It seems to me the Holy Spirit must be a mediator between the soul and God"(44). He it is who guides the life of persons and communicates the faith to them, as to the Apostles. He accompanies us in prayer and lets us experience the presence of the Father and Son.
47. Her journey, as expressed in the way she lived and much later in what she taught, consisted of prayer, considered as friendship(45). It is the "means" and "place" par excellence of her experience of God. St Teresa emphasises the importance of encounter with the Lord in silence and solitude, yet, though already in the fulness of union with God, she could write "the Lord walks among the pots and pans"(46). God communicates himself by many paths(47), not only when we are "off in some corner"(48).
Prayer is the centre and axis of her spiritual message. Understood as friendship it extends to the whole of life, and leads to being God's friends. For this reason, when she presents her teaching on prayer she insists on being: "what we must be like"(49). She also speaks of the re-creation of being (fraternal love, detachment, humility equalling truth) as "things that are necessary for those who seek to follow the way of prayer"(50).
48. This approach allowed her to give instruction on life in community, another extremely essential point in the experience and teaching of Teresa. She compares her communities to the group of the Twelve surrounding Christ and calls them the "college of Christ"(51). It is the Lord who "brought us together here"(52). Community arises because the Lord summons it and brings it together for a collective gift to him:"to give ourselves to the All entirely and without reserve"(53). He makes us into relatives of one another. In this way we become a new family: "You will not find better relatives than those He sends you"(54). Right from the beginning, this prayer-as-friendship is centred on Christ Jesus(55). In him, the "living book", she learned "the truths"(56) of God's nature and our own, of our call to "being conformed" to him(57). It must be emphasised that Teresian humanism springs from this very point.
49. Consecrated persons are transformed into friends and spouses of Jesus, and must be a gift for others: in the Church and in the world. Prayer, for St Teresa, is not reduced to a few moments, let alone locking us up in ourselves(58). Thus she educated her nuns to: "dedicate themselves to the good of souls and the increase of His Church"(59). "Those who truly love this Lord and know their own nature", their own self becomes a gift(60). It is not the gift of self that sanctifies, rather it is in giving oneself that one becomes sanctified. In this way they are "fighting for Christ"(61). Mary is the supreme expression of the Carmelite vocation: "you have such a good mother"(62), we ought to "live our lives as true children of the Blessed Virgin"(63), then the reform is "Our Lady's cause"(64). We are "her Order"(65).
50. This intimate experience of the three divine Persons and their action in ourselves and in history is vivid and nourishing in prayer that is friendship with the Trinity. Humanism rises out of the incarnation of the Word. Communion is a proclamation of the Gospel when it is fruit of the presence and action of the Spirit stimulating the mission to proclaim the Good News of salvation and to live in faith (humility-truth), hope (detachment) and love(66).
3. Essentials of the experience and teaching of St John of the Cross
51. St John of the Cross was also strongly influenced in his experience and teaching by the mystery of the tripersonal God who is self-communicating. It was an experience that made him "go out", to make a personal commitment of his life, to react positively to God's loving-action in the soul: "if anyone is seeking God, the Beloved is seeking that person much more"(67). "The soul's centre is God"(68). The saint, in explaining the nature of our being children of God, speaks of the desire to understand the deep ways and mysteries of the Incarnation which holds the person transformed in Christ by the action of the Spirit: "One of the reasons urging the soul most to enter this thicket of God's wisdom and to know its beauty from further within is... to unite her intellect with God in the knowledge of the mysteries of the Incarnation, in which is contained the highest and most savory wisdom of all his works"(69). The believer desires to penetrate into these "caverns" of Christ to be absorbed, transformed and intoxicated, that is, to live in real and total participation the filial modality of being companions in the divine nature, "equals and companions of God"(70). This process of being transformed into children in the Son is brought about by the working of the Holy Spirit, who purifies believers of all that is not God and gives them the possibility of loving God with God's own love, and to arrive at the fulness of God's image which we are from the moment of our birth(71). St John of the Cross emphasises that this participation in the intra-Trinitarian life, through the working of the Holy Spirit, makes the soul like God, and so the soul can be raised to God's image and likeness. "No knowledge or power can describe how this happens, unless by explaining how the Son of God attained and merited such a high state for us, the power to be children of God"(72).
