Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Feast of St. Albert of Jerusalem

Saint Albert was born towards the middle of the 12th century in Castel Gualtieri in Emilia, Italy. He entered the Canons Regular of the Holy Cross at Mortara, Pavia, and became Prior there in 1180. In 1184, he was named bishop of Bobbio, and the following year he was transferred to Vercelli which he governed for twenty years.  During this period, he undertook diplomatic missions of national and international importance with rare prudence and firmness: in 1194, he effected a peace between Pavia and Milan and, five years later, also between Parma and Piacenza. In 1191, he celebrated a diocesan synod which proved of great value for its disciplinary provisions which continued to serve as a model until modern times. He was also involved in a large amount of legislative work for various religious orders: he wrote the statutes for the canons of Biella and was among the advisers who drew up the Rule of the Humiliates.

In 1205, Albert was appointed Patriarch of Jerusalem and a little later nominated Papal Legate for the ecclesiastical province of Jerusalem. He arrived in Palestine early in 1206 and lived in Acre because, at that time, Jerusalem was occupied by the Saracens. In Palestine, Albert was involved in various peace initiatives, not only among Christians but also between the Christians and non-Christians and he carried out his duties with great energy. During his stay in Acre he gathered together the hermits on Mount Carmel and gave them a Rule. On 14th September 1214, during a procession, he was stabbed to death by the Master of the Hospital of the Holy Spirit, whom Albert had reprimanded and deposed for his evil life.
The Rule of Saint Albert
Chapter 1
Albert, called by God's favour to be patriarch of the church of Jerusalem, bids health in the Lord and the blessing of the Holy Spirit to his beloved sons in Christ, B. and the other hermits under obedience to him, who live near the spring on Mount Carmel.
Chapter 2
Many and varied are the ways in which our saintly forefathers laid down how everyone, whatever his station or the kind of religious observance he has chosen, should live a life of alegiance to Jesus Christ -- how, pure in heart and stout in conscience, he must be unswerving in the service of his Master.
Chapter 3
It is to me, however, that you have come for a rule of life in keeping with your avowed purpose, a rule you may hold fast to henceforward; and therefore:
Chapter 4
The first thing I require is for you to have a prior, one of yourselves, who is to be chosen for the office by common consent, or that of the greater and maturer part of you; each of the others must promise him obedience -- of which, once promised, he must try to make his deeds the true reflection -- and also chastity and the renunciation of ownership.
Chapter 5
If the prior and brothers see fit, you may have foundations in solitary places, or where you are given a site that is suitable and convenient for the observance proper to your Order.
Chapter 6
Next, each one of you is to have a separate cell, situated as the lie of the land you propose to occupy may dictate, and allotted by disposition of the prior with the agreement of the other brothers, or the more mature among them.
Chapter 7
However, you are to eat whatever may have been given you in a common refectory, listening together meanwhile to a reading from Holy Scripture where that can be done without difficulty.
Chapter 8
None of the brothers is to occupy a cell other than that allotted to him or to exchange cells with another, without leave or whoever is prior at the time.
Chapter 9
The prior's cell should stand near the entrance to your property, so that he may be the first to meet those who approach, and whatever has to be done in consequence may all be carried out as he may decide and order.
Chapter 10
Each one of you is to stay in his own cell or nearby, pondering the Lord's law day and night and keeping watch at his prayers unless attending to some other duty.
Chapter 11
Those who know how to say the canonical hours with those in orders should do so, in the way those holy forefathers of ours laid down, and according to the Church's approved custom. Those who do not know the hours must say twenty-five Our Fathers for the night office, except on Sundays and solemnities when that number is to be doubled so that the Our Father is said fifty times; the same prayer must be said seven times in the morining in place of Lauds, and seven times too for each of the other hours, except for Vespers when it must be said fifteen times.
Chapter 12
None of the brothers must lay claim to anything as his own, but you are to possess everything in common; and each is to receive from the prior -- that is from the brother he appoints for the purpose -- whatever befits his age and needs.
Chapter 13
You may have as many asses and mules as you need, however, and may keep a certain amount of livestock or poultry.
Chapter 14
An oratory should be built as conveniently as possible among the cells, where, if it can be done without difficulty, you are to gather each morning to hear Mass.
Chapter 15
On Sundays too, or other days if necessary, you should discuss matters of discipline and your spiritual welfare; and on this occasion the indiscretions and failings of the brothers, if any be found at fault, should be lovingly corrected.
Chapter 16
