OCDS International Congress Mexico 2000
Friday, August 12, 2005
CHRONCLE OF THE CONGRESS
As a follow-up to the First International Congress of the Secular Order of Theresian Carmelites, which was held in 1996 in the city of Rome, preparations for a second Congress proceeded enthusiastically, this time with its seat in San Juan de los Lagos, Mexico.
Arrival at the Airport of Guadalajara: Reception in the Hotel ACasa Grande@ from 8 am to 3 pr.
Delivery of materials
Move to the Pastoral house
Distribution of rooms and keys
Accommodation in the rooms
After a thorough preparation by the Congress, the General Coordinators of the Secular Order of Theresian Carmelites moved from Rome to Guadalajara, Mexico with the scope of welcoming to Mexico those members of the Secular Order who were coming from thirty-three countries of the world and forty-two circumscriptions of the Order.
The reception and registration were held in the ACasa Grande@ Hotel, located in the Airport of Guadalajara. Once registered, the participants were transferred in special buses to the Diocesan Pastoral House, John Paul II, located just 4 kilometers from San Juan de los Lagos, the city which hold the second most important Mexican sanctuary, after that of the Villa of Our Lady of Guadeloupe.
At their arrival at the Pastoral Center, the lay Carmelites were received and installed in the house by the whole of the Mexican National Council of the Order and the collaborators of this same Order.
This same day, once they were settled, they went on to take part in the welcoming dinner, the beginning of the fraternal coexistence that would take place during the Congress. Like the melody of a symphony, one heard the participation of many instruments in the diversity of languages, united in a Carmelite ecclesial concert by the same director, the Holy Spirit. The tone of the dinner was one of happiness; on the one hand because of the wake-up call of happiness to once again encounter the brothers; on the other hand to enchantment that accompanies the discovery of the new faces, lives and experiences.
Some faces came from distant places, frequently unknown to us, other from nearer countries or from the same nation. The environment reflected the Spirit and the Church in a unity in the diversity of languages, races and nations. This amazing diversity, of persons united in the same family name, the Secular Order of the Theresian Carmelites, humble and looked after by the same Mother, Our Lady of Mount Carmel, with the same charism and mission to work in the vineyard, and all united in the love of the same Lord and brother: Jesus Christ.
INAUGURATION OF THE CONGRESS
On the following day, the 1st day of September, of the year 2000, the Jubilee Year, with the motto of One order with the same charism, we met at nine in the morning in the auditorium of the pastoral house, which was the place for the inauguration. Father Flavio Caloi, O.C.D. Vicar General of the Theresian Order of Carmel presided the table, accompanied by Father Aloysius, the General Delegate of the Secular Order and organizer of the Congress. The Father BVicar gave the inauguration to the II International Congress of the Secular Order of Theresian Carmelites in the absence of Father General Camilo Maccise, in the Pastoral House of San Juan de los Lagos. Following this, Father Nicholàs Garcia Rodriguez, O.C.D., the Provincial of the Province of San Alberto in Mexico, in the absence of the Father General and delegated by him, read the welcome letter which was directed to us, the participants of the Congress, by the Father General. Besides the letter, Father Nicholàs explained to the audience, who were anxious to hear the encouraging words of Father Camilo, the paper prepared for this occasion, The Contribution of the Secular Order to the Church: Co-responsibility and Collaboration.
The words of the document, the ample and transcendent vision of our leader united with his confidence in our renewed efforts excited in us the preoccupation to continue sailing in the same ship, with creative and responsible hope, in collaboration with the other lifestyles of the Theresian Carmelites in the agitated sea of the world. Our mission, which is clear, is illuminated in the exposition of the documents of Vatican II, and most especially in Christifidelis Laici. Our soul, which is roused to begin the work that is oriented towards the actualization of the Rule of Life and the Statutes of the Secular Order with faith in the charism and the creativity before the needs of our time; a time of transition and accelerated change in all of the globe.
Together these signal the importance of a creative fidelity with a new Church mentality that permits in the collaboration between priests and lay persons the concrete realization of projects for the actualization of the charism.
In summary, in order to achieve the transformation that the world requests from the Secular Theresian Carmelites, the Father General indicated that it is necessary to have well formed lay persons with a capable of being Christians with the capacities for discernment and determination in order to concretize the works and the vision to project this charism into all environments of the world and the Church in response to the universal call of Christ to the Saints.
Determining, above all, the specific tasks of the secular Carmelites on the attitudes, capacities and works that are fruits of a solid formation, Father Camilo insisted on the equal importance of agreeing responsibly to form oneself as a Carmelite, under the charism of the Order, a gift of the Spirit for the church. This indicates, likewise, that this charism crystallizes in a following of the rules and constitutions of the Order.
These last are guidelines for living the essence of the charism, molded in the following lines:
The configuration of Christ:
1. Union with God in the apostolate and in prayer
2. To live in growing friendship with God aided by the Word, personal prayer and the liturgy
3. To penetrate the life of the heavenly apostolate and charity
4. To live the charism with a theological perspective.
Finally, he signaled as possible elements graces at the level of integral formation that permit the Carmelite to be an apostle of the Church, to respond to the challenges of the world in order to transform them, covering these with the Christian values illuminated by the Theresian-St. Johnist.
After a brief rest, the participants divided into eight groups to respond to the questions assigned it by Father Camilo. Each group appointed a co-ordinator and a secretary, the first to supervise the participation and order and the secretary to gather the contribution of each of the participants to, further along, make a synthesis of all the responses. In its turn, each of the syntheses would be presented to the plenary session.
Late in the afternoon of the first day, following the meal, it was presented in Italian on the podium Father Attilio Ghisleri O.C.D. under the title, Formation for a new Millennium. Father Ghisleri’s presentation was both interesting and up to sate and extremely important for us, Lay Carmelites, as we face the Third Millennium.
If Father Camilo’s morning conference motivated our enthusiasm to clarify our role, our responsibility and our importance within the Order, Father Attilio’ conference, the last of the first day of September, added concrete guidelines for following the path. And for giving a response as Christians and Carmelites to all the fields of the being and chores men.
After a break, we proceeded to the usual custom of uniting once again into groups in order to respond to the assignments given to us by Father Attilio.
Later we united in language groups to say vespers and pray.
The day ended with a dinner during which we shared the experiences of our day.
The following day, the second of September, after Lauds, the Eucharist and a delicious meal, we had the opportunity to listen to Theresa Ee-Chooi OCDS. In an exposition entitled The Co-responsibility of the Secular Carmelite as an agent of the Apostolate of Spirituality, opened various windows to us. Though one of these were permitted to see, in primary position, our obligation as Secular persons in the church, to open a second, this facilitates our translating our aim into two points: the apostolate and prayer as means for exercising our mission of agreement with Christifideles Laici and our specific responsibility as lay people to evangelize in places, cultures, societies, and places of labor, giving fully what we are able to give. For a third window we disperse our worries before the vastness of the world, on its actual conditions and the obligation to everyone to collaborate, at what level this is possible, in all the areas of the Ecclesial apostolate.
With this consciousness of our role as Lay persons within the Order and the Church, much like our commitment to formation as Carmelites in order to be faithful witnesses of Christ with the charism of the Theresian Carmelites, we moved on to form groups in order to analyze our realities and elaborate proposals.
Marie Claire Icery (add C.V.) presented the subsequent theme, under the title of The Secular Carmelite and the Missions of the Order. Marie Claire presented with a panorama of the Order in its missionary dimension, based on two aspects: the present work of the Carmelites in different areas of mission and the most important necessities for evangelization Ad Gentes.
As a planned, we moved on to our groups for discussion of the theme, to respond to the questions, and suggest proposals.
Within this theme, these points seemed the most important: the various missionary territory of the Theresian Carmelites and the vast expanse for filling this Vineyard creates an abundant necessity for men and women, before which the Secular Carmelite is called to give a response.
It is likewise felt that the Carmelite is primarily Christian and as such is part of a community: the Church, in whose documents which refer to the lay apostolate and concretely over us lay persons, promises us the criteria, grounds out obligations, and invites us to extend Evangelization to all peoples.
Finally we see here the essential part of the Carmelite vocation, and that is to be a missionary not at home but also Ad Gentes.
September 3: Visit to the City of Guadalajara
Sunday, September 3, was a day of rest. The Organizing Committee had made provisions to take us in special buses to the nearby city of Guadalajara. After the Eucharist and breakfast, we set out on the visit to Guadalajara and the small town of Tlatepaque where we would pass the day. Others remained in the Pastoral House to advance the work. The trip consisted of a guided tour of the historical center of the city, buildings and churches and a lunch at a typical restaurant of Tlatepaque, accompanied by Mariachis. The tour ended at 6pm and the day with a dinner in which we took part in fraternal togetherness, telling each other the adventures of our day. At the dinner we found the happiness of being joined by our Father General, Camilo Maccise who, although in delicate health, remained with us for twenty-four hours. His brief stay was very enriching and his presence, despite the difficulties, was affectionately welcomed by each and every one of the participants.
