Wednesday, 27 November 2013

20 Quotes From Pope Francis' First Apostolic Exhortation "Evangelii Gaudium"

Pope Francis has issued his first Apostolic Exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel.) Vatican Radio says “The 224-page document outlines the Pope’s vision for a missionary Church, whose “doors should always be open”. The Pope speaks on numerous themes, including evangelization, peace, homiletics, social justice, the family, respect for creation, faith and politics, ecumenism, interreligious dialogue, and the role of women and of the laity in the Church.

The entire 48,000 word document can be found on the Vatican’s Website

For quick reading, here are 20 quotes from the document. These quotes are in no way meant to represent the overall tone, meaning or intent of the Holy Father’s Apostolic Exhortation. The full document is nuanced and full of thought-provoking messages which should be read in full to fully grasp.

1.“The great danger in today’s world, pervaded as it is by consumerism, is the desolation and anguish born of a complacent yet covetous heart, the feverish pursuit of frivolous pleasures, and a blunted conscience. Whenever our interior life becomes caught up in its own interests and concerns, there is no longer room for others, no place for the poor. God’s voice is no longer heard, the quiet joy of his love is no longer felt, and the desire to do good fades.”

2.“I invite all Christians, everywhere, at this very moment, to a renewed personal encounter with Jesus Christ, or at least an openness to letting him encounter them; I ask all of you to do this unfailingly each day. No one should think that this invitation is not meant for him or her, since “no one is excluded from the joy brought by the Lord”

3.“God never tires of forgiving us; we are the ones who tire of seeking his mercy.”

4.“The Gospel, radiant with the glory of Christ’s cross, constantly invites us to rejoice.”

5.“There are Christians whose lives seem like Lent without Easter. I realize of course that joy is not expressed the same way at all times in life, especially at moments of great difficulty. Joy adapts and changes, but it always endures, even as a flicker of light born of our personal certainty that, when everything is said and done, we are infinitely loved.”

6.“It is not advisable for the Pope to take the place of local Bishops in the discernment of every issue which arises in their territory. In this sense, I am conscious of the need to promote a sound “decentralization”.

7.“Since I am called to put into practice what I ask of others, I too must think about a conversion of the papacy. It is my duty, as the Bishop of Rome, to be open to suggestions which can help make the exercise of my ministry more faithful to the meaning which Jesus Christ wished to give it and to the present needs of evangelization.”

8.“All revealed truths derive from the same divine source and are to be believed with the same faith, yet some of them are more important for giving direct expression to the heart of the Gospel. In this basic core, what shines forth is the beauty of the saving love of God made manifest in Jesus Christ who died and rose from the dead.”

9.“I want to remind priests that the confessional must not be a torture chamber but rather an encounter with the Lord’s mercy which spurs us on to do our best. A small step, in the midst of great human limitations, can be more pleasing to God than a life which appears outwardly in order but moves through the day without confronting great difficulties. Everyone needs to be touched by the comfort and attraction of God’s saving love, which is mysteriously at work in each person, above and beyond their faults and failings.”

10.“The Eucharist, although it is the fullness of sacramental life, is not a prize for the perfect but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak.”

11.“How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points?”

12.“In this context, some people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world. This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system. Meanwhile, the excluded are still waiting.”

13.“The Pope loves everyone, rich and poor alike, but he is obliged in the name of Christ to remind all that the rich must help, respect and promote the poor. I exhort you to generous solidarity and a return of economics and finance to an ethical approach which favours human beings.”

14.“Marriage now tends to be viewed as a form of mere emotional satisfaction that can be constructed in any way or modified at will. But the indispensable
contribution of marriage to society transcends the feelings and momentary needs of the couple.”

15.“Challenges exist to be overcome! Let us be realists, but without losing our joy, our boldness and our hope-filled commitment. Let us not allow ourselves to be robbed of missionary vigour!”

16.“If anyone feels offended by my words, I would respond that I speak them with affection and with the best of intentions, quite apart from any personal interest or political ideology. My words are not those of a foe or an opponent. I am interested only in helping those who are in thrall to an individualistic, indifferent and self-centred mentality to be freed from those unworthy chains and to attain a way of living and thinking which is more humane, noble and fruitful, and which will bring dignity to their presence on this earth.”

17.“The Church has no wish to hold back the marvellous progress of science. On the contrary, she rejoices and even delights in acknowledging the enormous potential that God has given to the human mind. Whenever the sciences – rigorously focused on their specific field of inquiry – arrive at a conclusion which reason cannot refute, faith does not contradict it. Neither can believers claim that a scientific opinion which is attractive but not sufficiently verified has the same weight as a dogma of faith. At times some scientists have exceeded the limits of their scientific competence by making certain statements or claims. But here the problem is not with reason itself, but with the promotion of a particular ideology which blocks the path to authentic, serene and productive dialogue.”

18.“As Christians, we cannot consider Judaism as a foreign religion; nor do we include the Jews among those called to turn from idols and to serve the true God.”

19.“Sometimes we are tempted to be that kind of Christian who keeps the Lord’s wounds at arm’s length. Yet Jesus wants us to touch human misery, to touch the suffering flesh of others. He hopes that we will stop looking for those personal or communal niches which shelter us from the maelstrom of human misfortune and instead enter into the reality of other people’s lives and know the power of tenderness. Whenever we do so, our lives become wonderfully complicated and we experience intensely what it is to be a people, to be part of a people.”

20.“My mission of being in the heart of the people is not just a part of my life or a badge I can take off; it is not an “extra” or just another moment in life. Instead, it is something I cannot uproot from my being without destroying my very self. I am a mission on this earth; that is the reason why I am here in this world.”