You are to fast every day, except Sundays, from the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross until Easter Day, unless bodily sickness or feebleness, or some other good reason, demand a dispensation from the fast; for necessity overrides every law.
Chapter 17
You are to abstain from meat, except as a remedy for sickness or feebleness. But as, when you are on a journey, you more often than not have to beg your way; outside your own houses you may eat foodstuffs that have been cooked with meat, so as to avoid giving trouble to your hosts. At sea, however, meat may be eaten.
Chapter 18
Since man's life on earth is a time of trial, and all who would live devotedly in Christ must undergo persecution, and the devil your foe is on the prowl like a roaring lion looking for prey to devour, you must use every care to clothe yourselves in God's armour so that you may be ready to withstand the enemy's ambush.
Chapter 19
Your loins are to be girt with chastity, your breast fortified by holy meditations, for, as Scripture has it, holy meditation will save you. Put on holiness as your breastplate, and it will enable you to love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul and strength, and your neighbour as yourself. Faith must be your shield on all occasions, and with it you will be able to quench all the flaming missiles of the wicked one: there can be no pleasing God without faith; [and the victory lies in this -- your faith]. On your head set the helmet of salvation, and so be sure of deliverance by our only Saviour, who sets his own free from their sins. The sword of the spirit, the word of God, must abound in your mouths and hearts. Let all you do have the Lord's word for accompaniment.
Chapter 20
You must give yourselves to work of some kind, so that the devil may always find you busy; no idleness on your part must give him a chance to pierce the defences of your souls. In this respect you have both the teaching and the example of Saint Paul the Apostle, into whose mouth Christ put his own words. God made him preacher and teacher of faith and truth to the nations: with him as your leader you cannot go astray. We lived among you, he said, labouring and wary, toiling night and day so as not to be a burden to any of you; not because we had no power to do otherwise but so as to give you, in your own selves, an example you might imitate. For the charge we gave you when we were with you was this: that woever is not willing to work should not be allowed to eat either. For we have heard that there are certain restless idlers among you. We charge people of this kind, and implore them in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that they earn their own bread by silent toil. This is the way of holiness and goodness: see that you follow it.
Chapter 21
The Apostle would have us keep silence, for in silence he tells us to work. As the Prophet also makes known to us: Silence is the way to foster holiness. Elsewhere he says: Your strength will lie in silence and hope. For this reason I lay down that you are to keep silence from after Compline until after Prime the next day. At other times, although you need not keep silence so strictly, be careful not to indulge in a great deal of talk, for, as Scripture has it -- and experience teaches us no less -- sin will not be wanting where there is much talk, and he wo is careless in speech will come to harm; and elsewhere: The use of many words brings harm to the speaker's soul. And our Lord says in the Gospel: Every rash word uttered will have to be accounted for on judgement day. Make a balance then, each of you, to weigh his words in; keep a tight rein on your mouths, lest you should stumble and fall in speech, and your fall be irreparable and prove mortal. Like the Prophet, watch your step lest your tongue give offence, and employ every care in keeping silent, which is the way to foster holiness.
Chapter 22
You, brother B., and whoever may succeed you as prior, must always keep in mind and put into practice what our Lord said in the Gospel: Whoever has a mind to become a leader among you must make himself servant to the rest, and whichever of you would be first must become your bondsman.
Chapter 23
You, other brothers too, hold your prior in humble reverence, your minds not on him but on Christ who has placed him over you, and who, to those who rule the Churches, addressed the words: Whoever pays you heed pays heed to me, and whoever treats you with dishonour dishonours me; if you remain so minded you will not be found guilty of contempt, but will merit life eternal as fit reward for your obedience.
Chapter 24
Here then are the few points I have written down to provide you with a standard of conduct to live up to; but our Lord, at his second coming will reward anyone who does more than he is obliged to do. See that the bounds of common sense are not exceeded, however, for common sense is the guide of the virtues.
From Constitutions of the Order of the Brothers of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel. Approved by the General Chapter celebrated in September, 1995 and published by the order of the Most Reverend Father Joseph Chalmers, Prior General.
Chapters have been renumbered since the Rule was published in 1995. The Chapter numbers used above are the result of a joint meeting of the General Councils of the Carmelites and the Discalced Carmelites in January, 1999.
Innocentian additions are given in italics.

