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89° Capitulum Generale Ordinis Carmelitarum Discalceatorum
Avila
28th April ­ 18th May 2003

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C H A P T E R           M E S S A G E

 A V I L A         2 0 0 3

 

 

 

 

 “Enduring  in  Hope”  (1 Thes 1,4)

 

Dear Brothers and Sisters, 

1.                     The 89th General Chapter, held in Avila from 28 April to 18 May 2003, has been a very special expression of our Teresian-Carmelite family spirit.  As we conclude the Chapter deliberations, we recall the words of St. Teresa “love increases when shared” (Life, 7,22) and wish to address the following message of confidence and hope to our brothers and sisters worldwide. 

2.                     During these past few weeks our Paschal liturgical celebrations invited us repeatedly to “fix our eyes on Christ” (cf. 2 Ascent 22,4-5), the Lord of life and of all history.  His Resurrection gives us firm hope in unseen realities and strengthens our faith and commitment to our mission in the world. 

3.                     As you know, the theme proposed for the Chapter was “Journeying with St. Teresa and St. John of the Cross.  Setting out from Essentials”.   First of all, then, these days provided us with the opportunity of thanking the Lord for the gift of our Teresian-Carmelite vocation in the Church and of reinforcing our convictions about the contribution our Order can make to today’s world.  This Chapter theme “emphasizes the Order’s firm proposal to remain faithful to that charism which was inspired by the Holy Spirit in a particular historical and ecclesial context and has developed through succeeding centuries.  Through its response to the challenges of the third millennium it is still destined, even today, to produce fruits of sanctity in the Church ‘for the benefit of all’ (1 Cor 12,7)”  (Letter of Pope John Paul II to Fr. Camilo Maccise for the General Chapter, n. 1). 

“And Sion shall be called ‘Mother’, for all shall be her children”  (Ps 87, 5) 

4.                     Avila, the venue chosen for this Chapter, has been a constant reminder of our roots and distinctive charism and of our intent on “setting out from the essentials” of our vocation.  Just as the Psalmist rejoiced in his city, Jerusalem, as the mother of all nations (Ps 87,5) where the Lord himself resided, so could we appreciate our stay in Avila, the birthplace of Teresa, where her dreams for the Order became a reality.  The beauty of the city with its innumerable reminders of Sts. Teresa and John proved an ideal setting for our Chapter and deliberations. 

5.                     During the first few days of the Chapter, we visited some other very important places of Carmelite interest.  We spent time in Alba de Tormes, where St. Teresa died and is buried; Duruelo, where St. John of the Cross started the Reform of the Friars; Fontiveros, St. John’s birthplace and, finally, Segovia, where he lived and is buried.  These visits were genuine pilgrimages of faith and hope, where we could recall times and places sanctified by our Founders.  At a time when we are anxious to answer today’s many challenges with a Gospel message, we can also count on a precious heritage from the past.  We want to remain loyal to a charism that is being constantly renewed by our life and work in different areas of the world, given that we have “not only a glorious history to remember and recount, but also a great history waiting to be accomplished” (Vita Consecrata, 110). 

“How good and how pleasant it is, when brothers live in unity” (Ps 133,1) 

6.                     As believing Israelites went on pilgrimage to the Temple in Jerusalem, they sang about the joy of living together, be it as a family or as a nation:  “how good and how pleasant it is, when brothers live in unity” (Ps 133,1).   Our Chapter might be seen in a similar vein.  These days together proved to be an in-depth experience of the Order’s unity, a family bonded together in the Lord’s name and work.   Our sharing at liturgy, meals and discussions was characterized by a tangible sense of unity and fraternity.    With due allowances being made for the normal divergences occasioned by history and culture, there was quite obvious agreement about the essentials of our Carmelite life.   

7.                     This Chapter made a significant breakthrough in highlighting the cohesion of our extended Teresian-Carmelite family.  For the first time ever, some of our non-clerical Brothers were present at Chapter proceedings, as were ten Presidents of various Associations or Federations of our Sisters, plus some representatives of the Secular Order.  We are convinced that one of the most effective ways of revitalizing and improving our corporate contributions to today’s world is by dialogue            and close collaboration between all members of our Order. At the Chapter, in listening attentively to each other we were mutually enriched.  Respect for the distinctive vocation of each sector of the Order produced a genuine thrust towards collaboration and unity.   We are all invited to continue this dynamic of dialogue, openness and reciprocal collaboration as a further expression of fidelity to our charism.