Monday, September 2, Father Aloysius Deeney, General Delegate of the Secular Order, offered us an extensive panorama of the charism of the Order in his exposition entitled “Secular Carmelites and the Apostolate of the Order”. In brief he told us that this consisted in looking for the face of God in prayer in order to transmit it to the world in service and in the apostolate. Besides he guided us in deepening our commitment by expounding on two questions: What does it mean to be a Carmelite? Why does God need that there be Carmelites?
With these questions we were lead to analyze our identity as Secular Carmelites. The majority discovered to not know or to clearly understand this identity as a fundamental part of our life within the Order.
Father Deeney expanded upon the importance of our ecclesial commitment, to which he had alluded before in his exposition, emphasizing the fact that our charism responds to the necessities of the Church and the construction of humanity. A charism that, molded in the legislative documents of the Secular Order, negates being a way to pass the time and is, instead, a serious commitment that requires, for its completion, lay persons who are well formed and committed.
Following this, we passed on as usual to a period of group discussion and evaluation of proposals. The same day Father Camilo Maccise, General of the Order, presided once more at the general assembly. For the period of approximate one-hour, the session was opened to questions and answers, the first of the audience to be answered back by the Father General.
The previous intervention will permit us to clarify doubts and will undoubtedly contribute to our being able to plan new routes for the restructure and dynamization of the Order for the Third Millennium.
We finished the day with a dinner that was proceeded by vespers following the group discussions.
Day number five was destined for group work, for finishing the questions and settling the proposals.
After lunch we visited the city of San Juan de los Lagos, especially the Shrine of Our Lady where we prayed and sang the “Salve Regina”, we also visited the Cultural Center and City Hall, where we were received by the Mayor and other officials who offered us a delicious treat of ice cream. We returned to the Pastoral Center to continue our work in groups, Vespers and prayer.
In the night, after dinner, we had a pleasant presentation by Father Giovanni Strina. He and Madame Anne de Barsy spoke to us about Father John of Jesus and Mary O.C.D. He told us about the history, the enormous contribution and the history of the Order; the influence on Therese of Lisieux as teacher and transmitter of the education of St. Theresa of Jesus and St. John of the Cross. It was very interesting since he gave us the possibility to understand the magnitude of the work of Father John of Jesus and Mary, which had been unknown to the majority of us.
The last day was reserved for the plenary session; one by one the secretaries presented the synthesis of the proposals from our respective groups.
At the end, each group nominated a representative for the International Commission. The task of the Commission will be to study, translate, and collaborate in the resulting work of the Congress during the next year and a half, beginning with the revision of the actual Rule.
In the night we had two hours of bright Mexican music by a group of mariachi musicians who came from the nearby city of San Juan de los Lagos; we were accompanied by music at the closure just as on the initial day of welcome. The day ended with a delicious gala Mexican dinner.
The seventh day, after breakfast, a farewell was given from the presidential podium and well as ours of gratitude to him for all that which, with help and contribution, he had contributed to the to the success of the Second International Congress of the Secular Order of Theresian Carmelites.
Greeting by Father Flavio Caloi, OCD
In the name of the Father General and of the entire Order, a warm hello and a joyous welcome!
This tittle of this Congress, “One Order with the Same Charism” came as a welcome surprise to me. And it made me think. A First, Second, or Third Order does not exist. There is only one Family that shares in common the same Theresian Spirit.
The one Order gives to its nuns, brothers and laity a gift that is, together, communion with God, fraternity, and mission.
All of us live, in different life contexts, the same charism in order to bring to the world a spirituality that continues to offers saints to the world and to the church.
In the O.C.D., the Secular Carmelite is more than a Christian group or a Catholic association, or an ecclesial movement, or an aggregate institute, though these are realities that can refer to various aspects of the Theresian Carmelite. The Theresian Carmelite is one of the three components of the Order. Together with the nuns and the brothers, the O.C.D.S. constitutes what we recognise as the Order of Theresian Carmelites.
To each of us goes, sisters and brothers, the wish that these days will be fundamental for living a creative faith in the discovery of the gift of God in order that we may share this afterwards with those we meet on our path.
Good work! With the Virgin of Carmel and our Saints, joy and greetings to you!
INITIAL GREETING BY FATHER ALOYSIUS
Dear Carmelite Brothers and Sisters.
Welcome to this the Second International Congress of the Secular Order of Our Lady of Mount Carmel and Theresa of Jesus. It has been a great task to organize this event. With sincere gratitude on my part, I wish to recognize the hours of time, effort and energy that the Secretary General of the Order, Irma Estrada Franco, has dedicated to organizing this Congress. I wish also to acknowledge, at the very beginning, the splendid collaboration of the Secular Order of Mexico.
Why are we here? I want to affirm that we are here solely with the final aim of holding a reunion to succeed at knowing other members of the Secular Order. The reunion and the mutual acquaintance serve a final aim—the final aim is joint and responsible reflection concerning God’s plan for attracting us to Carmel and, at the same time, for expressing this proposal and our questions about this final aim in the legislation that governs our vocation. We are one family with one charism. And each of us lives this charism in our own place and with our own lifestyle.
This is the play of the Congress: Different conference members will present various themes that touch our spirituality and its application to our times and places. Diverse questions for reflection and discussion will be handled. The different liturgical groups will respond as one group to these questions. In the preparation for the Congress, it was asked of the participants in the Congress that they familiarize themselves, above all, with two documents: Apostolicum Actuositatem and Christifideles Laici. Through our Provincials and Provincial Delegates was also sent a type of questionnaire for discussion in the communities and also in the National and Provincial Councils for reflection, in a manner that the participants to the Council would know the thoughts and the ideas of the members. I wish to thank the Provincial Councils for the labor they did. It was truly a substantial job to co-ordinate the responses of the individual communities to this questionnaire.
All of the work done over this questionnaire, and what’s more all the discussions and conclusions that are held within it, form the base for the revision of our actual Rule of Life. At the end of the Congress, the Thursday before the next day, the 7th of September, we will ask for the designation of an International Committee of members of the Secular Order that will have the task of revising the Rule of Life. The basis for this revision will be the conclusions of the 1996 congress, the replies sent for the preparation of this Congress, and the conclusions from this congress. Once this is completed, the results will be sent to all the jurisdictions of the Secular Order for observations and comments. After these observations and comments are received, and after the necessary adjustments have been made, the document will be presented to the Holy See for approbation.
The basic structure of the new Law of Life will be the following:
a. The Law of St. Albert
b. Vocation of the Laity in the Church and in the Order
c. The Theresian charism: how it lives and how to live it for lay members of the Order
d. Discernment and initial formation
e. Apostolate and permanent formation
f. Government and structure
g. Local statutes
THE CONTRIBUTION OF THE SECULAR ORDER TO THE CHURCH Father Camilo Maccise, OCD
THE CONTRIBUTION OF THE SECULAR ORDER TO THE CHURCH
CO-RESPONSIBILITY AND COLABORATION
Looking out over this assembly, I can’t help but think of the mystery of the Church, the pilgrim People of God, throughout the world. We are here, in effect, lay people, religious, priests, women, men from different races, speaking different languages, expressing a rich variety of cultures. The common faith in the Risen Lord unites us, we who must bear witness to His presence in the heart of the world. At the same time, the Teresian-Carmelite charism unites us, a gift of the Spirit for the service of the Church and the world. You, members of the Secular Carmelite, form part of the Carmelite Order of Theresa of Jesus and John of the Cross.
The celebration of this Second International Congress of the Secular Carmelites signifies a step towards raising an awareness of your lay and Carmelite identity. In fact, as already noted 13 years ago by the post-synod document Christifideles Laici, the Spirit has stirred up new energies of holiness and of participation in many of the lay faithful. A new style of collaboration among priests, religious and lay people is gradually evolving; groups, associations and movements of spirituality and of committed lay people are springing up. There is a search for a wider and more active participation of women in the Church and in society. Nowadays it is all about finding concrete ways to bring to reality all the theoretical reflection about the dignity and mission of the lay faithful.
The subject which I have been asked to develop: The Contribution of the Secular Order to the Church- Co-responsibility and collaboration, has a past dimension and a dimension for the present and the future. These three dimensions correspond to the three sections into which I have divided my presentation.
1. THE C0-RESPONSIBILITY AND COLLABORATION OF THE
SECULAR ORDER TO THE CHURCH IN THE PAST
In the past, the Secular Carmelite lived out his/her service of collaboration and co-responsibility conditioned by the position of the lay faithful within the Church. This, in turn, depended on an excessively hierarchical model of the Church in which the lay faithful were treated as second class ‘citizens’. They were expected to have a passive and receptive attitude to the authority of the Church. This, combined with the scarce catechetical, theological and biblical training, was leaving lay faithful unable to collaborate fully and effectively in the field of evangelisation.
Within the religious Orders, the so-called Third Orders, even though they formed part of the religious Institute, they did so without a clear lay identity. They were called upon to be practically ‘religious in the world’. The co-responsibility and collaboration were reduced to very secondary aspects which, in general, were not related to the charism and spirituality of the religious Order. Rather, they were directed to very secondary aspects of a practical, organizational nature involving activities, initiatives, services connected with the celebration of religious festivals and private devotions such as the Scapular.
