Tony Lester



A brothers story: My journey to Carmel

Looking back at my journey I can see with a smile that so far the road has been far from straightforward. Carmel to me is something much wider than a particular religious family in the Church or a definable spirituality within the Christian tradition. Certainly these are elements but it is, I think, much more about a way of seeing and understanding, a way of being human. So my journey to Carmel isn't about how I came to join the Carmelite Friars - but something real and ongoing which is still changing and challenging me.

I used to enjoy hill walking and rock climbing. The Carmelite Saint John of the Cross uses the ascent of a mountain as a symbol of our journey in life and I find this helpful. There are all kinds of parallels that we can draw - times when the going is easy, times when it is hard; times we are in good company and times when our particular route may involve solitude and loneliness; times when we are sure of the path and times when we are lost in the mist. All of these and more have been true for me as a Carmelite.

The heart of a friar's vocation is to be close to people. A part of the gift that we bring is that we are contemplatives. Carmel invites us to contemplate God's presence in prayer and in the realities of life. We find God present in the people we serve - discovering this is part of the Carmelite journey. Carmel invites us to unlearn many of the religious certainties we grow up with and to find a different way of seeing which enables us to contemplate the Living God in each individual we encounter.

The Carmelite Blessed John Soreth tells us: It is from Christ himself that you will learn how to love him - together with the people we serve we are the Body of Christ called to become more so each day. This involves an ongoing journey of conversion and purification through the loving action of God whose purpose is to set us free to love and to really be ourselves. It is not about being perfect but about growing, and more about being able to live with hard questions than having all the answers.

The journey of becoming Carmelite then is not about learning facts but rather a constant process of discovery of who God is and who I am through a life of prayer and service lived in community with brothers who are sharing the same journey. Carmelite community has always been wider than just the particular group of friars who live in one place; this wider community of brothers, friends and the people we serve inspires and challenges me and through which, I believe, God is at work in my life. The journey to Carmel continues.











Preaching at the Grotto in Lourdes