Review: Journey to Carith

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I've posted some exerpts from this book as I have been reading. What I can say is that it is a very nice history of the Discalced Carmelites from the beginning of the Carmelite order up until about 1966 (when the book was first published). As such it misses some things such as Teresa and Therese declared Doctors of the Church and the Beatification of Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity. But that's all right.

What is most interesting about this seeming history is the depth of spirituality that is exposed. One of the things Rohrback does very well is introduce the people who effected the order for good and for ill. Also he introduces little historical highlights that add to depth of understanding of the history of religion in Europe.

The book is not for everyone as it has a very narrow focus on the development of the Carmelite Order. But if you are a Carmelite or you wish to understand more about the order, there are a great many insights to be gained from reading the book. The emphasis on solitude, for example, is demonstrated by the successive falls that Carmel experienced when solitude was at a minimum.

Another fascinating thing to see unfold is the delicate balance between contemplation and action that defines the Carmelite Order. In Carmelite Spirituality contemplation always feeds action--the desire to spread God's kingdom flows naturally from participating intimately in that kingdom. It makes sense, but it also makes for paradox when you realize how difficult it can be to tread the line between contemplation and action.

In the rule of the Third Order it is explicitly stated that Lay Carmelites are in the world, not cloistered, and so they have a special responsibility to bring the Gospel Good News of hope and salvation. They are called to ministry to save souls, not solely to contemplation. But it is in contemplation that the Carmelite receives the light to bring the good news. Carmelites are called to spread the good news through one-on-one interactions. We are not called to reason people to acceptance of God, but to love people to acceptance of God. Again, in the recently revised rule for Third Order Carmelites, we are likened to sparks of love blown out into the forest to set it ablaze--not with the fire the destroys and consumes, but with the fire that transforms and renews. We more often do this not through force of reason, but through the force of an unforced smile, a welcoming heart.

For the Carmelite, those beautiful "rules of amiability" are the perfect complement to our mission. Time and again we meet Carmelites who achieved heroic sanctity, not through some laborious and arduous trials, but rather through heroic and arduous patience and love. These can only be engendered through contemplation and being in touch with the source of all love.

Sorry--back to the book. If you want to know about the order, the major figures in the order and the major movements in the order, Journey to Carith is an excellent introduction. The author points out that we are in a new era of reform--one that stems from the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in the second Vatican council. Our own part of the order has recently undergone revision of the rule and a progressive strengthening and tightening of requirements. It is glorious to behold, but difficult for those who were used to Carmel in another way. Journey to Carith shows that an Order is either in reform or in decay--there is no in between. I'd prefer to be in a tide of change rather than a tidepool of comfort. I am grateful to be a Carmelite at this point in time. God has been very, very good to me.

For the book--highly recommended/required reading for all Carmelites, recommended without reservation for those merely interested in understanding the nature of the order. Although I suspect, from outside, it may not be nearly so clear as it is from within.

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I agree that is should be required reading for all Carmelites, but also for anybody interested in the development of religious orders. Seeing both the intricacies of ecclesiastic politics and the movements of the Holy Spirit in the life of the order and in the need for constant reform.



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This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on November 28, 2005 9:04 AM.

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