An Ancient Path for Today's Modern Pilgrim
CCIA Carmelites seek to live the contemplative life in the midst of our busy world. We are God-seekers, seeking to be friends of God who are open to His transformative movement within our lives. Our particular charism - that is, the gift God has graced us with for the benefit of the Church and the World - is to form praying communities at the service of all God's people, taking particular inspiration from Elijah, Mary, and the saints of Carmel. Prayer, community-building, and service are key to our way of life. Our mission in life is to know and love God and to make God known and loved. In this vision, we are sent us out to evangelize and share the Good News of Christ, that God loves humanity with a deep passion.
The reality which we call "Carmel" has little or nothing to do with a particular way of doing things, or of wearing religious clothes, or of living in special houses. Neither is it the property of a particular church, group of people or organization. Carmel stands for the intimate encounter which God brings about between the person and God in the midst of all that is most ordinary in life.
If you are seeking visions and ecstatic experiences then you’re likely in the wrong place. Our way of life is focused on the mystery of the 'Word made flesh' who 'emptied himself to take the form of a slave ... and then was humbler still...'
Carmelites seek to live, as our Rule of Saint Albert states, 'in allegiance to Jesus Christ'. Our spirituality is focussed on Christ and inspired in a particular way by the patrons of the Order - the prophet Elijah and the Blessed Virgin Mary - as well as by the saints of the Carmelite Family over the centuries.
The historic Carmelite Order has given to the Church some of the greatest teachers in prayer and holds in itself great wisdom in discerning the 'delicate touch' of God's action in the depth of the personality, the soul. Without this lived encounter with God Carmel is nothing - it ceases to be. This is why the expression and source of this encounter, God's gift of contemplation, is the very heartbeat of what Carmel is and what it desires to be.
At the heart of Carmel's rich imagery are the symbols of the mountain, Jesus Christ our savior, master, and brother. Our pilgrim journey to the height of the mountain continues...
"Into the land of Carmel, I have brought you to enjoy its fruits and its blessings"
Our Lady of Mount Carmel - Mother & Beauty of Carmel
The Sacred Scriptures speak of the beauty of Mount Carmel in Palestine where the Prophet Elijah defended the faith of Israel in the living God. There, at the beginning of the thirteenth century, under the title of "Saint Mary of Mount Carmel", the Order of Carmelites had its formal beginning with a community of hermits. Mary was revered on Carmel as "The Lady of the Place", and she came to be regarded as "Patron of the Order", and "Sister of Carmelites".
From the fourteenth century this title - The Brothers of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel - recalling the countless blessings of the Order's patron, began to be solemnly celebrated, first in England and then gradually throughout the whole Order.
The Solemnity of Our Lady of Mount Carmel attained its supreme place from the beginning of the seventeenth century when the Carmelite General Chapter declared it to be the principal feast of the Order, and Paul V recognized it as the feast of the Scapular Confraternity.
This feast is now celebrated in the whole Catholic Church, in recognition of Mary as she is revered within the Carmelite tradition. In some countries, it is a major festival and public holiday.
Over centuries of development and reform, the Carmelites have continued their distinctive mission of living ‘in allegiance to Jesus Christ’, by forming praying communities at the service of all God’s people. The heart of the Carmelite vocation is contemplation, that is, pondering God and God’s will in our lives.
Like the spirituality of all the major religious orders (Benedictines, Franciscans, etc.), Carmelite spirituality is a distinct preaching of the one Christian message. Through our charism, Carmelites blend prayerful contemplation with active service of those around them, and this takes many different forms depending on the time and the place they find themselves in.
The CCIA Carmelite Rule
The Order of Carmelites of the Catholic Church in America
A revised and updated version of the Carmelite Rule
Approved by: ++Michael Callahan, D.D., OCR, OC Prior General, CCIA Order of Carmelites © 2017.
For the better part of the past thirty years I have been on a path towards the contemplative life, and in the midst of that journey, I’ve been particularly drawn to contemplative spirituality and more particularly that of the order of Carmelites and Sts Teresa of Avila and John of the Cross.
