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Celtic Carmelites

A Prayer Community of the Celtic Rite Old Catholic Church

The Celtic Carmelites live in the tradition of the ancient Celtic Church prior to Roman domination of the British Isles; additionally, we live in the "active/contemplative" spirit of the early Carmelite Brothers and Sisters. To know Jesus is to share Jesus in word and deed. To get to know Jesus requires solitude and intimacy with Him - through reading Sacred Scripture, living a gospel-centered life, participating in the Sacraments, and in contemplation of our Lord in the recesses of our hearts. We seek to share our rich history with others, and, through the Holy Trinity, we endeavor to help heal a very disconnected world.


From the time of Christ through the fourth century, the ancient Celtic Christian communities were isolated from the European influences of power and politics, and therefore enjoyed a love of the Gospel without an agenda. In Celtic theology, the fall of Adam and Eve represented a veil cast between mankind and God, and the consequences described in Genesis 3:14-19 included a spiritual death which could only be restored through the once-for-all sacrifice of Jesus Christ, our Savior.


If one reads the Old Testament without denominational prejudice, it is plain to see even from the time of Cain and Abel God maintained an active, Fatherly relationship with man and creation. in fact, it was God Himself who first shed blood in order to clothe Adam and Eve after their fall. From the beginning we get a glimpse of the Father's great love for us. Yet this relationship was marred by the pride of mankind who sought to keep the throne of the heart occupied with striving to be "little gods" - being self-reliant and avoiding resting on the shoulder of their Eternal Father.


Early Celts were enamored with the spiritual realm, which set a fertile field for the first Christian missionaries to explain the Gospel message of Christ's perfect life, death, and resurrection to restore intimacy between God and man through relationship with the Holy Trinity. The Celtic Christians married their love for nature with the One who created it and saw no reason to separate what God had joined together. We could liken the relationship to a lover giving his beloved a bouquet of roses. Rather than dismissing the flowers as objects, the recipient looks fondly at the roses and is constantly reminded of the great love of the giver of the gift. The God of the Bible is constantly referred to as "Father" by Jesus, and he teaches us to view the Creator of Creation in the same manner, as a beloved, full to overflowing lover of our souls. 


The Celtic Christian communities enjoyed an equality between men and women unheard of on the European continent, a love and respect for nature as a gift from God and a means to know Him more intimately. In regard to "original sin," the Celtic Christian knew that Christ saved them from themselves and their inevitable attraction to rebellion. A great analogy would be to see a baby and believe you are looking into the face of the divine. In a few years, you could look at the same child and know he needed a Savior. "Original Sin" was a term used by Saint Augustine of Hippo who built a theology of mankind's depravity around it. This is where the beauty of the English Channel saved the Celts from seeing themselves as morally dead creations of a wrathful God.


Pelagius, the Celtic counterpart to Augustine, had a theology that mankind was born "very good" (remember God's declaration in Genesis) and at the same time to have a strong propensity towards doing evil. Pelagius believed that theoretically, everyone had the ability to live a perfect life, otherwise Jesus would not have said, "be perfect, as your Heavenly Father is perfect" (Matthew 5:48). Pelagius contended that Jesus would not encourage us on a fool's mission. Inevitably, we all come short of God's standards and need a Savior as a propitiation (substitute) for our sins, and that is where the Son of God who loves us and gave his life for us took up the Cross, was crucified, died, and was resurrected to tear the veil separating us from our intimacy with the Holy Trinity. Through this great sacrifice, we have the opportunity to enjoy the love of God without reservation - as little children excited to be with their Father, Brother, and Lover of their souls. 


In summary, the Celtic Christians had an unmatched devotion to the saving work of Christ on the cross. They simply believed that the world needed saving because of the propensity of mankind to choose evil over Godly desires. The sacrifice of Jesus both to become a human being, to live a sinless and perfect life, and to suffer as the Lamb for of our sins was a work completed at the cross when Jesus uttered, "It is finished!" (John, 19:30). At the Resurrection, our Savior proved He had conquered death and restored mankind to fellowship with the Trinity. It is our joy as Christians to bring the Kingdom of God to fruition in the here and now, in the hearts and minds of all people.

