Glimpses of Carmel 2 – Seeking the Face of God
Seeking the Face of God with a Praying Heart
In June, 2016, Pope Francis published the Apostolic Constitution Vultum Dei Quaerere to promote and support the life of contemplative women religious. Recently, in April of this year, the Vatican published Cor Orans, the Instruction giving the directions for implementing the Pope’s Apostolic Constitution.
Both texts are directed to the various orders and congregations of cloistered contemplative nuns. Both are also quite specific in the matters they address. At first glance, it can seem that the Vatican is forcing all cloistered nuns into the same straitjacket. That is a mistaken impression.
Love is infinite because God is infinite. And the ways that love expresses itself are beyond number, for they are as vast as the people who love God and neighbor. Yet with all the wide variety of ways of showing our love, there is still a recognizable pattern shared by every act of true love. This is the action of the Holy Spirit. Every act of love inspired by the Holy Spirit is unique to that person in that situation. Yet all acts of love bear the stamp of His grace, love, joy, peace, patience, goodness and all the other Fruits of the Holy Spirit.
It is the same with religious congregations. Each is unique, and yet they all share a similar pattern, just as each human face is unique though every face has the same structure of a mouth, two eyes and a nose. Cloistered life has indeed a common underlying structure shared by all those who profess it because they all start from the same beginning, our common human nature, and they all seek the same goal, perceiving the Face of God.
In Vultum dei Quaerere, Pope Francis considers twelve essential elements of the contemplative life. These are: formation, prayer, the word of God, the sacraments of the Eucharist and Reconciliation, fraternal life in community, autonomy, federations, the cloister, silence, the communications media and asceticism. All cloistered contemplative communities have these elements, but each community lives them in the spirit proper to their charism. A book could be written comparing the different ways each element is lived by the various congregations and institutes, but we won’t attempt to do that. In this blog, we will simply consider each element and give some idea of how it is lived in our community. We hope that in doing so, we will give some glimpse of the vast richness of cloistered contemplative life.