As a consequence of the position of the lay faithful in the Church on the one hand, and, on the other hand, the lack of a strong charismatic-spiritual identity, the Secular Order was unable to undertake full collaboration and joint responsibility at pastoral levels, in decision making, in the promotion of the Christian way of life within the Church. With a few exceptions, there was also a lack of adequate training in Carmelite spirituality. This reduced the realistic opportunities for the Carmelite charism to make a distinctive contribution to the Church. Of course, participation in the liturgy, recitation of the Little Office, completion of some ascetic exercises (fasting & abstinence), and the practice of certain devotions were a means of collaborating in the mission of the Church through prayer, the source of all missionary service. Equally, witness through a Christian way of life was a means of evangelising others.
Moving from the personal level to the community level of the Secular Carmelite, we encounter an absence of qualified personnel in the pastoral field. This latter was entrusted almost exclusively to priests and religious, as much in the Church as in the Carmelite Order. The Secular Carmelite assisted with organizational structure or materials. The situation was far removed from that expounded in Christifideles Laici when it affirms that the evangelical images of salt, light and leaven which apply to all followers of Christ, are more specifically connected to the lay faithful because it speaks of their complete absorption in the world and in humanity for the purpose of spreading the gospel. Although it was affirmed that not only the Pastors instituted by Christ could and should take on by themselves the complete saving mission of the Church in the world, in reality, the service and charism of the lay faithful were not recognized, nor, as a result, was their active collaboration in the field of evangelisation.
The rediscovery of the Church as the People of God, brought to reality in Vatican II, marked the beginning of a new age for the lay Christian. Recognition was given to his/her dignity and mission which is rooted in joining with Christ through baptism, combined in the People of God, and involves him/her, in their own way, ‘in the priesthood, prophetic and royal, of Christ’, to carry out in the Church and in the world, Christ’s mission according to their own vocation. The lay person is invited to associate him/herself with the work of the hierarchy since s/he is participating in the saving mission of the Church.
In Vatican II we start to speak of collaboration and joint responsibility of the lay people in the Church. It underlines that they are called ‘to make the Church present and active in those places and circumstances in which She can only become the salt of the earth through them….. Thus it is incumbent on all lay faithful to collaborate in the clear task of ensuring that the divine plan of salvation increasingly reaches out to men across all time and throughout the earth. Therefore, open up the way to them wherever it may be, following the opportunities and according the needs of the times, so that they may participate enthusiastically in the saving work of the Church.’
The bishops of the Church are invited to promote the dignity and responsibility of lay people in the Church; to give them freedom and opportunity to work; to encourage them to take initiatives. Lay people, for their part, have an obligation ‘to express their opinion about issues concerning the well-being of the Church …thus strengthening in the lay faithful a sense of their own responsibility.’
The post-synodal exhortation Christifideles Laici underlined some specific fields in which the co-responsibility of the lay faithful in the missionary Church might be exercised: the promotion of the dignity of the person, defense of life and religious freedom, the family as the first area of social commitment, witness of a charity demonstrated in solidarity, putting the human person at the center of socio-economic life and evangelizing culture and cultures. It also spoke of personal and joint forms of participation in the life and apostolate of the Church. The Secular Carmelite would be one of those group forms of participation.
Finally, the same post-synodal document invites the lay faithful to find their own vocation and mission and speaks of the need to give them a thorough training so that their human and Christian vocation may exist together. To achieve this vital combination, what is required above all is a spiritual and doctrinal training which might enable them to confront the challenges of our times and of their socio-cultural context from the perspective of the Christianity and the preaching of the Gospel.
These changes and new requirements of the Church concerning the lay faithful deeply questioned the structures and priorities of the Secular Orders of the Religious Institutes. While their legal connection to the Religious Orders remained firm, new challenges and rich prospects for the present and future appeared.
II C0-RESPONSIBILITY AND COLLABORATION OF THE SECULAR
ORDER WITH THE CHURCH IN THE PRESENT
Having set as a background to our reflection a brief panoramic view of the distant and more recent past concerning the concept and position of the lay faithful in the Church, we may now speak more specifically about the Secular Carmelite and what the Church expects of it in the field of joint responsibility and collaboration in its mission of evangelisation.
The post-synodal Document on the consecrated life, speaking of the cooperation and communion of the lay faithful with the Religious Institutes, explicitly mentions the Third Orders: ‘In continuity with the historical experiences of the different Secular or Third Orders, we can say that a new chapter has begun, rich with hope, in the history of relations between religious and lay.’
The same document concentrates especially on three areas in which the lay faithful participate – in the case of the Secular Orders which form part of the Institute – in the life of the Religious Institutes: charism, spirituality and mission. It is only within the context of these three aspects that we can understand and direct the joint responsibility and collaboration which is asked of the Secular Order in today’s Church. This requires a training which has as a basic objective the discovery of its lay vocation within the charism and spirituality of the Institute, to be able to live it out through the completion of a mission characterised by joint responsibility and collaboration with the Church.
Charism is a gift from the Spirit, given freely for the service of the Church. Each Order or Congregation to the consecrated life has its own charism expressed in its Rule and Constitutions. From the charism arises a style or way of living out the Christian and religious life, in other words, a spirituality. This spirituality emphasises certain elements of the Christian way of life and, on the basis of these, lives out what is considered fundamental: life in Christ and from the Spirit, which is received through faith, is expressed through love and lived out in hope. Charism and spirituality lead to apostolic commitment in all fields of evangelisation, but more specifically enable and guide one of these. It is as if they provided an experiential and practical specialisation in order to create a qualified service for the Church.
I believe it is important to remember, with regard to this position, what the essential elements of the charism and spirituality of the Teresian Carmelite consist of. In the light of the Constitutions of the brothers, we may say that its fundamental elements are the following:
- to live giving thanks to Jesus Christ, leaning on the imitation and care of the Blessed Virgin, whose form of life constitutes for the Carmelite a model of imitation of Christ;
- to seek the ‘mysterious union with God’ by the path of contemplation and apostolic activity, indissolubly linked to the service of the Church;
- to accord a particular importance to prayer which, nourished through listening to the Word of God and the liturgy, should lead to the covenant of friendship with God, not only when we pray but when we live. We commit ourselves in this life of prayer, which must be nourished by faith, hope and above all, charity, to live in the presence and the mystery of the living God;
- to immerse oneself in prayer and in life with apostolic zeal in a climate of human and Christian brotherhood;
- to live out a life of self-sacrifice according to the gospel from a theological perspective.
From this charism and spirituality arises a type of apostolic service which, in particular, should be given as much priority in the consecrated way of life as in the Secular Carmelite: the mission or pastoral nature of spirituality. Open to the needs of the Church and the challenges of the world today, we must also give priority to this apostolic service in the Secular Carmelite. This would be the practical means of offering, in co-responsibility, a more efficient collaboration to the Church, on behalf of its Carmelite-Teresian identity.
To face up to the challenges of the world today as lay Carmelites.
The changes in the world are rapid and continuous. Today changes take place in a short time which previously took centuries. On the other hand these changes are universal due to scientific, political, economic, cultural and technical interdependence. They have a profound effect because they impact on the whole human being and his personal existence. Some people and groups create the changes, others are affected by them, but nobody is excluded. Rather than talk of changes, one might consider one change of the age characterised by modernity and post-modernity, by subjectivity and ideologies in crisis. In particular, one recognises secularisation, freedom, globalisation and new ethics.
Secularisation brings with it a transformation of the relationship between the human being and nature, with others and with God. It is the phenomenon of de-sanctification in order to affirm the legitimate autonomy of the person, of culture and of technology. This causes certain imbalances between the autonomy of the human being and the loss of the sense of transcendence which leads to secularisation; between religious values and new myths and idols. This phenomenon offers the Secular Carmelite the possibility of living and bearing witness to the presence of God in the heart of the world; of helping others to discover in earthly realities the presence of God, as our saints did, but, at the same time to open them up to the transcendence of a God also present in the deepest centre of our being. And this can be made possible through the witness of one’s life and with an apostolic commitment which can be present in varied forms.
Another phenomenon which cannot be ignored is that of liberation. People, groups, nations and cultures do not want to be objects in the hands of those who hold on to power. They want to be protagonists in an environment of equality, responsibility, participation and communion. And this cannot be happen when new forms of oppression, marginalisation and exploitation of the weakest arise. Acknowledgement of the dignity of the human being creates a desire to search for the means to realise this dignity through the exercise of one’s fundamental rights, effectively recognised, guarded and nurtured. In this field one must also include the feminist movement which seeks to give woman the position she deserves in society and in the Church. The members of the Secular Carmelite are called upon to promote the defence of human dignity, proclaimed by our saints when they reflect on the calling of the human being to be transformed in God. St. John of the Cross said that ‘ a man’s thought is worth more than the whole world and, in consequence, only God is worthy of it (thought)’. In addition, the way to internal freedom, the source of all true freedom, appears in the spirituality of the Carmel.
