August 07, 2012
Fr. Francis Amodio speaks about his faith
I’m a Carmelite friar serving as director of campus ministry and
chaplain at Mount Saint Mary College in Newburgh, NY. I’ve been
working at the Mount for nearly two years, after having served in
my province’s newest community in Trinidad and Tobago.
Mount Saint Mary College was established 50 years ago by the
Dominican Sisters of Newburgh.
Before our current president, Fr. Kevin Mackin OFM, a Franciscan
friar, the last Dominican sister to occupy the position of
president was Sr. Ann Sakac, O.P.
I tell you this because I work at a college with a Dominican
spiritual tradition, a Franciscan president, and now a Carmelite
Answering the question about how I live out my Carmelite charism
within this context is both interesting and challenging.
Two things I automatically did upon arriving at the Mount was
wearing the Carmelite habit and placing of a statue of Our Lady of
Mount Carmel in my office. At different solemn occasions wearing
the white cloak, the full Carmelite habit, also expressed
externally my Carmelite identity.
It is difficult to pinpoint ways of expressing Carmelite
spirituality in one’s ministry. Being a Carmelite and living out
the life of a Carmelite are two aspects I would like to address.
The fact that I belong to an Order with an 800 year tradition
brings with it certain values about the world, self, and
relationship with God.
As Carmelites we look at the world through the Jesus who went
off to commune with his Father in the desert or on the mountain or
some deserted place. To be alone with God, to hear his voice in
one’s heart and then act upon it is what we do.
Our charism of prayer and contemplation is the root of who we
are. Our community and ministry are defined by the quality of our
contemplative life as the Carmelite Constitution states.
As I encountered the expression of Dominican spirituality on
campus, I began to realize how different the Carmelite approach is.
In understanding another tradition you begin to articulate your own
and have a renewed appreciation for this discovery.
Celebrating mass on campus for the staff, facultym and students
is a concrete way to express Carmelite spirituality. The Carmelite
themes of listening, being alone, walking in God’s presence are
spoken from the pulpit.
Celebrating the Carmelite liturgical calendar is an attempt to
teach spiritual values and Carmelite history.
For example, on the feast of St. Therese, roses are blessed and
given to people in different departments on campus as a way of
making our presence known.
Pastoral counseling or offering spiritual direction is a time I
see “the Carmelite” come out.
Young people are in search of something that has lasting value.
They want a spirituality which is deep, real, and gives meaning to
The values of our spirituality, I find, are exactly what
students need to heal and grow in their personal and spiritual
I notice people in general do not know how to pray in a deep
way. Their prayer life usually consists of memorized prayers and
going to mass.
Offering a deeper way through silence is attractive to many
young people. For example, campus ministry introduced Prayer and
Praise, praying the Liturgy of the Hours before the Blessed
Students have commented on how the silence in front of Jesus
Himself is moving. Helping people to pray with depth to become
aware of the presence of God in their lives is what I can offer
This contemplation, the charism of Carmel really does help
students to know themselves and therefore grow as a mature person.
Any psychologist will tell you that without silence one cannot grow
in love of self. It is this basic understanding of the
contemplative life which can benefit the students I come in contact
Another way of expressing “the Carmelite” is the course I teach
twice a week, Introduction to New Testament.
The hermits on Mount Carmel lived, prayed, and meditated on the
Word of God as our rule tells us “night and day.” It was the tool
they used to listen to God and purify their hearts.
Teaching the scripture is an occasion to model for the students
the meaning of listening to the Word of God, through the use of
Modeling how to interpret the spiritual meaning of the parables,
the teachings of Jesus, helps students see the Gospels as living
rather than words on a page. This sensitivity toward God’s word has
been taught to me by the Carmelite tradition. So I not only teach
about the history of the text, but how to reflect on the Word of
And at the end of the day, living out the Carmelite charism as a
campus minister is basically one of presence: Being present to
those I see, to those I teach, helping people articulate that God
is real and active in our midst.