THE Carmelite Order does not have a founder like the Order of the Franciscans or the Dominicans. The Carmelites have Elijah as their Spiritual Father. Elijah is the Prophet in the Old Testament who was a fierce fighter for Yahweh, the God of Israel. He fought a battle against the false gods, the idols which the Israelites adored during their journey to the Promised Land. There is a moving story in the Book of the Kings (1Kings 19, 11) about Elijah and his battle for Yahweh. Elijah is dead tired, he laid down under a tree and fell asleep. Suddenly an Angel woke him up and said: “Wake up and eat”. Then Yahweh appeared to him and said: “Go out and stand before me on top of the mountain”. Then Yahweh passed by and sent a furious wind that split the hills and shattered the rocks – but Yahweh was not in the wind. The wind stopped blowing, and then there was an earthquake – but Yahweh was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake there was a fire – but Yahweh was not in the fire. And after the fire there was the gentle breeze. And in the gentle breeze Elijah heard the soft whisper of the voice of Yahweh.
This story symbolizes the spirituality and the charism of the Carmelite Order. Its spirituality is contemplation and action. One cannot do without the other – contemplation in action. Contemplation means searching for the voice of God and listening to his voice. This happens only in the silence of your inner self, your heart. And there you can hear God’s call. God calling you to go out into the open and there you will find the people who need your help, the poor and the oppressed, or anybody who is in trouble and is looking for someone who is willing to listen to him or her. That is contemplation in action.
I am writing this column while I am staying in the Shrine of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, the Oratory of the Carmelites in Barangay Milagro of Ormoc City. I feel here like I am in the presence of the Blessed Virgin Mary and our Spiritual Father Elijah. The people down the hill are living in houses that were destroyed by typhoon Yolanda. Like our own monastery on top of the hill where the roof was blown off and the windows destroyed, most of the houses down below are until now not yet fully restored. What a blessing to be here and be able to extend some help to the most needy.
My wife and me are associate members of the Carmelites, we are lay Carmelites. Any ordinary Catholic, rich or poor, who is interested in the spirituality and charism of the Carmelite Order can join the lay Carmelites. The Prophet Elijah is still alive and inviting anyone to follow in his footsteps. It are the footsteps of Jesus Christ himself.
Last year Pope Francis addressed the General Chapter of the Carmelites in Rome.He said that the Carmelites must be prophets of hope in a world that is so disoriented amidst people who are easily distracted by the cares and worries of this world and succumb to false idols. “Our Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother and Queen of Carmel, may accompany your steps and make fruitful your daily journey towards the Mountain of God”, he said. If you are interested in the spirituality of Carmel you can contact me through my email.