By Fr. Alex Ezechukwu, OCD
Insights From Carmelite Saints
When Peter Tyler, a teacher of Catholic spirituality and a psychotherapist, learned about the growing interest in mindfulness some ten years ago, he attended conferences on Buddhism and began to learn Sanskrit, an ancient language of India.
Today he finds parallels between the spiritual quest of St. Teresa of Avila and other Carmelite mystics and the attempts of Buddhism to find truths drawn from our everyday experiences.
Of course, Buddhism does not in itself lead us into a greater relationship with the Holy Trinity, but it just might provide some methods that will help us draw closer to God along the way.
Mindfulness has gained popular attention lately both as a therapeutic approach to easing the stress of everyday life as well as a technique in the business world to increase worker efficiency.
As a priest, I know that whenever something new is introduced into the Catholic world there is often some pushback with claims that such ideas are outside of the realm of Catholic teaching and should not be studied.
As a pastor of souls I am sensitive to this. People occasionally come up to me and ask me whether a new theology or some prayer technique introduced into Catholic circles is really faithful to the Church’s deposit of faith.
In fact, each movement or technique must be evaluated on its own merits. It is true that some influences are not compatible with the faith and morals taught by the Catholic Church. However, other non-western traditions can shed light and can help us on our journey to God.
Gifts of the Egyptians
Speaking of tradition, St. Augustine drew attention to the gifts that the Egyptians gave to the Israelites when they left Egypt. He mentions that in the Christian era, these gifts of the Egyptians are a parallel to the philosophy of the Greeks that were used by early Church Fathers to defend the faith from detractors. In our Catholic tradition, this philosophy has gone on to give us the thinking tools to help us dive deeper into the realities of our faith.
Yes, the deposit of faith must be safeguarded. And yet non-Catholic religious traditions sometimes give us insights as to what makes us truly human, and what can help us draw closer to God.
We at the DecorCarmeli Media have made available two lectures by Prof. Tyler in our Wisdom Lectures series titled, “Carmelite Prayer, Mindfulness and Mental Prayer.”
In the Buddhist way of thinking, mindfulness is always paired with knowledge and ardency. There is some caution to be taken, however, since there is a wrong or bad mindfulness.
In the second of Prof. Tyler’s lectures on mindfulness, he talks about a movement in 16th century Spain known as recogimiento, or recollection. This was one of two theological movements in the country at the time. Recollection placed more emphasis on affective prayer, on experience and showing love, while the intellectual tradition, on the other hand, placed its emphasis on study and the intellect.
Peter Tyler’s videos and more than one hundred others have been produced by DecorCarmeli Media, a service of the Order of the Discalced Carmelites in the United Kingdom. We produce these videos so that people can have access to authentic teachings on the spiritual life so they can benefit from the insights from the Carmelite tradition that has produced many saints and Doctors of the Church.
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