Carmelite Shield

The Carmelife Rule

The Rule of Saint Albert

The Holy Rule
of our father among the saints
Albert of Jerusalem
Patriarch, Confessor, Lawgiver

Amended and confirmed by his Holiness Pope Innocent IV

Observed throughout

The order of the most blessed virgin mary of mount carmel

translated from the Latin by a Carmelite Hermit

The Greeting

Albert, called by the grace of God to be Patriarch of the Church of Jerusalem, to his beloved sons in Christ, Brocard and the other hermits his obedience who dwell near the spring on Mount Carmel, health in the Lord and the blessing of the Holy Spirit.

The Purpose of Religious Life

In many and various ways,1 the Holy Fathers have established how everyone, whatever his state or the kind of religious life he has chosen, must live in obedience to Jesus Christ2 and serve Him faithfully with a pure heart and a good conscience.3 However, because you have asked us, in accordance with your professed purpose, to give you a rule of life to which you must henceforth hold fast:

The Prior and Obedience to Him

In the first place we ordain that you have a Prior, one of yourselves, who is to be elected to this office by the unanimous consent of all, or of the greater and maturer part. To him each of the others must promise obedience and, having made this promise, must strive to keep it with the truth of works,4 along with chastity and the renunciation of ownership.5

The Solitary Life

You may have foundations in solitary places or wherever you are given a site suitable and appropriate for your religious observance, according to what seems fitting to the Prior and Brothers. Moreover, in keeping with the terrain of the place which you propose to inhabit, each one of you must have an indi-vidual, separate cell, assigned by choice of the Prior himself, with the assent of the other Brothers or of the maturer part. However, you are to eat in a common refectory whatever may have been given to you, listening together to some reading from Sacred Scripture, where this can be done without difficulty.6

None of the Brothers may change the cell assigned to him or exchange it with another, except by permission of whoever is Prior at the time. The Prior's cell should be near the entrance to the property, so that he might be the first to meet those who come there, and all that has to be done in consequence may be carried out as he desires and orders.

Each one must remain in his cell or near it, meditating on the law of the Lord day and night7 and keeping vigil in prayer,8 unless occupied with other lawful duties.

The Common Life

Those who know how to say the canonical Hours with the clerics should say them according to the usages of the Holy Fathers and the Church's approved custom.9 Those who do not know how are to say the Our Father twenty-five times for the night vigil, except on Sundays and solemnities, when for the night vigil we command the aforementioned number to be doubled, so that the Our Father is said fifty times. The same prayer must be said seven times for Lauds. Likewise, for the other hours the same prayer is to be said seven times, except for the office of Vespers for which you are to say it fifteen times.

None of the brothers must claim anything as his own, but let everything be in common for you, and each one shall receive from the hand of the Prior—that is, from the brother appointed by him to this office—whatever is needed, according to the age and needs of each.10 You may have as many asses and mules as you need, and some livestock and poultry.

An oratory should be built as conveniently as possible in the midst of the cells, where you are to gather early each morning11 to assist at Mass, where this can be done without difficulty.

On Sundays or on other days if necessary, you are to discuss the keeping of the observance and your spiritual welfare, and at this time the excesses and faults of the brothers, if any be found, shall be corrected with charity.

The Fast and Abstinence

You are to fast every day except Sunday, from the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross until the day of the Lord's Resurrection, unless sickness or bodily weakness or some other just cause requires the fast to be dis-pensed, for necessity knows no law.

You must abstain from meat, unless it be taken as a remedy for sickness or weakness.12 But because you frequently have to beg when traveling, outside your own houses you may eat food cooked with meat so as not to be a burden to your hosts. At sea, however, meat may be eaten.

The Spiritual Warfare

Since indeed man's life on earth is a time of trial,13 and all who will to live devoutly in Christ suffer persecution,14 and your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour,15 take every care to put on the armor of God, that you may be able to withstand the treachery of the enemy.16 Your loins must be girt17 with the belt of chastity. Protect your heart with holy thoughts, for it is written: a holy thought will keep you safe.18 Put on the breastplate of righteousness19 so that you may love the Lord your God with your whole heart and your whole soul and your whole strength, and your neighbor as yourself.20 In all things take up the shield of faith with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one,21 for without faith it is impossible to please God.22 Next, place the helmet of salvation on your head23 so that you hope for salvation from the only Savior who saves his people from their sins.24 And let the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God,25 dwell abundantly in your mouth and in your hearts,26 and whatever you do, let it be done in the word of the Lord.27

Work

You must do some kind of work so that the devil will always find you occupied; otherwise, through your idleness, he may be able to find some entrance into your souls. In this regard you have both the teaching and example of St. Paul, the Apostle, by whose mouth Christ has spoken28 and who was appointed and given by God as preacher and teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth;29 if you follow him, you cannot go astray.

