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News & Updates

Learning from Elijah: St. Titus Brandsma, O.Carm.

Our Director of Studies, Br. Pat Mulins O.Carm., has written a few 300 word reflections for those interested in Carmelite tradition. The first of these is below:

In 1935, the Dutch Professor of Philosophy and Spirituality, Titus Brandsma O.Carm., who was canonised on May 15th 2022, noted some parallels between Carmelite spirituality and the Old Testament prophet, Elijah. Criticising the Israelites’ tolerance of idolatry, ‘If the LORD be God, follow him’ (1 Kings 18:21), Elijah won an important victory over the prophets of Ba’al, whose prayers went unheard, while Elijah’s prayer brought down fire from heaven that consumed his sacrifice (see 1 Kings 18). For Titus, the first step on the road to prayer is overcoming our idolatry and the second step is learning to live an upright life, since only the prayer ‘of the upright is powerful and effective. Elijah prayed that it might not rain, and it did not, but, when ‘he prayed again … the heaven gave rain (James 5:16-18). The third point that Titus highlights is that, just as our bodies need food daily, ‘our spiritual life demands’ the food of the Word of God, which ‘must be in our hearts and on our lips’ (Rule, n. 19), and of the Sacrament of the Eucharist, which Carmelites celebrate ‘each day’ (Rule, n. 14). Thirdly, Titus notes that, when Elijah fled from Queen Jezebel, ‘Holy Scripture tells us how Elias, on the strength of the mystical food ministered to him by the Angel, walked forty days and forty nights to Mount Horeb.’ Finally, Titus describes Elijah as learning on Mount Horeb how to be ‘in the presence of God’, a key element of Carmelite spirituality. The Lord was not in the wind, earthquake or fire, but, rather, in the ‘sound of sheer silence’ (see 1 Kings 19:12) and in the divine voice that directed his future activity.