Carmelite Spirituality Testimony by Fr.Paul Leonard, Diocese Priest

“I have always found Carmelite spirituality deeply alluring”

I have often felt an innate attraction to Carmelite spirituality. As a young man considering a possible vocation to the Priesthood or Religious Life some years ago, I went to the Carmelite shrine in Aylesford, Kent for a discernment weekend. Though I eventually opted to serve the Church in a Diocese as a secular Priest, I have always found Carmelite spirituality deeply alluring. It was with a sense of joyful anticipation that, to mark National Prayer weekend, we invited Fr. Liam and Fr. Yamai of the Carmelite Priary in Boar’s Hill, Oxford to come to our parish and speak to us about prayer. During the homily slot, Fr Liam spoke with us about the beauty of this relationship and the depths to which we are invited when it comes to nurturing an intimate relationship with God – depths which can never be fully exhausted.

Fr. Liam offered us some beautiful insights into prayer. Often we think of prayer as something that we do, that we initiate – asking God for things or favours, turning to God in times of need or trial or even the seemingly more selfless prayer of thanking or praising God. I sense that Carmelite spirituality offers another dimension to understanding what prayer is all about. In the Carmelite tradition, prayer isn’t so much something that we ‘do’, it is more about opening ourselves to the action of God within. So in prayer, while always acknowledging that prayer is a partnership, it is God who takes the initiative. Even the desire to pray is not something that we can conjure up within ourselves, it is a nudging from the Lord who is the ground of our being. As Christians we believe that we bear within us the very life of God. St. Paul articulates this beautifully when he says that ‘it is in Him that we live and move and have our being’ or in another passage, ‘it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives within me’. Such insights really resonated with me and I was left with a nudge from the Lord to enter deeper into this dynamic wherein lies the fullness of life.

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