The Carmelite order is very prevalent in the United States, and Carmelites operate many retreat centers. At a Carmelite retreat center you may go on a retreat that introduces you to Carmelite spirituality, but you will not find a specifically Carmelite retreat like the Ignatian Spiritual Exercises. Even so, it is good to be familiar with the Carmelite spirituality if you are going to be spending time at a Carmelite retreat center.
The Rule of St. Albert is one of the main inspirations to Carmelite life, as well as the writings of great saints like Saint Teresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross. The pillars of Carmelite spirituality are Elijah, from the Old Testament, and the Virgin Mary because of their examples of contemplation and action.
The Carmelite Order
There are three branches within the Carmelite order. There is a cloistered branch, which lives a more contemplative and eremitic (hermit-like) style. The second branch is more engaged in active ministry such as working in hospitals and running retreat centers, while also balancing a contemplative component in life. The third branch, known as the Third Order, is made up of lay men and women (not consecrated priests, brothers, or sisters) who are called to live the Carmelite spirituality while actively living in the world. Members of the third order are often married couples or families.
The spirituality of the Carmelite order is focused on clearing away distractions and focusing on our relationship with God. There is an emphasis on prayer, which St. Teresa says is a form of friendship with God, and contemplation, which she says is a form of union with God. Carmelite spirituality should lead us to a gradual but constant conversion. Within this spirituality there is an emphasis on scriptural meditation, the liturgy, silence and solitude, and asceticism.
Meditation on Scripture
The Rule of St. Albert calls for a constant pondering of the Law of the Lord in scripture. Day and night Carmelites are to meditate on God’s Word.
Carmelites should gather each day to partake in the Liturgy as a community.
Silence and Solitude
Silence and solitude are necessary for serious prayer and contemplation. Silence calls for the quieting of both external noises and one’s internal stirrings so that we can listen to God. Solitude provides the necessary atmosphere to be alone with God and to encounter Him.
Simplifying one’s life and freeing oneself from selfish tendencies is known as asceticism. This emptying of self allows us to give God more space in our life.
Carmelite Retreat Centers in the United States
|Sacred Heart Retreat House||Alhambra|
|El Carmelo Retreat House||Redlands|
|Carmelite House of Prayer||Oakville|
|Our Lady of Mount Carmel Spiritual Life Center||Miami|
|Carmelite Spiritual Center||Darien|
|Mount Carmel House of Prayer||Houston|
|Mount Carmel Center||Dallas|
|Holy Hill Guest House||Hubertus|