As a bishop in an autocephalous Catholic jurisdiction I’ve had it on my heart to form a religious order for our people who are likewise drawn to the contemplative life, yet remain active witnesses within our modern world, like St. Teresa and St. John of the Cross, creating a spiritual discipline where friends may be drawn together with a singular focus.
As a religious order placed amidst the business and messiness of the 21st century, it is becoming increasingly important to move towards what I’m calling both an “Authentic Faith,” and a “Radical Transformation.” A Christian faith that is authentic is one that is transformative – an ever-evolving journey to be more Christ-like – being transformed into the “Imago Dei,” the image of God. This becomes truly radical because a movement towards God necessitates a moving away from the norms of the secular world.
Last year I wrote a book, Authentic Faith, Radical Transformation and Contemplative prayer. In this book, I take the reader through spiritual basic training, or a refresher course depending on their catechetical level. In taking the reader back to the basics we have an opportunity to discover the true focus of our faith. In order for us to transform into something different than what the world expects, we need to understand what God expects. In this basic training we learn that contemplative prayer is simply our door to intimacy with God – externally focused to our creator. This prayer is not at all connected to “eastern mysticism” or other occult spiritualities, such as crystals or chakras.
The focus for the CCIA Order of Carmelites will be discovering ways to worship God in Spirit and Truth amidst our busy lives, and the mixed messages of modernism. These mixed messages are abundant in both the secular world and many modern, liberal churches.
A Modern Carmelite Rule
- To the beloved sons and daughters in Christ, in the world and the other contemplatives living in obedience God; grace and peace, in the Name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
- Many times and in different ways the holy Fathers have laid down that everyone—whatever be their state in life or the religious life chosen by them—should live in allegiance to Jesus Christ and serve him zealously with a pure heart and a good conscience.
In that spirit, it is our intention to present a formula of life and devotion, which will guide us in our spiritual journey together.
- The first thing we lay down is that each congregation of a group of religious shall have a prior, from among yourselves, chosen by the unanimous consent of all, or of the greater and more mature part. All the others shall promise him obedience fulfilling it by deeds, as well as chastity and Christian love. All those joining with us, purpose to live in Christian charity, compassion, and love. Those of the order living in community vow to live with all things in common, working together for the common good, and charitable outreach to the secular community.
- This Carmelite order will consist of both men and women dedicated to living a life of contemplative prayer and devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, on a spiritual journey towards authentic faith – sanctification.
- Our entire focus will be towards deepening our relationship with God the Father, through His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ – working towards personal sanctification and a truly Authentic Faith through conversion of mind, body, and spirit to the will of the Father.
- In addition to being a contemplative order of Christians, we will also be about God’s work of charity and compassion, reaching out to our brothers and sisters in need.
- We are an order of compassion, not of poverty. However, we do reject the secular notion that riches equal happiness. We do admonish our members to a life of minimalism and compassion, giving back to God and his people generously from the blessings he bestows upon us. In this focus, we will become a living witness to the goodness of God.
- Both men and women are permitted to be either married or single and celibate. All members of the Order are admonished to be chaste and sober with a fidelity to their marital state and vows.
- As one body, we are committed to living in the world, but not being of the world. In this, we will strive to maintain fidelity to the ancient teachings of the Church in regards to faith and morals.
- Social activism will be limited to: feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the sick, etc. We will also be a voice of reason in the public square when it comes to issues regarding faith and morals.
- For those living in the secular world; you can rent or own a residence suitable and convenient for your observance in the judgment of the prior and the brothers. However, the accumulation of worldly goods should be minimalistic, focusing rather on spiritual blessings rather than temporal wealth and accumulation of goods.
- Moreover, those living in a community, taking account of the site you propose to occupy, all of you are to have separate rooms; these are to be assigned by the prior himself with the agreement of the other brothers and sisters, or the more mature of them.
- Living in community, you are to eat in a common kitchen as a family, what may have been given to you, listening together to a reading from Holy Scripture, if this can conveniently be done.
- The prior’s room shall be nearest the entrance to the place so that he may first meet those who come to the place and everything afterward may be done as he wills and decides.