Monday, 25 November 2013

Pope Francis closes the Year of Faith

Today’s solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, the crowning of the liturgical year, also marks the conclusion of the Year of Faith opened by Pope Benedict XVI, to whom our thoughts now turn with affection and gratitude. By this providential initiative, he gave us an opportunity to rediscover the beauty of the journey of faith begun on the day of our Baptism, which made us children of God and brothers and sisters in the Church. A journey which has as its ultimate end our full encounter with God, and throughout which the Holy Spirit purifies us, lifts us up and sanctifies us, so that we may enter into the happiness for which our hearts long.

I offer a cordial greeting to the Patriarchs and Major Archbishops of the Eastern Catholic Churches present. The exchange of peace which I will share with them is above all a sign of the appreciation of the Bishop of Rome for these communities which have confessed the name of Christ with exemplary faithfulness, often at a high price.

With this gesture, through them, I would like to reach all those Christians living in the Holy Land, in Syria and in the entire East, and obtain for them the gift of peace and concord.

The Scripture readings proclaimed to us have as their common theme the centrality of Christ. Christ as the centre of creation, the centre of his people and the centre of history.

1. The apostle Paul, in the second reading, taken from the letter to the Colossians, offers us a profound vision of the centrality of Jesus. He presents Christ to us as the first-born of all creation: in him, through him and for him all things were created. He is the centre of all things, he is the beginning. God has given him the fullness, the totality, so that in him all things might be reconciled (cf. Col 1:12-20).

This image enables to see that Jesus is the centre of creation; and so the attitude demanded of us as true believers is that of recognizing and accepting in our lives the centrality of Jesus Christ, in our thoughts, in our words and in our works. When this centre is lost, when it is replaced by something else, only harm can result for everything around us and for ourselves.

2. Besides being the centre of creation, Christ is the centre of the people of God. We see this in the first reading which describes the time when the tribes of Israel came to look for David and anointed him king of Israel before the Lord (cf. 2 Sam 5:1-3). In searching for an ideal king, the people were seeking God himself: a God who would be close to them, who would accompany them on their journey, who would be a brother to them.

Christ, the descendant of King David, is the “brother” around whom God’s people come together. It is he who cares for his people, for all of us, even at the price of his life. In him we are all one; united with him, we share a single journey, a single destiny.

3. Finally, Christ is the centre of the history of the human race and of every man and woman. To him we can bring the joys and the hopes, the sorrows and troubles which are part of our lives. When Jesus is the centre, light shines even amid the darkest times of our lives; he gives us hope, as he does to the good thief in today’s Gospel.

While all the others treat Jesus with disdain – “If you are the Christ, the Messiah King, save yourself by coming down from the cross!” – the thief who went astray in his life but now repents, clinging to the crucified Jesus, begs him: “Remember me, when you come into your kingdom” (Lk 23:42). And Jesus promises him: “Today you will be with me in paradise” (v. 43). Jesus speaks only a word of forgiveness, not of condemnation; whenever anyone finds the
courage to ask for this forgiveness, the Lord does not let such a petition go unheard.

Jesus’ promise to the good thief gives us great hope: it tells us that God’s grace is always greater than the prayer which sought it. The Lord always grants more than what he has been asked: you ask him to remember you, and he brings you into his Kingdom!

Let us ask the Lord to remember us, in the certainty that by his mercy we will be able to share his glory in paradise.


Monday, 21 October 2013

Celebrations in the life of a Carmelite Friar.

The past few weeks have been of celebration within the Carmelite family - why?
Because God continues to be good to us and send us brothers! At the end of September Brother James Hinchcliffe was received into the novitiate and clothed in the habit at the friary church of St. Andrew in Salamanca. This friary is on the site of the novitiate community which welcomed St. John of the Cross into the Carmelite Order and is now the home of the novices from across Europe.
Br. James received the habit along with 7 others who begin their religious life together under the watchful eye of their Novice Director, Fr. Desiderio Gracia Martinez, O.Carm. Fr. Desi was part of the Carmelite community at Aylesford priory last year and always provides a joyful welcome.

Fr. Damian Cassidy, O.Carm presents the habit to James Hinchcliffe


OThe novitiate class of 2013-2014 with friars from Spain, England, Ireland, and Portugal
On Saturday the 19th of October the friars of the British province gathered to celebrate the Solemn Profession of Vows of Brother Paul Jenkins. O. Carm. The liturgy for the the solemn profession of vows is one of the most beautiful celebrations we have. It has a noble and joyful simplicity. Paul gathered around him many strands of his life as he made his lifelong commitment to God, the Carmelite Order and the Church.
Br. Paul Jenkins

After the gospel Paul is called to present himself for Solemn Profession. he is asked "Beloved brother, what do ask of God and his holy Church?" Paul replied, " Through the mercy of God I have learnt the meaning of a life dedicated to him through the vows, by living among you in community. therefore, I humbly ask  hat, for the gory of god and the service of the Church, I may make my Solemn Profession in te Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel."

Br. Paul lies before the Altar as the community call on the prayers of the Saints to pray for him and the whole Church

Br. Paul makes his profession of vows into the hands of Fr. Wilfrid, the Prior Provincial.

The Carmelite friars pray the prayer of consecration over Paul

After Paul professed his vows the friars present prayed the prayer of consecration over him.
Father in heaven, source of all holiness, your love for us is so great that you invite us to share in your divine life.
Throughout history you have raised up men and women graced with every virtue. Foremost among them stands Mary, the ever virgin daughter of Zion. From her pure womb was born our Saviour Jesus Christ, your eternal Word.
He became poor to make us rich, a slave to set us free. With love no words can tell he redeemed the world by his death and resurrection.
You send your Spirit among us to sanctify us that we may row in holiness. The voice of the Spirit has been heard by countless numbers of your children.
Drawn to follow in the footsteps of your Son they leave all things behind to be one with you in the bonds of love. They freely and wholeheartedly give themselves yto your service and the service of your people.
Look with favour, then, on our brother Paul who has heard your call.
Send him the Spirit of holiness; help him to fulfil in faith what you have enabled him to promise in joy. Grant him perfect chastity, liberating poverty and wholehearted obedience.
May he glorify you by his humility, serve you with joy, and be one with you in fervent love. By the holiness of his life may he build up your kingdom, and thus be a sign of your love for the whole world.
May he live a life of constant allegiance to Jesus Christ.
Amy he be constant in prayer, faithfully pondering your holy word day and night, and so come to rejoice in the communion of your saints and praise you forever in their company. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Fraternal joy! Paul is welcomed by his brothers

 Please pray for our brothers, James and Paul and for those who will come after them!
Our Lady of Mount Carmel, pray for us!

