XVI COUNCIL OF PROVINCES
Embracing His Gospel: Carmelite Community in Faith, Hope and Love
The 16th Council of Provinces took place at Il Carmine, San Felice del Benaco, from September 3rd to 12th 2009. The theme of the meeting was Embracing his Gospel: Carmelite community in faith, hope and love. The Prior General and members of the General Council gathered with the Priors Provincial, Commissaries General, Commissaries Provincial and Delegates General from all continents, reminding us once again of the continuing growth of the Carmelite presence throughout the world. It was a positive experience of fraternity as we reflected together on the challenges and opportunities of community in Carmel today.
Centrality of Community
The Prior General spoke of community as central to our lives as Carmelites. Community is a place where an environment of encounter and growth builds relationships of trust. This trust flows from sharing prayer, fraternal gatherings and working together in the service of the People of God. We are helped to become experts of reconciliation, recognising that all need healing and forgiveness. Our way of life demands constant conversion and perseverance in the values of our Carmelite charism. Carmelite community is challenged especially by the spirit of individualism which comes from certain forms of secularism in our society today.
Community is a counter witness to the tyranny of normality that our contemporary society promotes. Jean Vanier, founder of L'Arche, told us that we live in a world where the weak are rejected from a place of fear and insecurity within us. Yet the mystery remains that we are healed by those we reject (cfr. 1 Cor 12 :22 ). Healing can only take place when we are prepared to enter into relationship with the other. listening tenderly to their cry and pain. Community is the place where we experience and are invited to receive love and to share the gift of love with one another and with those we are called to serve.
Our communities become signs of hope to the world when those who are weak have a place there, and all are seen as beloved of God. Jean Vanier challenged us to work at forming communities that are genuinely places of belonging, giving each one the space to listen and to be listened to with understanding and truth. The anguish that we carry from our broken humanity can only be healed when we discover our communities as places of fraternity, trust and forgiveness.
Only the one who is loved can generate love
Fr. Danilo Castello, MCCJ, told us that living love in community requires attitudes of respect, adaptation, forgiveness, acceptance, hospitality, dialogue, and risk-taking. God's way of loving unconditionally becomes the measure of our human love. Happiness is not found in simply observing laws and regulations but in our relationships with one another as brothers and sisters. We discover that we are made for intimacy and transparency. The eyes through which we see one another become those of the Gospel of Compassion.
Archbishop Jean Louis Brugues, O.P., Secretary of the Congregation of Catholic Education, spoke of the future of religious life being grounded in the experience of the transcendent. For us Carmelites this means being open to the transforming love of God, the heart of our charism.
Formation within Community
The General Formation Commission presented nine criteria regarding formation and community. These points taken from the RIVC provided those present with an occasion to speak about the importance of community as a major formative element in the ministry of formation (RIVC 55 & 37). All were encouraged to continue in a spirit of cooperation regionally and internationally within the Order especially in the areas of Formation and Vocation Ministry.
In addition participants heard reports from the General Council and from the Order's Commissions on their work of building up the spirit of community and cooperation throughout the Order.
We Carmelites acknowledge the thirst in our contemporary society and Church for a healthy spirituality of incarnation and transcendence. We recognise in the recent canonisation of St. Nuno of St. Mary a man who embodied the transformative love of God through his genuine love for the poor. He was freed from any ambition for power over others and came to experience the suffering Christ in the weak and rejected of his society. His life reminds us that God sees and loves all humanity with an unconditional love.
Our genuine search for relationships both within and beyond our Carmelite communities must be built upon the Gospel virtues of faith, hope and love. It is when these virtues find an incarnational expression in our relationships with one another and with those we are called to serve that we live our Carmelite vocation to embrace the Gospel.
We ask Elijah, our Father, and Mary, our Mother and Sister, to guide and strengthen us as we continue our journey of faith, hope and love as brothers and sisters in Carmel.
San Felice del Benaco, 12th September 2009