Sunday, May 2, 2010

Prayer, Community, and Service

"The Carmelite charism is based on three dimensions: Prayer, Community, and Service. This charism helps us to maintain our relationship within our Order, as well as with God’s People, the Church. The first Carmelites came to the Holy Land, to Mount Carmel, there to search for meaning in their lives by following the footsteps of Jesus Christ. They had abandoned their homelands, their families, their friends, and their properties for the sake of the Gospel. They sought to imitate Jesus Christ. They meditated on the Word of God, and they offered their prayers for the repentance of those who were estranged from God and for the mission of the Church. The first Carmelites received their formula vitae, (the Way of Life, or, as it is called today, the Rule) from Saint Albert, Patriarch of the church of Jerusalem (1205-1214). The Rule guided the hermits showing them how to live a life in allegiance to Jesus Christ, and it shaped their community life. The Rule laid down that an oratory should be built in the midst of the cells (Rule 14) where each day the whole community is to gather for the celebration of the Eucharist. The members left their cells to come together at the centre of their communal activities, signifying that Christ is the centre of their life and their spiritual journey. Over time and throughout the generations, our brothers and sisters have contributed to the mission of the Church in both terms of prayer and of service of the Church. Today, in the 21st century, we face many challenges to continue the mission of Christ but by our Charism: Prayer, Community, and Service, we can make our selves available to serve the needs of the Church and God’s people."

--  The carmelite charism at the service of the church today by Peter Hoang Nguyen, OCarm

** Please note that the charism to the discalced carmelites is different from what Friar Peter Hoang presents, but his exposition is still relevant to those called to be part of the Teresian carmelite family.


Anonymous said...

** Please note that the charism to the discalced carmelites is different from what Friar Peter Hoang presents ...

Hello Sister,

If you don't mind, would you kindly elaborate on the differences you mentioned in your note. I'm interested in learning more.


ocd sister said...

Hello, John.

While it is true that all carmelites are called to a life of prayer, community and service, Friar Nguyen refers to the charism of the carmelites of the ancient observance (OCarm). The discalced (Teresian) carmelites' charism is one of deep prayer and communion with God; in particular, prayer and sacrifice for priests and the conversion of souls. This you can read in the first 3 chapters of holy mother St Teresa's Way of Perfection. In more recent times we've had new branches in the Teresian Carmel, as seen by the various congregations of active sisters. Setting aside the communities that have sadly gone to extremes or are no longer faithful to their charism, generally speaking the OCarms follow the mitigated Rule and the OCDs follow the unmitigated Rule, as stipulated by St Teresa. The constitutions followed by both branches are also very different. The OCarms are very active in community and service, and that's a very good thing. The OCDs, on the other hand, are generally more active in mental (meditative and contemplative) prayer and sacrifice, and that, too, is a very good thing.

I'm not saying that one is better than the other. Indeed, both branches of the Carmelite family have been blessed with multitude examples of holiness. But there is no question that both branches, the OCarms and OCDs, are different. For example, I couldn't be an OCarm, for their charism is different from the Teresian. And I know OCarms that say they couldn't be OCDs. Regardless of the branch, both have a great devotion to Our Lady.

Have a blessed day!

Please pray for me.

Rebecca said...

Thank you for this beautiful explaination of the beauty and differences of the two branches of the Carmelite Order. Much appreciated!

ocd sister said...

Your welcome, Rebecca. I like to provide excerpts from both branches of the Carmelite family. There's so much we can learn from each other! I remember years ago people would claim that the OCDs were better - after all, we got the big 3: Teresa, John and Therese - while the OCarms would be maligned as the un-mortified ones who abused St John of the Cross. This perspective is clouded and misleading. I have a friend who is an OCarm friar in Rome. We have the chance to talk on the phone about twice a year and he *always* tells me: "I'm all Mary's. I belong to Mary." He's in his late 80s and still making Rosaries. I consider it a privilege to know him and share our love for Carmel, Our Lady and Rosary making.

