Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Carmel Retreat-The Beginning

The beginning of what would become known as The Carmelites began in Israel on Mount Carmel. It started with a common rule but no real guidelines. Unlike other Religious Orders The Carmelites had no real founder such as the Dominicans and Franciscans etc. The men who began to live this austere way of life were former Crusaders who became disillusioned and so turned their back on the world and embraced God in the unknown.

These first Carmelites followed the spirit of Elijah the Prophet as they sequestered themselves away in their mountain retreat, Mt. Carmel. The men also had a particular devotion to Our Lady as the Mother of God and as their own Mother.

It wasn't until about 1210, that the hermits approached Albert who was Patriarch of Jerusalem. The hermits wished to attain some type of Rule so that their community could live within these guidelines approved by the Church. Albert then formulated a Rule of life which won the approval of Pope Honorius in 1226. The Carmelites chose as their motto "I am filled with zeal for the Lord, the God of Hosts."

Once the Carmelites began in Europe the structure embraced by the first hermits on Mt. Carmel were relaxed. The Rule almost became extinct as many Carmelites allowed worldliness to intrude into their Convents. It was not until St. Teresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross began their reforms that the Carmelites returned to their beginnings the original Spirit in which it had begun.

Though Saint Teresa and John of the Cross took the Order back to their origins not all the Carmelites wished to return to an austere Rule of life. Therefore the Reforms began by Teresa and John became known as the Discacled Carmelites(shoeless one's).

The Reforms were designed as such.

1: A return to God and to love Him for His own sake and not for what one can gain. To recognise one's nothingness before the Creator of all.

2: To conform themselves through prayer and contemplation into living receptacle's of God Himself. To live in Holy Obedience and thereby denying their own will for God's Will in their lives.

3: To dedicate themselves to prayer in order for the Salvation of all and finally to attain Union with God through Holy Obedience and self denial.

St. Teresa of Avila described prayer as, ' nothing but friendly and frequent solitary converse with Him, who, we know, loves us'. St. Teresa teaches us that prayer should not be used as an escape from the trials which face us all, but rather as a relationship where we conform ourselves to the Will of God just as Jesus Christ Teaches us through His Word.

Prayer is truly the heart and core of the Carmelite Rule, and it is this that has helped the Rule maintain its direction and discipline throughout the generations.