Many and varied are the ways in which our saintly forefathers laid down how everyone, whatever his station or the kind of religious observance he has chosen, should live a life of allegiance to Jesus Christ—how, pure in heart and stout in conscience, he must be unswerving in the service of his Master.
It is to me, however, that you have come for a rule of life in keeping with your avowed purpose, a rule you may hold fast to henceforward; and therefore:
The first thing I require is for you to have a prior, one of yourselves, who is to be chosen for the office by common consent, or that of the greater and maturer part of you; each of the others must promise him obedience—of which, once promised, he must try to make his deeds the true reflection—and also chastity and the renunciation of ownership.
Saint Albert of Jerusalem
The Carmelite Rule, Chapters 2-4
Can you spot the anachronisms? In the foreground, Saint Albert gives the Rule to B. and the other hermits with him. They appear to be wearing brown Carmelite habits with scapulars, but tradition says that the scapular originated with St. Simon Stock in Europe, much later in the 13th century. In the background, you see Stella Maris Monastery with its monumental dome over the church, completed in 1836, with the grand statue of the Virgin of Carmel seen to the right of Stella Maris Monastery. The statue was a gift of the new, independent government of Chile in the late 19th century, an event so well-known to St. Teresa of the Andes that she wrote a patriotic essay on the subject. To the right of the statue from Chile, you see the monastery of the cloistered Discalced Carmelite nuns, the Carmel of Notre-Dame du Mont-Carmel, which was inaugurated with all solemnity on 1 January 1937. This image is the principal panel of several marble tableaux that line the cloister walk of the monastery, upon which the entire Rule of Saint Albert is inscribed in Latin, chapter by chapter.
Featured image: St. Albert Presents the Rule to the Carmelites is a tempera on wood painting by the 14th c. Italian painter Pietro Lorenzetti, signed and dated in 1328. It now hangs in the Pinacoteca Nazionale of Siena.
This painting formed the central panel of the predella of the dismembered altarpiece in the Carmelite church San Niccolò al Carmine in Siena. The five scenes in the predella depict events in the history of the Carmelite Order: The Annunciation to Sobac [Elijah’s father], Hermits at the Fountain of Elijah, St Albert Presents the Rule to the Carmelites, The Pope Issues a Bull to a Carmelite Delegation, and The Approval of the New Carmelite Habit by Pope Honorius IV.
The long central predella and the next two scenes represent the modern documented history of the Carmelite Order. Sometime between 1206 and 1214, Albert, Patriarch of Jerusalem, traveled to Mount Carmel and presented the hermits with a Rule. The Rule was accepted by Pope Honorius III in 1226 with a papal bull. A further papal dispensation allowed for the alteration of the Carmelite habit, exchanging the black and white horizontally striped outer cape for a simple white one. Image credit: Web Gallery of Art (Public domain).
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