Monday, June 29, 2009

The spirit of a religious order

"The spirit of an order is the way of thought and manner of life which are characteristic of the Order; it is the guiding ideas and aspirations which determine the daily life of its members in the pursuit of perfection in their chosen state. This spirit is derived from the Founders and the principal members, and is directly related to the aims of the Order.

...[T]he aim of Carmel is contemplation. The means which its Founders and lawgivers have indicated to attain this end are: continuous prayer, practised within the framework of solitude and silence, and complete detachment from created things; each of these being realized through the action of the theological virtues. The spirit of Carmel is therefore a spirit of recollection, of prayer, of contemplation, of absolute renunciation, all directed towards the attainment of union with God.

It is very important for a person to know the spirit of his Order, to understand it thoroughly and to be penetrated by it. As long as an Order is faithful to the spirit which inspired its Founder and his Rule, it lives and prospers. An Order which departs from the Founder's spirit naturally weakens and dies. This spirit must above all inspire those who govern; if it is not alive in the superiors, they cannot instruct and direct their subordinates as they ought. But it must also inspire each of the members, who otherwise run the danger of living an adulterated and diminished life and may infect others.

Enlightened by this spirit, religious will better understand the meaning and the purpose of their rules and regulations, and will adapt themselves more readily to them. Without this spirit, their training will be defective. They will perhaps realize a certain degree of religious observance, but they will not have the formation required by the Institute. Consequently, they will not be able to attain the end of their Order nor the perfection of their state of life."

-- The Spirit and Prayer of Carmel by Fr François Jamart, ocd

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