V. Unity and diversity

61. A creative plurality and harmony [C 151]

In recent times, the Order has become universal and new and different ways of living the charism have developed, so that the charism is gradually being inculturated and adapted to the variety of places and peoples. Different choices are made with regard to community relationships, apostolic commitments, and prayer style. This reveals that the charism is not a static and uniform reality; it manifests its multicultural beauty. However, not all
diversity is positive and enriching; it is only so when it is harmonious and coherent, when it is well connected to the whole, because a tile detached from a mosaic makes no sense. One of the needs of the present moment is to ensure that the plurality within the Order be lived with “one heart and one soul” (Acts 4:32).

62. Charism and inculturation

The Gospel can be lived only in an inculturated way, that is, by incarnating it in a given socio-cultural environment. The same can be said of the concrete form of Christian life that is the Teresian Carmel. In the different regions of the world, our charism comes into contact with the cultures of humanity. Charism and culture meet for a dialogue called to become fruitful and enriching for both. Critical discernment will always be necessary to decide
which elements of the traditions of different peoples are compatible with the life and identity of the Teresian Carmel.

63. Expansion of the Order

The first and fundamental condition for implanting Carmelite life in a new region is to possess a true mastery of the charism obtained, not only through theory and concept, but above all through personal assimilation and lived experience. Only by starting from a deep knowledge of the Carmelite-Teresian ideal, and a personal identification with it, can it be effectively transmitted. For the expansion of the Order, therefore, it is necessary to focus rather on the quality of the charismatic life of the missionaries and on their attractive witness than on the fulfillment of external works, however useful they may be for social and human development. Furthermore, concerning the reception of possible vocations, it is necessary to abandon concern for numerical growth and to ensure, first of all, the candidates’ aptitude for our form of life and our ability to offer them good discernment and accompaniment in the formation process.

64. Discernment regarding inculturation

A fundamental criterion for adequate inculturation is communion with the Order. The adoption, in a particular region, of new lifestyles or community practices, liturgical, pastoral, etc., must be decided upon from communion with the Order, the values of the charism and an objective understanding of the cultural situation of the region, through prior dialogue and discernment shared with other members of the Carmelite family.

65. An Order formed by provinces [C 146]

The friars of our Order live in community. Communities are usually grouped into provinces. According to the tradition from the beginning, a province is made up of a sufficient number of communities and friars to guarantee its autonomy in the areas of government, formation, and economic administration. To each province corresponds a delimited territory with the purpose of fostering a relationship of knowledge, fraternity, and collaboration
among the friars who form part of it, thus, a sense of family, as well as to facilitate its internal organization. Other types of minor circumscriptions are possible, but usually for exceptional or temporary situations.

66. Provinces in times of change [C 145]

In times of rapid change such as ours, the Order also experiences new and changing situations. In some regions there is a great decrease in the number of friars, while in others the growth is very rapid. These and other phenomena require us to respond with timely and appropriate decisions that are the result of careful discernment in light of the charism. Provincial and other structures must be adapted to the conditions of the moment to continue to
promote the essential values of the Order. The fundamental criterion is not to maintain presences but to protect and revitalize the spiritual patrimony of the Teresian Carmel. In many cases it will be necessary and positive to merge circumscriptions, to modify their juridical status or territorial limits, and in any case, to increase interprovincial collaboration everywhere, starting with formation and vocational promotion.

67. Provinces and territoriality [C 144]

In recent times, the presence of communities and friars of one province in the territory of another is increasing. Some provinces have communities in different regions of the world, in places very distant from one another. This is a new practice for us, one that has traditionally been characteristic of modern congregations of an apostolic type and with a centralized structure. The necessary discernment regarding this reality must take into account, on the one hand, the necessary flexibility to foster missionary action and help among the provinces, and on the other, the safeguarding of the essential aspects of the life of a province which must not lose cohesion, a family spirit, and the possibility of relationships and collaboration among its members.

68. The sense of belonging to the Order [C 143]

All together we form the one family of the Teresian Carmel, expressed in provinces and communities. The sense of belonging to the Order must be nurtured and a deep communion fostered within it. Each one must feel that the experiences and needs, the joys and sufferings of the others are his own, and try to contribute with his commitment to prayer, fraternity, and service for the good of all. Coordination and mutual aid at all levels must be
strengthened by promoting interprovincial collaborative initiatives, attention to the needs of the Order, mutual trust between the various instances of local, provincial and general government, and above all, by the availability of friars to the services that are required for the good of the Order.