We were among you in labor and in toil, he says, working night and day so as not to burden any of you, not as if we had not that right, but in order that we might give you ourselves as a model to imitate. For when we were with you, we gave you this command: if anyone will not work, neither let him eat. For we hear that some among you are restless meddlers who do no work. Now such as these we command and admonish in the Lord Jesus Christ to earn by silent labor the bread they eat.30 This way is holy and good; walk in it.31

Silence

The Apostle recommends silence when he commands us to work in it,32 and the Prophet also testifies: silence is the cultivation of righteousness,33 and again: in silence and hope will your strength be.34 Therefore, we ordain that you keep silence from the end of Compline until the end of Prime the following day.35

At other times, although you need not observe silence so strictly, take care to avoid much talking. As it is written, and experience teaches no less: In much talking sin shall not be wanting,36 and: He who is careless in speech will come to harm,37 and also: He who uses many words shall hurt his own soul,38 and the Lord says in the Gospel: For every idle word that men shall speak, they must render an account on the day of judgment.39 Therefore, let each one make a balance for his words and a bridle for his mouth, lest he stumble and fall in speech and his fall be incurable to the point of death.40 With the Prophet, let him guard his ways lest he sin with his tongue,41 and let him endeavor with diligence and care to observe silence, which is the cultivation of righteousness.42

Exhortation to the Prior

But you, Brother Brocard, and whoever may be made Prior after you, always keep in mind and put into practice what the Lord said in the Gospel: Whoever wants to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must be your slave.43

Exhortation to the Brothers

You other brothers also, humbly reverence your Prior, thinking not of him, but of Christ who placed him over you 44 and who says to the prelates of the Churches: He who hears you hears me; he who rejects you, rejects me,45 lest you come to judgment for contempt, rather than merit eternal life as a reward for your obedience.

Epilogue

These things we have written to you briefly, establishing a rule for your conversion, according to which you must live. However, if anyone does more than this, the Lord Himself will reward him when He returns, but use discretion, which is the moderator of the virtues.


  • Heb 1:1
  • 2Cor 10:5.
  • 1 Tim 1:5.
  • Cf. John 3:18
  • The vows of chastity and poverty were added to the Rule by Pope Innocent IV in 1247. Chastity and poverty had always been considered essential elements of the monastic life, but were not made the object of explicit vows in the West until the twelfth century.
  • The prescription of the common refectory was added by Pope Innocent IV. It interrupts St. Albert's treatment of the solitary life. Some Carmelite historians believe it was meant to be inserted into the section of the common life and became misplaced due to the error of a copyist.
  • Cf. Psalm 1:2 and Jos 1:8.
  • Cf. 1 Peter 4:7, Matthew 26:42, Eph 6:18, Col 4:2.
  • The original text of St. Albert's Rule reads as follows: "Those who know their letter and how to read the Psalms should say, for each of the Hours, those which have been appointed by institutions of the Holy Fathers and the approved custom of the Church."
     This text makes it clear that the first Carmelite Hermits prayed the Hours in the solitude of their cells. The Hermits did not pray the Divine Office as such, but rather recited the Psalter, the traditional prayerbook of hermits ever since the establishment of the eremitic form of life in the fourth century. The revised Rule of Pope Innocent IV mandates the canonical Hours of Divine Office prayed in common, tather than the Psalter prayed in the cell. In the original Rule, this section on the Hours concludes St. Albert's treatment of the solitary life in Carmel. In the revised Rule of Pope Innocent IV, it begins the section on the common life.
  • The original Rule continues:“However, as has already been said, each one is to remain in his assigned cell and live by himself on what is given to him.” It would seem that Pope Innocent's new paragraph on the common refectory belongs here and is intended to replace this sentence which has been suppressed in the revised Rule.
  • An allusion, perhaps, to Lev. 6:12.
  • St. Albert had originally written: “You must always abstain from meat, unless it be taken as a remedy for sickness or great weakness.”
  • Job 7:1.
  • 2 Tim 3:12.
  • 1 Peter 5:8.
  • Eph 6:11.
  • Cf. Eph 6:14.
  • Prov. 2:11.
  • Eph 6:14.
  • Luke 10:27.
  • Eph 6:16.
  • Heb 11:6. The original Rule of St. Albert contains another quotation at this point: “and victory lies in this: your faith.” Cf. 1 Jn. 5:4. This quotation was inadvertently left out of the Rule when it was revised under Pope Innocent IV.
  • Cf. Eph 6:17.
  • Matthew 1:21.
  • Eph 6:17.
  • Cf. Col 3:16 and Rom 10:8.
  • Cf. Col 3:17.
  • Cf. 2 Cor 13:3.
  • Cf. 1 Tim 2:7.
  • 2 Thes 3:7-12.
  • Is 30:21, Vulgate.
  • Cf. 2 Thes 3:12, quoted in the preceding chapter of the Rule.
  • Cf. Is 32:17.
  • Is 30:15.
  • The original Rule of St. Albert reads: “Therefore we ordain that you keep silence from the Hour of Vespers until Terce the following day, unless some necessity or good reason or the permission of the Prior should interrupt it."
  • Prov 10:19.
  • Prov 13:3.
  • Sir 20:8.
  • Matthew 12:36.
  • Cf. Sir 28:29-30.
  • Cf. Ps 38:2.
  • See note 28.
  • Matthew 20:26-27.
  • Cf. Ps 65:12.
  • Luke 10:16.