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Document Details :
Title: Pilgrimage and the Roots of Carmelite Spirituality
Author(s): FROHLICH, Mary
Journal: Studies in Spirituality
Volume: 25 Date: 2015
The earliest Carmelites were devoted to solitary contemplation in the wilderness of Mount Carmel, but within only a few decades the Order transitioned to a mendicant way of life that combined contemplation with apostolic involvement in urban settings. A perennial debate is whether or not this was a movement away from an original, strictly contemplative charism. This essay proposes pilgrimage spirituality as a framework for understanding the Carmelites’ early choices as an organic evolution rather than as a betrayal of origins. The first Carmelites were located on a pilgrimage route and lived on pilgrims’ alms. Both eremitical and pilgrimage spirituality – each of which included a dynamic integration of solitary contemplation with freedom for apostolate – profoundly shaped this original context. Some recent commentators have interpreted the Carmelite Rule as transposing this original, geographic pilgrimage context to that of an ongoing pilgrimage to a ‘mystical space’. In this view, Carmelites have always understood themselves not only as pilgrims, but as ministers to other pilgrims on their way to the ‘everywhere and nowhere’ mystical space of Carmel. Thus, attention to pilgrimage spirituality has potential to assist the project of reappropriating Carmelite spirituality in a postmodern context.