8.                     The need for constant renewal of community life must always remain a priority as we aspire to the Teresian ideal of  “a family dedicated in a special way to the task of prayer” (Constitutions OCD, 53), pledged to living and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom to a world torn apart by injustice, violence and death.  Guided by the Spirit, we must make every effort to ensure that “our communities are places of hope and of the discovery of the Beatitudes, where love, drawing strength from prayer, the wellspring of communion, is called to become a pattern of life and source of joy” (Vita Consecrata 51).

“There is only one thing I ask of the Lord, to live in the house of the Lord” (Ps 27,4) 

9.                     Israel knew perfectly well that a loving relationship with God was at the core of its very existence as the Chosen People of God.  The prayers of the Psalms repeatedly return to this theme: “My soul rests in God alone, from whom comes my salvation” (Ps 62,1).  Jesus too, invites us to seek this essential:  “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things will be given you besides” (Mt 6,33). 

10.                   Searching for these “essentials” of the gospel, of religious life and of our Carmelite charism was paramount in our Chapter discussions and decisions.  We tried to establish at source what gives true meaning to our life and work.  We wish neither to be enslaved by our past nor to condemn it, but to use it as a springboard to reorganize and revitalize our present and our future.  We admitted that very often we have become like Martha “anxious and worried about many things”, when, in fact, “only one thing is necessary” (Lk 10,41-42). 

11.                   Fidelity to the gospel essentials demands that we continually embrace the gift of the kingdom.  Our call to follow Christ is in the ‘today’ of our personal and community history, witnessing to “a new heaven and a new earth” (cf. Rv 21,1), announcing the hope and joy of the Resurrection to a crucified world.   If we are to be faithful to the essentials of our religious vocation, we must live out our total consecration to the Lord.  In our case this includes living in community and being at the service of our neighbor.   Finally, fidelity to our Teresian-Carmelite vocation implies a re-appraisal of the distinctive charism expected of our Order in its service to the People of God – a charism spelled out eminently for us in the life and teaching of Sts. Teresa and John of the Cross. 

12.                   Fidelity to the essentials calls us to address the daunting challenges of the world today.  We cannot hope to be loyal to the essentials of our vocation without being in solidarity with the men and women of our time, being willing to dialogue with other religions and cultures and being sensitive to the needs and sufferings of the world.   In every human being there is a “seventh mansion”.  Often this is ignored or even despised.  In light of our spiritual heritage, we are invited to accompany the men and women of today in their search for God and the experience of love in times of hope and in moments of absence and darkness. 

13.                   In a world where scientific progress does not necessarily signify solidarity or respect for human and cultural rights, as Carmelites we are asked to witness to the power of prayer and contemplation as a friendly relationship with a God who loves us.   This extends an implicit invitation to life and community and can lead to true freedom.  We must play our part in building a more just and humane society, recalling St. Teresa’s insistence on how closely love of God and love of neighbor were associated (Cf. 5 Interior Castle 3,8-9). 

Commit your life to the Lord, trust in him and he will act” (Ps37,5) 

14.                   The celebration of the General Chapter provides an ideal opportunity for the generous renewal of our consecration to the Lord and re-appraisal of our personal vocations.  Every community and each member of the Order, following the Chapter theme, should join in “the journey with Teresa of Jesus and John of the Cross”.  God’s fidelity and the needs of today’s world are a call to action.  We cannot afford to bask in the achievements of the past, but must be confident that new goals can be projected, new initiatives undertaken.  Habacuc tells us:  “God, the Lord, is our strength; he makes our feet swift as those of hinds and enables us to go upon the heights” (Hb 3,19).   Through our familiarity with the Word of God, we can relive the experience of the disciples of Emmaus whose hearts burned as they listened to Jesus on the way.  We must not fear human weakness or the forces of evil but “must journey from strength to strength” (Cf. Foundations 29,32), trusting in the Lord as pilgrims of hope who dream of “a city with foundations, whose architect and maker is God” (Heb 11,10). 

15.                   May Mary, Queen and Beauty of Carmel, assist and accompany us on our journey towards conversion and renewal.  May she “who never acted without the inspiration of the Holy Spirit” (Cf. 3 Ascent 2,10), obtain for us from the Lord the grace to maintain the Teresian-Carmelite charism alive in the Church.  When her own mother died in Avila, St. Teresa did not hesitate to ask Our Lady “to become her mother” (Life 1,7).  We now entrust to that same Mother’s care, the life and mission of our Order, praying that we may be true prophets of the living God in the service of his people, at the outset of this third millennium.

 
 

    

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