E. Service among the people: the experience of God sends us into mission
38. Participants in Christ's mission
in the Church
A contemplative community's authentic experience of God necessarily leads us to make our own "the mission of Jesus, who was sent to proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom of God and to bring about the total liberation of humanity from all sin and oppression. Our ministry as Carmelites is therefore an integral part of our charism."(120)
As Carmelites, we are in the Church and for the Church, and together with the Church we are at the service of the Kingdom.(121) While we strive to enrich the Church through the specificity of our charism, we cooperate in building the one body of Christ in full communion with all the other members of the Christian community.(122) This communion is made concrete by means of our involvement in local churches.(123)
39. Side by side with those who seek
Carmelites share in their contemporaries' thirst for God. This thirst for spirituality goes beyond the limits of Christianity and is often to be found hidden even in those who profess no religion. As Carmelites, we must be able to recognise this thirst for spirituality, wherever it may be, and to enter into dialogue with anyone who seeks God, contributing to the discoveries individuals make in their own experience of the "holy places and mystical spaces"(124) where God comes to meet us.(125)
Faithful to the Order's spiritual heritage, we focus our work, in its various dimensions, on increasing the search for God, and we invite men and women of our time to the experience of contemplation, sharing with them the richness of our spiritual tradition.(126) Our life as a contemplative community becomes a credible witness to the possibility of encountering the Other and others through silence, openness and sincere communication.(127)
40. Brothers in the midst
of the people
Community life is in itself both a proclamation and a challenge.(128) A community that is full of life is both attractive and prophetic; it is a sign of the liberating presence of the Lord among his people.
Our lifestyle, which must be open and welcoming, invites us to share with others the communion of hearts and the experience of God which are lived within the community.(129)
This way of being "in the midst of the people" is a prophetic sign of a new way of relating with people - one that is based on friendship and fraternity. It is also a prophetic statement about justice and peace in society and among peoples. It is "a choice to share with 'the little ones' in history, a choice to speak a word of hope and of salvation from within, more through life than in words."(130)
As hinted by the Rule, Carmelites set out on a journey along the ways marked out by the Lord's Spirit.(131) They become companions to those who suffer, hope and commit themselves to building up the Kingdom of God, and they seek to promote every means of fostering community.
41. Brothers in mission
We must learn "to 'leave the sacred precincts' and 'go outside the camp' in order to proclaim 'in the new marketplaces of the world' that God loves humankind with an everlasting tenderness."(132) Naturally, each situation requires a response that is appropriate to local needs and demands. Our lifestyle and our spirituality must be translatable into attitudes and actions capable of communicating our Carmelite spirit through an ongoing effort to inculturate our charism and the gospel message.(133) Moreover, every culture into which we integrate ourselves will enrich both our own understanding of the gospel message and of our charism, and the means which express them; for as we evangelise, we are in turn evangelised. As we take Christ to others, we encounter Christ present in them.
42. Mission ad gentes
In obedience to Christ's command to "go and teach all the nations, baptising them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe my commands,"(134) the Order recognises and promotes the continuation of a long missionary tradition which reached its high point when St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus was made patron saint of the missions, and is confident that "mission ad gentes will reveal in a new way the heart of the Carmelite charism."(135) "Missionary work is nothing other than the manifestation, or the epiphany and the realisation, of God's plan in the world and in history."(136) It is "the Church's highest and most sacred duty,"(137) because the Church is missionary by nature.
From the Lord's explicit command, from the Church's many emphatic statements, and from the tradition of the Order, it is clear that, for Carmelites today, missionary work ad gentes is not merely a possibility but a real necessity, as well as a privilege. We must encourage and promote "the unsuppressable missionary drive which distinguishes and characterises consecrated life."(138)
43. Prophets of justice and peace
The contemplative dimension of Carmelite life allows us to recognise God's action in creation and in history. This free gift challenges us to commit ourselves to the working out of God's plan for the world. The authentic contemplative journey allows us to discover our own frailty, our weakness, our poverty - in a word, the nothingness of human nature: all is grace. Through this experience, we grow in solidarity with those who live in situations of deprivation and injustice. As we allow ourselves to be challenged by the poor and by the oppressed, we are gradually transformed, and we begin to see the world with God's eyes and to love the world with his heart.(139) . With God, we hear the cry of the poor,(140) and we strive to share the Divine solicitude, concern, and compassion for the poorest and the least.
