Teresian Spirituality of Pere Marie Eugene
Fr. Matt Blake summarized the central teaching of recently beatified Marie-Eugene, OCD, whose life work was making Carmelite spirituality accessible to the laity. He says that Teresa is willing to set out for the heroic and unknown; to die to all that is not God. “I want to see God,” she says at one point. The life of contemplation inevitably leads to a deeper insertion into the life and mystery of the Church and a more profound identification with the Christian community.
Four Elements of Teresian Spirituality
Marie-Eugene notes four elements of Teresian spirituality:
1. Everyone must be contemplative
2. These contemplatives must all become apostles
3. They must participate in the priestly prayer of Christ
“Their souls now purified…consumed in the flames of divine love and like their Divine Spouse in his passion, clothed in the oppressive mantle of the world’s sins, where like the Lamb…they offer to God’s majesty that ardent agonizing prayer which brings purification and salvation to other souls.”
4. Highly contemplative and astoundingly active
“The contemplative apostle becomes the Spouse of Christ, who speaks and gives a doctrine that is higher, wider, and more complete, on the spiritual life.”
Notice how Marie-Eugene emphasizes the apostolic dimension of Carmel. The community he founded called Notre Dame de Vie devote themselves to Teresian Carmelite spirituality while working in the marketplace in some apostolic work.
THE RULE OF ST. ALBERT
“The conditions on Mount Carmel are inviting. The site slopes to the waters of the Mediterranean. Its breezes cool the canyon. Within its walls the men lived at slight distances from one another, spending time in reflection and prayer. They read scripture and carried its lines in their hearts…Life on Mount Carmel focussed their scattered lives, and settled their confused minds. It freed hearts that had been anxious about many things. The oratory in the midst of the cells invited them to find a centre in the midst of their lives.
These elements were collected into a brief formula of life which became the Rule of the Carmelites.” The Carmelite Way, John Welch, p. 9.
Below is the original Rule of St. Albert that all Carmelites have followed for these hundreds of years. Note especially the highlighted sections.
Albert, called by the grace of God to be Patriarch of the Church of Jerusalem, to his beloved sons in Christ, Brocard and other hermits living under obedience at the spring on Mount Carmel: health in the Lord and the blessing of the Holy Spirit.
In many and various ways, our Holy Fathers laid down how everyone, whatever his state in life or the kind of religious life chosen, should live in allegiance to Jesus Christ serve him faithfully from a pure heart and a good conscience.
However, because you desire us to give you a formula of life in keeping with your purpose, to which you may hold fast in the future:
Chapter I: We establish first of all that you should have one of you as prior, who is to be chosen for that office by the unanimous assent of all, or that of the greater and wiser part, to whom each of the others shall promise obedience and strive to fulfil his/her promise by the reality of his/her deeds.
Chapter II: You may have places in solitary areas, or where you are given a site that is suitable and convenient for the observance of your religious life. (Inn)
Chapter III: Next, according to the site of the place where you propose to dwell, each of you shall have a separate cell of his own, to be assigned to him by the disposition of the prior himself, with the assent of the other brothers or the wiser part of them.
Chapter IV: None of the brothers may change his place assigned to him, or exchange it with another, except with the permission of whoever is prior at the time.
Chapter V: The prior’s cell shall be near the entrance to your property, so that he may be the first to meet those who come there, and so that whatever needs to be done subsequently may all be carried out according to his judgment and disposition.
Chapter VI: Let each remain in his cell or nearby, meditating day and night on the Law of the Lord and keeping watch in prayer, unless he is occupied with other lawful activities.
Chapter VII: Those who know their letters can read the psalms, shall say for each of the hours those which are appointed for those hours by the institution of the holy fathers and the approved custom of the Church.
Chapter VIII: Let none of the brothers call that anything is his property, but let everything be held in common among you; and from the things the Lord may have given you, to each one shall be distributed what he needs from the hand of the prior – that is from someone he appoints to this task – taking into account the age and needs of each one. However as has already been stated, each one is to keep to the cell assigned to him and live there by himself on what is given him.
Chapter IX: An oratory, as far as it can be done conveniently, shall be built in the midst of the cells, where you shall come together every day early in the morning to hear Mass, where this can be done conveniently.
