Saint Albert and the Rule of Carmel

Today, our reflection focuses on the figure of Saint Albert of Jerusalem, legislator of the Order of Carmel. He was born in Emilia (Italy). He entered a congregation of canons regular where he was elected prior. Three years later, he was appointed Bishop of Vercelli in Italy. He ruled this Church for twenty years.
His prudence, his skill, his insight led him to be chosen as mediator between the Pope and Emperor Frederick Barbarossa.

Pope Innocent III transferred him in 1204 to the Latin Patriarchal See of Jerusalem as Apostolic delegate in Palestine for four years. Invited to participate in the Fourth Lateran Council, he died on September 14, 1214 in Acre, assassinated during the festivities of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, apparently by the master of the Hospital of the Holy Spirit, whom he had deposed for his bad behavior. life.Previously, he had had time to prepare the Rule of life for the Carmelites, since the hermits of Mount Carmel had asked him for a written Rule. Saint Albert, after having studied the type of life they led on Mount Carmel, highlights two essential aspects of Elian spirituality: 1) a Spirit of contemplation for the presence of God in silence and solitude: «God lives in whose I am present” (1 Kings 17, 1) and – zeal for the glory of God and the desire that many discover and adore the living God: “I am burning with zeal for the God of hosts” (1 Kings 19, 9).

Saint Albert writes the Rule incorporating the community element, until then they were hermits, each one in his grotto… now they would be part of a community, with their prior, etc. The Rule of Saint Albert is the shortest of the existing rules of consecrated life in the Catholic spiritual tradition and is all built on biblical precepts. To this day, it is a rich source of inspiration for the lives of many Catholics around the world. In the 16th century, in Spain, in the spirit of reform carried out by Saint Teresa of Ávila, Carmel returned to vigor, not only with the return to the spirit of the “Primitive” Rule reread in the context of its time, but also inspiring her sisters with new apostolic intentions and teaching them about prayer and the path that leads to a life of union with God. A precious lesson that, furthermore, will be delivered to the entire Church through his writings and through the fruits of his numerous foundations, but his teaching is also addressed to the laity.

The vocation of the lay Carmelite is contemplative, lay and apostolic. This is an apostolate that is called to be lived in the world, in the community of one’s own family in many cases or in a state of single life, who are called to form communities with other lay people who have the same Carmelite vocation. This lay vocation has been valued and presented by the Second Vatican Council and Pope John Paul II has emphasized in the documents: Apostolicam Actuositatem and Christi fideles Laici. Pope Francis has also pronounced on the importance of the testimony of the life of faith of the laity to the point of convening the Synod of the laity where the life of the Christian in the world has been studied; and especially in these “tough times”, when a “New Evangelization is needed for the transmission of the Christian faith”.

Now, undoubtedly, it is necessary to comply with some inexcusable premises of identity that the lay Discalced Carmelites must previously meet, before even considering or questioning a translation or translation in action, abroad, in conduct, in the mission: it must starting from a true evangelical experience, from the particular charism, spirituality, vocation, which it shares with the other branches of the Order; a true “drinking from the sources” of the Holy Scriptures, and of the lives and works of the saints and doctors of the Order who preceded us; a knowledge of “those parents where we come from”; an authentic and faithful commitment to a lifestyle defined by our Rule, Constitutions and Statutes; a living “in allegiance to Jesus Christ”; constant meditation on the Law of the Lord; a true spirit of prayer as “friendship with Whom we know loves us”, and of love and imitation of Our Lady the Blessed Virgin Mary, of Whom we feel companions and brothers. It is necessary to grow in identity and belonging to the Order of Carmel, this logically cannot be improvised and requires a gradual and gradual formation, today we will stop at three essential elements of our spirituality and charism.

