When the founding group of Western lay hermits asked Albert, the Patriarch of Jerusalem, to create a Rule of life for them, Christ was at its very center. In the Introduction to the Rule, Carmelites are told to walk in the footsteps of Jesus Christ. I he remainder of the Rule spells out how the Carmelite is to live this Christ-centered life.
Since the Rule was written at the time of the Crusades, it reflects the Crusade spirituality of the time, which was founded on the passion of Christ. Only through spiritual combat in imitation of the suffering and Crucified Christ could the land of Christ be regained. This spiritual combat involved poverty, penance, silence, solitude, and above all meditating upon the law of the Lord. Through this spiritual combat the Carmelite would be transformed into Christ. Throughout its history, the saints of the Carmelite Order such as Teresa of Avila, John of the Cross, and Therese of Lisieux have focused in their lives and writings upon this imitation of Christ, especially the suffering and dying Christ.
Today Carmelites are still challenged to walk in the footsteps of Jesus Christ and to imitate his suffering and death so as to win back the land for Christ. But the "land" is all the earth and all its citizens, so many of whom are marginalized and victims of violence and injustice. Carmelites today imitate Christ by continuing to carry out his own mission of making the Reign of God, God's peace and justice, a reality for all peoples, especially the "least of our brothers and sisters."
To carry on this mission of Christ, Carmelites today must continue to imitate Christ in his suffering and dying, as all Carmelites saints and mystics have done. As Christ himself, they must empty themselves in abandonment to God and His will so that they can be filled with the Spirit of Christ who continually anoints new prophets to make God's reign a reality in our world.
— Fr. Donald Buggert, O.Carm.
Who Are the Carmelites? www.carmelites.net