This moves us to speak out prophetically in the face of the excesses of individualism and subjectivism which we see in today's mentality - in the face of the many forms of injustice and oppression of individuals and of peoples.(141)
Commitment to justice, peace and the safeguarding of creation is not an option. It is an urgent challenge, to which contemplative and prophetic Carmelite communities - following the example of Elijah (142) and of Mary (143) - must respond, speaking out in explicit defence of the truth and of the divine plan for humanity and for creation as a whole. Our community lifestyle is in itself such a statement: it is founded on just and peaceful relations, according to the plan outlined in the Rule,(144) which our tradition traces back to the experience of Elijah, who founded on Mount Carmel a community where justice and peace dwell.(145)
44. Keeping alive the memory of Mary
The rediscovery of our Marian tradition inspires us today to offer the humble service (146) of those who attribute to Mary, primary model of discipleship, a specific role in spiritual and ecclesial life. This involves promoting an authentic renewal of Mariology on solid biblical, liturgical, ecumenical and anthropological foundations.(147) In addition, we need to look more critically at our Marian tradition, in order to find a new language and new ways of expressing our relationship with Mary on our spiritual journey.
45. Ways leading to service
Our apostolic service is too serious a matter to be left to improvisation, random impulse and wasteful dispersion.(148) Formation to service - an essential element of our charism - must be addressed with the same care and attention as formation to contemplation, to prayer and to fraternity.
Hence, we must create a climate of silence and of conversion capable of opening hearts, eyes and minds, so that, enlightened by the Word of God, we may learn to read the signs of the times, listen to others and be attentive to what is happening in the world and in the environment in which we live. To avoid unnecessary dispersion, we must learn to plan - to discern genuine needs and to organise, within the framework of a jointly developed project, the means and the methods required to reach identified goals. We must be free and available to go wherever the Spirit leads us.
The cultivation of a sense of belonging to the Church is an absolute imperative. This implies developing a special love for and interest in the Church and its mission, and learning to work with others in the service of the Kingdom.
Professional, cultural and theological training must be conducive to the integral development of each individual, in preparation for service and with a view to dialogue and cooperation with the intellectual, scientific and cultural worlds. To this end, it is essential to develop an understanding of modern technology and modern means of communication, and to acquire the skills necessary to make use of these technologies.
Sensitivity to the poor, the sick, the marginalised and the least, and the safeguarding of creation, are values which must be fostered and developed in a dynamic way, so that they may be translated into a coherent lifestyle.
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120 Cf. Constitutions, 91.
121 Cf. Constitutions, 21. Love for the Church and for its mission is a constant element of Carmel. We mention only a few of the numerous references: St. Mary Magdalen de' Pazzi, Renovazione della Chiesa; St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus, Ms B, 2v-3v.
122 Cf. VC, 31; 46-56.
123 Cf. VC, 48-49; Constitutions 97-98.
124 Carmel: a place, a journey, 3.3.
125 Cf. Constitutions, 96
126 Cf. Constitutions, 95, 99.
127 Cf. Carmel: a place, a journey, 4.5.
128 Cf. Fraternal life, 54-56; VC, 51.
129 Cf. Rule, 9; Costitutions, 23.
130 General Congregation 1980, Called to Account by the poor, in AnalOCarm, XXXV, 1-2 , 23; see also Constitutions, 24.
131 Cf. Rule, 17; see also Constitutions, 22.
132 Carmel: a place, a journey, 1.3.
133 Cf. Carmel: a place, a journey, 4.2.
134 Mt 28:19-20.
135 Constitutions, 105.
136 AG, 9.
137 AG, 29.
138 VC, 77.
139 Cf. Constitutions, 15.
140 Cf. Is 3:7.
141 Cf. Carmel: a place, a journey, 4.3.
142 Cf. 1 Kings 21.
143 Cf. Lk 1:46:55.
144 Cf. Rule, 21.
145 Cf. Institutio primorum monachorum, 3.3, 5.
146 Cf Constitutions, 86, 95.
147 Cf. Marialis cultus, 29-39; for biblical aspects, see St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus, Last conversations, 21 August, 3; the poem "Why I love you, O Mary!" (PN 54).
148 Cf. Nicholas of France, The Flaming Arrow, 4.