Saturday, 7 September 2013

Praying and Fasting for Syria

Prayer for peace in Syria
God of Compassion,
Hear the cries of the people of Syria,
Bring healing to those suffering from
the violence,
Bring comfort to those mourning the dead,
Strengthen Syria’s neighbours in their care and
welcome for refugees,
Convert the hearts of those who have
taken up arms,
And protect those committed to peace.
God of Hope,
Inspire leaders to choose peace over violence and
to seek reconciliation with enemies,
Inspire the Church around the world with
compassion for the people of Syria,
And give us hope for a future of peace built on
justice for all.
We ask this through Jesus Christ,
Prince of Peace and Light of the World,
US Catholic Bishops’ Conference Prayer
Prayer for Syria and Middle East
We come to you, God Creator.
You are the source of life and beauty and power.
Your son Jesus is the way of faith and
hope and love.
Your Spirit is the fire of love, the fount of
wisdom, the bond of unity.
You call us at all times to be people of the
Witnesses to the Gospel of peace and love and
You call us at this time, when war and rumours of
war, weigh heavily on the peoples of Syria
Their lives are already broken by suffering
and violence.
We renew our acceptance of your call.
We promise to work:
To bring the light of the Gospel to those living in
To bring the hope of the Gospel to those living in
To bring the healing of the Gospel to the lonely,
the disadvantaged, the marginalized,
And to bring the peace of the Gospel to a divided


Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Pope Francis writes to the Carmelite Order as they gather for the General Chapter

To Most Reverend Father
Fernando Millán Romeral
Prior General
of the Order of Brothers
of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel.

I address you, dear Brothers of the Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel, as you celebrate your General Chapter. At this time of grace and renewal that calls on you to discern the mission of the glorious Order of Carmelites, I would like to offer you a word of encouragement and hope. The ancient charism of Carmel throughout these past eight centuries has been a gift for the whole Church. Your contemplative origins spring from the land of the epiphany of God’s abiding love manifested in the Word made flesh. As you ponder your mission in Carmel today, I would ask you to consider three things that might guide you on your pilgrim way: love as allegiance, as prayer and as mission.


The Church has the mission to bring Christ to the world and it is for this, as Mother and Teacher she invites each one of us to draw near to him. In the Carmelite liturgy for the feast of our Lady of Mount Carmel we contemplate Our Lady as being “near the Cross of Christ.” This is also the place where one finds the Church: near to Christ. It is also the place for every faithful member of the Carmelite Order. Your Rule begins with the exhortation to the brothers to “live a life of allegiance to Jesus Christ”; to follow him and to serve him with a pure and undivided heart. This close relationship to Christ happens in solitude, in fraternal assembly and in mission. “The fundamental choice of a life that is concretely and radically dedicated to following Christ.” (Ratio Institutionis Vitae Carmelitanae 8) making of your lives a pilgrimage of loving transformation. The Second Vatican Council recalls the role of contemplation on the journey of life: “It is of the essence of the Church that she be both human and divine, visible and invisibly equipped, eager to act and yet intent on contemplation, present in this world as pilgrims.” (Sacrosanctum Concilium 2) The early hermits of Mount Carmel retained the memory of that holy place, and even if exiled and distanced from it constantly kept their gaze fixed on the glory of God. Reflecting on your origins and history and contemplating the vast lineage of those who lived the Carmelite charism down through the centuries you will discover again your present vocation to be prophets of hope. It is precisely with this hope you will be reborn. Often what is new is only something very old seen in a new light.

Within your Rule is the heart of the Carmelite mission then and now. As you approach the eight centenary of the death of Albert, Patriarch of Jerusalem in 1214 you will recall that he formulated “a way of life”, a space that enables you to live a spirituality that is orientated towards Christ. He outlines both external and internal elements, a physical ecology of space and the spiritual armour needed in order to fulfil one’s vocation and mission.

