Life Matters – 1

Relationship – The Carmelite Charism

            In the Catholic Church, there are a vast variety of religious orders and congregations, and each one manifests a different facet of our religion. To consider only the long-established and well-known Orders, the Benedictines show the Church at prayer and praise of God. The Franciscans reveal joy of Gospel poverty. The Dominicans manifest the contemplation of the Truth. And the Carmelites? What is the essence of the Carmelite charism?

            Our Father General, Fr. Saverio Cannistrà, said in a conference that St. Teresa of Jesus, our Foundress, created a life based upon this: a life made up of relationships, deep relationships. Primarily, a deep relationship with Jesus Christ, and then, in Him, deep relationships with our Sisters in the Community, relationships which help a person to grow and which bring her along the path to union with God. Carmelite life is very simple, even austere. We do not have the beauty of the Benedictine liturgy, or the intellectual richness of the Dominicans, or even the exuberant community life of the Franciscan Poor Clares. All we have is a very simple life style, our relationship in prayer with Jesus, and our relationships with one another. If I move outside of these relationships, there is really nothing left in Carmel. One can truly say that the essence of the Carmelite charism is relationship.

            This can sound paradoxical because aren’t Carmelite nuns enclosed? How much of any kind of relationship can a woman have shut up in a cloister? What kind of a relationship can you have with an invisible, intangible, inaudible God? In subsequent articles we will look more deeply into these questions and into the realities to which they lead us.

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