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Monday, 6 July 2015

Framing Prayer 4

When we think of the prayer of Carmel, we think of the great Carmelite saints, John of the Cross, Teresa of Avila, whose birthday in 1515 we celebrate this year, and Therese, the Little Flower. But, as members of a religious order, they speak to the laity within a context of the order of perfection-communal life, scheduled prayer and work, obedience.

However, the Carmelite way of framing prayer can be accessible to the lay person, and not only to the fortunate enough to be third order Carmelites (Tertiaries) living near an orthodox Carmel.

Sadly, the Tertiaries I have known in my life did not have a clue about the difference between meditation and contemplation, and were influenced by modern commentaries which completely ignored the rigors of repentance and daily mortification. Speaking with Tertiaries in the past, I was surprised at the lack of understanding regarding the core of the way of Carmel-silence and solitude.

The Carmelite does not have the same communal or individual ideal as to the Benedictines or the Jesuits. Carmelites who are in truly contemplative orders have cells, where they pray and come together for Mass or chores (done in silence) only. The cell provides the silence and solitude of the reformed order. The active orders, such as those which have reached out to the aged and to education, must balance meditation and contemplation with great activity, losing the contemplative focus of Teresa's renewal.

The lay person, however, can learn much from the framework of the prayer of Carmel. Follow the tags for other posts on Teresa of Avila, John of the Cross, John of Avila.

Here, I want to concentrate on the manner of prayer, so as to aid those lay people who are inclined to the daily framework of a Carmelite.

In doing so, I highlight four aspects of the prayer of Carmelites in this mini-series--the devotion to Mary, the devotion to the Holy Face, the central need for study, and the role of contemplation in action.

Before I begin, I would ask readers to turn to three great modern Carmelite saints for their example of holiness in action as well as contemplation. These four Carmelites will be my examples for this section of the mini-series: Brother Lawrence, Titus Brandsma, Teresa Benedicta of the Cross,  and Elizabeth of the Trinity.

I have several posts on these saints already on this blog, but I want to emphasize how their lives and manner of praying can directly inform the lay person attracted to the spirit of Carmel. Just follow the tags, and for Elizabeth of the Trinity, look under "Indwelling of the Trinity:

Besides silence, mortification looms large in the life of a real Carmelite. One only needs to look at the lives of those four I have chosen to see the great importance in their lives of humility, which flows from self-denial.

We have the great examples of Teresa of Avila and John of the Cross regarding self-denial, but in Part Five, I shall concentrate on the lives and prayer of the four to be used for this mini-series.

to be continued...