Carmelite Charism — Prayer and Service
I was reminded yesterday by Bishop Todd Bell that religious orders are not what they used to be.” Unfortunately, that is so true. The decline in religious orders since Vatican II is staggering. What used to be a vibrant and even sustaining facet of the Church is now a shadow of its former self.
It’s little wonder that religious orders are declining. Our lives in this world are very messy. There are so many distractions and conflicting messages. Most of these distractions are diametrically opposed to the gospel message.
Each Religious order is marked by a particular Charism — or spiritual gift. For the CCIA Order of Carmelites that charism is is prayer and living out the Gospel message in our messy and confusing age.
An aspect of modern Carmelite spirituality as in most other religious orders is the fact that there is a growing number who are living their vocation outside of community or cloister. These religious brothers and sisters are “in the world, but not of the world.” They are also living examples to the world of Jesus’ love.
John 17 Jesus calls us to be on mission in the world, which means our purposes for being in the world are different from the world’s goals.
Can we even consider ourselves Christian if we are more concerned about the things of this world than we are about doing the will of the Father?
When the disciples of John the Baptist came to Jesus asking if he was truly the Messiah, he responded not with a simple yes, but with signs of his authenticity. Are you showing signs that you are an authentic follower of Christ? In today’s Gospel Jesus gives us one pertinent example of what authentic discipleship looks like when he said; “ Love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another. This is how all will know that you are my disciples if you have love for one another.” How simple is that?
Unfortunately, amidst the distractions and false teachings of our worldly culture, a vast majority in this age are more in love with self than Christ — even among many who self identify as Christian. Sad, but true.
Are you a Christian? If you were put on trial would there be enough evidence to convict you of being a Christian? Simply being spiritual is not enough. Time and again Jesus talked about the need to “bear fruit.” Unfortunately, there is not enough emphasis in our age of the need for Christians to put their faith to work.
Catholic Christians are often criticized for having an emphasis on “works.” No. Catholics do not believe that we are saved by our good works. Our works are simply evidence of God working in our lives — the fruit of the Spirit, so-to-speak.
In biblical times they lived in an agrarian culture. It was definitely a pre-industrial age. Scripture often presents us with farming and agricultural examples; bearing fruit, tilling the soil, wheat and chaff, and even fields ready for the harvest.
In scripture, bearing fruit can have a few different connotations:
- what are the fruits of your labor?
- are you helping to bring in the harvest?
- are you sharing the love of Christ with your neighbors?
- Are you feeding and clothing the hungry?
and so much more.
Yes, prayer is the Carmelite charism, but the purpose of prayer is to give us spiritual strength for our journey. In prayer, we receive nourishment for our souls that we may be encouraged in our mission to serve God and others in our messy world.
Every single person in this world is CALLED to become a disciple of Christ, few, however, will take that road less traveled that leads to eternal life. Where are you on this spiritual journey? Please take this as a personal challenge to introspection.
From a Christian perspective, being a “good person” simply is not good enough. The Bible tells us that there are none good (enough), no not one.” The road less traveled is lonely because too few will put in the effort. It’s less traveled because it’s often difficult to put God first when you’re distracted by the often overwhelming pleasures of this life. In our pride, it can be difficult to feel compassion for those less fortunate — especially when that baseball game is calling, or whatever other diversion is resounding loudly in your ears.
Are you claiming to be a Christian? Is there evidence? Are you bearing Fruit? Are you living a life more focused on God than yourself? Is the love of neighbor important to you?
LOVE is a verb, an action word — it takes work. Without work, it will be impossible to bear fruit. Without actively working at showing your love to others, who will know that you are a Christian?
If you’re interested in becoming closer to God, one way would be to join a religious order such as the CCIA order of Carmelites. In this you will become encouraged to seek God regularly in prayer, beginning a journey that will take you through this world while being distinctly apart from worldly norms.
Message me if you’d like to learn more about Carmelite Spirituality.
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Michael Callahan is the Presiding Archbishop for the Catholic Church in America. He is dedicated to spreading the Word of God, in the spirit of love, throughout the world. Bishop Callahan is also the author of "Authentic Faith, Radical Transformation, and Contemplative Prayer," an eBook available on Amazon.com.
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