The Carmelite Friars are part of an 800 year old tradition. Contemplation is at the heart of community life – a search for the face of God, an openness to the spirit. From this flows a desire to live as brothers and to strive to serve the needs of the people among whom we live. Our Rule encourages us to live as brothers, valuing silence, praying the scriptures and guided by the Spirit to read the signs of the time.
Daily Eucharist is very much part of community life. Living committed to Christ, we try and serve the people through friendship, hospitality and a desire to live out the values Christ preached: justice, peace and mercy. Carmelites are ready to be available to help anyone who desires to experience the transcendent in their lives or who wish to share their experience of God.
The first Carmelites were hermits on Mt. Carmel in 12th and early 13th centuries. Sometime around 1208, the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Albert Avogadro, gave a rule, a formula of life to the hermits. We do not know their names but they centred their lives on Jesus Christ, the Word of God, silent prayer and the Eucharist. The first hermits may have been pilgrims, refugees or former Crusaders.
The lived near the spring of Elijah and dedicated their church to Our Lady of the Place. Ever since Mary and the prophet Elijah are looked upon as models for all Carmelites.
When the truce between the Crusaders and the Moslems ended in 1240, sporadically the Mt. Carmel community began to travel back to Europe. The Carmelites arrived at Aylesford in 1242.
Pope Innocent IV, in 1247, approved changes to the Carmelite Rule to accommodate changes to the new European practices and lifestyle and allow them to found houses in towns and cities. These adaptations allowed them to move from being hermits to becoming mendicant friars.
Today Carmelites strive to be a praying community, in the midst of the people. Therefore, the three pillars for Carmelites are prayer, community and service.
Some of our great saints are: St. Teresa of Jesus, St. John of the Cross, St. Therese of the Child Jesus, St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein), Bl. Titus Brandsma and many others. Every great Carmelite goes back in spirit to Mt. Carmel.
A Day in the Life
A Day in the life of a friar.
One of the most asked questions here is what is the difference between monks and friars. Monks take the vow of stability, meaning that they always remain a member of the Monastery or Abbey that they joined. Whereas friars do not take this vow of stability, so in the Middle Ages it gave them the freedom to travel, to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus. So the people go to the monks but the friars go to the people.
Our day here is marked by prayer at different times. There is Morning Prayer, usually at 8am; with Midday Prayer after lunch. Evening Prayer is at 6.30pm followed by silent prayer. Night Prayer is usually said privately just before bed time. However, on Saturday nights we have Night Prayer in the Chapel, followed by the traditional Carmelite devotions to Our Lady.
We live in community and we have all our meals together. Breakfast is usually about 8.15 am. Lunch is at 1pm and supper is about 7pm. The timetable is slightly different on a Sunday. The work of the community differs due to individual commitments and talents. A member of the community is available every day for Mass, confessions, blessings and just to talk to our many pilgrims and guests. Another works with the youth and we have a partnership with the Southwark Diocese Youth Service. Another is chaplain to a year group in St. Simon Stock Secondary School. Members of the community are involved also in radio ministry, teaching, writing and retreats. When possible we do a number of supplies for local parishes when the local priests are away or sick. No two days are the same.
The current Prior at the Friars is Father Francis Kemsley.
The Friars is open 365 days a year and entry is free.
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Map of the grounds
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