- In the ancient custom, all were to remain in their cells or near them, meditating day and night on the law of the Lord and being vigilant in prayers, unless otherwise lawfully occupied. In our day, we will make time available, three times per day for the daily office according to the practice of the holy Fathers and the approved custom of the Church, as well as making the effort to “Pray Without Ceasing,” utilizing either the “Jesus Prayer” or the Rosary.
- None of the brothers or sisters living in community is to claim something as his own; everything is to be in common and is to be distributed to each one by the Prior—that is, the brother deputed by him to this office— having regard to the age and needs of each one.
- You may have transportation according to your needs and some provision of food and clothing.
- An oratory is to be built as conveniently as possible in the midst of the priory; you are to gather daily in the morning for Mass, where this is convenient.
- On Sundays, or other days if necessary, you shall discuss the welfare of the group and the salvation of souls; at this time excesses and faults of the brothers, if such come to light, are to be corrected in the middle way of charity.
- You are to fast every day except Sundays from the feast of the Exaltation of the Cross until Easter Sunday, unless illness or bodily weakness, or other just cause counsels a lifting of the fast since necessity has no law.
- Since human life on earth is a trial and all who want to live devotedly in Christ suffer persecution; your enemy the devil prowls about like a roaring lion seeking whom he might devour. You must then with all diligence put on the armor of God so that you may be able to stand up to the ambushes of the enemy.
- Your loins are to be girded with the belt of chastity; your breast is to be protected by holy thoughts, for the Scripture says, holy thoughts will save you. Put on the breastplate of justice, so that you may love the Lord your God with your whole heart, your whole soul and your whole strength, and your neighbor as yourselves. In all things take up the shield of faith, with which you will be able to extinguish all the darts of the evil one; without faith, indeed, it is impossible to please God. The helmet of salvation is to be placed on your head, so that you may hope for salvation from the one Savior, who saves his people from their sins. The sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, is to dwell abundantly in your mouths and hearts. So whatever you have to do, is to be done in the word of the Lord.
- All members of the order are expected to work to provide for the financial needs of the community. It is preferable that each priory is formed around a common business so that each brother or sister can work in common, together under the supervision of the prior. As the original Rule stated: You should do some work; so that the devil will always find you occupied and he may not through your idleness find some entrance to your souls. In this matter you have both the teaching and the example of Blessed Paul the Apostle; Christ spoke through his mouth; he has been set up and given by God as a preacher and teacher of the nations in faith and truth; in following him you cannot go wrong. In work and weariness, he said, we have been with you, working day and night so as not to be a burden to you; it was not as though we had no right, but we wished to give ourselves as a model for imitation. For when we were with you, we gave this precept: whoever is unwilling to work shall not eat. We have heard that there are restless people going around who do nothing. We condemn such people and implore them in the Lord Jesus Christ that working in silence they should earn their bread. This is a good and holy way: follow it.
- Though silence is not to be so strictly observed, you are to be diligent in avoiding much talking, since scripture states and experience likewise teaches, sin is not absent where there is much talking; also he who is careless in speech will experience evil, and the one who uses many words harms his soul. Again the Lord says in the gospel: an account will have to be given on the Day of Judgment for every vain word. Each of you is to weigh his words and have a proper restraint for his mouth, so that he may not stumble and fall through speech and his fall be irreparable and fatal. He is with the prophet to guard his ways so that he does not offend through the tongue. Silence, which is the promotion of justice, is to be carefully observed.
- You, Brother or Sister, and whoever is appointed Prior after you, shall always keep in mind and practice what the Lord said in the Gospel: Whoever wishes to be greater among you shall be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first must be your slave.
- And you too, the other brothers are to humbly honor your prior, and rather than thinking about him, you are to look to Christ who set him as head over you; he said to the leaders of the Church, whoever hears you hears me, and whoever despises you despises me. Thus you will not be judged guilty of contempt, but through obedience, you will merit the reward of eternal life.
- As is well attested to in contemplative tradition, all that we hear in prayer is not necessarily holy and correct. Your prior or someone he delegates will serve as a spiritual director, guiding the faithful brothers and sisters in spiritual matters – testing all things.
- We have written these things establishing a way of life for you, according to which you are to conduct yourselves. If anyone does more the Lord himself when he comes again will repay him. You are, however, to use discretion, which is the moderator of virtue.