On July 16th, the universal Church celebrates the Solemn Commemoration of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel. It is the chief feast of the Order, honoring her for the countless blessings she has bestowed on the Carmelite family. Many Christians unite themselves to our Carmelite family because of the brown Scapular, which is one of the signs of our devotion to our heavenly Mother, remembering her special protection to those who wear it. Each nun expresses her own filial love for her by her personal devotion, especially in the praying of the rosary.

 The Discalced Carmelite Nuns belong to a family consecrated in a special way to loving and venerating the Holy Mother of God; and they seek to attain evangelical perfection in union with her. Mary's presence among her daughters and sisters pervades the entire Carmelite vocation.  It imparts a special Marian tone to their contemplation, sisterhood, evangelical self-denial, and apostolic spirit. (Const. No. 53)

Origin and Tradition

The beginnings of the Order, its title of the "Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel", and its oldest spiritual tradition show clearly our Marian and biblical character of our vocation.  By choosing the Blessed Virgin Mary as mother and patroness, the Order places itself under her protection; and it takes the mystery of her life and of her union with Christ as its ideal model of consecration. (Const. No. 2)

The history of the Order overflows with the presence of the Virgin Mary.  It began on Mount Carmel where the first hermits dedicated to her a little chapel.  Later, with the approval of the Church, they undertook the obligation of living the evangelical counsels in allegiance to Christ and his Virgin Mother. (Const. No. 54)

St. Teresa of Jesus and St. John of the Cross confirmed and renewed Carmel's devotion to Mary.  In fact, they acknowledged Mary as Mother and Patron of the Order.  They presented her as a model of prayer and self-denial in faith's pilgrimage.  She humbly and wisely welcomed the Lord's word and pondered it in her heart.  She was wholly responsive to the impulses of the Holy Spirit.  She is the valiant woman who follows Christ faithfully and shares in the joys and sorrows of his paschal mystery. (Const. No. 54)

Ideal of Contemplative Life

In Our Lady we contemplate the ideal of the Order lived to perfection.  Her example inspires us to follow in her footsteps.  She takes the lead among the Lord's poor and little ones.  She best exemplifies contemplative life in the Church. Every sister will find in Mary a mother and teacher in the ways of the Spirit who will conform her to Christ and lead her to the heights of holiness. Because of their profession, the sisters belong to the Virgin Mary in a special way.  They wear her scapular to show that they are members of her Order and are determined to clothe themselves with her virtues. (Const. No. 55)

Practice

God's plan has closely associated Mary with the mystery of Christ and of the Church.  In order to respond to this plan, the sisters will not fail to study deeply her life and mission and make use of the Sacred Scriptures, the Church fathers, and the Church's liturgy and Magisterium. The sisters will honor the Mother of God with the veneration that is due to her, in the light of Christ's paschal mystery, and in compliance with the directives of the Church.  In fact, when the Church venerates the Virgin Mary in the liturgy, it regards her as inseparably joined to her Son in his saving work, and it sees in her a model of the spiritual attitude with which all should celebrate and live the divine mysteries. (Const. No. 56)

Scripture presents Elijah as a man of God, walking continually in God's presence and fiercely defending the worship of the one true God. He stands up for God's rights in a solemn contest on Mount Carmel.  Later on Mount Horeb, the mountain of God, he is granted an intimate experience of the living God. The hermits of Mount Carmel who gather together in honor of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in the 12th Century, take him as their model of living a life of allegiance to Jesus Christ.

His first words found in Scripture succinctly says what is most important to the Carmelites, our vocation and our primary activity.  To King Ahab who worship idols, he says, "As the Lord the God of Israel lives, before whom I stand, there shall be neither dew nor rain these years, except by my word." (1Kgs 17:1).

"To stand before the face of the living God" is our vocation. Loving God in prayer, in contemplation, and serving Christ and his Church with our intercessory prayers is our primary activity.

The Carmelites strive to imitate his great zeal and love of God, and take his words: "Zelo zelatus sum pro Domino Deo exercituum" ("With zeal have I been zealous for the Lord God of hosts") as the motto of our Carmelite family.

