Carmelite Friar, Fr Ged Walsh originally wrote these reflections for another Shrine series; we are very grateful to him for letting us publish them today.
Three of the fundamental elements of Carmelite Spirituality, which are common to many different religious charisms, are prayer, community (including family & friends) and service.
Each one helps a Carmelite to focus their life in a certain direction. Prayer helps us direct ourselves to God. Community (or family and friends) help direct us to our nearest and dearest, and service helps direct ourselves to others and particularly others in most need – the anawim or little ones.
In the person of the Apostle Saint Jude, we see all three elements played out in his life and ministry and then subsequently in the lives of his early Christian communities. Saint Jude was a close follower of Jesus who from a direct exposure to the lived example of his Lord and Master was able to incorporate these values into his life as a good and faithful servant.
I will be looking at each of these elements of: Prayer, Community and Service.
Think about prayer, community and service - are these three elements part of your life? Do they help you to focus?
Saint Jude would have known the absolute importance of regular conversing with God particularly from observing Jesus regularly withdrawing from the busyness of life and the ever-growing crowds to go to his quiet place to pray. This was especially evident when a big decision needed to be made, like for example, when he was choosing his closest co-workers, the Apostles.
Saint Jude and Carmel put forward the practice of prayer as an essential act for the Christian, and that it is only through prayer that we can discern God’s will for us. This is just as the Carmelite Saint, Teresa of Jesus, says: to simply spend quality time with the one we love and we know loves us. In the letter attributed to Jude, he said:
“..build yourselves up on your most holy faith; pray in the Holy Spirit; keep yourselves in the love of God; look forward to the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life..”Letter of Saint Jude, 20 - 22
Are you part of a community? Can you spend some quality time in prayer with God every day this month and pray for your community?
The importance of community is highlighted in Saint Jude’s life by the communities he was instrumental in forming, especially during those early years of the infant Church. Jesus, having gathered his closest friends and followers to assist him in his mission, and then subsequently sending out the disciples in pairs for their own mission of preaching Christ and healing, would have informed Jude of the importance of being and working together and forming community for mutual support and a common goal. This is particularly demonstrated in those early chapters of the Acts of the Apostles:
Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”
He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Acts 1: 6 – 8
How can we continue the work of the Apostles in our daily lives? Can you do this through your community?
Lastly the element of service of one another and especially those on the margins of society is crucial for all Christians – for the Carmelite being in service of their sister or brother in need encompasses the act of seeking the face of the living God in them.
Jesus Christ, son of the living God, is the person at the very centre of Christian life, and therefore of Carmelite spirituality. In our Rule, the Carmelite is described as one who lives ‘in allegiance to Jesus Christ’, and who is expected to live devotedly in Christ, and to be whole-hearted in the service of Jesus.
Like Saint Jude who would have strived to follow the teaching of Jesus, all of us must try and find Christ in each other and especially in those that perhaps we do not wish to look upon. In many ways this element of the Carmelite charism can be the most challenging and it’s only through the grace of God that we can carry this out to the full.
How can you help those most in need in your community? Can you say a prayer for them today?
Although these elements have been presented separately for the purposes of explaining them, in reality they exist as a whole.
We need a solid prayer life and good quality community life in order that we can be most effective in our service.
Equally what we receive from our service and community is what we usually bring to our prayer. And finally, our community life only has meaning when it is supported by our prayer and our active service.
How important are the Carmelite understanding of prayer, community, service in your life? How are they manifested, according to your personal circumstances?
Let us pray..
Let us pray, Lord Jesus, merciful Saviour, humbly I beseech you that having honoured the eternal memory of Saint Jude, your kinsman and Apostle, I may through his merits and prayers obtain the grace of your healing peace, who live and reign world without end. Amen.
SAINT JUDE, PRAY FOR US