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Carmelite Prayer

At Prayer with Carmel

Pilgrims at prayer in Aylesford Carmelite Priory.

"Prayer is the centre of our lives, and authentic community and ministry spring from this source. The prayer of the Carmelite community is a sign of the praying Church to the world. It recalls the example of Mary, Mother of Jesus, who “kept all these things and pondered them in her heart,” praising the wonders that the Lord had worked in her."
(1995 Constitutions of the Carmelite Friars §64)

The great Carmelite St. Teresa of Jesus (of Avila) described prayer as "nothing else than an intimate sharing between friends", the deepening of a relationship with the God whom we know loves us.

Any style of prayer that nourishes this intimate relationship with God might be practiced by a Carmelite community or individual. There is no single "method" of Carmelite prayer, but the Liturgy (Mass and Divine Office), silence and Scripture (especially in Lectio Divina meditation) have a particularly important place in our life.

In the menu to the right you will find some prayers that are linked to the Carmelite Family.

A Carmelite friar at prayer by the tomb of St. John of the Cross.

Prayer: Heartbeat of Carmel
Pope Benedict XVI, speaking to the Prior General of the Carmelites, described our Order as 'the ones who teach us to pray'. We Carmelites would be untrue to our vocation if we did not help people to pray, and our rich spirituality has much experience in this area. In the end, of course, it is the Holy Spirit who teaches us to pray. However, the Spirit works through those who encourage, who point the way, and who are willing to share their own journey in prayer withothers. Many people start off praying with great enthusiasm, but when they begin to experience difficulties and dryness they need understanding and guidance from those who have walked the same path. Carmel has a rich spiritual heritage, including the writings of our many saints, which ofer great insights and guidance for those who wish to grow in friendship with God in prayer. Carmelites seek to share our heritage with others and travel with them on their spiritual journey.

Types of Prayer
One of the greatest teachers on prayer is the Carmelite nun and Doctor of the Church Saint Teresa of Avila. Here follows a brief summary of the types of prayer Teresa identified [adapted from Aloysius Rego, O.C.D., St Teresa and the Our Father: A Catechism of Prayer, Oxford: Teresian Press, 2015].

Prayer is the principal subject matter of all Teresa's writings. For Teresa, prayer is 'the royal road to heaven' on which everyone is invited to travel. It is also the means towards the fullest possible communion with God in this life.

In her writings, Teresa refers to three different kinds of prayer; vocal, mental and contemplative. Of these, only the first two can be taught and must be worked at; the third, contemplation, cannot be taught but only received and its effect described.

  • Vocal Prayer is prayer with words - set prayers such as the Our Father, the Hail Mary, the Divine Office and the rosary.

  • Mental Prayer can be vocal or silent, since it does not take any particular form but is a prayer of presence, an attentive awareness of the God whom we are addressing.
  • Contemplative Prayer, as described by Saint Teresa, is predominantly passive prayer; God the Holy Spirit is the principal active agent, working in us with directness and immediacy. We cannot achieve this form of prayer by our own efforts - it is pure gift - but we can dispose ourselves to be open to the Spirit's activity in us.

For Teresa, the great
test of a life of prayer is seeing it bearing fruit in good works of love towards others.

Carmelites sharing Taizé-style prayer.

Today there is a surge of interest in meditation and 'mindfulness'. Carmelites have much to share with those exploring these concepts.

Liturgical prayer
The Rule of Saint Albert specifies that Carmelites should participate daily, when possible, in the liturgical celebrations of the Divine Office and the Eucharist. To assist Carmelites in following the liturgical year, and the feasts observed in the British Province of Carmelites, Saint Albert's Press produces an annual Carmelite Liturgical Ordo.

Carmelites are nourished by Word and Sacrament

Requesting the prayer of Carmelites
One of the ministries of the Carmelite Family is to intercede for those who ask our prayers. To submit a prayer request that will be remembered by the friars at the National Shrine of St. Jude at Faversham, please click here.

Further resources on prayer
These publications can be borrowed from many Carmelite community libraries, or purchased from Christian bookshops including Saint Albert's Press in Faversham and the Carmelite Book Service in Oxford.

  • Johan Bergström-Allen, T.O.C., (ed.), Popular Prayers: Third Edition, (Faversham: Saint Albert's Press, 2006). For an extract and details of how to order please click here.
  • Joseph Chalmers, O.Carm., The Sound of Silence: Listening to the Word of God with Elijah the Prophet, (Faversham: Saint Albert's Press, 2007). For an extract and details of how to order please click here.
  • Mark Davis, Glimpses of the Carmelite Way, (West Kirby: Rockpool Publishing, 2007).
  • Keith J. Egan, T.O.C., (ed.), Carmelite Prayer: A Tradition for the 21st Century, (Mahwah: Paulist Press, 2003).
  • John FitzGerald, O.Carm., Backwards into the Future: Meditations on the Letter to the Hebrews - with a guide to Lectio Divina by Carlos Mesters, O.Carm., (Faversham: Saint Albert's Press, 2005). For details of how to order please click here.
  • Irish Province of Carmelites, Meeting God: Carmelite Reflections and Prayers, (Dublin: The Columba Press, 2007).
  • Mary McCormack, O.C.D., Upon This Mountain: Prayer in the Carmelite Tradition, (Oxford: Teresian Press, 2009).
  • Wilfrid McGreal, O.Carm., At the Fountain of Elijah: The Carmelite Tradition, (London: Darton, Longman and Todd, 1999).
  • Redemptus Maria Valabek, O.Carm., Prayer Life in Carmel: Historical Sketches, Carmel in the World Paperbacks, (Rome: Institutum Carmelitanum, 1982).
  • John Welch, O.Carm., The Carmelite Way: An Ancient Path for Today's Pilgrim, (Leominster: Gracewing, 1996).
  • Aloysius Rego, O.C.D., St Teresa and the Our Father: A Catechism of Prayer, (Oxford: Teresian Press, 2015).

"There is no need to go to heaven

in order to speak with one's Eternal

or find delight in him.

Nor is there any need to shout.

However softly we speak,

He is near enough to hear us."

St. Teresa of Avila