52. Encounter with God arises always from the theological virtues: the action of God in which, at one and the same time, he himself communicates and is communicated(73), as well as being the one who enables and is the way for mankind, through the virtues' purifying and unitive aspect(74). Through the theological virtues, the saint explains the whole process of God gifting himself and the human response: "the sole proximate means to union". In substance, Christian life is uniquely the life of the theological virtues.
This approach is also deepened through prayer-contemplation: "it brings to prayer no other support than faith, hope, and love"(75). The Holy Spirit is the agent of contemplation: "the Holy Spirit will not illumine it (the soul) ... more than in faith"(76). He is the "living flame" who purifies (true and profound "ascesis") and unites, "makes divine". The whole of the spiritual journey is made under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
53. It is a spiritual journey consisting simultaneously of purification and of union, quite marked in what happened to the saint and was taught by him. It passes through the Night, "moments" of experiencing purification more intensely, decisive "moments"in the journey consisting of union, which merited special treatment by the Mystical Doctor. Union is the vocation of mankind, a reality in evolution, dynamic, in development, which presides over the believer's journey and "conditioned" and shed light on the whole of St John's exposition(77). This union, which in its ultimate realisation is profound immersion in the mystery of Trinitarian life(78), brings to fulfilment our filial state in an efficient manner (79).
54. Jesus Christ, the Son, the modality of our participation in the Trinitarian mystery(80), is also, through his passion and death, our own way, who justifies and verifies our "passion and death", our "process of asceticism": to "follow him to Calvary and the sepulchre"(81). This is the meaning of chapter 7 of the second book of the Ascent, in which the saint offers us his understanding of "the mystery of the door and way which is Christ"(82), our way(83). This is the word he uses in the tiny group of recommendations in 1 Ascent 13:3; thus he sums up the Night: "we enter further, deep into the thicket"(84). It is to die to whatever "still impedes the inner resurrection of the Spirit" by "following in his (Christ's) footsteps"(85). St John of the Cross presents Jesus as the Word of the Father, in what he said to us, in giving everything to us and in remaining silent. The Father has given us his Son as a brother, companion, our ransom price and pledge. This ought to nourish in us a basic attitude: to fix our gaze on Christ since in him the Father has revealed everything, "since he has finished revealing the faith through Christ, there is no more faith to reveal, nor will there ever be"(86).
55. What is essential in the experience and teaching
of St John is found, as in St Teresa, in the area of the Trinity: the
three divine Persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit are those who bring
about the work of union of the human being with God(87).
This is accomplished by means of a journey enlightened by Christ, the
Word of the Father, and guided by the Holy Spirit. It passes through
nights of purification which lead to maturity in faith, hope and
charity. These three fundamental attitudes are the means and preparation
for union with God(88) and guide the
practice of an authentic Christian prayer. The humanism of St John of
the Cross complements that of St Teresa. This humanism is found in his
sensitivity to the beauty of nature, his love for music, his
preoccupation for the sick and poor, and particularly in his poetical
4. What is essential in the charism and spirituality of the Teresian Carmel
56. Vita Consecrata invites religious "courageously to propose anew the enterprising initiative, creativity and holiness of their founders and foundresses in response to the signs of the times emerging in today's world"(89). In the Carmel of Teresa and St John this historical dynamism of the charism has been incarnated and enriched by the sanctity of so many of our brothers and sisters who, in various eras and places, were a living testimony of this gift transmitted to our Order, which they converted into a silent and eloquent basis for an authentic creative fidelity. Among others, stand out Teresa of Lisieux, Elizabeth of the Trinity, Edith Stein, Raphael Kalinowski, Teresa of los Andes and many others, either officially recognised as blesseds or saints or without official recognition.
It is urgent that the spiritual life "must therefore have first place in the programme of Families of consecrated life, in such a way that every Institute and community will be a school of true evangelical spirituality"(90). This charismatic experience is a particular mark of our Order which, through its Constitutions approved by the Church , has obtained the guarantee that "in its spiritual and apostolic charism are found all the objective requisites for achieving personal and communal perfection according to the Gospel"(91).