One element which characterises the present day is undoubtedly globalisation. Today the world is living through a process of unification due to growing interdependence in all spheres of life. The earth is a ‘global village’ with economic, commercial, political and military links. The mass media and communications have brought people close to each other in a world full of news, communications and meetings. It is a process full of contradictions. Economic power is concentrated in the hands of a few, as are the means of communication and information. Everything is controlled. Deep imbalances appear between rich and poor countries and the growing phenomenon of large, poor groups in rich countries and of rich minorities in poor countries. There are different dimensions in globalisation: technological, economic, political, cultural. Positive aspects in this are the possibility of extensive global interconnection, access to information and the shortening of distances which can improve the quality of human life. Nevertheless there are negative aspects: the excessive search for economic profit which reduces the person to no more than a consumer, the increasing gap between rich and poor, the break-up of cultures and ways of life which globalisation tries to standardise. Confronted with this challenge, the Secular Carmelite is called upon to spread the concept of solidarity throughout the world as a requirement of the gospel. The Carmelite-Teresian charism places the emphasis on brotherhood: to be ‘small schools of Christ’ like the apostles and the early Christian community in which the believers had ‘one heart and one soul ….. and there was no one among them who needed anything’. (Acts 4: 32, 34)
At the core of the changes is the crisis of the ethics of the past and the search for a new ethic outwith the religious institutions and which relegates God and religion to the private domain. We are witnessing the development of bioethics with the great challenges of genetic engineering which threatens to create a standardised humanity. Through manipulation of the human genome scientists sometimes try to ‘play God’. There is an urgent need for an ethic based on the dignity of the human person created by God, the only absolute. It is here too that the experience and writing of the Carmelite saints outline the ways to bear witness and give guidance when making decisions.
However, not all is negative in this world of change. There are also positive tendencies such as the awareness of personal value and the fundamental rights of the individual, the search for a new harmony between humanity and nature, sensitivity to the problems of life, justice and peace, awareness of the value of individual cultures, responsibility of the human being towards the future, a greater feeling for religious and mystical experiences as a means of advancing the process of liberation and personal growth, a new position for women in society. In all these spheres the spirituality of the Carmel has something to say: Theresa of the Child Jesus, John of the Cross, Theresa of Lisieux, Elizabeth of the Trinity, Edith Stein, Titus Brandsma and many others light up and reinforce these signs of the times with their experiences and teaching.
The Church asks of the Secular Carmel a collaboration and co-responsibility to assist it in ‘deeply scrutinising the signs of the times and to interpret them in the light of the Gospel in a manner which, by adapting to each generation, the Church might be able to respond to the timeless questioning of humanity about the meaning of life - present and future, and how these are related’. To achieve all of this, it is necessary to have practical pathways and specific strategies in the Secular Order to facilitate co-responsibility and collaboration with the Church. This brings us to the possibilities for the future.
I JOINT RESPONSIBILITY AND COLLABORATION BETWEEN THE
SECULAR ORDER AND THE CHURCH IN THE FUTURE
The invitation made by the Church to the religious to renew their charism with creative faith can and must also be extended to the Secular Order. Creative faith implies a return to basics in order to confront actively the challenges of the moment. Within this compromise it is necessary to plan practical ways and to identify the means by which creative faith can be enabled.
In the effort to make a contemporary interpretation of the identity and mission of the Secular Carmel we must, above all, follow three ‘ways’: spirituality, training, brotherhood.
Spirituality is the first element which must be present in the process of creative faith for the Secular Order. Only a spiritual experience can lend authenticity to the search for new forms of life and existence. We are talking about Christian Spirituality in general and Carmelite spirituality in particular. Spirituality is the starting point of creative faith. It is the unifying element.
For the renewal of the Secular Carmel to evolve in dynamic faith, an initial and continuous programme of training is also required. The initial training requires a dialogue and collaboration with today’s generation from the standpoint of the reality of modern life and the challenges which they have to face. In this way the charism and spirituality of the Teresian Carmelite can be constantly active through the lay faithful empowered to release the energy which they themselves possess. Continuous training aims to provide the ability to reinterpret the charism and spread the word using language which is realistic and which can be understood by a world very different from past ages.
Another important point which must be emphasised in the Secular Carmel is brotherhood. In fact, the community dimension of the history of salvation must be highlighted for all Christians. We must help to create a community mentality in the various fraternities, so that the commitments of the Secular Carmel within individual parishes not only possess an individual dimension, but are also collective. The fraternities will have to be able to discern their faith in the light of the times and situations in order to create a united plan of service containing diverse charisms and personal points of view.
Means by which these journeys may be travelled
Among the methods which experience has shown to be effective in raising awareness and, especially in bringing the journeys mentioned above to reality, we have, in the first place, community reflections, provincial reflections, and those at a general level. These reflections are the starting point for opening new horizons and for controlling the tensions which arise out of this time of change.
Another great help in this process is the organisation of continuous training courses on the charism and spirituality of Carmel and on the new position of the lay faithful in the Church. This helps to reinforce the distinctive identity of the lay Carmelite and facilitates the re-interpretation and absorption by the lay faithful of the Teresian-Carmelite charism.
An effective method is also that of periodic meetings with the regional office bearers of the Secular Carmel and with their religious helpers. In that wider forum of those in charge it becomes possible to better evaluate the various circumscriptions and to plan projects in the certain knowledge that they can depend on the joint support of those who nourish the spiritual and apostolic life of the members of the Secular Carmel.
Finally, national, regional and international congresses, such as this one, are a valuable means to take stock of who we are, and for a combined resolve to face the challenges of the moment, a time of transition and search for new models which will give back to the Secular Carmel an understandable, existential language.
At the end of these reflections we may conclude that the new ecclesiastical and Carmelite consciousness are an occasion of grace to re-interpret the contribution which the Secular Carmel must make to the Church and of the meaning of its joint responsibility and collaboration.
The Secular Carmel is called upon to offer, in local parishes and on the level of the universal Church, a particular contribution similar to that of the friars and sisters of the Teresian Carmelites: to give witness and to spread the riches of the experience of God and a life of prayer as a way towards transcendence, a source of hope and commitment, common ground for the Christian faiths and the great religions. And to make this contribution at all levels: popular religious practice, broadcasting, academic studies, prayer groups, bible meditation, preaching of spiritual exercises, publications.
The different Institutes are called upon to provide a ‘specialised’ service which emerges from their charism and spirituality. This special apostolate has shown a notable increase within the Order in recent years. We now have 159 houses dedicated, in one form or another, to this distinctive characteristic of our charism in the church: 68 retreat houses, 67 prayer houses, 24 Institutes of spirituality, 47 Sanctuaries. The active presence of Secular Carmelites in these areas will undoubtedly enrich them and will also reveal the lay face of the Carmel-Teresian charism. This should be the distinctive contribution of the Secular Order of the Carmel to the Church.
Mary, Mother and Sister, extends to us from Our Lord the gifts of evangelical discernment and an acceptance of the risk of faith and the pathways of God at the start of the Third Millenium.
1. What is the state of the Secular Carmel in your area vis-à-vis this type of
collaboration in the Church?
2. What are the main difficulties encountered in the creation of this new model for the members of the Secular Order of the Teresian Carmel? How can we overcome them?
3. What could be done at the level of the Centre of the Order to support this
new co-responsibility and collaboration of the Secular Order?
 Christifideles Laici, n. 2
 Id. n.15.
 Lumen Gentium 31.
 Id. 33.
 Id. 37.
 Christifideles laici, nn. 36-44.
 Id. nn. 28-30.
 Id. nn. 57-60.
 Vita consecrata, 54.
 Constituciones OCD, n. 15.
 Gaudium et Spes 4.
Formation of the OCDS Father Attilio Ghisleri, OCD
PRESENTATION OF THE THEME
The heart of the Church is Christ our Lord. With quick and magnificent synthesis the Acts of the Apostles says, “He went about healing and doing good to all.” (10:38). For 200 years this has been the most perfect paradigm of life that we can possibly imagine and make factual in our existence. All formative paths must lead to this objective.
There is another evangelical expression that should be kept in mind during the development of the theme that I am presenting. “The eyes of all in the Synagogue were fixed on him.” (Luke 4:16). In this way the walk of those who believe in him will continue and in this way will the adventure of life conclude.
The Church is placed in the world as light, yeast, and evangelical salt. It is animated and sustained by the love of Christ that pulses in each of us (2 Cor. 5:14). It is in this way that the mission and the work of Christ continue within the world and in each creature. The Church is the fertile womb for each vocation, consecration, and mission.
Along our way, the Spirit of the Lord searches for us, finds us, pardons us, welcomes us, counsels us, and consoles us. It transforms us into true friends and intimates of God and our neighbors; also communicating to us all of the life and the vital passion of Christ.
It is the duty of each us, as believers, to follow in the steps of Jesus; imitating his breath of soul, keeping them strictly alive in every situation, striving with the heart to go beyond what is earthly and material.
St. Augustine offers us a suggestive image of the vagabond who goes his way singing and walking Disc. 256)
“Now our body is in the earthly condition,
then it shall be in the celestial condition.
There will sound the Feast of God; certainly, it also sounds here and now.
Here, however, in anxiety; there, in tranquility
Here in hope; there, in reality.
Here as exiles and pilgrims; there in the homeland.
We sing also now, not so much to enjoy a rest
As to relieve the fatigue.
We sing as vagabonds.
We sing but walk; we sign and walk!”.
Lay Carmelites are fully titled members of the Church. Their identity is that of being persons of the Church in the heart of the world and persons of the world in the heart of the Church. The world is the specific field of their action, the witness of the life and activity that makes real God’s project for humanity. Living as responsible children of God, they deepen human fraternity and share with the world justice and peace.” (Father Carmilo Maccise, The Renewal of the Secular Carmelite within the Framework of the New Evangelization, 1996, International Congress, OCDS, Rome).
