The Prayer of Carmel

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from Carmel, Land of the Soul
Carolyn Humphreys

Of all human experiences, prayer is the simplest and the most profound. The school of Carmel provides people with a means to explore their internal depths for a lifetime of prayer. Two primary necessities in Carmel are silence and solitude. Places and times for silence and solitude are not easy to find in modern society. God-seekers on Mount Carmel face the battle and babbble of the ages as they continually turn from peripheral living to searching for God. To live in the midst of the world and be not of it is an ongoing challenge. Silence and solitude are supports that link the whole Carmelite family together. No one is really alone as he or she strives to pray, think with the teachings of Jesus, and respond as one imagaines Jesus might have done.

Interior silence and solitude are needed as guides to God that go beyond the absence of noise or people. Self-knowledge and faith are built on these supportive structures which are as lattices for growth in giving and receiving. Carmelites do not forget others, instead they stand alone in God's presence for others. Prayers for people are offered and a greater sense of God's goodness is received. God is sought through quiet waiting and pondering and is received by unknowingly drawing closer to Jesus. Eventually, Carmelites find themselves without masks, adonrments or devotional accretions and experience true freedom in the peace of Christ. Teresa said it well:"We need no wings to go in search of him, but have only to find a place where we can be alone and look upon his presence within us."

Were one to come to a third order meeting, it might occur to one that silence and solitude are the furthest things from the ordinary Carmelite's mind. One would be inaccurate in that supposition. Gregarious, as needed, every Carmelite I know is intense inward turning and reflective. I would say that they must be among the world's most introverted people.

And more than introversion, another characteristic I have noted among my brothers and sisters in Carmel is sheer dogged determination. Later Humphreys writes "It is soon learned that Carmelites are seekers of God who are never satisfied."

Obviously so. We cannot be satisfied until we know God. And as a Carmelite, we cannot be satisfied with knowing God until we know Him as we know ourselves. There is no end to our desire to know--but it is not the same desire to know that motivates a scientist or dectective. Rather it is the desire to know that we have when we are seeking out prospective life mates. The knowledge of God we require is the knowledge of His love, and we want to know that not in our heads, but in our hearts. And more importantly, we don't just desire to know it, we desire to live it.

Each Carmelite I know is driven toward intimacy with God. The old prayers are sufficient only in so far as they advance us in intimacy with God. When they have lost this effectiveness, when we cease to move forward, they must be discarded. (I speak here for the Carmelite living out the charism of Carmel, not for every believer.)

"Silence and solitude are the wings of prayer that provide the energy for service."

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Steven, I liked this post very much. I read it twice. I have a question for you. There is a practice that I think is Budhist called mindfulness. It is living not regreting the past or living off memories, nor planning the future in anxiety, but being present right here and now. Being totally aware. I think if we live like this, every breath is a prayer and we are realizing how wonderful life is and can live in gratitude and praise. I don't seem to find this word used in Christianity. Is there another word for the same topic? I would love to hear your thoughts...


Dear Hector,

I don't know if there is a single word for it in Christianity, but it is very close to St. Thérèse's maxim that "Today is all we have. All of our sorrows are in yesterday or tomorrow."

Simply being aware of His presence is part of the core of contemplation. You leave off discursive prayer and meditation and enter a realm of total awareness. This is "acquired" contemplation--which is a misleading name if ever there was one because all prayer comes as a gift from God.

So, in short, the concept of mindfulness is not unknown, but I do not think there is a single word for it.



Thank you Steven!



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This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on October 3, 2005 12:58 PM.

New Nominee Draws Fire From Both Sides was the previous entry in this blog.

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