Today is the Feast of Our Lady of Carmel (the Virgin Mary appeared to St. Simon Stock on July 16, 1251), and the 405th anniversary of the Carmelite reform instituted by St. Teresa of Avila. The Vatican Information Service reports on the Pope’s remarks upon the occasion:
Vatican City, (VIS) – Benedict XVI has sent a message to Bishop Jesus Garcia Burillo of Avila, Spain, to mark the 450th anniversary of the foundation of the Monastery of St. Joseph and the beginning of the Carmelite reform by St. Teresa of Avila. The message, ample extracts of which are given below, is dated 16 July.
“The reform of the Carmelite Order, the anniversary of which fills us with inner joy, arose from prayer and tends towards prayer. In promoting a radical return to the original Rule and abandoning the mitigated Rule, St. Teresa of Jesus sought to create a form of life which favoured a personal encounter with the Lord, finding ‘a place where we can be alone and look upon Him present within us. Nor need we feel strange in the presence of so kind a Guest'”.
“St. Teresa presented a new way of being Carmelite in a world which was also new. Those were ‘difficult times’ in which, according to that Mistress of the spirit, … ‘the world is on fire. Men try to condemn Christ once again. They would raze His Church to the ground. No, my sisters, this is no time to treat with God for things of little importance’. Does this luminous and engaging call, written more than four centuries ago by the mystic saint, not sound familiar in our own times?”
“The ultimate goal of Teresa’s reform and the creation of new monasteries in a world lacking spiritual values was to protect apostolic work with prayer, proposing a form of evangelical life that would act as a model for people seeking the path of perfection, on the basis of the conviction that all authentic personal and ecclesial reform involves an ever more faithful reproduction of the ‘form’ of Christ in our own selves. … Today too, as in the sixteenth century, in the midst of rapid transformation, it is important that trusting prayer be the heart of the apostolate, so that the the redeeming message of Jesus Christ may sound our clearly and dynamically. It is urgently important for the Word of life to resound harmoniously in peoples souls, with sonorous and attractive notes”.
“The example of St. Teresa of Avila is of great help to us in this exhilarating task. In her time the saint evangelised unhesitatingly, showing tireless ardour, employing methods free from inertia and using expressions bathed in light. This remains important in the current time, when there is a pressing need for the baptised to renew their hearts through individual prayer in which, following the guidance of St. Teresa, they also focus on contemplation of Christ’s blessed humanity as the only way to reach the glory of God”.
“The power of Christ will lead to a redoubling of efforts to ensure that the people of God recover their vigour in the only way possible: by finding space within ourselves for the feelings of the Lord Jesus, and in all circumstances seeking to live His Gospel to the full. This means, above all, allowing the Holy Spirit to make us friends of the Master and to mould us to Him. It also means accepting all His mandates and adopting in ourselves criteria such as humility of conduct, renunciation of the superfluous, not harming others and acting with simplicity and humbleness of heart. Thus those around us will perceive the joy that arises from our adherence to the Lord; they will see that we put nothing before His love, and that we are always ready to give reasons for our hope”.
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