Monday, 14 October 2013

Pope Francis consecrates the world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary

Apologies for the blog gap, our blogger has been on the move!
This past weekend, Pope Francis consecrated the world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. this was a principle celebration within the Year of Faith when the Church gathers around Mary as the model of faith. The homily of Pope Francis is a beautiful catechesis on Mary, the Mother of Jesus
Dear Brothers and Sisters,

This event of the Year of Faith is devoted to Mary, the Mother of Christ and the Mother of the Church, our Mother. The statue of Our Lady which has come from Fatima helps us to feel her presence in our midst. It is a fact: Mary always brings us to Jesus. She is a woman of faith, a true believer. But we can ask: What was Mary’s faith like?

1. The first aspect of her faith is this: Mary’s faith unties the knot of sin (cf. Lumen Gentium, 56). What does that mean? The Fathers of the Second Vatican Council took up a phrase of Saint Irenaeus, who states that "the knot of Eve’s disobedience was untied by the obedience of Mary; what the virgin Eve bound by her unbelief, the Virgin Mary loosened by her faith" (Adversus Haereses, III, 22, 4).

The "knot" of disobedience, the "knot" of unbelief. When children disobey their parents, we can say that a little "knot" is created. This happens if the child acts with an awareness of what he or she is doing, especially if there is a lie involved. At that moment, they break trust with their parents. You know how frequently this happens! Then the relationship with their parents needs to be purified of this fault; the child has to ask forgiveness so that harmony and trust can be restored. Something of the same sort happens in our relationship with God. When we do not listen to him, when we do not follow his will, we do concrete things that demonstrate our lack of trust in him – for that is what sin is – and a kind of knot is created deep within us. These knots take away our peace and serenity. They are dangerous, since many knots can form a tangle which gets more and more painful and difficult to undo.

But we know one thing: nothing is impossible for God’s mercy! Even the most tangled knots are loosened by his grace. And Mary, whose "yes" opened the door for God to undo the knot of the ancient disobedience, is the Mother who patiently and lovingly brings us to God, so that he can untangle the knots of our soul by his fatherly mercy. We all have some of these knots and we can ask in our heart of hearts: What are the knots in my life? "Father, my knots cannot be undone!" It is a mistake to say anything of the sort! All the knots of our heart, every knot of our conscience, can be undone. Do I ask Mary to help me trust in God’s mercy, to undo those knots, to change? She, as a woman of faith, will surely tell you: "Get up, go to the Lord: he understands you". And she leads us by the hand as a Mother, our Mother, to the embrace of our Father, the Father of mercies.

2. A second aspect is that Mary’s faith gave human flesh to Jesus. As the Council says: "Through her faith and obedience, she gave birth on earth to the very Son of the Father, without knowing man but by the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit" (Lumen Gentium, 63). This was a point on which the Fathers of the Church greatly insisted: Mary first conceived Jesus in faith and then in the flesh, when she said "yes" to the message God gave her through the angel. What does this mean? It means that God did not want to become man by bypassing our freedom; he wanted to pass through Mary’s free assent, through her "yes". He asked her: "Are you prepared to do this?" And she replied: "Yes".

But what took place most singularly in the Virgin Mary also takes place within us, spiritually, when we receive the word of God with a good and sincere heart and put it into practice. It is as if God takes flesh within us; he comes to dwell in us, for he dwells in all who love him and keep his word. It is not easy to understand this, but really, it is easy to feel it in our heart.

Do we think that Jesus’ incarnation is simply a past event which has nothing to do with us personally? Believing in Jesus means giving him our flesh with the humility and courage of Mary, so that he can continue to dwell in our midst. It means giving him our hands, to caress the little ones and the poor; our feet, to go forth and meet our brothers and sisters; our arms, to hold up the weak and to work in the Lord’s vineyard, our minds, to think and act in the light of the Gospel; and especially to offer our hearts to love and to make choices in accordance with God’s will. All this happens thanks to the working of the Holy Spirit. And in this way we become instruments in God’s hands, so that Jesus can act in the world through us.

3. The third aspect is Mary’s faith as a journey. The Council says that Mary "advanced in her pilgrimage of faith" (ibid., 58). In this way she precedes us on this pilgrimage, she accompanies and sustains us.

How was Mary’s faith a journey? In the sense that her entire life was to follow her Son: he – Jesus – is the way, he is the path! To press forward in faith, to advance in the spiritual pilgrimage which is faith, is nothing other than to follow Jesus; to listen to him and be guided by his words; to see how he acts and to follow in his footsteps; to have his same sentiments. And what are these sentiments of Jesus? Humility, mercy, closeness to others, but also a firm rejection of hypocrisy, duplicity and idolatry. The way of Jesus is the way of a love which is faithful to the end, even unto sacrificing one’s life; it is the way of the cross. The journey of faith thus passes through the cross. Mary understood this from the beginning, when Herod sought to kill the newborn Jesus. But then this experience of the cross became deeper when Jesus was rejected. Mary was always with Jesus, she followed Jesus in the midst of the crowds and she heard all the gossip and the nastiness of those who opposed the Lord. And she carried this cross! Mary’s faith encountered misunderstanding and contempt. When Jesus’ "hour" came, the hour of his passion, when Mary’s faith was a little flame burning in the night, a little light flickering in the darkness. Through the night of Holy Saturday, Mary kept watch. Her flame, small but bright, remained burning until the dawn of the resurrection. And when she received word that the tomb was empty, her heart was filled with the joy of faith: Christian faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Faith always brings us to joy, and Mary is the Mother of joy! May she teach us to take the path of joy, to experience this joy! That was the high point – this joy, this meeting of Jesus and Mary, and we can imagine what it was like. Their meeting was the high point of Mary’s journey of faith, and that of the whole Church. What is our faith like? Like Mary, do we keep it burning even at times of difficulty, in moments of darkness? Do I feel the joy of faith?

