Many people do not even know that there is such a thing as Carmelite spirituality much less understands what is and what it means. There are many people that seem to be drifting towards these unorthodox beliefs in recent years as more and more people seem to be straying away from traditional forms of organized religion. Whether you plan on embracing the beliefs of Carmelites or not, it is wise to at least understand what they believe in general so that you are at least not completely lost and confused when you hear this term being used.
The Primary Focus
The primary focus of people that are following the path of Carmelite spirituality is that they want to be completely open to the transforming power and impact that God can have within their lives. Their goal then, is to establish an abundance of praying communities that can each focus on this wholehearted service for all of God’s people. They believe that service, prayer and building these various types of communities are three key factors that should never be compromised. Since their main focus is to make sure that as many people know about God as possible, their evangelizing ministries and missions allow them to share the good news about Jesus Christ and this deep passion of God.
What Does Carmel Mean?
Many people are confused by the actual term “Carmel” or “Carmelite.” Their primary focus is a common focus that is shared by many different forms of Christianity today. However, the essence of “Carmel” does not focus mostly on doing certain things or wearing specific religious clothing or even to live within specific types of homes. The focus and true meaning of “Carmel” is the closely intimate relationship that God has with each of them individually. This is not a relationship of visions and personal messages but a close, loving relationship that they have established with their God.
The History of Carmelites
In order to understand this particular religion today, it is important to reflect first and foremost on where they were in history. Keep in mind that the Carmelites originated as a community branch of the Roman Catholic Church. What became known as the Carmelite Order was actually developed by a group of 13th century hermits in Palestine that wanted to focus on the importance of prayer and service, following the examples of Elijah the prophet as well as the Mary, the mother of Jesus. In 1214, they had an official Way of Life that had been officially formed by Saint Albert and became an order of friars following a General Chapter in 1247. As Carmelite spirituality continued to evolve and reform in the centuries to follow, the basic mission of making sure that they follow the path of Jesus Christ closely remained the same.
The Core Element
The core element of Carmelite spirituality has always been the art of contemplation. This is based on the beliefs of Carmelites overall, it is not enough to simple read the Bible or religious texts. You need to take the time to study and ponder over what you are learning. Carmelites focus on contemplating and pondering over their relationships with God on a daily basis. They focus on how God has affected them in the past, how God affects them now and how God’s will continues to affect them and their families into the future as well. Since they have been able to focus primarily on this intense degree of meditation, Carmelites believe that they are truly qualified to be able to preach this message to others, encouraging others to do the same thing.
Several Carmelites throughout History
There have been quite a few people that have been able to make significant impacts on the history of mankind over the years that believed and followed the practices of Carmelite spirituality overall. Many of the greatest Christian philosophers, thinkers and mystics were actually Carmelites. Teresa of Jesus and John of the Cross along with the three “Doctors of the Church” were all Carmelites. Within the 20th century, Carmelites were able to bear witness to the Gospel through the brutal martyrdoms of such people as Isidore Bakanja, Edith Stein and also Titus Brandsma in addition to many other people as well throughout that period of time.