In a world that often misunderstands Christ, and in fact rejects him, you are invited to draw near and to unite yourselves more closely with him. It is a continuous call to follow Christ and be conformed to him. This is of vital importance in our world so disoriented, “for once the flame of faith dies out, all other lights begin to dim.” (Lumen Fidei 4) Christ is present in your fraternity, your common worship and in the ministry entrusted to you: renew the allegiance of your whole life!


The Holy Father Benedict XVI, before your General Chapter of 2007 reminded you that “faith’s inner pilgrimage towards God begins in prayer”; and at Castel Gandolfo in August 2010 said to you that: “You are the ones who teach us how to pray”. You speak of yourselves as contemplatives in the midst of the people. If it is true that you are called to live on the heights of Carmel then it is also true that you are called to witness in the midst of the people. Prayer is that “royal road” that leads to the profound mystery of the One and Triune God, but it is also the narrow pathway to God in the midst of the people as pilgrims in the world towards the Promised Land.

One of the most beautiful ways for entering into prayer is through the Word of God. Lectio divina brings you into direct conversation with the Lord and it opens for you wisdom’s treasure. The intimate friendship with the One who loves us, enables us to see with the eyes of God, to speak with his Word in our hearts, to treasure the beauty of that experience and to share it with those who are hungry for eternity.

Returning to the simplicity of a life centred on the Gospel is the challenge for a renewed Church: a community of faith that always finds new ways of evangelization in a world continually changing. The saints of Carmel have been the great preachers and teachers of prayer. This is what is needed once again from Carmel in the twenty-first century. Constantly throughout the length of your history, the greats of Carmel have sought to call you back to your prayerful contemplative roots, roots always fruitful in prayer. Here is the heart of your witness: the “contemplative” dimension of the Order, to be lived, cultivated and transmitted. I would like each one of you to ask yourself: how is my contemplative life? How much time during my day do I dedicate to prayer and contemplation? A Carmelite without this contemplative life is a dead body! Today, perhaps more than in the past, it is so easy to allow ourselves to be distracted by the cares and worries of this world and to succumb to false idols. Our world is fractured in so many ways: rather the contemplative unites and powerfully builds the call to unity. Now more than ever is the moment for you to discover again that inner pathway to love through prayer and to offer to the people today in your preaching and mission the witness of your contemplation, not easy solutions but that wisdom that comes from pondering “day and night the Law of the Lord”. The Word always brings one near to the glorious cross of Christ. United in contemplation and austerity of life is not a secondary aspect of your life and witness. There is a very strong temptation even for you to fall into a mundane spirituality. The spirit of the world is the enemy of the life of prayer: never forget this! I exhort you to a more austere and penitential life, according to your authentic tradition, a life distant from all worldliness, distant from the world’s criteria.


My dear Carmelite brothers, yours is the same mission as Jesus. All the planning and Chapter dialogue will be of little use, if you do not begin your renewal here. Your Carmelite family is seeing a wonderful “springtime” across the world, that fruit, a gift of God, and the missionary involvement of the past. Today the mission brings its heavy challenges as the Gospel message is not always accepted or even violently rejected. We must never forget, even if thrown into murky and unknown waters, that the one who gives the mission will also give the courage. So celebrate your Chapter with the hope that never dies, with a strong spirit of generosity regaining your contemplative life and the simplicity and austerity of the Gospel.

Addressing pilgrims in Saint Peter’s Square I said: “Each individual Christian and every community is missionary to the extent that they bring to others and live the Gospel, and testify to God’s love for all, especially those experiencing difficulties. Be missionaries of God’s love and tenderness! Be missionaries of God’s mercy, which always forgives us, always awaits us and loves us dearly”(Homily 19th May 2013). The witness of Carmel in the past is one of a deep spiritual tradition that grew into one of the great schools of prayer. It has evoked courage in men and women facing danger and even death. We are only too aware of two great contemporary martyrs in Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross and Blessed Titus Brandsma. I would ask you then: today among you, do you still have the endurance, the courage of these saints?