Presence of God

Without needing to wait for Friar Lorenzo of the resurrection, we already find in the Rule of Carmel this desire to live continuously in the presence of God, “day and night”. It is about making the experience of God something daily. Let us contemplate Mary, our true model of life in faith, hope and love; of reading the designs of God in each event of life, of abandonment in the loving arms of God, of acceptance of his will, of gratitude and praise to God; of perseverance in prayer, of listening to the Word of God, of commitment to all those who surrounded her on the paths of her life…, imitating her is the clearest way to follow Jesus. She is the best witness and teacher in this continuous living in the presence of God. A presence that helps us face from faith, without losing hope and love, the work and suffering of every day, family concerns, uncertainty and the limitations of human life, illness, misunderstanding, etc. Let us try to be, like Mary, like Joseph, mature men and women who continually live in the presence of God, collaborating with his plan of salvation. Feeling the Lord by our side is something very Teresian, living in the company of God, walking in his Presence, “we see him as a man and he is company” (V 22), says Saint Teresa. So let us try that prayer serenely and luminously permeates our life, so that all of it is prayer, and that it rises to God like incense in his presence.

Spiritual combat

Our life is a continuous search for union with God, a discernment of his ways, and for this we must maintain our spirit in an attitude of continuous conversion, combining action and contemplation (Marta and Mary), knowing how to face the setbacks of material life as well as the attacks of the Evil One, in the manner of the ancient hermits of the desert. This is done through a discipline, in order to live the Carmelite charism in the world, offering our daily tasks for the sanctification of the world. For this, it is important to start the day putting everything in God’s hands through prayer, with the celebration of the Eucharist (when possible) and with the prayer of the Liturgy of the hours (when the time comes). Our model of combat and struggle, in addition to all the references to the apostle Paul that appear in the Rule, is the prophet Elijah, who faced the 450 false prophets of Baal on the top of Carmel, and who acknowledges living in the presence of God continually.

We do not invent anything new: the life of man on earth, and all who want to live piously in Christ suffer persecution; and the “devil walks like a roaring lion, he is looking for someone to devour”, for this reason -says the Rule of Carmel- “with all diligence try to put on the armor of God, so that you can resist the snares of the enemy” (R 18). This requires a great detachment from oneself and “love the Lord God… with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength, and (our) neighbor as ourselves” (Cf. R 19). The Word of God will be our strength and our bulwark. «May She dwell abundantly on your lips and your hearts. And whatever you have to do, do it according to the word of the Lord (R 20)

The value of life together

Saint Albert, by giving the Rule of Carmel to the first hermits of Wadi-ain-Es SiaH, did more than just give a legal document. He offered them the possibility of going from being hermits (each one in his cave) to being brothers and fraternity around an ideal, a Mother and an authentic prophetic style. What was given then, in the light of secular Carmel, is actualized in the life of communion that we must live not only among ourselves but with all the members of the Order (friars, nuns and laity). “The Secular Carmelites, along with the friars and nuns, are sons and daughters of the Order of Our Lady of Mount Carmel and Saint Teresa of Jesus. Therefore, they share with the religious [and nuns] the same charism, each living it according to their own state of life. It is a single family with the same spiritual goods, the same vocation to holiness (cf. Eph 1,4; 1 Pet 1,15) and the same apostolic mission. Laymen bring to the Order the richness of their secularity» (CCS n.1). Let us value with gratitude our community life in the times that we are together, and let us continue to feel like a community, -because we are-, in the days and moments in which we are in our private homes, with our families, in our chores and jobs; as a family gathered around Jesus Christ. As Father Saverio expressed in a meeting of the Definitory, paraphrasing the Gospel: “Let us seek first the Teresian community, and the rest will be given to us in addition” (cf. Mt 6, 33).

Let us never stop insistently asking the Lord to give us the Spirit of Life. And let us ask the Holy Spirit that we always have our eyes fixed on Jesus; that we be men and women of hope, and that we all work together to build with Him that Kingdom of God, that world of hope, from our Teresian-Carmelite charism and way of life, following the paths of Teresa, Juan and Teresita and the rest of our saints; and from our particular vocations, as religious or as lay people.

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