THE SOCIAL SCENARIO—THE RELIGIOUS IN THE FORMATION OF THE NEW MILLENNIUM
We are not fortunetellers concerning a reality that, continuously evolving, leaves little space for an exact and complete prevision of Christianity and its relationship with this reality. It is not possible to offer a rapid and improvised solution concerning some of the current phenomena. It is necessary to clarify right away that some of the essential pedagogical characters remain the same also in the third millennium. The approach to the integral values of Christianity remains the same, while the style and the means change or must change.
Nevertheless, in order to approach an image of Christianity in society in the year 2000 it is necessary that one have an understanding of the complex web of problems that involve this Christianity and urgently calls for it. This knowledge does not need to be
analyzed at small tables but it must attempt to discern between all the possibilities that are being offered to contemporary man to do good—beginning with his own dignity as a child of God within secularized society.
It is also essential to keep alive the consciousness of a certain Christian extraneousness in respect to the “earthly city” in that “we are all guests and pilgrims” and for this reason we camp but temporarily in the city, with the imperative that we make concrete choices in line with the Gospel. The reality of the Church to which we belong is both a mystery and a sacrament of communion; for this reason it is of primary necessity that every road that leads toward man remain open.
Before the acceleration of social and technological transformation, Christians must not close their eyes. They must try better to define the essence of their own responsibility in order, above all, to keep to their imperative of total clarity in the forms of service in volunteering and in support of initiatives that come from various groups or movements. And, once again, it is always the Gospel and the mysterious force of the Spirit that qualifies the Christian initiative in an original manner.
In this state of things and from the confrontation between faith, lifestyles and differing cultures, the moral maximalism of other times, when every social change was pronounced as dangerous and was therefore negated (the Industrial Revolution, the birth of the worker movement, Capitalism, lending at interest) should be avoided. The responsibility of the Lay Carmelite is that of working within secular life that precious mediation between the absolute of the Gospel and the continuous “becoming” which is the reality of the concrete life.
In modern times, the believer must be formed primarily to the ethics of responsibility and co-responsibility for the realization of the common good and also to participate in the Church’s pathway of evangelization and human promotion. As an adult in the faith, the lay person becomes irreplaceable in this role. There are some realities that closely involve and press upon him and it is incumbent upon him to act with autonomy of intelligence and profession of faith.
Unfortunately, in today’s world, there are social issues that are pushed aside and that create paradoxical and potentially dangerous situations: endemic poverty, the negation of human rights, creeping economic neo-colonialism, discrimination, impediments to the profession of religion, continuous injustices, migration, regional conflicts, ethnic vendettas, absolute regimes, perennial imbalances within the same population, besides those conflicts which are now habitual between the north and the south of the world. The believer places himself within these sick or polluted realities and signals his presence as an agent of change, in the name of the Lord. Spirituality and obligation must be strictly joined, in the sense of an incarnate spirituality and a deaconate.
The civilization of the imagination has already produced a profound renewal of custom in the past years. To look is not only to inculturate oneself but to perceive, act, desire, fear, hear and feel involved with the flow of what is being represented. One may truly serve the culture, knowledge and consciousness but one can also falsity, pollute and distort the truth of facts and the dignity of persons. In addition, the Lay Carmelite has his or her responsibility in the choice of means of communication or in the adherence to projects that respect man, nature, and minorities. This is the way that most easily gathers consensus and places in crisis our moldy ways of presented Christianity to our contemporaries.
The micro-electronic revolution at work in the information sector is, on the one hand, leveling out the organizational potential of work and commerce on the planetary level, on the other hand it is at the same time humiliating the poorer populations who are once more cut out from any form of participation and therefore of potential well-being.
We also accent the theme of globalization, a term used often today by the economic powers and that extends into may sectors life. On the one hand all of the borders of the world seem shortened by the possibility of communications and the operative right to intervene, but on the other hand globalization perpetrates the existing lack of balance between the rich and the poor because it is born form a capitalist logic that, by its very nature, gives no quarter to anyone, having as its one objective the search for profit. The “new economy”, as it is today called, does not have the common good as its final objective if this is meant in a moral sense; but in a certain sense it demonizes the competition in a game of the implacable game of enterprise, at whose center is a consumer to be persuaded to consume. Capitalism, market, enterprise and the individual in a liberal and democratic society are the omnivorous melting pot for every possible materialistic interest. It has been justly observed that it is necessary to keep an eye on the effects of globalization so that they do not introduce other evils into the weaker society and do not generate new needs and things to be consumed that are ephemeral or without value. These incline towards a consumeristic mentality and comportment; they change the way of looking at life, of valuing and taking on forces and services. Globalization when it is meant as a rapid intervention at the service of the world of the poor and disenfranchised, can instead be a most valid instrument of evangelical charity.
A noted difficulty for a person who lives today is to rearrange in his mind the plurality of cultural, social and material stimulants that he receives. He must reduce to a vital unity the complexity of the world in a manner so as to individuate a practical way for his own conditions, whether personal, familial, professional or relational. There is nothing left of tradition in this changing scenario that can help the individual because the values because event he values that cannot be renounced must be related and presented in another manner, staring from other explicit or subject priorities. From here is born, according to the sociologists, the sense of discomfort, uncertainty, anxiety and precariousness of contemporary society, that nevertheless can find its best resources in the depth of self on which is grafted the Christian faith.
Physical or economic security, by themselves, are not enough to guarantee the integral dignity of the person. They are certainly a qualified point of departure, but alone they do not cause the question of religiosity to spring forth, that has at its root, man’s encounter with Jesus the Redeemer. This is evidenced in the Good that can attract a person today-- as it always has—as soon as he is sincere in listening to the substantial needs of his soul.
To live from day to day, to prefer continual experimentation to a stable decision, the same weak thought that is popular in the West (and which is strongly antithetical to the strong thought that has guided these last centuries and been also in the heart of the Church), the desired forgetting of a past as a land for reference, are the other environmental conditions in which falls the obligation of the Christian today who lives and shares the tiring management of present society, assuming little by little attitudes of critical distance, of vigilance, of reserve, or of motivated intervention. As the Church’s place in this world is that of light, yeast, and salt, it continues the mission and work of Jesus in this world and for every human creature.
THE NEED OF FORMATION
Life is a walking mystery and history. An existence, even if it were long, would not be enough for us to deeply understand or determine it from our conditions. Formation helps us in this adventure.
It is fundamentally requisite that one discovers his true role or vocation in order to choose a way of “being” in the life rather than let himself live with fatigue or pick up what others impose upon him in a more or less veiled manner.
The gifts, the capacities, the qualities and the charisms that have been given to us need to be assumed, explored, and potentialized and then always put into the circle of life. These are the determinants of our personality. The human and psychological sciences are a great help in this field.
There is a continuous evolution both in the microcosm of the person (age, environmental conditions, impromptu events, determining encounters, cultural acquisitions, aspects of life that are favorable or unfavorable, unique occasions) that in the macrocosm of the history in which we live (political conditions, geography, ideology, battles, discriminations, schooling, economy, political, national and international alliances, political preferences…). All of these motives, whether they are taken singularly or inter-relatedly, cannot be merely endured or passively accepted because they place into play the safeguarding of the dignity of the person. Christian formation has a duty that is both delicate and precious.
Effort is needed to inculturate the Faith in conditions of time and place. Not everything is peaceful and easily resolved; pressures and requests for material help surely prevail; sometimes one may find himself in the minority in the testimony of his faith in a religious context, or that of a different religiosity or of open hostility. Often economic interests try to wed themselves to religious interests, with a mortifying or scandalous practical outcome, in which some Christians or the hierarchy align themselves with the powerful.
There are dramatic life conditions in certain countries that call for a liberal and clear choice from Christians and a stable and combative option to change the situation. The same weakness of the persons who believe sometimes generates fear, a distancing from the problems, little sensitivity, and a flight to an un-incarnated message of salvation.
Ways of escape and/or recipes for solving some very complex problems are not always evident. One may feel very impotent and sometimes it is necessary to wait patiently and analyze the situation more appropriately, verifying also partial results. Formation is like a fixed point from which to begin and to which one can refer the variety of provisory means to be used.
There still persists, unfortunately, within the Church-- more in the works than in the official Magisterial doctrines—a clericalism that is difficult to kill; it is a dominance of the hierarchy both in the evaluation of problems and in their management. The Catholic lay person, like that of the feminine world both within and without religious life, today stile lives ancillary position of subordination and reverence, notwithstanding the growth of cultural preparation and spiritual formation that has been received and absorbed. This is particularly true in the twilight world of the twilight world of the West, where there is only the evidence of a shortage of priests and clerics to determine a major opening of co-responsibility towards the laity.
