D. Community: sharing the experience of God

34. The path outlined by the Rule

The author of our Rule, Albert, Patriarch of Jerusalem, addresses the hermits as "fratres".(95) This means that we are called to live out our contemplative vocation together, in community, not on our own. The contemplative attitude, which enables us to discover God present in people and in the events of ordinary daily life, also helps us to value the mystery of each member of the community.(96)

The Rule traces for us a community life plan, of which the prior is guardian and guarantor.(97) It proposes a set of attitudes and a path designed to consolidate community as it is lived out in practice, following the inspiration of the first community of Jerusalem. We nourish Carmelite fraternity (98) by listening together to the Word of God (99) and participating in the common liturgy (100) - especially as we gather daily to celebrate the Eucharist (101); by sharing material and spiritual goods,(102) mindful of the well-being of every member (103); by discerning together the common journey (104); by making important decisions together (105); by valuing silence as the "cult of justice" (106) and therefore the guarantee of non-oppressive, non-possessive relationships respectful of the other; and by sharing meals (107) and work.(108)

35. The journey towards community

"Before it is a human construction, religious community is a gift of the Spirit."(109) Like every spiritual gift, however, it must be built up day by day through the effort of each and every member.

The awareness of having received a common vocation - a vocation which finds its concrete expression in a plan that is developed, implemented and verified communally - must be allowed to grow to maturity.(110) The natural tension between the community life plan and the personal journey must therefore be dealt with and resolved as a call to us all to journey together as brothers.(111)

The task of building community is a form of asceticism which requires continuous conversion and a sense of self-denial. No one presumes too much of the others, while each rejoices in what the others are capable of giving.
The daily gathering, in which we move from the individual cells to the oratory at their centre, is symbolic of the constant effort to step out of our egos, reach out to others, and build community with them: the Eucharist transforms individuals into brothers.(113) From the eucharistic celebration, in which community is built, celebrated, and expressed, we are sent back to the labour of life, where we grow in mutual service and receptivity thanks to the strength provided by the Word and by the Bread.

36. Prophets of new relationships

Our joint commitment to a way of life, and our joint participation in moments of listening, of prayer, of celebration, of community and of communion, motivate us to proclaim joyfully and gratuitously the common call to holiness and to full communion with God and among people. Thus Carmelite community becomes in and of itself a proclamation to the world.(114) Our fraternal life becomes a prophetic sign of the possibility of living in communion, if one is willing to pay the price.(115) Carmelites, who are also called to become experts in communion,(116) invite others to share in their community prayer (117) and in their life. Listening prayerfully to the word of God, they find in it the inspiration to become a living and prophetic presence in the Christian community and in the world. From the sharing of material and spiritual goods springs the need to share with every brother and sister all that the Lord has freely given.(118)

37. Ways leading to community

Certain attitudes and behaviour patterns must become habitual, if we are to develop an authentically fraternal life. We must be attentive and caring towards those with whom we live, engaging in open and honest dialogue with them, expressing interest in them, helping them on their spiritual journey, and cooperating with them willingly and eagerly. The presence of individuals of different ages in a community can be an important source of mutual enrichment and a valuable testing ground of the sincerity of younger people's motives. Elderly and ill friars can hand on the richness of their own life experiences to the younger members; for their part, young people can stimulate older members to renewal and nourish their hopes for the future.

Love for community life and active and creative participation in common prayer, in meetings, in meals and in recreation help to increase sensitivity with regard to the community.

Gradually, members begin to identify with the community; they become capable of owning decisions which are made jointly, even when, initially, they did not fully agree with them.

It is important to recognise and develop personal gifts, talents and aptitudes; at the same time, however, we must be trained candidates to assume apostolic, missionary and professional commitments for and on behalf of their communities. In the framework of community we learn to share in its mission and in its service. The work of each individual expresses and makes concrete the mission of the entire community: we are sent by the community to work and act in its name and on its behalf.(119)

However, it is not enough to identify with one's community. Each member must learn to feel that he is truly part of his Province and of the Order. Contact with the other communities in the Province, and international experiences, contribute to gradually develop a sense of identity with the Order, with its history, its tradition and its life, and to cultivate a spirituality of communion.

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95 Rule, 5, 6, 8, 12, 15, 22, 23.
96 Cf. Constitutions, 19.
97 Rule, 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, 12, 22, 23.
98 Cf. Constitutions, 20.
99 Cf. Rule, 7, 14.
100 Cf. Rule, 11, 14.
101 Cf. Rule, 14.
102 Cf. Rule, 12.
103 Cf. Rule, 12, 15, 16, 17.
104 Cf. Rule, 15.
105 Cf. Rule, 4, 5, 6, 15.
106 Rule, 21.
107 Cf. Rule, 7.
108 Cf. Rule, 20.
109 Fraternal life, 8.
110 Cf. Rule, 15; Constitutions, 31e.
111 Cf. Fraternal Life, 24-25; see also Constitutions, 30.
112 [erratum footnote 112 missing from text (ed)]
113 Cf. Rule, 14; see also Constitutions 20, 31a.
114 Cf. Fraternal life, 54-55-; see also VC, 25; 42; 46.
115 Cf. Fraternal life, 56.
116 Cf. PI, 25.
117 Cf. Constitutions, 20.
118 Cf. Fraternal life, 56; VC, 51.
119 Cf. Constitutions, 32-33.