The theme of each year’s seminar is different, focusing on one of the Carmelite authors or a theme related to Carmelite spiritual life. Each day features a formal lecture by a member of the forum. Later in the morning, a number of reading sessions are offered, covering the same text, but led by various members of the forum.
After lunch there is a block of free time for solitude or study. Later in the afternoon two sets of workshops are offered. These continue the same theme throughout the week. Each day begins with morning prayer and concludes with silent evening prayer. Eucharist is celebrated each day.
Though silence was strongly encouraged during the nonscheduled moments of the day, the atmosphere was generally more one of sharing than of silence. Because of the openness of the speakers, their fame and high profile, there is a high energy level among the participants, which creates an atmosphere in which real silence is quite difficult.
The seminar is largely a “left brain” experience of Carmelite spirituality, though this is somewhat tempered by the reading sessions, which allow participants to interface with the texts at hand. Sister Constance FitzGerald comments, “It transcends the idea of a seminar. People feel this is a place of prayer and contemplation. They really work with the material, reading and studying the texts.”
The presence of members of all branches of the Carmelite family creates a diversity of experience, ranging from the academic backgrounds of the men to the purely monastic experience of the women. The program obviously fills a need on the part of many people.