In this present phase, moreover, the groups and movements continue to work with a strong push of persecution, a hermetic closure within themselves, a sense of superiority in respect to the others forms of lay contribution (that are considered “generic” in the sense that they do not want to be allied with these others), with a lack of collaboration, and with a jealousy for which they vaunt their number as proof of their power and internationalism. Often, in order to emerge form the pack, they beg the alms of protection or statement of public esteem from bishops and cardinals. Without a doubt, lay believers such as the Carmelites might feel a sense of disadvantage, of being in the minority or marginalized in front of ostentation of masses that are well organized and many times well nourished financially. Within the Theresian witness, the Carmelite does not like ostentation and publicity. It is only the sanctity of its members that generates awe, admiration and a following that reaches the planetary level (the two Theresas, Edith Stein, Elizabeth of the Trinity…). The same problem of wedding faith with life and reason with mystery remain a dialectic cross that places the believer in continuous need of interior change/conversion, in order to polish the objectives of his life, to verify the means of arriving at a possible balance even in the midst of much instability. This is as well the opening threshold of any spiritual path that is oriented towards the perfect of charity.
Finally, there exists today a need that is becoming more and more pronounced even in the media and that is to receive and accept the richness of the formative paths of others and other cultures; the need to converse and to know oneself through an open and cordial comparison with others, to open oneself to all the good that is operating in the world. This is an immense spiritual patrimony and there are no longer barriers in the recognition of the fact that we are not the only bearers of nonmaterial values. This will allow us to better update and authenticate our own life itinerary.
FORMATIVE STAGES FOR LAY CARMELITES
1̊ BASE FORMATION
The knowledge of the fundamental values of Christianity that signal belonging, according to the line of fidelity to Christ and to his Gospel of Salvation as it has been transmitted by the Apostles and been jealously guarded as to its integrity, and has been evolved by theological and biblical reflection.
We are not saying-- at least for all the members of the O.S.-- that they necessarily possess a complete knowledge of each theological subject, but that they adhere personally to all that the Church teaches and that the Order teaches in order to have a spiritual sensitivity, a certainty of path, and companions in the walk of faith. The goal is maturity and stability for one’s own practice and confessed faith.
The Sacramental Itinerary is already, in itself, formative—from baptism to the Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick—and there is also the dynamism of the Easter character of the redeemed life.
Also the flow of the liturgical year is a possible educative stimulus to the Faith, if it is lived as a fervent reflection and adhesion to the liturgical monitors.
Today there are also numerous possibilities for instruction according to one’s own needs, beginning with regular academics and going on to the “Schools of Christianity” that are widely scattered throughout the groups and movements and in the parishes. This initiative has been active for many years within the Italian Secular Carmelites. In the West, above all, there are risks of illiteracy for those who are returning to the Faith in the sense that initial formation attached to the Initiation Sacraments of Christianity have been completely forgotten and this has led to disaffection towards important values and uncertainty about the contents of the Faith itself.
If it is true that Christianity indicates, above all, a total adhesion to the Lord; it is just as important that one does not fall into a devotionalism that too many times is sterile and that, in the end, can paralyze every commitment or witness or can reduce religiosity to a private fact.
It is necessary to also emphasize that God educates His people, for which it is a duty of the believer to accede to Him and let himself be educated. We speak here of a long and perseverant maturity, without mental exasperation and without the anxiety of wanting to know all of the dogma. This happens, above all, through diving grace and the Holy Spirit as a guide to gather what the Lord wants to say or ask or give to each of us.
Interior maturity coincides with a process of internal liberation from things and persons. It is a way of visualizing from on high and from inside all that flows in one’s personal life to the end of being able to manage it without being dominating, give without mixing in confines, and to use human goods without being used by them.
The dignity of being sons of God in His Son and followers of his Gospel, involves us in God’s plan for us, it allows His history to flow within our own and it makes us brothers in the horizontal axis in the sign of a reciprocity that it very fruitful also on the operative level.
In this base formation, even the conscience of the person becomes transparent, in the sense of a moral life that consists in interpreting life in the light of the Gospel. The synthesis of this first part of the formative walk of the Lay Carmelite is the education to Love:
In this is expressed the positiveness and the attractiveness of
It concretizes the universal vocation to holiness
It unites all the practical and ideal responses of the duty of the believer,
It establishes the criteria for credible judgement on how much we should act and scan even the final judgement.
It is always from here, also at the beginning of this new Millennium, that it is necessary to begin any contextual or methodological reflection. To begin with a God of Love, revealed in His son, Jesus Christ as Mercy and without defect with each of us.
This love, given to all, for everyone coming, fills the universe with itself and waits to be revealed through each one of us, beginning with the confidential way of total abandonment to Him and within the context of life’s fortunes.
It is necessary always to begin from this vertical divine point in order to understand and be understand ourselves reciprocally, to cross the times and seasons of history, to give a robust and dense dimension of value to all that slips towards the daily expression.
In Christian formation it is not necessary to begin from our own poverty and weakness, from the sinfulness and imperfection of our gestures, but from this “beauty” that still and always heats the world and pushes it with unsullied faith towards the completion of its destiny.
The subtle game of learning –expressiveness of Love and that that swings between the offer of God and its slow personal absorption, the battle to hold oneself in a faithful prospective with this and the inevitable moments of slackening. Pedagogically we may say that some formative indications are very useful:
A decisive will to want to progress, that follows a personal duty
An asceticism in its various forms
An assiduous sacramental vitality
We can also define these means as catalytic converters that unite the freedom of the gifts from on high with their practicability in the life of the believer.
The pages that are the most intense and richest in experience of our Saints are all oriented and centered in this direction and are truly a potent stimulus for all members of Carmel to make credible and true the Love received and to re-give this both to God and to our brothers.
This same love contains within itself an exceptional formative charge and at the same time represents the culminating point of all the educative process of the person.
II CARMELITE FORMATION
Carmelite formation has the duty of stabilizing the vocational membership of our religious Family in the substance of the typical spiritual message and also in the help—collaboration for the vitality and the development and expression of this in the entire world. Also if we can find in the laity in general and in many scholars a an attention that is both elective and full of admiration for the Carmel, its traditions, its saints, the secular Carmelite is an integral part of the Order.
It fully represents, together with the cloistered nuns, the richness and the variety and the diversity of the spiritual path in the context of the life of the world.
The same roots, the same values, and the same Rule articulate the identity of the lay person called to Carmel. Formation must help in the discovery of this identity, reinforce it, and push it towards lay styles of incarnation. Unfortunately, sometimes one has the impression that a certain devotional charge is enough; that it is sufficient to have an intimate surge that is not very communicative and that this be only a spur towards something else (a psychological support, a solution of problems, a peace that is equidistant from life’s tensions).
It is necessary to begin again from the concept of Carmel, in other words from the awareness that we speak of a gift that was made to the creature, that all of his life is in the “hands of another” and from now on it is defined by his rapport with Him, to Him we give everything. It is like being exposed to the total risk of having aimed towards one goal. Under this profile, there is no difference between the various vocations, even to Carmel. Only the applied and expressed modalities change.
The call to union with God and to a life of prayer, typical of our charism is a precious and strong but for each it must be maintained clear the diversity both of the research and their development because it is too important the singularity of the gifts that the Holy Spirit, in absolute liberty, concedes to each one. We can reassume the concept by saying that there is only one part of departure, there is only one goal, but the roads to arrive at and for living each vocational goal are multiple and diverse.
The response t the call is concretized with the voluntary and thought out giving of oneself to Carmel. The path is made of simplicity and humility, the company of other brothers and sisters who are ideal and real. The icon is that of the first community gathered in the upper room with Mary, waiting for the Holy Spirit. In practice one must feel and manifest his joy at being called to Carmel, to be able to grow with a determined physiognomy together with others, to be able to confront oneself with other callings like him. Sometimes there is the risk of wanting to create laypersons who are specialized in the doctrine of our Saints. This is not the primary objective, because it is more important “make an experience of” what the Carmelite brings as a gift to the Church. Personal experience, with different accents and vibrations, with a logic of group communion and a logic of reciprocal solidarity and of stimulation in the realization of charity.
The Juridical membership of the Order must be enlivened by an original contribution that the Order expects from the laity. I speak of the diverse experiences in the world that lead towards a continuous mediation with Christian duty; I refer to the possibility of entering without prejudice or labels into certain sectors of civil life and to direct witness in the field with an alternative style of life. It is like a silent and working protestation against behavior modes that is evidenced by itself, without spoken emphasis.
I list here a series of personal formative occasions and collective traditions and held together by experience that might help the formation of the lay Carmelite, holding them far away, none the less, from rigid schemes and obligations that are imposed by law.
Formation encounters should be frequent, taking into account only the lay state of the members of the O.S., who have many times full- time duties in family, professional or material activities. The choice of time and moments for these must safeguard all of this and in no way preclude the participation of the majority of the members, otherwise one risks only talking to pensioners.
The same thing goes for the annual spiritual exercises. It is opportune that they be always confirmed, perhaps with a different modality from that of a residential organization, or in any case with the possibility for the majority to be able to participate at least with the reading of the minutes or diffusion with other methods of social communication.
Spiritual reading on the person and the doctrine of our Saints is, in addition, a form of communion with the Order in its substance. We know how each one has his own reactions and his own emotions and therefore the same text might have different vibrations and results according to a particular sensibility. It is opportune to let oneself be accompanied by those proposals that most help us; it is not necessary to profoundly know all the texts. That which is presented to us is like a rich and stimulating universe but later each one must adhere to what is most useful to him in a particular moment. Many are the ways that lead to the goal, which is to live in respect for Jesus Christ in order to love God and serve the brothers.