This evening, Mother, we thank you for our faith, the faith of a strong and humble woman; we renew our entrustment to you, Mother of our faith. Amen.
Immaculate Heart of Mary, pray for us.


Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Feast of St. Albert of Jerusalem

Saint Albert was born towards the middle of the 12th century in Castel Gualtieri in Emilia, Italy. He entered the Canons Regular of the Holy Cross at Mortara, Pavia, and became Prior there in 1180. In 1184, he was named bishop of Bobbio, and the following year he was transferred to Vercelli which he governed for twenty years.  During this period, he undertook diplomatic missions of national and international importance with rare prudence and firmness: in 1194, he effected a peace between Pavia and Milan and, five years later, also between Parma and Piacenza. In 1191, he celebrated a diocesan synod which proved of great value for its disciplinary provisions which continued to serve as a model until modern times. He was also involved in a large amount of legislative work for various religious orders: he wrote the statutes for the canons of Biella and was among the advisers who drew up the Rule of the Humiliates.

In 1205, Albert was appointed Patriarch of Jerusalem and a little later nominated Papal Legate for the ecclesiastical province of Jerusalem. He arrived in Palestine early in 1206 and lived in Acre because, at that time, Jerusalem was occupied by the Saracens. In Palestine, Albert was involved in various peace initiatives, not only among Christians but also between the Christians and non-Christians and he carried out his duties with great energy. During his stay in Acre he gathered together the hermits on Mount Carmel and gave them a Rule. On 14th September 1214, during a procession, he was stabbed to death by the Master of the Hospital of the Holy Spirit, whom Albert had reprimanded and deposed for his evil life.
The Rule of Saint Albert
Chapter 1
Albert, called by God's favour to be patriarch of the church of Jerusalem, bids health in the Lord and the blessing of the Holy Spirit to his beloved sons in Christ, B. and the other hermits under obedience to him, who live near the spring on Mount Carmel.
Chapter 2
Many and varied are the ways in which our saintly forefathers laid down how everyone, whatever his station or the kind of religious observance he has chosen, should live a life of alegiance to Jesus Christ -- how, pure in heart and stout in conscience, he must be unswerving in the service of his Master.
Chapter 3
It is to me, however, that you have come for a rule of life in keeping with your avowed purpose, a rule you may hold fast to henceforward; and therefore:
Chapter 4
The first thing I require is for you to have a prior, one of yourselves, who is to be chosen for the office by common consent, or that of the greater and maturer part of you; each of the others must promise him obedience -- of which, once promised, he must try to make his deeds the true reflection -- and also chastity and the renunciation of ownership.
Chapter 5
If the prior and brothers see fit, you may have foundations in solitary places, or where you are given a site that is suitable and convenient for the observance proper to your Order.
Chapter 6
Next, each one of you is to have a separate cell, situated as the lie of the land you propose to occupy may dictate, and allotted by disposition of the prior with the agreement of the other brothers, or the more mature among them.
Chapter 7
However, you are to eat whatever may have been given you in a common refectory, listening together meanwhile to a reading from Holy Scripture where that can be done without difficulty.
Chapter 8
None of the brothers is to occupy a cell other than that allotted to him or to exchange cells with another, without leave or whoever is prior at the time.
Chapter 9
The prior's cell should stand near the entrance to your property, so that he may be the first to meet those who approach, and whatever has to be done in consequence may all be carried out as he may decide and order.
Chapter 10
Each one of you is to stay in his own cell or nearby, pondering the Lord's law day and night and keeping watch at his prayers unless attending to some other duty.
Chapter 11
Those who know how to say the canonical hours with those in orders should do so, in the way those holy forefathers of ours laid down, and according to the Church's approved custom. Those who do not know the hours must say twenty-five Our Fathers for the night office, except on Sundays and solemnities when that number is to be doubled so that the Our Father is said fifty times; the same prayer must be said seven times in the morining in place of Lauds, and seven times too for each of the other hours, except for Vespers when it must be said fifteen times.
Chapter 12
None of the brothers must lay claim to anything as his own, but you are to possess everything in common; and each is to receive from the prior -- that is from the brother he appoints for the purpose -- whatever befits his age and needs.
Chapter 13
You may have as many asses and mules as you need, however, and may keep a certain amount of livestock or poultry.
Chapter 14
An oratory should be built as conveniently as possible among the cells, where, if it can be done without difficulty, you are to gather each morning to hear Mass.
Chapter 15
On Sundays too, or other days if necessary, you should discuss matters of discipline and your spiritual welfare; and on this occasion the indiscretions and failings of the brothers, if any be found at fault, should be lovingly corrected.
Chapter 16
You are to fast every day, except Sundays, from the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross until Easter Day, unless bodily sickness or feebleness, or some other good reason, demand a dispensation from the fast; for necessity overrides every law.
Chapter 17
You are to abstain from meat, except as a remedy for sickness or feebleness. But as, when you are on a journey, you more often than not have to beg your way; outside your own houses you may eat foodstuffs that have been cooked with meat, so as to avoid giving trouble to your hosts. At sea, however, meat may be eaten.
Chapter 18
Since man's life on earth is a time of trial, and all who would live devotedly in Christ must undergo persecution, and the devil your foe is on the prowl like a roaring lion looking for prey to devour, you must use every care to clothe yourselves in God's armour so that you may be ready to withstand the enemy's ambush.
Chapter 19
Your loins are to be girt with chastity, your breast fortified by holy meditations, for, as Scripture has it, holy meditation will save you. Put on holiness as your breastplate, and it will enable you to love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul and strength, and your neighbour as yourself. Faith must be your shield on all occasions, and with it you will be able to quench all the flaming missiles of the wicked one: there can be no pleasing God without faith; [and the victory lies in this -- your faith]. On your head set the helmet of salvation, and so be sure of deliverance by our only Saviour, who sets his own free from their sins. The sword of the spirit, the word of God, must abound in your mouths and hearts. Let all you do have the Lord's word for accompaniment.
Chapter 20
You must give yourselves to work of some kind, so that the devil may always find you busy; no idleness on your part must give him a chance to pierce the defences of your souls. In this respect you have both the teaching and the example of Saint Paul the Apostle, into whose mouth Christ put his own words. God made him preacher and teacher of faith and truth to the nations: with him as your leader you cannot go astray. We lived among you, he said, labouring and wary, toiling night and day so as not to be a burden to any of you; not because we had no power to do otherwise but so as to give you, in your own selves, an example you might imitate. For the charge we gave you when we were with you was this: that woever is not willing to work should not be allowed to eat either. For we have heard that there are certain restless idlers among you. We charge people of this kind, and implore them in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that they earn their own bread by silent toil. This is the way of holiness and goodness: see that you follow it.
Chapter 21
The Apostle would have us keep silence, for in silence he tells us to work. As the Prophet also makes known to us: Silence is the way to foster holiness. Elsewhere he says: Your strength will lie in silence and hope. For this reason I lay down that you are to keep silence from after Compline until after Prime the next day. At other times, although you need not keep silence so strictly, be careful not to indulge in a great deal of talk, for, as Scripture has it -- and experience teaches us no less -- sin will not be wanting where there is much talk, and he wo is careless in speech will come to harm; and elsewhere: The use of many words brings harm to the speaker's soul. And our Lord says in the Gospel: Every rash word uttered will have to be accounted for on judgement day. Make a balance then, each of you, to weigh his words in; keep a tight rein on your mouths, lest you should stumble and fall in speech, and your fall be irreparable and prove mortal. Like the Prophet, watch your step lest your tongue give offence, and employ every care in keeping silent, which is the way to foster holiness.
Chapter 22
You, brother B., and whoever may succeed you as prior, must always keep in mind and put into practice what our Lord said in the Gospel: Whoever has a mind to become a leader among you must make himself servant to the rest, and whichever of you would be first must become your bondsman.
Chapter 23
You, other brothers too, hold your prior in humble reverence, your minds not on him but on Christ who has placed him over you, and who, to those who rule the Churches, addressed the words: Whoever pays you heed pays heed to me, and whoever treats you with dishonour dishonours me; if you remain so minded you will not be found guilty of contempt, but will merit life eternal as fit reward for your obedience.
Chapter 24
Here then are the few points I have written down to provide you with a standard of conduct to live up to; but our Lord, at his second coming will reward anyone who does more than he is obliged to do. See that the bounds of common sense are not exceeded, however, for common sense is the guide of the virtues.
From Constitutions of the Order of the Brothers of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel. Approved by the General Chapter celebrated in September, 1995 and published by the order of the Most Reverend Father Joseph Chalmers, Prior General.
Chapters have been renumbered since the Rule was published in 1995. The Chapter numbers used above are the result of a joint meeting of the General Councils of the Carmelites and the Discalced Carmelites in January, 1999.
Innocentian additions are given in italics.