Chapter X: On Sundays, too, or on other days when necessary, you shall discuss the preservation of order and the salvation of your souls. At this time also the excesses and faults of the brothers, if such should be found in anyone, shall be corrected in the midst of love.
Chapter XI: You shall observe the fast every day except Sunday from the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross until Easter Sunday, unless sickness or bodily weakness or some other good reason shall make advisable to break the fast for necessity knows no law.
Chapter XII: You are always to abstain from meat unless it be taken as a remedy for sickness or excessive weakness.
Chapter XIII: Since our life on earth is a time of trial, and all who would live devotedly in Christ must undergo persecution, and the devil your foe is on the prowl like a roaring lion looking for prey to devour, you must use every care to clothe yourself in God’s armour so that you may be ready to withstand the enemy’s ambush.
Your loins are to be girt with chastity, your breast fortified by holy meditations, for, as Scripture has it, Holy meditation will save you. Put on holiness as your breastplate, and it will enable you to love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul and strength, and your neighbour as yourself. Faith must be your shield on all occasions, and with it you will be able to quench all the flaming missiles of the wicked one: there can be no pleasing God without faith; [and the victory lies in this – your faith]. On your head set the helmet of salvation, and so be sure of deliverance by our only Saviour, who sets his own free from their sins. The sword of the spirit, the word of God, must abound in your mouths and hearts. Let all you do have the Lord’s word for accompaniment.
Chapter XIV: You must give yourselves to work of some kind, so that the devil may always find you busy; no idleness on your part must give him a chance to pierce the defences of your souls. In this respect you have both the teaching and the example of Saint Paul the Apostle, into whose mouth Christ put his own words. God made him preacher and teacher of faith and truth to the nations: and with him as your leader you cannot go astray. We lived among you, he said labouring and weary, toiling night and day so as not to be a burden to any of you; not because we had no power to do otherwise but so as to give you, in your own selves, an example you might imitate.
For when we were with you we used to tell you, if someone is unwilling to work, let him not eat. For we have heard that there are certain people among you going about restlessly and doing no work. We urge people of this kind and beseech them in the Lord Jesus Christ to earn their bread, working in silence.
Chapter XV: The Apostle would have us keep silence, for in silence he tells us to work. As the Prophet also makes known to us: Silence is the way to foster holiness. Elsewhere he says: Your strength will lie in silence and hope. For this reason, I lay down that you are to keep silence from Vespers until Tierce the next day, unless some necessary or good reason, or the Prior’s permission, should break the silence.
At other times, although you need not keep silence so strictly, be careful not to indulge in a great deal of talk, for, as Scripture has it – and experience teaches us no less – Sin will not be wanting where there is much talk, and He who is careless in speech will come to harm; and elsewhere: The use of many words brings harm to the speaker’s soul. And our Lord says in the Gospel: Every rash word uttered will have to be accounted for on judgment day. Make a balance then, each of you, to weigh his words in; keep a tight rein on your mouths, lest you should stumble and fall in speech and your fall be irreparable and prove mortal. Like the Prophet, watch your step lest your tongue give offence, and employ every care in keeping silent, which is the way to foster holiness.
You, brother Brocard, and whoever may succeed you as Prior, must always keep in mind and put into practice what our Lord said in the gospel: “Whoever wishes to be the greatest among you will be your servant, and whoever wishes to be the first shall be your slave.”
You other brothers too, hold your Prior in humble reverence, your minds not on him but on Christ who placed him over you, and who said to the leaders of the churches, “Whoever hears you hears me, whoever dishonours you dishonours me.” In this way, you will not be found guilty of contempt, but through obedience will merit eternal life.
Here then are the few points I have written down to provide you with a formula for your way of life; but at his second coming, our Lord will reward those who do more than they are obliged to do. See that the bounds of common sense are not exceeded, however, for common sense is the guide of all virtues.
As apostolic hermits, whatever you “harvest with the sickle of contemplation, thresh it on the threshing floor” of generous apostolic action and “sow it abroad on all sides” through preaching and teaching. Nicholas the Frenchman