Brendan Grady

 

 

A brother's story: How Carmel changed my life

Thirty years ago I was young, enthusiastic, idealistic, full of vision and a sense of possibility. I fell in love. It was unexpected, unfamiliar and happened over a period of time in the midst of uncertainty and searching. Deep within I felt touched, known and accepted just as I was. My heart was stirred and alive. At one and the same time I was free, opened up and filled; but I also felt unsure, disturbed and out of my depth. I know now that God was the one who had reached out from the very core of who I am and that it was God who had inspired in me a desire to understand and to accept a wonderful friendship that I cannot live without. I was then and still am far from perfect. I continue to struggle with sin and holiness. I had so many questions and yet felt called to trust that somehow the future was in God's hands. Perhaps my idea of how God's plan was going to be worked was like a divine magic wand that made all things right! For me now, God's vision, God's Reign, is made possible when ordinary people learn how to allow God simply to work through them.

 

What lay ahead proved to be a journey of exploration and discovery. I met Carmelites who seemed in touch, each with his own unique personality - usually very normal but sometimes idiosyncratic! Carmelites seemed committed to God … happy and alive. They were far from remote and were available to people in the ordinariness of their lives. I experienced a resonance that drew me to walk with them as a novice where the rhythm of prayer, community and reflecting deeply on how God works in people's lives began to give shape to what I had experienced as faint hints. I have worked in parish, formation and retreat ministry and daily feel invited to see the presence and action of God reaching out in people's lives. The spirituality and language of Carmel continues to speak to my own experience. But it is living in community with real live Carmelites in Britain and abroad, being challenged to see from different perspectives, sharing common human concerns, anxieties and successes, accepting and learning to accept, and accompanying people in ministry, that what began for me as a budding love affair with God has changed into a relationship of trusting friendship.

I continue to search. Sometimes I feel tremendous commitment. Often I experience periods of deep wondering, not-knowing and challenge, but being a Carmelite has helped me to appreciate increasingly that much is beyond my control, that I need to allow myself to be found and to accept acceptance from the God who is constantly faithful. Carmelites cannot change the world, but each of us can make a difference. Simply by being authentically who we are, God seems to be able to work through us. For me, if mercy is the willingness to enter the chaos of another's life, those who are truly on God's wavelength will be attuned to their true centre and will become a life through which the compassion of God is communicated.

To speak of 'Carmel' is to use symbolic language. It points to a tradition, a spirituality and an ideal that is expressed in the lives of real Carmelites in a variety of ways in different times and places. Carmel has given me a language, a developing understanding, a context and a huge challenge! Beyond concepts and ideals, Carmelites and those we seek to serve have shown me how to love the One who loved me first in the concreteness of here-and-now encounters.