Saturday, 7 September 2013

Praying and Fasting for Syria

Prayer for peace in Syria
God of Compassion,
Hear the cries of the people of Syria,
Bring healing to those suffering from
the violence,
Bring comfort to those mourning the dead,
Strengthen Syria’s neighbours in their care and
welcome for refugees,
Convert the hearts of those who have
taken up arms,
And protect those committed to peace.
God of Hope,
Inspire leaders to choose peace over violence and
to seek reconciliation with enemies,
Inspire the Church around the world with
compassion for the people of Syria,
And give us hope for a future of peace built on
justice for all.
We ask this through Jesus Christ,
Prince of Peace and Light of the World,
US Catholic Bishops’ Conference Prayer
Prayer for Syria and Middle East
We come to you, God Creator.
You are the source of life and beauty and power.
Your son Jesus is the way of faith and
hope and love.
Your Spirit is the fire of love, the fount of
wisdom, the bond of unity.
You call us at all times to be people of the
Witnesses to the Gospel of peace and love and
You call us at this time, when war and rumours of
war, weigh heavily on the peoples of Syria
Their lives are already broken by suffering
and violence.
We renew our acceptance of your call.
We promise to work:
To bring the light of the Gospel to those living in
To bring the hope of the Gospel to those living in
To bring the healing of the Gospel to the lonely,
the disadvantaged, the marginalized,
And to bring the peace of the Gospel to a divided


Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Pope Francis writes to the Carmelite Order as they gather for the General Chapter

To Most Reverend Father
Fernando Millán Romeral
Prior General
of the Order of Brothers
of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel.

I address you, dear Brothers of the Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel, as you celebrate your General Chapter. At this time of grace and renewal that calls on you to discern the mission of the glorious Order of Carmelites, I would like to offer you a word of encouragement and hope. The ancient charism of Carmel throughout these past eight centuries has been a gift for the whole Church. Your contemplative origins spring from the land of the epiphany of God’s abiding love manifested in the Word made flesh. As you ponder your mission in Carmel today, I would ask you to consider three things that might guide you on your pilgrim way: love as allegiance, as prayer and as mission.


