Today is the feast of Our Lady of Mt Carmel.Mt Carmel is the place where the prophet Elijah had his confrontation with the prophets of Baal. It was at this place that the Jewish people reconfirmed their faith in the One God. It was at this place many years later that Christian hermits began to gather. Eventually, they began to form the Carmelite order. At the same time as the Protestant Reformation, there was a Catholic Reformation. St Teresa of Avila and St John of the Cross helped to reform the Carmelite order. That section of the order that formed part of the reform is now known as the ‘Discalced Carmelites’. That is because they went barefoot or wore sandals as part of living a simple life. As well as St Teresa and St John, other well-known Carmelites are St Therese of Lisieux, St Edith Stein, Blessed Titus Brandsma and others. Carmelite spirituality seeks God for God’s sake. It seeks God even in darkness. God can often be best encountered in the darkness. It is about seeking and resting in God even when there are no spiritual ‘highs’. It is about surrendering to God in faith. Jesus is very much at the centre of Carmelite Spirituality. It is also about healthy self-denial, i.e. not choosing comfort and preoccupation about self at the expense of being totally available to God’s will in imitation of Jesus. It is about a purity of intention about everything, avoiding gossip, distractions from a contemplative and prayerful attitude, and clarity of intention. Carmelites remind us of commitment to God, not just when it is easy, but also when it is not so easy. We are reminded that God always loves us, not just when we feel that love but even when we do not feel it. We do not measure holiness or closeness to God just by feelings. A mother gets up several times at night to look after a sick child because of her love, regardless of how sleep-deprived she feels!
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