In the opening of the year of the Consecrated Life, our Pope Francis wrote us a beautiful, encouraging and fraternal letter. As Carmelites, we have been particularly challenged by his call “to look to the past with gratitude. All our Institutes are heir to a history rich in charisms. At their origins we see the hand of God who, in his Spirit, calls certain individuals to follow Christ more closely, to translate the Gospel into a particular way of life, to read the signs of the times with the eyes of faith and to respond creatively to the needs of the Church”.
At the same time the Order of Carmel is celebrating in the year 2015, the V Centenary of the birth of St. Teresa. It is therefore more than ever “appropriate for each charismatic family to reflect on its origins and history, in order to thank God who grants the Church a variety of gifts which embellish her and equip her for every good work (cf. Lumen Gentium, 12).” “Recounting our history is essential for preserving our identity, for strengthening our unity as a family and our common sense of belonging”.
Nevertheless Pope Francis as Saint Teresa does not want us to remain in looking at the past, even if we magnify it: “This Year also calls us to live the present with passion. Grateful remembrance of the past leads us, as we listen attentively to what the Holy Spirit is saying to the Church today, to implement ever more fully the essential aspects of our consecrated life”.
Theresa said in Chapter 29, 32 of hers Foundations: "Let those who are to come, when they find everything running smoothly, let them, for love of our Lord, not neglect anything relating to perfection. May that which is said of some orders that praise their beginnings not be said of them. Now we are beginning, and let them strive to advance always from good to better [...]
Fix your eyes always on the ancestry from which we come, those holy prophets. How many saints we have in heaven who have worn this habit!»
Pope Francis insists on an aspect of the consecrated life: “Our founders and foundresses were attracted by the unity of the Apostles with Christ and by the fellowship which marked the first community in Jerusalem. In establishing their own communities, each of them sought to replicate those models of evangelical living, to be of one heart and one soul, and to rejoice in the Lord’s presence (cf. Perfectae Caritatis, 15)”. St. Teresa wanted her communities to be like the little “College of Christ”, the apostles grouped around Jesus. This year is a favorable time for us to deepen our communion of life and live a true “mysticism of encounter”. We are called to be "experts in communion" “We need to ask ourselves about the way we relate to persons from different cultures, as our communities become increasingly international. How can we enable each member to say freely what he or she thinks, to be accepted with his or her particular gifts, and to become fully co-responsible?”
To embrace the future with hope is the third objective of the Year. Our Carmels experiencing uncertainties, difficulties, like all the inhabitants of the Holy Land, and we hear joyfully our pastor who repeats: “So do not yield to the temptation to see things in terms of numbers and efficiency, and even less to trust in your own strength.”
Also we want to answer as best as we can to the expectations for this year of grace for consecrated life: “That the old saying will always be true: “Where there are religious, there is joy”. We know how St. Teresa wanted an atmosphere of joy, sincerity and affability in her communities ... If this year “particularly” helps us to move us forward in the way of pure and contagious joy ... that would be a huge favor! "None of us should be dour, discontented and dissatisfied, for “a gloomy disciple is a disciple of gloom”."And “the apostolic effectiveness of consecrated life does not depend on the efficiency of its methods. It depends on the eloquence of your lives, lives which radiate the joy and beauty of living the Gospel and following Christ to the full.”
Another aspect that joined Carmel in a particular way it is the prophecy: “I am counting on you “to wake up the world”, since the distinctive sign of consecrated life is prophecy”. (...) “Prophets receive from God the ability to scrutinize the times in which they live and to interpret events: they are like sentinels who keep watch in the night and sense the coming of the dawn (cf. Is 21:11-12)”. From the prophet Elijah (the Holy Father also mentioned him a few lines below the paragraph we quoted) Carmel walk in the footsteps of the prophets, and in following Teresa it wants to see all things not only in the light of God, but in God (Cf. Life 40.9 and 6M 10.3).
We have heard the suggestions of the Holy Father for this year of grace: “Monasteries and groups which are primarily contemplative could meet or otherwise engage in an exchange of experiences on the life of prayer, on ways of deepening communion with the entire Church, on supporting persecuted Christians, and welcoming and assisting those seeking a deeper spiritual life or requiring moral or material support.” Thus, in each of our communities and together we will explore how to implement them. May our Lady of Mount Carmel help us and accompanies us every day...
"I entrust this Year of Consecrated Life to Mary, the Virgin of listening and contemplation, the first disciple of her beloved Son. Let us look to her, the highly -beloved daughter of the Father, endowed with every gift of grace, as the unsurpassed model for all those who follow Christ in love of God and service to their neighbour."