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


Greeting of the Prior General O.Carm.
Joseph Chalmers
to the General Chapter O.C.D.




Greetings to you all.  I am very happy to be here in the city of La Santa Madre.  She has had a profound influence on my own life and vocation and her writings never fail to inspire me. 

I want to congratulate Fr. Luis on your election as Superior General and to the new General Definitors.  I sincerely hope that we will be able to continue the dialogue and co-operation between our two Orders.  I want to assure you all of the prayers and good wishes of my Order for your deliberations at this General Chapter. 

I want also to thank Fr. Camilo and wish him a very happy and fruitful sabbatical.  It was Fr. Camilo who finally opened the doors to the dialogue that has taken place over the past 11 years between our two Orders.  We were very happy to work with him and I think that our co-operation has borne abundant fruit. 

I intend to speak for about 15 minutes and then hopefully we can have a conversation. 

Fr. Camilo and I wrote in our last joint letter, “So That The World May Believe”: “We reaffirm, in as much as it appears to us, that we wish to continue to go ahead deepening our fraternity and co-operation. The conflicts and tensions of history must be left behind in order to open us to the future ‘where the Spirit is sending you in order to do even greater things.’ (VC,110). 

In this examination of what has been accomplished, it is clear that we have increased the levels of communication and co-operation. Furthermore, in both orders there has been a decrease in prejudice and an increase in national and regional co-operation.” 

Indeed there has been co-operation between our two Orders for a number of years in various countries.  In some places this pre-dates what the General Councils have done.  The dialogue at the level of the General Council has encouraged this co-operation, and to be truthful probably annoyed a few people but you cannot please all of the people all of the time. 

I want to tell you a story. It comes from the famous book, “Gulliver’s Travels”.  Gulliver comes across a little island where the population is seriously split. There were two groups – the Big Endians and the Little Endians and there was constant war between them. All of the people on the island had a soft-boiled egg for breakfast – boiled for 3 minutes – nice and soft. One group opened the egg at one end and the other group opened their morning egg at the other end and so the names of the groups – the Big and the Little Endians. Both groups insisted they were right and hurled abuse at the other group.  Very sad story.   

Our world has very many serious problems.  The Church has called in the past for a new evangelisation.  There is a widespread thirst for spirituality but a rejection of organised religion.  Carmel can offer at the same time a profound and thoroughly Christian spirituality.  It is well founded in the tradition of the Church.  We speak of prayer, contemplation and transformation but if we cannot forgive the hurts of the past, what kind of witness are we really giving?  We have to be in communion with each other so that the world may believe.   

You know that the two General Councils had a week together in the Holy Land immediately after one of your Extraordinary Definitory Meetings.  We visited together the monasteries of Carmelite nuns.  I think it was in the Bethlehem Carmel, while we were all gathered together, one of the nuns said, “When will the two Orders unite?”  I thought, “O my God!” and tried to look interested in the floor.  After a while Fr. Camilo spoke up and said that unification would be impossible after 400 years of separate history and he asked the nun to think how difficult it is to unify two monasteries with their different customs.   

We have never thought of uniting the two Orders juridically; our diversity is a great enrichment for us all.  What we are looking for and hoping for is a continuing dialogue in an atmosphere of brotherly love.  The reason for this dialogue is that we have the same Rule and a common history.  On our part, we certainly feel a sense of fraternity with Discalced Carmelites, men and women.  We recognise in St. Teresa of Jesus and St. John of the Cross the two greatest exponents of Carmelite spirituality, two spiritual geniuses who took the Carmelite tradition to a new level.  We rejoice when a Carmelite is beatified or canonised precisely because we recognise the Carmeliteness in them.  I must say that we rejoice in some more than others, as I am sure you do too!   

Our Rule tells us to do all things in the Word of the Lord (19).  Let us bear witness to the Church and to the world that the Word of God really does live in our hearts and that we are not motivated by rivalry or by any other worldly sentiment.  Our mutual dialogue, I believe, helps all of us and certainly makes our witness more credible. Let us continue on this road so that the world may believe. 




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Updated 10 mag 2003  - Page maintained by O.C.D. General House