On 26 -29 June we were pleased to attend a symposium on the campus of Loyola University in Chicago (USA).  The symposium was organized by the Carmelite Institute of North America and entitled “Pope Francis points the way for Carmel” which dealt with the inspiration for Carmelites in the messages of Pope Francis.

Participants at the symposium included the Prior General, Fernando Millán Romeral, O.Carm., the provincials of the Chicago province, Fr. William Harry, O.Carm., (who reported on the activities of the Carmelite Institute) and of the North American Province of St. Elias, Fr. Michael Kissane, O.Carm. along with many Carmelite friars, Carmelite sisters, lay Carmelites from many different groups and other members of the Carmelite family. Cardinal Blase Joseph Cupich of Chicago presided over the opening mass.  The symposium was well represented by over 110 attendees.

Day Three – 28 June


  1. Fr. Daniel Chowning, O.C.D presented on “The Merciful Gaze of Jesus in the Spirituality of Pope Francis and the Carmelite Traditions.”
  2. Fr. Matt Malone, S.J, Editor in Chief of America Magazine, provided the Jesuit context in his talk “Pope Francis The Jesuit.”
  3. Fr. Tracy O’Sullivan, O. Carm. presented on “The Gifts of Pope Francis and St. Teresa: Evangelization and Contemplation.”
  4. Brother Patrick Mullins, O. Carm. member of the Carmelite Institute of Britain and Ireland presented on “The Carmelite Rule (1247) and Pope Francis on the Implications of the Parable of the Good Samaritan.”

Our main reflections from this day were :

  • Teresa of Avila sees her life from the prism of God’s mercy and regularly talks about her sinfulness, at the same time marveling at the great goodness of God. A reminder God calls those he chooses not necessarily those who are worthy.
  • John of the Cross also reminds us that God’s mercy heals and transforms us in and through our history.
  • We might ask the question ‘how does the Carmelite charism help us know we need God’s mercy?
  • The primary way we come to know ourselves as sinners is through contemplative prayer which can be transformative and expose ourselves to receive God’s mercy.
  • Many people say they don’t know how to pray so our communities should become schools of prayer.
  • Mercy is our duty in a church which Francis refers to as a ‘field hospital for the wounded’ Nothing unites us more to God than an act of mercy.
  • Pope Francis refers to himself as a sinner – a patient. Our ministries then are that of being wounded healers. This means living in a world not closed in on itself but through engagement with the world.
  • Contemplation is for everyone and Carmelites should be leading the way.
  • Spirituality must offer healing, liberation, peace and life in a revolution of tenderness.
  • Grace is in the struggle not in the accomplishment. We might say a comfortable lifestyle and prayer are incompatible.

The Carmelite Rule and Pope Francis both use the parable of the Good Samaritan as a call for us to wash, clean and raise up our neighbor. In the act of accompaniment, we are all called to be a good Samaritan.

Charisms are like yeast – put a little in and it changes everything. In following the Carmelite way, we all struggle in some messy situation, but a commitment means we always come back to the fidelity to the charism and spiritual heritage to bloom where we are planted. Struggling with one’s sinfulness a big part of Carmelite life. In this tension between living communally and with commitment to prayer the ongoing need is to discern who most needs what Carmelites have to offer?

Irene & Damien