Carmelites live their life of allegiance to Christ through a commitment to seek the face of the living God (the contemplative dimension of life), through fraternity, and through service (diakonia) in the midst of the people. (Carmelite Constitutions, 1995, #14)
These three fundamental elements of our charism—so closely woven together—provide wonderful fodder for Lenten reflection for each member of the Carmelite family: friars, sisters, lay Carmelites, people in our parishes, schools, and our on-line community. During the second week of Lent, I had the opportunity to visit two Carmelites—separated by just a couple hundred miles—who share deep fraternal bonds but are living out the Carmelite call to service and contemplation in ministries that are very distinct and profound.
In Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, just across the border from El Paso, TX, Peter Hinde, O.Carm., and Betty Campbell, RSM, live in a community called Tabor House. Tabor House has been in existence for almost 40 years, and its mission is to evangelize people of all faiths and cultures about the human rights violations that have taken place in El Salvador for the past 40 years. This prophetic ministry involves immersion experiences, lectures, discussions, consciousness-raising, and reflecting on scripture in small communities.The community first began in Washington, DC, moved to San Antonio, TX, and eighteen years ago moved to Ciudad Juarez to be living with the poor. Peter is 89 years old, and continues preaching and teaching and living in the “midst of the people” while “seeking the face of the living God.” He is truly and inspiration and has found a balance between the contemplative and prophetic dimensions of our order. He does this living in community, with Betty and others throughout the years.
Two hundred miles away in Bowie, AZ, Frank Weil, O.Carm., and a former Carmelite, Louis Isert, live in the desert and form the community of The Zion Hermit-Monks of Mount Carmel. This is a contemplative community where no public ministry is performed. Rather, Frank and Louis, along with others who occasionally join them, simply pray, and pray, and pray. Frank told me when we were visiting that he feels as if he has arrived. Where has he arrived? He’s not sure, but he has arrived. I can only imagine that within this statement, there is a satisfaction that he is where he needs to be, “seeking the face of the living God”, “in fraternity”, while always remaining open to the spirit of the Master in his life.
Peter traveled with me to see Frank, since Peter was Frank’s Master of Students when they lived together in Washington, DC at Whitefriars Hall in the early 60’s. It was a marvelous experience to be with both of them, recognizing their prophetic witness in each of their unique ways, along with experiencing the contemplative dimension in its fullness. Both Carmelites, Frank and Peter, went to the provincial in 1973 to discuss their aspirations that have brought them to this day. Where is the spirit moving us 40 years later? Are we open to listening to God and risk living in a radical way Along the Way? (View slideshow below)