It is not the large and extensive culture that favors the spiritual life, but the experience that we are permitted to follow. Here there are no realities or values reserved to the Religious or the Nuns, because all is available to the laity, just as the Gospel cannot not in any way be privatized in favor of anyone. It is the Holy Spirit who acts when and how he wants within the soul that opens to him and the results are not only perfection but also an entrance into the mystical dimension.
Spiritual direction is another formative aspect that is very useful. Dealing with a walk, it is clear that it is necessary to begin with a proposal, to try to find the modalities of intervention, verifying the results and have also the courage to change if there is not an improvement. To place oneself with faith in the hands of a priest, possibly a Carmelite, means to find also a sense of security and of peace, it means to demonstrate the constructive duty of one’s own will in association with the vocational response.
This Carmelite formation leads inevitably to a practice of prayer, according to the Theresian method; the liturgy of the hours, personal and community prayer and meditation enter into the life of the lay Carmelite as substantial factors. It is not opportune to establish hours and times by Rule, because this becomes, above all, an interior habit and can marry itself with the most diverse activities. Since the entire accent is put on the concept that prayer wishes to respond to love, then it is necessary to leave the most ample space to personal initiative, without binding anyone.
The life of prayer itself at the end becomes a strong educative symbol of each single day, because it conditions choices, it pushes towards generosity in the fulfillment of ones own duties, helps in difficulties, brings as a sign of benediction in material activities, puts one in communication with universal prayer of the Church and of the Order, comes in aid of needs, not only personal but community, opens the heart to others, and gives a sense of interior peace.
In the life of prayer, the three cardinal virtues are directly activated as experience. The example is the little Theresa who from the cloister became patron of missions.
In these last decades it has become more and more important, also in the Secular Order, the divine reading. It is an education important for hearing God, for obeying His voice and will, for tasting his message in a direct confrontation with ones own life, to learn that pregnant silence of God, which our Saints have told us of. There is always a personal enrichment of the Word, that comes evoked=called out to demonstrate itself in its capacity to fascinate us, to attract us and to push us towards its fulfillment. There are many ways of practicing this and every groups is invited to elaborate this according to its needs but always in a way that is open to all.
It is precious the direct contact with the religious life and the cloister of our Order. It is necessary to invite the young to this contact so that they see translated into practice that longing for a life rich with God which for them is like a miracle, a curiosity, or a challenge. These contacts can come also as convivial moments, participation in particular liturgies or commemorations or dialogue. Here one perceives the contemplative dimension of the life, its evangelical spending of itself as adultezza of the faith.
Formation is an occurrence along the way, on the trajectory of the baptismal vocation and of the common priesthood. The same faith is a pilgrimage within the mysteries of God that touch the world and man, life and death. For this reason its task is to let the truth emerge, in other words what god is and what he does in and for us.
It is a walk together in the womb of the Church, in the discovery of self and of the reality of the other with their diversity and experience, without suffering, without that homogeneity of college, or nursery school, or jail or barracks.
It must be open to the sense of gratitude and free of charge. This is equivalent to observing life and oneself as a gift of continuous salvation, full of gifts that come from on high. To thank God because of all we have received is our duty and that of being wise administrators who must, then, give an accounting. In this spiritual strategy of extreme simplicity the gift received tends to become gift given. Life given to others is continually recharged, it is enriched more and more. The experience of our saints and beatified has as its fundamental point the giving of thanks to God for his infinite mercy and abundance of gifts and to sing the mercies of god, celebrating them in one’s own life as a daily deed. Here space is opened for the assumption of political or social responsibilities, for the support of humanitarian interventions, and the defense of the family and its intrinsic values and for whatever form of voluntary work.
It must stir up the sense of responsibility in liberty. It is evangelical to the hand to the plow, to take decisions, to go on without looking back; to never abdicate one’s own personality, also when one must purify himself or renounce something. It is the so-called work of life, in which, free and responsibly, each one plays at expressing his style of life. The lay person must act as a lay person, demanding respect for that vocational role and avoiding the assumption of what is not compatible with his status. The primary precinct of this lay person will be that of intensely living his own personal, familiar, social and professional reality without following the common fashion. Only in this way does the life itself become a sacramental sign of the presence of Our Lord. The virus of individualism is beaten with collaboration with the others for the betterment of the quality of life.
The opening towards new historical and spiritual horizons: the icon is the Walk to Emmaus. The windows of the mind and of the soul must remain open because the historic and spiritual scenes are in continuous evolution. This means to never regret the past. But to know that God remains immutable and living among us, he cannot put us in a worse condition. In the concept of formation there is already the germ of renewal, because it a continuous reading and interpreting existence in the light of God, which is always new and unfailing.
All of the vigor of spiritual formation emerges here. It is like a continuing seminary, even if the fruits are not seen immediately and the failures are always right at hand. Indeed, every lack of success can push us more towards other ways or to give more attention to the force of the Spirit. The opening of the scene can be already to begin with what happens in the Parish. The willingness to assume ministerial forms of charity, of collaboration with pastoral activities, of direct participation in the problems of community life.
Educational principles cannot save a man, even if wrong ones can destroy him. Here we are not speaking of finding techniques for success, but to help each one to find his own integral dignity and line or orientation within the common received and professed faith. The four Gospels, for example, are a model of possible walks in following Christ:
Mt.: is the Gospel of the catechist
Mk.: is the Gospel of the catechumen
Lk.: is the Gospel of the evangelizer
Jn.: is the Gospel of the elders and of the mature Christians.
Each of these offers reasons for Christian hope in a secularized and apathetic world.
To form or to give for/ to life, definitely signifies to obey God, his living Word, the Mother Church and the Order to which a person fully belongs. This is in order to grow, because God, who is trustworthy, makes our every day life trustworthy. This is the “fiat” of the Virgin Mary who proceeds and accompanies our entire path. Here on is able to beckon synthetically to the challenge of this new Millennium that were prepared in past years: evangelization of the world and of society, the practice of a working charity, support for problems of justice and peace in the world, attention to the humble, and, finally, the promotion of the dignity of the role of the laity in the Church.
In summary, we can affirm that today, as yesterday, to be Christian means to be a citizen of the intermediate times (between the first and the second comings of Christ)
Sustained by gifts and values both natural and supernatural, guided by the Scriptures, dispensers of brotherhood, within a continuous and fascinating interior dynamic that brings us in contact with God as friends, almost consumed from the beginning to the end by an experience of service-deaconate, walking with men and feeling that they are brothers. It is necessary to emphasize that also the value of friendship that is stabilized between those who feel themselves bound to Carmel through a spiritual walk and not for motives of efficiency or opportunity, but as training to understand that the face of the brother/sister is that in which is mirrored the image of Jesus.
An authentic Christian path needs some rules, a discipline of both body and spirit, and an indicative line that is both clear and precise. In my opinion, in order to give greater enthusiasm to the O.S. it is necessary to reduce the legislation to a few essential lines as happens in them movements and ecclesial groups, thus avoiding spiritual maximalism and conceding to the lay status only what can be practiced, keeping in mind the various contexts of the life, avoiding that the rules apply only to the older people and cannot be applied to all. To be formative, they must only accompany the subject and remain open and flexible in various situations, placing in prominence the organizing autonomy of the members. It is the Holy Spirit who gives guarantee of the spiritual fruit of the labor and the commitment of the laity.
III̊ COLLABORATION WITH THE ORDER OF CARMEL
The great Family of Carmel, dispersed in all the world, diverse in its styles of life, duties and ministries, has a great faith in the laity comprise it. It feels them as brothers, as true friends, as diligent and precious collaborators both in life and in the common charism; both in their diffusion at all levels and in the their participation in the problems that live in our time.
They are not to be considered as a surrogate of the religious life or as a pious association, but for what they have always begin even from the beginning when they asked to take part in the Order while remaining in the world and living its reality.
To the laity, the post Vatican II church has requested a new apostolic and missionary dynamism and the same authorities of Carmel have many times solicited their vital presence not only as individuals but also as groups that have been well formed, before the great challenges of our time.
The Father General said in the last International Congress of the OCDS that in his opinion “the future of the Secular Carmelite is staked in this active, mature and responsible collaboration in the apostolate of the Order at all levels”. It is extremely opportune that this new, world assembly re-engages these indications, discuss them and urgently find paths and walks that will lead to their realization. The formation of which I have spoken in my speech must serve just this.
In the missionary sector:
To know, above all else, the situation of our proclamation of the Gospel throughout the world, through our specific publications or though direct contact with the missionaries.
Prepare missionary exhibitions with intelligence not only to raise money for the missions, but also to promote public debates, encounters with some of our missionaries, and to diffuse images and content through the local broadcasting stations. Create a diffused sensibility for this duty-commitment of the Church and of the Order.
Organize groups for missionary prayer, sustained by the Carmelite spirituality. These can also be open to those who do not belong to Carmel and enlarge attention also to the youth because usually they show themselves to be most sensitive to this argument.
Present our activities and our needs to parishes that don’t have any missionary initiatives. Be the bridge at the intervention of our missionaries.
