“For eight centuries, the ancient charism of Carmel was a gift for the whole Church, and still today it continues to offer its peculiar contribution for the building of the Body of Christ and to show the world its luminous and holy face,” the Holy Father wrote. “Your contemplative origins spring from the land of the epiphany of the eternal love of God in Jesus Christ, Word made flesh.”
In order to guide them on what he described as “the full realization of your vocation”, Pope Francis reflected on three key elements: Homage to Christ, Prayer and Mission.
Regarding the first element, homage to Christ, the Holy Father stated that in the fundamental mission of bringing Christ to the Church, the Carmelite Order is called to this through their own Rule of Life.
“The close relationship with Christ is realized in solitude, in fraternal assembly and in mission,” the Pope said.
“In your Rule is the heart of the Carmelite mission of the past and also of today. While you prepare to celebrate the eighth centenary of the death of Albert, Patriarch of Jerusalem, in 1214, remember that he formulated a “course of life,” a space that enables us to live a spirituality totally oriented to Christ,” the Pope said.
Pope Francis invited the Carmelites to adhere to Christ more profoundly, countering the world which chooses to reject Him.
“This is of vital importance in our world which is so disoriented, ‘because when His flame is extinguished all the other lights also end by losing their vigor’. Christ is present in your brotherhood, in the communal liturgy and in the ministry entrusted to you: renew to Him the homage of your whole life!” the Pope said.
Prayer and Mission
The 76 year old Pontiff continued his message to the Carmelites, reflecting on the importance of prayer in their religious life.
“Prayer,” he said, “is that royal road that opens to the profundity of the mystery of God One and Triune, but it is also the obligatory path that meanders in the midst of the people of God pilgrimaging in the world towards the Promised Land.”
One way of entering into prayer is through the Word of God, which the Pope stressed, “introduces us to direct conversation with the Lord and opens the treasures of wisdom.” By gaining such intimacy and a return to simplicity of life centered on the Gospel, the Holy Father said, a renewal of the Church can take place.
“The spirit of the world is an enemy of the life of prayer: never forget it! I exhort you to a more austere and penitent life, according to your most authentic tradition, a life far from all worldliness, far from the criteria of the world,” he said.
In the final element, Mission, the Holy Father stated that all meetings taking place within the General Chapter would be rendered useless if the Order does not undertake a path of true renewal.
“Today the mission entails sometimes arduous challenges, because the evangelical message is not always received and at times is actually rejected with violence,” the Pope said.” We must never forget that, even if we are thrown into turbid and unknown waters, He who calls us to the mission also gives us the courage and strength to carry it out. So, celebrate the Chapter animated by the hope that never dies, with a strong spirit of generosity in recovering the contemplative life and evangelical simplicity and austerity.”
Concluding his address, Pope Francis, called on the religious order to follow the example of courage given by two contemporary martyrs of the Carmelite Order: Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross and Blessed Titus Brandsma. The Holy Father also invited them to continue to give a witness of love and hope in the world.
“Dear Brothers of Carmel, the witness of your love and of your hope, rooted in profound friendship with the living God, can be as a “light breeze” that renews and reinvigorates your ecclesial mission in today’s world. You have been called to this,” the Pope concluded.
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On ZENIT’s web page:
For the full text of the Pope’s Message to the Carmelite Order, go to: http://www.zenit.org/en/articles/pope-francis-message-to-the-prior-general-of-the-carmelite-order