57. Number 15 of our Constitutions presents in synthesis the essentials of our charism and spirituality. Reflecting on this will help us to take up again what truly is basic to our vocation and mission.
"Having considered our roots in history and our Teresian charism, we are now in a position to outline the principal elements of the way of life we profess:
a) We are committed to a consecrated life of allegiance to Jesus Christ. In this we are sustained by the companionship, the example and protection of our Lady. Her life of union with Christ we regard, as it were, the prototype of ours.
b) Our vocation is a grace by which we are called to a 'hidden union with God', in a form of life and fraternal sharing in which contemplation and action are blended to become a signal apostolic service of the Church.
c) This call to prayer embraces our whole life. Sustained by the word of God and the sacred liturgy, we are led to live in intimate friendship with God. By growing in faith, hope and above all charity, we deepen our prayer life. With our heart thus purified we are enabled to share more closely in the life of Christ himself, and prepare the way for a more abundant outpouring of the Holy Spirit. In this way the Teresian charism and the original spirit of Carmel become a reality in our lives as we walk in the presence of the living God.
d) The very nature of our charism demands that our prayer and our whole religious life be ardently apostolic, and that we put ourselves at the service of the Church and of all mankind. This must be done in such a way that 'our apostolic activity stems from our close union with Christ'. Indeed we must aim at that most fruitful of all apostolates which derives from the 'state of union with God'.
e) It is for this twofold service, contemplative and active, that we share life as brothers in the community. United by the bond of love in fraternal life, we also bear witness to the unity of the Church, faithful in this to our Holy Mother, who wanted her communities to resemble 'the college of Christ'.
f) This way of life, based on the primitive Rule and the teaching of our Holy Parents, must be sustained by constant evangelical self-denial".
58. St Teresa deals, as well, with the practical way
of living these realities of our charism and spirituality. "The way
of life she proposed to us was to be marked with a distinctive style and
character. She wanted social virtues and human values to be duly
fostered. She inculcated a joyous family spirit, affability in community
life, nobility of soul and mutual respect. Our young religious were to
be carefully trained; study and culture were to be encouraged. The
ascetical practices of our communities were to be at the service of a
deeper theological life, and geared to the demands of the apostolic
ministry. There was to be a bond of unity between our communities and of
evangelical friendship between our religious"(92).
59. In the first part we spoke of the principal challenges arising in today's social, cultural and ecclesial world and which seek answers from us. The Teresian Carmel of the future ought to try to reply to them from its own identity in the various fields: social and cultural, religious, ecclesial and Carmelite. In all these areas we now point out some challenges while indicating a few operative conclusions which will allow us to undertake practical ways of renewal within creative fidelity.
A. Social and cultural aspect
60. The phenomenon of secularisation finds in Carmel's experience an evaluation and guidelines. The value of temporal realities have been sung by our mystics who discovered in all these the imprint of God. At the same time our saints saw them as means for going much further and opening oneself to Gods transcendence, present and close to us, but always greater than what we experience. The contemplative and prayer dimension of Carmel ought to be lived and presented as an opening to the transcendent, as a source of commitment and hope in efforts to transform the world, as a way for ecumenical and inter-religious dialogue according to the various social and cultural situations.
61. The challenges of liberty and liberation, fruit of the awareness of human dignity, demand an efficient commitment from all people of good will in the defence and promotion of human rights. Carmel of the future cannot remain detached from these challenges, knowing how Teresa of Jesus, John of the Cross and our other saints, masters of the spiritual life, spoke of the dignity of persons created in the imaged of God and called to be transformed in him. St John of the Cross invites us to consider the greatness of the human being who has the vocation of living the divine life, for this reason "one human thought alone is worth more than the entire world, hence God alone is worthy of it"(93).
62. Globalization puts the world in communication and transforms it, yet it is the cause of poverty and isolates people. Carmelite prayer, understood as friendly conversation with God and a journey of communion with him, allows Carmel of the future to be a sign and instrument of dialogue and communion. The contemplative experience of God, on the other hand, will emphasise the need to include God in working out ethical values. God is their foundation and without him nothing that is authentic can be created.
