Carmelites are called to follow Jesus Christ (In Obsequio Jesu Christi, Const. 1995, no.2). He is the Word made flesh and dwells among us (John 1:14). Through the incarnation of Jesus, though he was in the form of God … he emptied himself and took the form of a slave, being born in the likeness of men (Phil 2:6-7). He has come to the world to love and redeem us through his suffering, death, and resurrection (John 3:17).
Jesus’ love has enkindled the spirit of Carmelite saints to follow him in the example of Elijah and Mother Mary. Saint Peter Thomas has brought and made peace in his ministry. Blessed Angelo Paoli followed Jesus in loving and serving the poor. Blessed Titus Brandsma lived out Carmelite spirituality in defending human rights, building religious-dialogue, and serving God who exists and appears in his creation.
Those Carmelite saints are our example of how to put our Carmelite spirituality in a real context of life. We are challenged to follow the example: to bring and to live our Carmelite spirituality in our present world, which is characterized by various and serious problems of justice, peace, and integrity of creation (JPIC).
Carmelite Spirituality in the Church and the World of today
The Catholic Church has been involved in JPIC since the beginning (Acts 2:42-47). Since Rerum Novarum (1891) of Pope Leo XIII, the Church, in what is called Catholic Social Teaching, has taught about how we should deal with the social-economic-political problems in the world. The Second Vatican Council has been named ecumenical. It invites the whole Church to be open to the multi-religious and multi-cultural reality of the world.
Now various international and national organizations, both religious and secular, are seriously involved in dealing with issues of justice, peace, and integrity of creation.
Where has the Carmelite Order been? What has it done? Since the beginning of 1970s the Order has decided to commit to working in the field. Now we have concrete activities and ministries for JPIC in our provinces, commissariats, and delegations.
The question is how far all of those have been made as a commitment of the whole Order. The International Commission for JPIC which was set up 1987 aims to help the Order to come to a keener awareness of the call to justice and peace that comes from our spiritual tradition, from the Bible and from what is happening in the world, hoping that it will lead to a deeper commitment to the work of justice and peace. After almost 25 years we need to evaluate and review our JPIC commitment and movement. Are we really aware of what is happening around us? While the quantity and quality of JPIC problems in the world are becoming more serious and complicated, have we taken sufficient and actual steps to face and to take part in solving them?
Concrete steps at the international level
Since the establishment of the International Commission for Justice, Peace, and Integrity of Creation, the Order has taken up many efforts. These include meetings, reflections, immersion programs, collaborations with many organizations both religious and secular, writing documents, and so forth. One of the important documents is the Ten Approaches to the Mission of Justice and Peace in the Carmelite Order.Have we used this document as a guide for our real action when dealing with JPIC challenges?
Our documents on JPIC should be continuously and consistently followed by concrete implementation, both in our formation and ministry.
It is extremely important to make the whole Order always aware of the challenges of the JPIC. The International Commission for JPIC of the Order (2007-2013) continues to remind us about it, especially through the initial formation. It has organized some seminars of JPIC on climate change and environment. The last one was held in East Timor, April 26 – May 1, 2011 in which around 50 Asia-Australia-Oceania Carmelite students took part.
In his (written) opening address for the seminar, Fr.General Fernando Millan Romeral wrote ”We ought to learn from our mystics and masters of spirituality: John of the Cross, who searches for the lover among the forests, the valleys and the rivers; Thérèse of Lisieux who had a deep experience of God looking at the beach in Trouville; and Titus Brandsma who stood in front of Niagara Falls reflecting on the greatness of God. All of these, as well as many others, are wonderful examples of the Carmelite and contemplative stance on the environment.”
In addition, the Commission has finished working on the draft of inter-religious dialogue to respond to the recommendation of the General Chapter of 2007. It has been presented to the General Council and will be presented in the General Congregation, September 2011 in Niagara Falls, Canada for suggestions, opinions, and further discussion so that it would be exquisitely presented in the General Chapter 2013. We hope that the next General Chapter will make concrete steps on how Carmelites could best contribute to inter-religious dialogue because we are living in a multi-cultural and multi-religious world.
The Commission also strengthens the relation, communication, and collaboration with the Carmelite-NGO, both at the international and national levels. Have all provinces, commissariats, and delegations been collaborating with our international Carmelite-NGO? How could the collaboration develop our witness and ministry in the field of JPIC?
Many Catholic religious congregations are running institutions dedicated to JPIC. Franciscans have Franciscans International, working for the environment. Saint Vincent de Paul Mission Congregation and the Daughters of Charity are focusing on helping the poor. Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) is strong in helping migrants. There are many other religious congregations devoted in their ministry for JPIC. The spirituality of a religious congregation could animate its members to be involved in JPIC. We are not to be Franciscans, Vincentians, or Jesuits. Without imitating them, how could we actualize our Carmelite spirituality in the field of JPIC?
We have a spirituality of prayer, brotherhood, and service united in contemplation. Has contemplation been animating us in ministering JPIC? Is it possible for us to build a spirituality center which offers inspirational and spiritual seminars, retreats, workshops, and training to inspire people involving in JPIC? Could we do formation for our young Carmelites in such a way that they always become aware and motivated to learn, to work, and to serve JPIC? What have we done in regard to JPIC in our parish, school, and social ministry?
Talking about the Catholic Church’s presence in Asia, since the beginning Federation Asian Bishops Conference (FABC) has strongly exhorted the need of Being Catholic Church in Asia which is open to dialogue with the poor, cultures, and religions of Asia. How far have we been knowledgeable of this and relate our Carmelite formation with the exhortation? This is one challenge of putting our Carmelite life in a real context.
We are called to follow Jesus Christ who came down from heaven to fight for justice, peace, and to save all creation. Some of our Carmelite saints have given us real example of doing so in a real social context. Are we going to follow their example? We do hope that our Order could offer other Carmelite saints in the future who are involved in JPIC from the present generation. This is a real challenge.
Rome, June 10, 2011
CITOC Magazine No2 2011