The Church has the mission to bring Christ to the world and it is for this, as Mother and Teacher she invites each one of us to draw near to him. In the Carmelite liturgy for the feast of our Lady of Mount Carmel we contemplate Our Lady as being “near the Cross of Christ.” This is also the place where one finds the Church: near to Christ. It is also the place for every faithful member of the Carmelite Order. Your Rule begins with the exhortation to the brothers to “live a life of allegiance to Jesus Christ”; to follow him and to serve him with a pure and undivided heart. This close relationship to Christ happens in solitude, in fraternal assembly and in mission. “The fundamental choice of a life that is concretely and radically dedicated to following Christ.” (Ratio Institutionis Vitae Carmelitanae 8) making of your lives a pilgrimage of loving transformation. The Second Vatican Council recalls the role of contemplation on the journey of life: “It is of the essence of the Church that she be both human and divine, visible and invisibly equipped, eager to act and yet intent on contemplation, present in this world as pilgrims.” (Sacrosanctum Concilium 2) The early hermits of Mount Carmel retained the memory of that holy place, and even if exiled and distanced from it constantly kept their gaze fixed on the glory of God. Reflecting on your origins and history and contemplating the vast lineage of those who lived the Carmelite charism down through the centuries you will discover again your present vocation to be prophets of hope. It is precisely with this hope you will be reborn. Often what is new is only something very old seen in a new light.

Within your Rule is the heart of the Carmelite mission then and now. As you approach the eight centenary of the death of Albert, Patriarch of Jerusalem in 1214 you will recall that he formulated “a way of life”, a space that enables you to live a spirituality that is orientated towards Christ. He outlines both external and internal elements, a physical ecology of space and the spiritual armour needed in order to fulfil one’s vocation and mission.

In a world that often misunderstands Christ, and in fact rejects him, you are invited to draw near and to unite yourselves more closely with him. It is a continuous call to follow Christ and be conformed to him. This is of vital importance in our world so disoriented, “for once the flame of faith dies out, all other lights begin to dim.” (Lumen Fidei 4) Christ is present in your fraternity, your common worship and in the ministry entrusted to you: renew the allegiance of your whole life!


The Holy Father Benedict XVI, before your General Chapter of 2007 reminded you that “faith’s inner pilgrimage towards God begins in prayer”; and at Castel Gandolfo in August 2010 said to you that: “You are the ones who teach us how to pray”. You speak of yourselves as contemplatives in the midst of the people. If it is true that you are called to live on the heights of Carmel then it is also true that you are called to witness in the midst of the people. Prayer is that “royal road” that leads to the profound mystery of the One and Triune God, but it is also the narrow pathway to God in the midst of the people as pilgrims in the world towards the Promised Land.

One of the most beautiful ways for entering into prayer is through the Word of God. Lectio divina brings you into direct conversation with the Lord and it opens for you wisdom’s treasure. The intimate friendship with the One who loves us, enables us to see with the eyes of God, to speak with his Word in our hearts, to treasure the beauty of that experience and to share it with those who are hungry for eternity.

Returning to the simplicity of a life centred on the Gospel is the challenge for a renewed Church: a community of faith that always finds new ways of evangelization in a world continually changing. The saints of Carmel have been the great preachers and teachers of prayer. This is what is needed once again from Carmel in the twenty-first century. Constantly throughout the length of your history, the greats of Carmel have sought to call you back to your prayerful contemplative roots, roots always fruitful in prayer. Here is the heart of your witness: the “contemplative” dimension of the Order, to be lived, cultivated and transmitted. I would like each one of you to ask yourself: how is my contemplative life? How much time during my day do I dedicate to prayer and contemplation? A Carmelite without this contemplative life is a dead body! Today, perhaps more than in the past, it is so easy to allow ourselves to be distracted by the cares and worries of this world and to succumb to false idols. Our world is fractured in so many ways: rather the contemplative unites and powerfully builds the call to unity. Now more than ever is the moment for you to discover again that inner pathway to love through prayer and to offer to the people today in your preaching and mission the witness of your contemplation, not easy solutions but that wisdom that comes from pondering “day and night the Law of the Lord”. The Word always brings one near to the glorious cross of Christ. United in contemplation and austerity of life is not a secondary aspect of your life and witness. There is a very strong temptation even for you to fall into a mundane spirituality. The spirit of the world is the enemy of the life of prayer: never forget this! I exhort you to a more austere and penitential life, according to your authentic tradition, a life distant from all worldliness, distant from the world’s criteria.


My dear Carmelite brothers, yours is the same mission as Jesus. All the planning and Chapter dialogue will be of little use, if you do not begin your renewal here. Your Carmelite family is seeing a wonderful “springtime” across the world, that fruit, a gift of God, and the missionary involvement of the past. Today the mission brings its heavy challenges as the Gospel message is not always accepted or even violently rejected. We must never forget, even if thrown into murky and unknown waters, that the one who gives the mission will also give the courage. So celebrate your Chapter with the hope that never dies, with a strong spirit of generosity regaining your contemplative life and the simplicity and austerity of the Gospel.

Addressing pilgrims in Saint Peter’s Square I said: “Each individual Christian and every community is missionary to the extent that they bring to others and live the Gospel, and testify to God’s love for all, especially those experiencing difficulties. Be missionaries of God’s love and tenderness! Be missionaries of God’s mercy, which always forgives us, always awaits us and loves us dearly”(Homily 19th May 2013). The witness of Carmel in the past is one of a deep spiritual tradition that grew into one of the great schools of prayer. It has evoked courage in men and women facing danger and even death. We are only too aware of two great contemporary martyrs in Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross and Blessed Titus Brandsma. I would ask you then: today among you, do you still have the endurance, the courage of these saints?