63. Operative conclusions
1. As Teresian Carmelites we need to incarnate our charism in today's world and, from our identity, face up to the challenges this presents. As a result, it is necessary that right from initial formation help be given to "be aware of and understand the aspirations, the yearnings, and the often dramatic features of the world in which we live"(94).
2. In continuing formation there would be present a deepening understanding of how things stand in the world of the day, in general, and of the various social and cultural contexts in particular.
3. As Teresian Carmelites we must live and transmit our spirituality as a way of authentic liberty and commitment to justice and peace.
B. Religious aspect
64. In today's world there exists a great thirst for spirituality that often degenerates into spiritualism. The vocation and mission of Carmel is precisely to help go, according to the experience and teachings of our saints, to the root of an authentic spirituality that is superior to superficial experiences of the sacred.
Our communities, centred on God as the absolute, should be schools of prayer which continue to transform their members into true contemplatives, capable of discovering God present and near in what happens, in person, in what is positive and negative in history a God who questions us and pleads with us.
This committed contemplation will be capable of revealing the face of the God of our Lord Jesus Christ to people who are groping to find him. As members of the Teresian Carmel we ought to try to diffuse love and knowledge of this God encountered in prayer, who also leads us to be committed to justice and peace.
Living and witnessing to experience of God will take place in the midst of the challenges of each social, cultural and ecclesial environment. We need to give help in discovering God as a source of plenitude, as a liberator, as the God of hope, as a Father and Mother, as somebody alway near.
65. In the effort to find the truth and meaning of life which is characteristic of humanity's journey in every age, the Word of God is a light which illumines and directs believers through Christ, the Word of the Father. Carmel which, from its beginnings, has held as an ideal meditation, night and day, on the Word of the Lord, has before it a need and a duty the need to live listening to the Word and the duty of educating other to do so. It is an active reading made with the conviction that scripture arises from the life and experience of a people guided by God, who, in faith, have discovered his presence and questioning in history and that he gives them strength to reply. The Bible is the model experience with which we ought deal with our own experiences. The mission of Carmelite communities will be that of being centres of spiritual accompaniment in reading the Bible so that it can be transformed into a prayerful, contemplative and involved approach since "we speak to God when we pray; we listen to him when we read his divine words"(95). In this way a spiritualistic and reductive reading of scripture is avoided and help is given to discover God's call in everyday life and in one's own vocation and mission. Here lies a challenge for Carmel in the future to renew its life and fulfil its mission.
66. Carmel of the future is called to offer means that respond to the thirst for God that exists in the present world. Carmelite spirituality has immense possibilities for responding to this thirst for God and for leading people into a deeper relationship with God. All our communities of apostolic and contemplative life, friars, nuns and laity, ought to be committed to the task of living a deep spiritual life based on the Gospel and sharing it. Starting with this, the Teresian Carmel of the future will be able to offer a professional service in the Church whether it be in sharing, or in hospitality offering space and means for this experience to others, or in the creation of Spirituality Centres and Institutes.
67. Operative conclusions
1. There is a need to rediscover the importance of reading and meditation on the Word of God in connection with life in order to be able to educate the People of God in a prayerful reading of Scripture as a point of departure for an evangelising commitment. Mary, the prayerful Virgin who listened to the Word of God and put it into practice, is the model to follow.
2. It is necessary to create national or regional Institutes of Teresian Carmelite spirituality for internal service to the Order, that bring our friars into vital contact with the teaching of our saints interpreted according to the various social, cultural and ecclesial contexts.
3. We ought continue on ahead in opening structure helpful to our service in the field of spirituality at all levels. In particular there is a need to bring about the creation of Spirituality Institutes that form part of the culture of the various environments. At the same time our religious need to be capable of using the means of communication for the service of our spirituality ministry.
4. It is essential to cultivate a renewed fidelity to the special times of personal and liturgical prayer in order to continue growing in a contemplative attitude which allows us to experience God in all circumstances, persons and happenings, and which leads us to a committed contemplation which gives witness to and proclaims the presence of God in our history.
5. We need to make the effort to re-read our Holy Parents so that they can be presented as intermediaries for the religious world in the ecumenical and interreligious fields and various cultures.