WHY WE ARE CELTIC:

1) We hold to the position that God, mankind, and creation are united in a God-ordained relationship. We support this view with Biblical texts such as Psalm 19:1, "The heavens declare the glory of God; And the firmament shows His handiwork" and Jesus assures us in Luke 12: 24, "Consider the ravens, for they neither sow nor reap, which have neither storehouse or barn; and God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds?" One of our favorite passages is Luke 12:32 where Jesus tells us, "Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom." If we could only convince the world we have a Heavenly Father who would do anything - anything - even allow His Son to die a most wretched death on a Cross for love of us, the world would be transformed!


2) The early Celtic Christians had a great respect for women and children in society, unlike the European continent. Male and female monasteries could be found side by side, and it was not uncommon for women to hold leadership roles in both church and clans. We are Celtic for the reason that God created man "in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them" (Gen. 1:27).


3) We believe in the Genesis account that God created the heavens and earth as "good" and humans as "very good." We choose to live with optimism that God loves man and creation - He always has and always will. He gave His only begotten Son to redeem us. What greater reason to love God, creation, and each other than that?


WHY WE ARE CARMELITE: The Carmelite Order traces its history back to the Elijah who on Mount Carmel stood up against the priests of Baal as told in 1Kings 18:20-40. Elijah faced an overwhelming majority of pagan priests yet demonstrated the power of God over false religions. In New Testament times hermits inhabited the caves of Mount Carmel and lived lives of holy prayer and contemplation of the Word of God. In the thirteenth century, they formed what we now know as the Order of Carmelites. in the 16th century, St. Teresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross set about reforming the Order and bringing it back to its roots of contemplation and prayer. Both of these great saints were mystics, and both were honored as "Doctors of the Church" because of their insights into Sacred Scriptures. The fact that they worked together (male and female) and their mysticism ties in well with Celtic tradition.


WHY WE ARE THE CELTIC RITE OLD CATHOLIC CHURCH: Briefly, the Old Catholic Church separated from the Roman Catholic Church in the 19th century when Rome declared the Pope as infallible. The Old Catholics (and pretty much everyone else in the world) knows humans are fallible and rejected this dogma. We stay as close to biblical doctrine as possible and in keeping with the ancient Catholic Church hold to the first seven Councils. We do not recognize the anathema's rendered on Protestants at the Council of Trent in the 16th century and believe in local Bishops overseeing geographical areas. We believe God alone is the head of the Church in the person of the Holy Spirit. If you were to attend an Old Catholic service, the similarities between a Roman Catholic Mass and our worship service would seem striking. Theological and administrative differences are the primary reasons we cannot be united with Rome at this time. Interestingly, Rome acknowledges our male priests as having valid apostolic succession and allows its members to celebrate the Sacraments with us provided there is no Roman Catholic priest available. The option for many to leave the political systems of Roman Catholicism while retaining many traditions is enticing.


The challenge with being "Old Catholic" historically and currently rests with a very divided religious organization where hierarchy of individuals is sometimes self-appointed, and doctrine is a matter of choice. What led to corruption in the Roman Catholic Church (a hierarchy without restrictions) has a counterpart that can lead to chaos in the Old Catholic Church.


Some Old Catholics believe in homosexual unions, the ordination of women, a theology closely resembling New Age mysticism, while other Bishops in the Old Catholic movement pick and choose which doctrines represent their particular beliefs. A very present danger arises when one is attracted to the Old Catholic Church but does not understand there is no true unity of the denomination. Being associated with the Celtic Rite of the Old Catholic Church provides us the ability to distinguish ourselves from other Old Catholic Churches.


The Celtic Carmelites have determined to adhere to the most conservative doctrinal beliefs of the Christian Church. Like the hermits of Mount Carmel and the early Celtic Christians, extensive study of Scripture and a commitment to live in harmony with the Gospels is our foundation.