Origin

The Discalced Nuns of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel belong to a religious family, endowed with its own proper charism for the purpose of fulfilling a special mission in the Mystical Body of Christ. This religious family is a renewed form of the Carmelite Order. As such, it joins fidelity to the spirit and tradition of the Order with the will for constant renewal, in compliance with the words of our Holy Mother Teresa: "For the love of God, I ask all of you to fix your eyes on the race of the Holy Prophets from whom we have descended." She also says: "We are beginning now; but let those who come after us strive always to make a new start and to better themselves." (Const. No. 1)

In looking to the venerable fathers of old, especially to the Prophet Elijah, whom it regards as its inspiration, the Order becomes more fully aware of its contemplative vocation which makes it intent on hearing God's words, and on searching in great solitude and in total detachment from the world for the supreme treasure, the precious pearl of his kingdom. (Const. No. 2)

The first Carmelite "formula of life" is found expressed in the Rule of St. Albert of Jerusalem. The chief spiritual topics and prescriptions in it are:

a) To live in allegiance to Christ by serving him faithfully with a pure heart and an upright conscience, by placing our sole hope of salvation in him, and by paying him obedience, in the person of the Prior, in a spirit of faith;

b) To remain in one's cell, meditating day and night on the law of the Lord, and fortifying the spirit with holy thoughts, so that the word of God may abound on our lips and in our hearts, and everything be done in the word of the Lord;

c) To celebrate every day in community the Eucharist and the Prayer of the Church;

d) To practice evangelical asceticism and to be clothed with the divine armor in order to live devotedly in Christ; to imitate the Apostle Paul in generous application to work; and to practice constant mortification with prudence which is the guide of the virtues;

e) To establish a communion of life that is sustained by familiar relations, by the charity of mutual correction, by the common possession of goods and by mutual spiritual solicitude under the guidance of the Prior who is placed at the head of the community to serve it;

f) Above all, to promote unceasing prayer in solitude, silence, and in a spirit of evangelical vigilance. (Const. No. 3)

The Discalced Carmelites call St. Teresa our Holy Mother and honor her as the founder of the Order. However, she insists that she does not found the Order but only to renew its spirit and to give it the new apostolic ideal. Together with St. John of the Cross, our Holy Father, they form the first generations of Discalced Carmelite Nuns and Friars. They both are Doctors of the Church and make immense contribution to the spiritual life of countless people within and without the boundary of the Church through their writings.

Origin

The beginning of the Teresian family within Carmel, and the meaning of its vocation in the Church, are bound up closely with the development of the spiritual life of St. Teresa and with her charism. In particular, it grew out of the mystical graces which compelled her to renew Carmel. Her intent was that it should be entirely directed toward prayer and contemplation of the things of God and that all would observe the evangelical counsels, as set forth in the "primitive" Rule, in a small sisterly community that would be founded on solitude, prayer and strict poverty. (Const. No. 4)

Daughter of the Church

St. Teresa's mystical experience led her gradually to fathom and, as it were, to interiorize the life of the Church - with its sorrows, and the rending of its unity and, above all, the profanation of the Eucharist and of the Priesthood.  This process contributed to the development and clarification of her initial project.  Stirred by these events, she gave her life and that of the new family of Carmel an apostolic sense.  She directed the prayer, retirement, and entire life of the Discalced Carmelites toward the service of the Church - so much so that if their prayers, their sacrifices and their life are not at the service of the Church, they do not fulfill the purpose for which God brought them together. (Const. No. 5)

Expansion of the Reform

The full measure of the vocation of the Teresian Carmel is the fruit of the experience by which Holy Mother was gradually enlightened about the mystery of the members still waiting to be united to the Mystical Body of Christ. This experience led her to turn her gaze on  the immense field of the missions.  In the light of these new prospects for the Church, the apostolic spirit of the Saint came to full flower, and her heart conceived the purpose of spreading the family of the first Discalced Carmelite Nuns and of extending her work by founding the Discalced Carmelite Friars.  The friars were to be partakers in the same spirit so that they might help the nuns to live their common vocation and themselves serve the Church through prayer and their apostolic action. (Const. No. 6)

Return to Traditional Spirit

As she carried out her work, she intended faithfully to secure the continuity of Carmel.  She renewed its filial devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel.  She handed on to her family the heritage of the communion she lived with those biblical forerunners, the prophets and the great fathers of Carmel.  She gave new vigor to the observance of the "primitive" Rule, and gave that observance a new apostolic ardor. (Const. No. 7)

Style of Teresian Carmel

She wanted a particular style of life to characterize everything.  She set forth asceticism and mortification as expressions of a deep theological life at the service of the Church.  She proposed a magnanimous observance and a cordial, sisterly lifestyle that made it a joy to live together as the family of God.  She promoted the dignity of the person, friendship among the sisters, and communion among the various monasteries. (Const. No. 8)

St. John of the Cross

Divine Providence gave St. Teresa, St. John of the Cross as an associate, and led him to share in her spirit.  He, in turn, acknowledged St. Teresa as the mother of the renewed Carmel and ascribed to her the charism God grants to Founders. Both laid, as it were the foundations of this Order.  They recorded their doctrine and experience and shared them through their writings which speak especially about deepest communion with God and the way that leads there.  Over and above being personal gifts given our saints, their experiences are graces granted to the Order and form part of the charism which every Discalced Carmelite nun ought to live. (Const. No. 9)

 

Back