C. The ecclesial aspect
68. Creative fidelity and the demands of our era have brought to the fore the pertinence of the Teresian ideal of being small praying communities that are fraternal and committed to proclaiming the Gospel. These small communities, close to reality, will be called to be signs of the presence of God in the heart of history and in the world. When people are close to life as it is, it will of necessity create a diversity of inculturated Carmelite fraternities. This will demand a change of structures.
These communities will need to stay open to sharing our charism and spirituality with the laity, who will give the communities the needed nearness to reality in order to take on the great challenges and to form part of this reality. This requires deep revision of the models for life, of organization, of the channels through which witness is given to prayerful and apostolic fraternity. They will have to be communities that can live Carmelite life in a simple, humble and more spontaneous form in ordinary conditions, in order to transform themselves into true place of encounter for those who seek contemplative prayer.
69. Operative conclusions
1. Formation and renewal of fraternal life in community will have to be one of the priorities of the Order if we wish to be faithful to the Teresian Carmelite charism. Along the lines of the Teresian ideal they will have to try to be communities that are prayerful and fraternal in the service of God's kingdom. This requires bringing about community projects that are authentic and viable and that help overcome growing individualism. Concrete forms of community organization will take into account the requirements set out in our Constitutions and in the various social and cultural settings which require diverse styles of organization and of life.
2. Along the lines set down in the post-synodal document Vita Consecrata(96), our communities will have to be more open to sharing their life, charism and spirituality with the laity. New experiences in this field, accompanied by periodic evaluation, are necessary. Community dialogue, involving those in charge of areas of jurisdiction and with the laity, will manage to establish experiences of this type.
3. We ought to be open to collaborating with the Church in the field of evangelization, particularly in offering our particular service of spirituality also in missionary territories.
D. Carmelite aspect
70. The beginning point is, and always will be, forming our communities in the charism of Teresa and John of the Cross with the type of fraternity and the essential values of our vocation in the Church. What remains evident is the necessity of a training in the charism that is capable of making people aware of their personal and community charism and open to giving witness to it and sharing it by participating in the various charisms. This requires an ecclesiology of communion that does not diminish the particular qualities of each charism and does not cover over the differences, instead it makes diversity a source of enrichment. Of particular importance is training in the relationship between the members of the Order and the laity, and in contact with the various contexts of communion and collaboration, not only in the apostolic field but also in how the sources inspiring our charism and spirituality are lived.
71. One of the means for making more efficient and putting new life into the service that the charism and spirituality of Carmel can offer to people is that of dialogue and collaboration between the various components making up the Teresian Carmelite family, as well as being open to cultural diversity.
In the spiritual and apostolic field, Carmel has a numerous group of affiliated religious congregations and secular institutes. The spiritual source and the various frameworks of the Carmelite charism contribute to making present the wealth of the Carmelite charism and spirituality in the various fields of ministry, in formation and in the new evangelization. In the future we need to increase this work together. Along with this, what will give greater efficiency to the witness and mission of Carmel is a new relationship with Secular Carmel and the other groups that have been born and continue to be born in the heart of the family of Teresa of Jesus and John of the Cross.
72. Operative conclusions
1. There is need to promote dialogue and reflection together with the members of Secular Carmel, with the affiliated institutes and the other Teresian Carmelite groups in order to discover new prospects of living our charism and spirituality and placing it at the service of the Church. Particular topics for dialogue and reflection could be, among others: the experience of the absolute and the centrality of God in our life; fraternal life in community; prayer as a place for experiencing God and as a distinctive quality of the Teresian Carmelite family.
2. It is necessary to give preference to special dialogue with our
contemplative Carmelite sisters in order to enrich the perception we
have of our charism and spirituality with the feminine outlook which
complements and gives balance to the masculine perception through a
dimension that is intuitive and affective, realistic, nuptial and
maternal, Marian, and which is oriented towards acceptance, intimacy and
E. New skins for new wine
73. All these considerations, which we have made from the viewpoint of returning to what is essential in what has been handed down from our Holy Parents, cannot be transformed into reality without a profound change of live, as we previously pointed out, and without adequate restructuring that helps us to live our fraternal life in an improved manner in praying communities, while serving the Church from within our particular charism and spirituality.
