INTRODUCTION

1. Called to communion with God

God "loved us first" (1), and he called us to participate in the communion of the Trinity. We recognise his call in the experience of his love. Moved by the Spirit, we listen to the Word of Christ, who is the Way that leads to Life. In his footsteps, entrusting ourselves to God's merciful love, we set out on the journey to the summit of Mount Carmel, the place where we encounter God and are transformed in him.

As we journey towards Mount Carmel, God leads us to the desert, as he led the prophet Elijah. There, the living flame of God's love transforms us, stripping away all that is not of him and all that obscures his gift, allowing the new self in the image of Christ, to emerge and shine forth in us.

Thus our minds and our hearts are gradually transformed, so that, in the light of Christ and in dialogue with the signs of the times, we may become more capable of cooperating with God in the work of transforming the world so that his Kingdom may come.

2. A call to community and mission

We are not alone on this arduous ascent of Mount Carmel: Mary, our sister and pilgrim in the faith, walks with us and encourages us, as mother and teacher.

We journey with others who have received the same gift and the same call. Together we strive to build a community modelled on that of Jerusalem; a community centred entirely on the Word, the breaking of bread, prayer, the holding of all things in common, and service.(2)

We journey within the Church, and with the Church we journey throughout the world. Like Elijah, we journey side by side with the men and women of our time, trying to help them discover God's presence in themselves; for the image of God is present in every human being, and must be allowed to emerge in complete freedom, even when it is darkened by inner contradictions or by injustices perpetrated by others.

We are invited to this journey by the Rule, which for us echoes and mirrors the Gospel, and which is the expression of the founding experience of the first Carmelites. From this founding experience we receive our passionate love for the world, for its challenges, its provocations and its contradictions.

The first Carmelites came from a Europe in transition, a Europe evolving through the tensions between war and peace, unity and fragmentation, expansion and crisis. In the Holy Land, they met people of other cultures and religions; on returning to Europe, they chose to be witnesses to attentiveness to God, living a fraternal life among the people.

3. The world in which we live

For the first Carmelites, the world in which they were born and raised represented a challenge; in the same way, the world in which we live and work must be a challenge for us. It is a world rich in possibility and in opportunity, in a state of constant growth and evolution - but it is also a world full of contradictions.

Communication, facilitated by ever more sophisticated means, is both a promise and a challenge. The rapid development of science and technology makes life easier for many but oppresses others; rather than being respectful of the environment, it often exploits it mindlessly. Human rights have been solemnly affirmed many times, only to be violated again. It has been acknowledged that women's rights and functions are equal to those of men; yet many women are still victims of abuses. Some children are overindulged and spoiled, while others are abused and exploited to satisfy the greed of a few individuals lacking in any moral sense. Awareness of one's own rights increases sensitivity to the fundamental equality between individuals and between peoples; yet nationalistic and individualistic tensions continue to create reasons for new conflicts. Interaction among cultures, when it is not a source of conflict, becomes an incentive to dialogue, to mutual respect, to the search for new approaches to shared space. Economic and cultural globalisation can offer all of us opportunities for harmonious development; but it also raises serious questions concerning the destiny of the poorer nations. The growing thirst for spirituality contradicts the presumptions of secularism, but does not always succeed in expressing itself in an authentic life of faith: it can become an escape from the heavy burden of daily life into esoteric cults, pseudomystical movements, and sects. Faced with lack of meaning, lack of moral values and various theoretical and practical forms of atheism, contemporary men and women of faith are challenged to seek shared and coherent responses, beyond religious barriers. Alongside a sincere desire for interreligious dialogue, and concrete experiences of such dialogue, there are painful and even homicidal episodes of fundamentalism.

We are children of this world; we share in "the joy and hope, the grief and anguish" of our times.(3) We belong to this world, we participate in its contradictions and we rejoice in its accomplishments.(4) In this world we walk humbly, side by side with our brothers and sisters, attentively seeking to recognise, as Elijah did, the hidden signs of God's presence and of his work.

4. Unity in diversity

Carmelites receive and share a common charism to live a life of allegiance to Jesus Christ, in a contemplative attitude which fashions and supports our life of prayer, fraternity and service.

It is by virtue of this charism that Carmelites in every place and time belong to the Order of the Brothers of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel.

In its essential elements, the charism is one. Its universal application requires us to go beyond a limited, regional vision of the Order, in a constant effort to express and incarnate the charism concretely in various cultures, times and places.

There must be at all times an intimate link between the unity derived from identification with the essential aspects of the Carmelite charism and the pluralism derived from the different cultures, which enriches the charism's many expressions.

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1. 1 Jn 4:19.
2. Cf. Acts 2:42-48; 4:32-35.
3. GS, 1.
4. Fraternal life, 4