Dear Brothers of Carmel, the witness of your love, and your hope radiating from your deep friendship with the living God, can reach like a “gentle breeze” renewing and re-awakening your ecclesial mission in today’s world. To this you have been called. Your Profession Rite puts on your lips these words: “I entrust myself to God that by His grace and with the aid of the Blessed Virgin Mary I may attain perfect charity in the service of God and the Church.”

Our Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother and Queen of Carmel, accompany your steps and make fruitful your daily journey towards the Mountain of God.  I invoke upon all the members of the Carmelite Family, and most especially you Capitulars, the abundant blessings of the Holy Spirit and to all I heartily impart the Apostolic Blessing.


Monday, 2 September 2013

Day of Prayer for Peace in Syria

Dear Brothers and Sisters, buongiorno!

Today, dear brothers and sisters, I wish to make add my voice to the cry which rises up with increasing anguish from every part of the world, from every people, from the heart of each person, from the one great family which is humanity: it is the cry for peace! It is a cry which declares with force: we want a peaceful world, we want to be men and women of peace, and we want in our society, torn apart by divisions and conflict, that peace break out! War never again! Never again war! Peace is a precious gift, which must be promoted and protected.

There are so many conflicts in this world which cause me great suffering and worry, but in these days my heart is deeply wounded in particular by what is happening in Syria and anguished by the dramatic developments which are looming.

I appeal strongly for peace, an appeal which arises from the deep within me. How much suffering, how much devastation, how much pain has the use of arms carried in its wake in that martyred country, especially among civilians and the unarmed! I think of many children will not see the light of the future! With utmost firmness I condemn the use of chemical weapons: I tell you that those terrible images from recent days are burned into my mind and heart. There is a judgment of God and of history upon our actions which are inescapable! Never has the use of violence brought peace in its wake. War begets war, violence begets violence.

With all my strength, I ask each party in this conflict to listen to the voice of their own conscience, not to close themselves in solely on their own interests, but rather to look at each other as brothers and decisively and courageously to follow the path of encounter and negotiation, and so overcome blind conflict. With similar vigour I exhort the international community to make every effort to promote clear proposals for peace in that country without further delay, a peace based on dialogue and negotiation, for the good of the entire Syrian people.

May no effort be spared in guaranteeing humanitarian assistance to those wounded by this terrible conflict, in particular those forced to flee and the many refugees in nearby countries. May humanitarian workers, charged with the task of alleviating the sufferings of these people, be granted access so as to provide the necessary aid.

What can we do to make peace in the world? As Pope John said, it pertains to each individual to establish new relationships in human society under the mastery and guidance of justice and love (cf. John XXIII, Pacem in Terris, [11 April 1963]: AAS 55, [1963], 301-302).

All men and women of good will are bound by the task of pursuing peace. I make a forceful and urgent call to the entire Catholic Church, and also to every Christian of other confessions, as well as to followers of every religion and to those brothers and sisters who do not believe: peace is a good which overcomes every barrier, because it belongs all of humanity!

I repeat forcefully: it is neither a culture of confrontation nor a culture of conflict which builds harmony within and between peoples, but rather a culture of encounter and a culture of dialogue; this is the only way to peace.

May the plea for peace rise up and touch the heart of everyone so that they may lay down their weapons and be let themselves be led by the desire for peace.

To this end, brothers and sisters, I have decided to proclaim for the whole Church on 7 September next, the vigil of the birth of Mary, Queen of Peace, a day of fasting and prayer for peace in Syria, the Middle East, and throughout the world, and I also invite each person, including our fellow Christians, followers of other religions and all men of good will, to participate, in whatever way they can, in this initiative.

On 7 September, in Saint Peter’s Square, here, from 19:00 until 24:00, we will gather in prayer and in a spirit of penance, invoking God’s great gift of peace upon the beloved nation of Syria and upon each situation of conflict and violence around the world. Humanity needs to see these gestures of peace and to hear words of hope and peace! I ask all the local churches, in addition to fasting, that they gather to pray for this intention.

Let us ask Mary to help us to respond to violence, to conflict and to war, with the power of dialogue, reconciliation and love. She is our mother: may she help us to find peace; all of us are her children! Help us, Mary, to overcome this most difficult moment and to dedicate ourselves each day to building in every situation an authentic culture of encounter and peace.

Mary, Queen of Peace, pray for us!

Friday, 30 August 2013

5 signs religious life might be right for you

Not long ago a young woman posed this question to me: “Does God send signs?” She had been praying to God for a very specific sign that would alleviate any doubt in her mind once and for all that God indeed was calling her to consecrated religious life. Don’t we all long for that kind of clarity?

But can you really expect that God will reveal God’s will for you by sending you tangible signs? Whether or not that may be, often young men and women are hoping that God will show them an obvious sign that will confirm where God is leading them. The simple truth is that you cannot really calculate the exact “sign” God should send nor expect God to answer “on cue.”

Nonetheless our faith assures us that God is always communicating God’s will to us. God’s message is consistent, sure, and irrefutable. The Letter to the Ephesians summarizes God’s intentions for us: “God has given us the wisdom to understand fully the mystery, the plan to be decreed in Christ in the fullness of time: to bring all things into one in him, in the heavens and on the earth” (1:9-10).

That’s the plan! And every “sign” that comes from God simply reminds us that ultimately our vocation will be a means to a lasting union with God. So that we are not alone on this journey, Jesus gives us the Holy Spirit to guide us on the way. In fact the Holy Spirit teaches us how to read the “signs” that point us in the right direction. Here are five of the “signposts” I have noticed on the discernment journey.