74. This means, above all, being open to an organization of our communities that has very diverse forms and is adapted to different cultures and situations. This will take place in various ways: where a monastic structure prevails, with a good number in community; in other contexts, the reverse will happen, the solution will be to have much smaller communities that are more inserted into the reality of the people. In some places the accent will be placed on some aspects, in others these will have to take second place, but there will always exist commitment to preserve essential values.
75. The challenge arising from what is essential is how to find the key to open the door leading to new replies for new situations. We are called to run the risk of faith in order to journey along the unknown ways of the Spirit. This demands that we bring our charism up to date and, at times, redesign our presences keeping in mind certain criteria, various viewpoints and concrete methods.
76. We need, above all, to live the identity of our charism and know how to transmit it in an intelligible manner, faithful to the Church and in dialogue with things as they stand. An authentic restructuring ought to be guided by these criteria. The viewpoints ought to be the signs of times and places, in a particular manner that of inculturation which leads to unity in diversity.
77. Practical methods open a range of possibilities that vary from internal restructuring of some of our presences and activities (rearranging our aims, finding new addressees, changing our role, reducing or amplifying it according to occasions, opening ourselves to collaboration with the Secular Order and associated laity) to the redistribution of our resources (strengthening some presences, diminishing others). On other occasions we may need to close down some of our houses, when they no longer correspond to the present day conditions of our Teresian Carmelite life, our personnel, or our needs. Lastly, and this is the way of creative fidelity, we might need to open up other presences, which would be more consonant with our charism and with present day challenges in different social, cultural and ecclesial contexts.
78. Operative conclusions
1. The Provinces and Circumscriptions will make a study of the circumstance in which they find themselves and the questions that the signs of times and place present them, in order to consider seriously if there is need to organize a plan of restructuring that would allow an improvement in our fraternal life in community and the offering of a more professional Carmelite service in the local Churches.
2. As a basis and foundation of an authentic renewal, a program of continuing formation will be organized in Provinces and other circumscription that will help to deepen knowledge of present day theology on consecrated life and the spirituality of our Order.
3. At national or regional levels will be studied the way of growing
in collaboration in order to improve living our Teresian Carmelite life,
for formation and for continuing ahead with common initiatives
characterising our presence and service in the Church.
79. We cannot deny a glorious and fruitful past which has contained its light and certain areas of shade. We certainly must face up to the new and great challenges in society and in the Church. Because of this we need a clear Christian, religious and Teresian Carmelite identity. Returning to what is essential is the way to keep alive this gift of the Spirit to the Church: a universal and multicultural Church, a sign and instrument of God's plan in this era of transition.
80. Carmel in the Third Millennium will have much to live and give witness to, if it is capable of returning to what is essential and of discarding those social, cultural and ecclesial accretions that are solely the fruit of an era, of a mentality or a social-cultural context. Gospel self-denial, contemplation, Teresian fraternity, will continue to be valid but with a renewed commitment to the dynamic values of creative fidelity, to accepting risks with decision and confidence, to conversion, justice and love, and to personal responsibility. Obviously, there is need to have the Holy Spirit as the foundation for moving about in the dark night of faith guided by love. On the other hand the long and difficult journey we have ahead will not be a source of discouragement. There is no doubt that we must always be setting out from prayer, like St Teresa and St John of the Cross, so that life "in Christ" and "according to the Spirit" can inundate our existence. Yet, at the same time, there is need to demonstrate the fruit of prayer in service to others. As St Teresa said, "the purpose of this spiritual marriage: the birth always of good works, good works"(97).
81. May Mary, the Virgin of the Visitation, as Vita Consecrata calls her, teach us to "go to the help of human needs in order to relieve them", but, above all, to carry Jesus with us, proclaiming his wonders. May she, who knew how to do the Father's will, "with willing obedience, intrepid poverty and welcoming in her fruitful virginity"(98), ask the Lord for all the graces we need to live as children of Teresa of Jesus and John of the Cross and be prophetic witnesses of God in the New Millennium.
1. Novo Millenio Ineunte (NMI) 15.
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