Dear Brothers of Carmel, the witness of your love, and your hope radiating from your deep friendship with the living God, can reach like a “gentle breeze” renewing and re-awakening your ecclesial mission in today’s world. To this you have been called. Your Profession Rite puts on your lips these words: “I entrust myself to God that by His grace and with the aid of the Blessed Virgin Mary I may attain perfect charity in the service of God and the Church.”

Our Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother and Queen of Carmel, accompany your steps and make fruitful your daily journey towards the Mountain of God.  I invoke upon all the members of the Carmelite Family, and most especially you Capitulars, the abundant blessings of the Holy Spirit and to all I heartily impart the Apostolic Blessing.


Monday, 2 September 2013

Day of Prayer for Peace in Syria

Dear Brothers and Sisters, buongiorno!

Today, dear brothers and sisters, I wish to make add my voice to the cry which rises up with increasing anguish from every part of the world, from every people, from the heart of each person, from the one great family which is humanity: it is the cry for peace! It is a cry which declares with force: we want a peaceful world, we want to be men and women of peace, and we want in our society, torn apart by divisions and conflict, that peace break out! War never again! Never again war! Peace is a precious gift, which must be promoted and protected.

There are so many conflicts in this world which cause me great suffering and worry, but in these days my heart is deeply wounded in particular by what is happening in Syria and anguished by the dramatic developments which are looming.

I appeal strongly for peace, an appeal which arises from the deep within me. How much suffering, how much devastation, how much pain has the use of arms carried in its wake in that martyred country, especially among civilians and the unarmed! I think of many children will not see the light of the future! With utmost firmness I condemn the use of chemical weapons: I tell you that those terrible images from recent days are burned into my mind and heart. There is a judgment of God and of history upon our actions which are inescapable! Never has the use of violence brought peace in its wake. War begets war, violence begets violence.

With all my strength, I ask each party in this conflict to listen to the voice of their own conscience, not to close themselves in solely on their own interests, but rather to look at each other as brothers and decisively and courageously to follow the path of encounter and negotiation, and so overcome blind conflict. With similar vigour I exhort the international community to make every effort to promote clear proposals for peace in that country without further delay, a peace based on dialogue and negotiation, for the good of the entire Syrian people.

May no effort be spared in guaranteeing humanitarian assistance to those wounded by this terrible conflict, in particular those forced to flee and the many refugees in nearby countries. May humanitarian workers, charged with the task of alleviating the sufferings of these people, be granted access so as to provide the necessary aid.

What can we do to make peace in the world? As Pope John said, it pertains to each individual to establish new relationships in human society under the mastery and guidance of justice and love (cf. John XXIII, Pacem in Terris, [11 April 1963]: AAS 55, [1963], 301-302).

All men and women of good will are bound by the task of pursuing peace. I make a forceful and urgent call to the entire Catholic Church, and also to every Christian of other confessions, as well as to followers of every religion and to those brothers and sisters who do not believe: peace is a good which overcomes every barrier, because it belongs all of humanity!

I repeat forcefully: it is neither a culture of confrontation nor a culture of conflict which builds harmony within and between peoples, but rather a culture of encounter and a culture of dialogue; this is the only way to peace.

May the plea for peace rise up and touch the heart of everyone so that they may lay down their weapons and be let themselves be led by the desire for peace.

To this end, brothers and sisters, I have decided to proclaim for the whole Church on 7 September next, the vigil of the birth of Mary, Queen of Peace, a day of fasting and prayer for peace in Syria, the Middle East, and throughout the world, and I also invite each person, including our fellow Christians, followers of other religions and all men of good will, to participate, in whatever way they can, in this initiative.

On 7 September, in Saint Peter’s Square, here, from 19:00 until 24:00, we will gather in prayer and in a spirit of penance, invoking God’s great gift of peace upon the beloved nation of Syria and upon each situation of conflict and violence around the world. Humanity needs to see these gestures of peace and to hear words of hope and peace! I ask all the local churches, in addition to fasting, that they gather to pray for this intention.

Let us ask Mary to help us to respond to violence, to conflict and to war, with the power of dialogue, reconciliation and love. She is our mother: may she help us to find peace; all of us are her children! Help us, Mary, to overcome this most difficult moment and to dedicate ourselves each day to building in every situation an authentic culture of encounter and peace.

Mary, Queen of Peace, pray for us!