Letter to Carmelites
Courtesy of Jeff Miller over at Atheist to a Theist, we have this link to a letter by the Reverend Joseph Chalmers, Prior General of the Carmelite Order. (Note--If I have any readers from my region, I encourage you, very strongly to read the entire letter, but to pay special attention to pargraphs 37-58. Share it with your groups--discuss it.)
Here are some excerpts:
40. The main elements of the Carmelite charism are well known: prayer, fraternity and service. These three elements are bound together by contemplation. Above all, Carmelites are called to follow Jesus Christ and live the Gospel in daily life. In our following of Christ, we are inspired by two biblical figures: Our Lady and the Prophet Elijah. Every Carmelite, whether religious or lay, is called to live this charism. The way in which we put these elements together will differ according to our state in life. Lay people must live the Carmelite charism precisely as lay people. Jesus said that he was not asking the Father to take his friends out of the world but to protect them from the evil one (Jn 17,15). All Carmelites are in the world in some way but the vocation of lay people is precisely to transform the secular world.
48. Contemplation is what binds the other elements of the charism together. Like all members of the Carmelite Family, lay Carmelites are called to grow in their relationship with Christ until they become his intimate friends and as such will be a powerful transformative influence on the world. The traditional helps for the development of contemplation are often absent from our world, which is marked by frenetic activity. Therefore lay Carmelites must seek out times when they can lay aside the cares of daily life for a while and allow God to speak to their hearts in silence. Strengthened by this food, they can continue their journey and look at the world with new eyes. Contemplatives can see the presence of God in unlikely situations; God always precedes us and is present in every situation before we arrive. It is our duty to discover the presence of God in the midst of what is around us and proclaim this presence to our world.
50. In recent years as an Order, we have rediscovered Lectio Divina as a powerful way of prayer and indeed a way of life. Lectio Divina is the prayerful listening to the Word of God which, like all prayer, is intended to open us to contemplation. Our Lady is the model of one who listened to the Word of God. Clearly it is not sufficient merely to listen to the Word; Mary put it into practice and so must we (cf. Lk 8,21). In the traditional movement of Lectio Divina, there is a time for meditation on the Word that has been heard, and this pondering must lead to prayer which in turn leads to silence, a profound silence open to contemplation. St. John of the Cross wrote, "Seek in reading and you will find in meditation. Knock in prayer and it will be opened to you in contemplation." (Maxims & Counsels, 79).