Everything is to be invented, at least for the western world, direct collaboration in mission territories on the part of the lay Carmelites. Here, before anything else, from this is requested the witness of life as a believer, then an inclusion in the catechisis as help to the families, as a support to food, medical, and social problems of the people. All of this should be within a co-ordinated and agreed upon pastorate. One supposes some specialization, the knowledge of the language and of the culture of the people to whom one is destined. In practice all that the Religious now do to help the missions, well- prepared and mature laity can do as well, also for limited periods and according to necessity.
Sometimes it could be a help to the missionaries also only in the organization and the service of everyday life, in a way that the missionary might be free from material preoccupations to be better able to give himself to his priestly ministry. It is clear that this type of intervention, to which the OCDS is still not used to, presupposed a request on the part of the missionary, a programmatic of the functions to be developed, a minimum of structure for their reception, specific qualities of the participants, health and physical resistance in adapting to climatic and environmental changes.
The installations are many, the problems ever more large and complex, the misery always more vast, the needs and the poverty always more diffused. The lay Carmelite must know how to express spirituality incarnated also in these challenges, according to his effective possibilities, both direct and indirect. The new evangelization does not ask him, however, that he must necessarily move to the mission territories and the charism must never suffocate the individual and familial liberty of the individual.
In houses of prayer and retreat
The pastoral activity of the Order is more and more specialized towards these centers of religious culture, of diffusion of spirituality, and welcome for formation or spiritual exercises or retreats. This seems so be a part of our specific charism, also in the mission territories.
The presence of the laity seems to be still quite small. Today their commitment could today cover all of the direction and the organization of these centers. The should also autonomously manage and spread all that the Carmelite in terms of the experience of the interior life to the man of our time, who surprisingly seems to appreciate and search for what he loses in material daily life.
For who also has the necessary competence and theological formation, other, more interesting scenes might open, such as the promotion of Catholic culture, the initiatives to brings these up to date, and courses of theology for lay people. More than ever today is noticed the need to place at the disposition of people occasions for reflection and medication.
In the Institutes of Spirituality
The presence of the laity in the various forms of Christian culture (universities, journalism, the arts, etc.) is spreading more and more and in particular that of women. One speaks of a rereading of the culture from different sides and sensibilities that correspond with diverse states of life or personal conditions.
Fortunately, the Carmelites boast two Doctors of the Church. But now it is the turn of the lay Carmelite to win a natural reluctance and sense of dependence, so that he can use well the talents he has received and propose himself with the his original geniality, parting from a cultural formulation that is well assimilated and put in the crucible of scientific investigation. Potentially there are no barriers of any type, what would be opportune to do is to encourage and prepare the laity for this form of collaboration with the Religious in the environment where the culture is proposed and elaborated.
A first step would be to guest within the pages of our magazines some articles, studies or considerations on all that concerns the spirituality and the validity of Carmel.
Another occasion would be that of entering into the organizing committees of the promotion of our charism, in places where convents and monasteries do not exist and in that way our doctrinal patrimony would spread even more.
Above all in the field of human and philosophical science the contribution of scholarly and lay Carmelites would be of a complementary help to other theological explorations.
In the creation of prayer groups
This is a form that is well followed and appreciated because in a simply and community way, one finds the motivation for prayer. The Carmelite has his masters of indisputable value and the proposal of Theresian prayer is universally appreciated.
Here it is the case to propose “prayer experiences”, more than a lot of theory. It is important to select suitable environments, to give continuity to the movement, and to understand how to taste the pauses of contemplative silence.
The well-formed lay Carmelite is able to mange this type of spiritual activity alone or with small animating groups.
Teaching prayer does not have to be a privilege of the Religious of Carmel, but of all those who have had personal training in this sector which is so precious for our charism.
In other apostolic initiatives
The first common front that the lay Carmelites must share with the entire Order refers to prayer and to the zeal for the promotion of Carmelite vocations.
Both the Religious and the Nuns need the support, the sympathy and the human warmth of the laity, of their prayers, of their sacrifices in being faithful to the commitments they have assumed with their profession and/or with the priestly ministry.
The generosity with which the laity can help the initiative of charity in the Carmelite parishes, the visits to the sick, support to the spirituality of groups and families, in the catechisis, in the permanent deaconry, in the secretarial work—it is practically without borders.
It is only a question of disposition and attitude.
Unfortunately in the West, one still speaks of followers, and of little consideration for the operative autonomy of the laity in their functions, also if documents from the Magisterium of the church are in their favor.
The collaboration for being fruitful must be born from reciprocal esteem and faith, from the understanding that the priesthood must not do everything by itself and that the initiatives of the Holy Spirit are not a prerogative only for a few.
The theological statute of the laity is truly that to exercise its regal, prophetic and priestly office in the world and therefore they should be placed in position to manage in this direction with full authority.
FRONTS OF PRACTICAL COMMITMENT IN CHARITY AS AN EDUCATIVE AND SOCIAL STIMULUS
Beginning with the least
Beginning with Mt. 25:40 “Anything that you did for one of my brothers here, even the most humble, you did to me.” we make clearer to understand how Christ himself was the smallest. The theological and anthropological relevance of the smallest lies exactly here. The entire Christology of Christ as a poor man brings us to say that in order to serve Christ it is necessary to draw near to the smallest. The smallest man becomes the icon of Christ and our most just place is among the small.
It is necessary to say that each of us is small, because this is the indispensable condition that the divine Pastor cares for him.
Nevertheless, there are existing conditions where that term is more evident: indigence, poverty, hunger, thirst, solitude, and collective dramas such as war and drought. In contact with this world of pain and desperation, it is impossible not to receive a strong stimulus to auto-education, you learn this from the practical life, to make comparisons, one dismisses secondary needs, and it trains us to look more at the face of Jesus in the face of the least. The great saints are all witnesses of this total and universal charity.
2. The problem of women
I will dwell a moment of the theme of the dignity of women. Already the Pope’s letter, Mulieris Dignitatem (1988) traced the doctrinal and practical line of the Church towards women. The Secular Order is composed of 2/3 women in the world. Formation must invest resources so that it will really be guaranteed the space for action to those whom the Pope defines as “the feminine genius” in the sense the specialty of woman is a gift made for humanity, on a par with that of man, for the comprehension and development of life itself. Here the field for intervention is immense, starting with the educative sector, and moving on to welfare, culture and religion. To work in the name of the Lord means to be flung open to a true sense of motherhood, sustained by the grace and the power of the Holy Spirit.
The Pope hopes for more space for women in the totality of the social life. This includes effective equality in the rights of the person; therefore equal pay for equal work, protection for mothers who work, a just progression in career, and full participation in public, political and economic life (Letter of 29.6.00).
Also in the life of the Church, the Pope hopes for a more hospitality, respect and honor for the services that women can make, beginning with their distinct dignity and personality, as collaborators in the aspostolate. Carmel waits for this answer, after having constructed for the women who take part in this same charism, educative lines that are compatible with the new evolution of the walk of the woman of toady.
3. The world of young people
The last to suffer because of the injustice of our society are young people. Adult society shows itself to be detached when confronted with them and to demonstrate little attention toward the potential of their interior and professional richness and to give them no form of participation in the political and economic world. They are objects of exploitation in that they are victims of consumerism and the seduction of material goods. It is difficult for them to find work and to be taken into consideration; on the other hand the need for a certain life security has spread like an oil spill throughout the world, causing strong emigration towards what is considered to be “the paradise of money”.
The Secular Order must know how to confront the emergence of youth, for its universal vocation (which is diffused in 44 nations) finding a formative line of attention, listening and help. The exercise of evangelical charity is a potent educative value for the person who is committed to the weakest brethren. It is the putting into action of the central value of the person—the capacity to love.
QUESTION FOR THE WORKERS AND GROUP REFLECTIONS.
How should the theme of lay vocations to Carmel be presented?
What doctrines should be presented?
How should belonging to the Order be lived?
What methods should be used to encourage lay vocations?
How should new arrivals be welcomed and how should they be accompanied?
Concerning base formation
How does preparation begin; with what advantageous subjects and with what development?
How should the liturgical calendar be lived?
How should one prepare for the sacraments?
How should one read and comment upon the important documents of the Church?
How should one not discriminate according to the culture?
What are the needs that are more felt?
What commitments should be taken on in the parochial, social and political life by the Christian laity?
Concerning Carmelite formation
What readings, meditations and studies should be done at the beginning of the walk?
What methods for proceeding with a group composed of persons from various nations?
Elasticity in relation to proposals for interior formation
Analysis of the documents of the Order
When a Carmelite priest is missing as spiritual director, how should one act?
Participation in and organization of the Order’s most important feasts
How should the sense of brotherhood among the lay Carmelites be lived; how to live solidarity with the needy?
Concerning collaboration with the Order
Collaboration with our mission
Help in the pastoral parochial activities of our Carmelites
Guidance in prayer groups
Direction and organization of our hospitality centers
Collaboration with the Spiritual Centers, with the magazines…
Other help in general…
Other ways for being of help
Concerning the Rule and the Statutes
How to simplify everything, in the way that it can be totally observed by the laity?
What values should be emphasized in modern time?
How best to unify the entire Family of Carmel?
How to best respect the laity of the member, how to define their office in the breast of the O.S.?
Attilio Ghisleri, OCD