1. A peace like no other

Saint Ignatius of Loyola teaches in his Spiritual Exercises that when your own will is aligned with God’s will, you shall know great consolation. God’s will is completely directed toward allowing you to know God and being able to love God in return. Thus, Ignatius writes, “Our only desire and our one choice should be this: I want and I choose what better leads to God’s deepening life in me” (no. 23).

God would not call you to consecrated religious life and then not somehow reveal that vocation. Rather than some sort of external sign, the Ignatian tradition says that a deep inner peace is the truest one. Over and over I have seen young women feeling a great sense of unrest in their discernment process, but when they finally surrender and say “yes” to what their heart tells them is God’s plan, they experience a profound peace. The pivotal moment comes when discerners recognize that God is not calling them to be anyone other than their best selves. One woman described this sense to me when she said, “I feel like I just came home to myself.” A peace like no other or, as Jesus says, “a peace the world cannot give” (John 14:27), is the first “sign” that you have found God’s will.

2. Your deepest desire

The second sign is also integral to the Ignatian spiritual tradition: your own deepest desires do in fact reflect God’s deepest desires for you. A young woman tearfully once said to me: “I so hope God is calling me to religious life! I want nothing more than to give my life completely to Him!” “So why are you still so conflicted?” I asked. “Because,” she sighed, “what if that’s not where God is calling me?” Ignatius assures us that God has placed God’s deepest desires for us within our own hearts. Ask yourself: “Would I be disappointed if God were not calling me to religious life?”

In order to know what you really desire, moreover, you have to get beyond all the cultural messages that tell you what “should” make you happy. You might need to get beyond your family’s expectations of who you “could” be. Through silence and prayer, you will gradually come to hear that quiet voice within and, with God’s grace, have the courage to trust that these deep inner longings are really from God.

Often in the beginning men and women called to religious life resist God’s promptings. Even Saint Peter cried, “Leave me Lord! I am a sinful man!” (Luke 5:8). Yet, if we’re really honest with ourselves, there is a subtle attraction to this life. We are drawn to consecrating ourselves to Christ, to praying in common, living in a loving community, and witnessing to the gospel in a radical way. Through good spiritual direction, prayer, and silence, you can come to name your deepest desire that just might be to leave all behind and answer Jesus’ invitation to “follow me” (Luke 5:27).

3. With God all things are possible

 Another “sign” that God might be calling someone to religious life is that gradually the impossible becomes possible. If God is calling you, then would God not give you whatever graces and gifts are needed for that to happen? Nonetheless that does not mean the road is always perfectly smooth. Sometimes there are obstacles—some of our own making and some from outside of us.

When Mary gave her “yes” to God at the Annunciation, there were clearly some obstacles to overcome: what to tell Joseph; how the community would respond; the need to register for the census. Yet to show Mary that “nothing is impossible for God” (Luke 1:37), the angel told her that even her cousin Elizabeth had conceived a child in her old age.

Repeatedly I have marvelled as God has seemingly “moved mountains” in the lives of those whom God calls. One young woman did not have the financial means to pay for her own health insurance during the postulancy period of her entering my community, but on her last day of work she was amazed when her former employer announced that her parting gift would be a year of health-insurance coverage!

Another young woman struggled interiorly with accepting that she would never bear her own children. Acknowledging this painful inner conflict before God while at Eucharistic adoration, she suddenly realized that though she would not bear children of her own she would be called to “mother” many of God’s children. The amazing gift was that this insight brought great joy and suddenly she was ready to embrace her vocation. Once again the impossible became possible.

 4. Others can see it

Another signpost along the way is when other people see God’s grace in your life and affirm that indeed you would make a wonderful religious sister, brother, or priest. Often candidates distrust their own worthiness. Though we know in our hearts that God calls us in our human weakness, sometimes we rationalize the many reasons why we should not be called. We need to leave this choice to Christ and recall that Jesus said that “it was not you who chose me, but I who chose you” (John 15:16).

One young woman who had just begun the application process to enter my community, the Apostles of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, ran into a friend from high school. When her friend asked her what she would be doing once she graduated from college, she replied, “I am applying to enter as an Apostle [of the Sacred Heart of Jesus]!” Her friend immediately responded, “Of course! You have the Apostle charism!”—my community’s spirit. While not seeking a direct sign, this young candidate reflected that she truly felt God was speaking to her in this moment. Oftentimes when God is calling someone to religious life, God confirms this call through other people.

5. Joy: the irrefutable sign

The Jesuit priest and scientist Pierre Teilhard de Chardin reminds us: “Joy is the most infallible sign of the presence of God.” The surest signpost of all is a tangible joy that bubbles up and overflows in all aspects of life. As young men and women open themselves to God’s will and say their own “fiat”—Mary’s “let it be done” to the angel Gabriel—a palpable joy seems to emanate.

Jesus’ own prayer for his disciples was that his “joy might be in them and that joy might be full!” (John 15:11). God wants nothing less than fullness of joy for you; therefore the clearest sign of all is a deep sense of joy that cannot be contained. One young woman recently wrote to me: “Even my co-workers notice that I smile every time I talk about the Apostles!” Joy is clearly the most vivid of God’s signs!

What does it all mean?

 As I was working on this article while on a plane heading to my next discernment retreat, I gazed out the window and asked myself again, “Does God really send signs?” I nearly laughed aloud as I beheld a rainbow stretched across the clouds. “Just as in the days of Noah,” I pondered, “God continues to send us signs.” I now realize that all of God’s signs continue to point to the same reality: “I am with you! I will never leave you!”


God is constantly communicating God’s will to us every day of our lives: “to bring all things into one in Christ” (Ephesians 1:10). You can be sure that God’s plan is unfolding as you experience an unshakeable peace; you discover and trust your deepest desires; the impossible suddenly becomes possible; others affirm God’s grace in you; and finally an unmistakable joy gives that tell-tale sign: God is with you.

By Sister Colleen Therese Smith, A.S.C.J.