“Vita vestra est abscondita cum Christo in Deo.”
– Colossians 3:3
The Hermits of Our Lady of Mount Carmel is a Roman Catholic religious community that observes the eremitical Carmelite charism. Following the first hermits on Mount Carmel who, “in imitation of that holy anchorite the prophet Elijah, led solitary lives,”1 the charism and Constitutions of the community are based upon the observance of the Primitive Rule of St. Albert in its original character of eremitical contemplative religious life.
“Thou shalt love the Lord thy God, with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul, and with thy whole mind, and with thy whole strength. This is the first commandment” (St. Mark 12:30). The soul of the religious life in the tradition of the Catholic Church is the organized, vowed state oriented to the full realization of evangelical spiritual perfection and perfect charity regarding God and neighbor. The essence of the Carmelite Charism is to pursue, by the action of divine grace in the soul, the radical transformation, spiritual fecundity, and divine union that are the blessed fruits of ardent penance, spiritual purification, assiduous meditation and loving contemplation of the Triune God. Simply seeking “the one thing necessary…the best part which shall not be taken away” (St. Luke 10:42), the Carmelite is not to be a specialist in any human occupation but in the spiritual life: the life of grace, charity and the other virtues in the soul. The Religious strives to “walk worthy of God, in all things pleasing; being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God” (Colossians 1:10). A soul called to live the Carmelite Charism in its primitive, specifically eremitical form follows Our Lord in the way of perfection by a religious formation and observance that is vivified by mental prayer, sacred study, silence, solitude, and penance. The unmitigated Rule of St. Albert lays the foundations of this religious observance, which equips the called soul with the fullness of the external means to attain to that interior sanctification which is the fruit of Christ’s Saving Cross and the beginning of eternal beatitude, not only for itself but for the benefit of the entire Church.
The Hermits of Our Lady of Mount Carmel strive, through the grace of Christ, to imitate and be conformed to the inexhaustible adoration and contemplation of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary, to whom they are consecrated and whose Holy Habit they wear, and to emulate the example of the holy prophet St. Elias who, as a contemplative solitary, lived in the presence of the Living God (cf. III Kings 17:1). Zealous for the glory of the one true God and the sanctification and salvation of souls, their life of prayer, sacrifice, and love conforms the Hermits, through their union with Christ Crucified and the omnipotent prayer of that Great High Priest, to Christ the Saving Victim, thus interceding for the needs of all those for whom the Savior shed His Precious Blood, especially in those matters which only prayer and divine grace can remedy: “Human activities cannot help us, but only the suffering of Christ. It is my desire to share in it.”2 However, in addition to the hidden influence of its prayers and sacrifices, the community’s priests offer a specific spiritual apostolate that provides possibilities of spiritual direction and preaching.
To the solitude of mountain or desert it was, then, that our Saviour retired when He desired to pray; although we read that He came down from the mountain when he wished to preach to the people….He who planted our Fathers in the solitude of the mountain thus gave Himself to them and their successors as a model…They tarried long in the solitude of the desert, conscious of their own imperfection. Sometimes, however, though rarely, they came down from their desert, anxious, so as not to fail in what they regarded as their duty, to be of service to their neighbors, and sowed broadcast of the grain, threshed out in preaching, that they had so sweetly reaped in solitude with the sickle of contemplation.3
Thus, following St. Elias in his loving service to the Israel of God, the Church, the Hermits labor that God might be glorified in an ever-growing number of souls sanctified by progress in prayer and the spiritual life, consequently increasing the fruits of divine grace in their various states of life and their external responsibilities in the Church and society. “And I brought you into the land of Carmel, to eat the fruit thereof, and the best things thereof” (Jeremias 2:7).
1Jacques de Vitry, Bishop of Acre, History of Jerusalem, §52.
2St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross
3Nicholas, Prior General of the Carmelite Order. Ignea Sagitta: The Flaming Arrow., Ch. VI.