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Every human being is in a continual process of transformation. For those who respond to the call to Carmelite life, this transformation is marked by a commitment to “a journey of gradual and progressive conversion, encompassing every aspect of life,” during which they allow themselves “to be conformed to Jesus by the action of the Spirit and to come to union with God.”1 This formative journey is not merely a stage preceding permanent membership in the Order; it is a dynamic process, which continues until death. “God renews his call day by day and always expects a fresh response from us.”2 Carmelite life consists in the on- going surrender of the will to God’s transforming action. In truth, “the formative process can never be said to be completed.”3 Therefore, initial formation is understood as a time for developing a capacity for discernment, flexibility, and availability – qualities that enable us to renew our lives constantly.
“God’s call, his free gift, does not fall on neutral ground; it is addressed to individuals, each with a particular story of grace and sin.”4 The initial formation process aims to respect individual patterns of vocational maturation and to guide candidates into full incorporation into the Order with prudence and “discretion, which is the guide of the virtues.”5 The goal is to nurture personal growth into “a contemplative attitude which fashions and supports our life of prayer, fraternity and service,”6 with the realization that “the primary responsibility for formation rests with the candidates themselves.”7
This edition of Formation Toward Brotherhood; Carmelite Manual of Formation – 2019 describes the formation process as practiced in the two North American Provinces and adapted for use in Peru, Mexico, Trinidad, El Salvador and Vietnam. The manual is revised every three years by the Inter-Provincial Formation Commission. It represents a continuum of experience in the development of Carmelite life from the period of vocational discernment through initial formation.
“Our vocation as Brothers of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel is a form of religious life which belongs to the Church. It flows from the Church and participates in her mystery.”8 The goals and responsibilities of that life are spelled out for us in the documents of both our Church and our Order.
1 Ratio Institutionis Vitae Carmelitanae, “Carmelite Formation; a Journey of Transformation,”2000. Abbreviated as “Ratio”
and as RIVC; no. 5
2 RIVC, no. 19
3 RIVC, no. 14
4 RIVC, no. 10
5 Rule of Saint Albert, Chapter24
6 RIVC, no. 4
7 Carmelite Constitutions, 1995, no. 126
8 RIVC, no. 7