The Ancient Charism: The Order of the Discalced Hermits of Our Lady of Mount Carmel observes the ancient Carmelite charism according to the original, unmitigated Rule of St. Albert and the contemplative religious life that flourished in the “Holy Deserts” of the Discalced Carmelites.
The Spiritual Heritage and Observance: St. Albert addresses the Rule to St. Brocard “et caeteris eremitis” (“and to the other hermits”) living on Mount Carmel. “Eremitical,” comes from the Latin “in eremis”: living in the wilderness or desert. “Eremitical” life does denote, being apart from secular affairs in order to attain to God, but it does not necessarily imply a radical and total exterior solitude from other members of the same religious family, one’s fellow spiritual soldiers on the same battlefield. This ancient Carmelite life in its original eremitical form does not denote a scattered collection of independent individuals, as is the case in a laura of hermits but rather a true religious community observing an eremitical form of monastic life, with a strict religious observance and a traditional religious formation. Therefore, according to the Carmelite tradition, community life and solitude are harmoniously integrated so that the soul is exercised in the virtues and progresses towards a profound communion with Our Lord and Our Lady in the presence of the Triune God. This contemplative religious life, when faithfully observed, is profoundly conducive to contemplation, progress in the stages of the interior life, and the attainment of authentic union with God…and the profound happiness consequent on that union. For those who have the aptitude, call, and desire, Anchorites in the Discalced Hermits of Our Lady of Mount Carmel have the ability to observe a greater measure of solitude than the rest of the hermits, like the Carmelite communities on Mount Carmel and in the Discalced Carmelite “Holy Deserts”.
Our Lady and Carmel: This ancient contemplative Carmelite charism imitates the contemplative life of the Blessed Virgin Mary and is very intimately and deeply joined to her and with her in her essential “work” in the heart of the Church, united to Christ’s most essential work on the Cross, adoring God and saving souls. Therefore, the Carmelite is not only to be devoted to Our Lady, but rather is deeply consecrated to her and is to be clothed with and to put on Mary so as to “put on Christ” (Galatians 3:27) entirely and perfectly.
Religious and Priestly Formation: According to the Carmelite tradition, the Discalced Hermits of Our Lady of Mount Carmel emphasize separation from the world, mental prayer, intellectual formation, and sacred study in the service of contemplation and the sacred liturgy. The intellectual formation follows the rich heritage of the Carmelite saints, the Fathers of the Church, and St. Thomas Aquinas, whom Carmelites have traditionally called “Praeceptor Ordinis Nostri” (“The Teacher or Instructor of our Order”). This religious life is not something that is accessible only to a man who is already proficient or perfect in the interior life or of more advanced age, knowledge, and experience. Rather, the most important element in a religious vocation — including a vocation to this traditional contemplative religious life — is a commitment of the will and a docility to God and His appointed instruments in religious formation and observance. In this community, these instruments for one’s growth and sanctification include: a solid structure of religious obedience; an integrated and unmitigated observance of prayer, work, recreation, and rest; the continual exercise of sincere fraternal charity; the practice of penance according to the wisdom and prudence of the saints for healing the effects of original sin and personal sin; study of Sacred Scripture, sacred theology, and the writings of the saints and spiritual masters; sacred chant and a rich liturgical life. Those hermits who are called also to be religious priests in the community complete an extensive course of studies. There is also the possibility to live as a Lay Brother in the community.
Traditional Principles of Vocational Discernment: As St. Thérèse said, “all is grace”. Most essentially, the religious life is ordered to the removal of the obstacles of divine grace and the active application of all that is conducive to its growth and perfection in the soul: we are to labor and God is the One Who grants the growth. Proper discernment should keep in mind the primary role of divine grace in one’s vocation and sanctification, and prayerfully consider how grace has operated in one’s soul and to what form of life that grace seems to be attracting the soul with a supernatural motive. Discernment based merely on natural motives — as would incline to that which is worldly or comfortable for our fallen nature — would be listening to the world or one’s passions rather than to the Spirit of God and the exhortation of the saints and the Church. This community’s specific charism corresponds to the vocation of a soul that is imbued by God with a particular attraction — by grace — to silence, solitude, mental prayer and contemplation, penance, beautiful Liturgy, sacred study, fraternal charity, and manual labor. These are the principle means for the hermit, as a brother or priest, to attain that holiness and perfection in charity, which constitute the finality and end of his vocation in the religious state, and allow him to fully realize the consecration of his soul begun in Baptism, not only in Heaven, but also in some measure on earth. A steady and deep attraction to those particular means of sanctification could be signs of a divine call to this form of religious life and this charism. According to the spiritual authority of the spiritual masters and doctors of the Church St. Thomas Aquinas, St. John of the Cross, St. Teresa of Avila, St. Francis de Sales, and St. Alphonsus Ligouri, a candidate should reflect on the nature of a vocation as: a simple, sincere decision, relying on divine grace, to embrace and observe all that a particular religious order and heritage, which was inspired by the Holy Ghost in the Church, does, according to its Rule, Constitutions, and time-proven customs, for the glory of God, the perfecting of the consecrated soul in union with Him, and a special service to the Church. That firm decision, under the influence and attraction of grace, along with the physical aptitude for the observance, is a vocation: it is that deep in God’s grace but that simple in the will responding. This traditional perspective and approach to a religious vocation and discernment helps preserve an honest and proper discernment from the corruption of the modern psychologically confused and self-absorbed culture.