Monday, April 28, 2014

Stained Glass Flowers-Reflections on the Rule of the Secular Order of Discalced Carmelites

From the Constitutions
Community Life

Every Secular Carmelite will strive to place the good of the community and fraternal charity above self-interest and will give the community meeting primacy of place in the ordering of his/her schedule. The desire and ability to attend community meetings are signs of an authentic vocation.

When people begin formation as a Secular Carmelite, we stress the fact that meetings are mandatory. It's a good sign if the candidate is eager and willing to attend meetings, begin formation, and make an effort to get to know the community. It's an even greater blessing when new people begin right away to volunteer to help with community functions.  These are all healthy signs of a person who may have a vocation as a Secular Carmelite.

Problems arise for communities when members (usually the same people) continually asked to be excused from meetings for one reason or another. Of course, sometimes these requests are important if it may cause a problem within their family. It takes wisdom to know how to be faithful to one's commitment as a Secular Carmelite and how to be faithful to one's obligations to family.

I usually instruct people of the importance of community meetings, because they are preparing to make a promise, in effect, a spiritual marriage to the Order of Carmel and to the local community. They are going to promise to be faithful to their obligations, and one very important obligation is to be present at the monthly meeting to be formed as a Carmelite and to deepen their friendship with their brothers and sisters in the community.

A person is instructed that the community meeting takes precedence over any other parish activity they may be involved in, unless one is a priest, deacon or religious.  So, the community meeting takes place above choir practice, the soup kitchen, yes, even the prayer group one may belong to. We do not make promises to the choir, the prayer group, etc. We make a promise to the community of Carmel.

Some members struggle with this directive. And it takes some time for some people to see the wisdom of community life and to eventually integrate it and place Carmel as a priority in their life. We have to instruct candidates right away that Carmel is not just another prayer group that meets once a month. We are a true member of a religious order within the Catholic Church who are obedient to the Superiors of the Order.

It takes a great commitment to be faithful to the monthly meeting. It takes sacrifice. But the graces outweigh the times we would like to stay home instead of make the effort to attend the meeting.  If we are constantly making excuses for not attending the monthly formation meeting, that would be a point of discernment for one's ongoing formation and acceptance and invitation to make promises. It's also a point of examination of conscience and should be brought to the attention of one's confessor or spiritual director.  If one continually has a problem with attending the monthly meeting, perhaps that is a sign that one does not have a vocation as a Secular Carmelite and God may be leading the soul elsewhere.  It is important to be open and honest with the Director of Formation about any struggles in this area.  The president and council members are to help members in their struggles and to help them discern their call to Carmel.

Let us pray for each other.

Peace be with you!
Rosemarie, ocds

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