Generally speaking, both branches observe each others' saints and blesseds, although usually with a different liturgical rank (i.e. memorial vs optional memorial). In the blog, I use the OCD liturgical calendar and rankings for all feast days.

All those brought to the altars have been souls of deep prayer, charity and humility with great devotion to the Mother of God, unabashedly calling her their mother.

What's important is not so much what letters we have after our names, but that we are faithful to God's invitation to follow him in whatever state and spirituality He wishes for us, for that will bring us true happiness and into union with Him.

Anonymous said...

Hello Sister,

Thank you for the your reply. It was pretty much as I suspected. Are you familiar with the OCDS constitutions? And if so, would you say they follow along the same lines as OCD charism? I ask because I'm currently a novice in the T.O.C. and I'm beginning to think that their constitutions are a little more active than I feel comfortable with. Personally, I feel called to a more eremitical and contemplative lifestyle and I'm beginning to think that the T.O.C doesn't allow for that.

Fortunately, I still have a year before profession to work it all out.


ocd sister said...

Dear John,

I suggest you read "Welcome to the Secular Order of Discalced Carmelites" by Fr Aloysius Deeney, ocd. In his book, Father explains the call to OCDS: its spirit, place in the Church, responsibilities, etc. Something he makes very clear at the beginning is that OCDS is *not* a consolation price for those who can't be OCD. It's not a second class vocation, either. The calls to be an OCD nun, OCD friar, OCD sister or OCDS are different, but complementary and with the same goal: union with God. You may be able to get the book through interlibrary loan at your public library or through ICS Publications ($9.95). Fr Deeney is the OCDS general delegate.

Currently, there are two OCDS constitutions. The one from 1960 is still followed by a small group of traditional Carmelites throughout the world who follow both the traditional liturgical calendar (1962) and the old carmelite calendar. (In this blog I use both calendars.)

The vast majority of OCDSs follow the 2003 constitution. You may read it here:

I'm not a theologian or spiritual director. I urge you to speak with your spiritual director (or regular confessor) and perhaps your Master/Mistress of Novices. I'm not familiar with the TOC constitution, but I can assure you that the call to TOC is different from OCDS. If you e-mail me your city, I could try to find out the closest OCDS group.

In a nutshell, an OCDS is a contemplative in the world, called to be a witness of the love of Christ, to live in communion with God through a strong life of prayer. As an OCDS you remain in the world, called to "strive to make prayer penetrate [your] whole existence, in order to walk in the presence of the living God (cf. 1 K 18:14), through the constant exercise of faith, hope and love, in such a way that the whole of [your] life is a prayer, a search for union with God. The goal will be to achieve the integration of experience of God with the experience of life: to be contemplatives in prayer and the fulfilment of their own mission." (2003 Constitutions)

You point out that you have 1 year before making promises. This a period of time that the good Lord gives you to pray and discern what He is inviting you to do to grow closer to Him and be a witness of His love. Pray, seek advice, study your options, and pray even more. I'm sure He will guide you.

Please be assured of my prayers. And please pray for me.

Anonymous said...

Hello Sister,

Thank you for the information. As you mentioned I have already spoken to our community council about my concerns and, as it happens, our Spiritual Assistant is and OCD Priest, whom I plan to speak to in the near future. But for starters, I'll read the OCDS constitutions you referenced.


Thank you for your prayers!

Telesia said...

Dear Sister,

For your readers who follow the constitution of 1960, they may be interested in a precious book that LuLu have just republished. This book has been long out of print, and when rare copies became available, they sold for outrageous prices.

The title of the book is 'Way of Perfection for the Laity'. It was written by Fr. Kevin OCD, and it gives and in depth explanation of the Discalced Carmelite Third Order Rule.

God bless you.

Unknown said...

Dear ocd sister,
Today was my "Catch-up-with-the-Blog Day." You really do a fine job, Sister! One of your quotes really struck home with me: "What's important is not so much what letters we have after our names, but that we are faithful to God's invitation to follow him in whatever state and spirituality He wishes for us, for that will bring us true happiness and into union with Him." Thank you, Sister, for all of your kindness and goodness to us, your faithful readers.