Our Carmelite Life
“So I will allure her, I will lead her into the desert and speak to her heart” (Hosea 2:16).
“All of us who wear this holy habit of Carmel are called to prayer and contemplation. This call explains our origin; we are the descendants of men who felt this call, those holy Fathers on Mount Carmel who in such solitude and contempt for the world sought this treasure, this precious pearl of contemplation” (St. Teresa of Jesus).
The call to become a Discalced Carmelite Nun is a call to the purely contemplative, cloistered life. It is a call into the desert of solitude where we hear the gentle voice of the Beloved speaking to our hearts. To be a Carmelite is to live a prophetic life, after the example of the prophet Elijah (the inspiration of the first Carmelites). Our life is prophetic inasmuch as it proclaims to the world the preeminence and transcendence of God and his living Presence among us. Like Elijah we exclaim: “With zeal have I been zealous for the Lord God of Hosts, in whose Presence I stand” (see 2 Kings).
The Teresian Carmel joins both the original eremitical spirit of Carmel to life lived in Community. St. Teresa wanted us to be “hermits living in community,” as she would say. Our life of prayer and sacrifice is the hidden apostolic force which Carmel offers to the Church: taking close to heart the many needs of the Church and the world and especially to pray for priests was the intention and obligation our Holy Mother Teresa set before us.
St. Therese of Lisieux, a daughter of the great St. Teresa and St. John of the Cross, once wrote of her Carmelite vocation: “I understood that the Church had a Heart and that this Heart was BURNING WITH LOVE. . . . O Jesus, my Love . . . my vocation, at last I have found it . . . MY VOCATION IS LOVE! Yes, I have found my place in the Church: in the HEART of the Church, my Mother, I shall be LOVE.” This is what Carmel is to the Church, and that which it will be until the end of time: the heart, giving life to all its members, the members of the Body of Christ; it is prayer and love which is its life-giving force.
“I will espouse you to me forever: I will espouse you in right and in justice, in love and in mercy;
I will espouse you to me in fidelity; and you shall know the Lord” (Hosea 2:21).
“By means of public and solemn profession of the evangelical counsels, they are consecrated to God through the mediation of the Church. . . . It is a true wedding with Christ in a renewed covenant of love. . .” (Constitutions). “It is only right daughters, that we delight in our Spouse and understand whom we are wedded to and what kind of life we must live” (St. Teresa; Way of Perfection Ch. 23 #7). Living the evangelical counsels of chastity, poverty and obedience enables us to “live for God alone, to love him above all things, and to unite ourselves in a special way to the Church and to its mystery” (Constitutions). Pledging allegiance and undivided love for Jesus Christ, we are espoused to him through our commitment of the vows of chastity, poverty and obedience, the promise of a life of constant prayer and evangelical self-denial, and our quest for perfect charity in the service of our Mother the Church through the grace of the Holy Spirit and the help of the Mother of God. “To be your Spouse, to be a Carmelite, and by my union with You to be Mother of souls. No doubt, these three privileges sum up my true vocation: Carmelite, Spouse, Mother” (St. Thérèse). St. Teresa of Jesus, the Mother and Foundress of the Discalced Carmelites, also wrote: “I resolved to do the little that was in my power; that is, to follow the evangelical counsels as perfectly as I could and strive that these few persons who live here do the same.” And so she urges us on even today as we continue to live in this spirit of love given and love received. For “love is repaid by love alone” (St. John of the Cross).
OUR LIFE, MODELED ON THE IDEAL OF
OUR HOLY MOTHER, ST. TERESA OF JESUS
“All my longing was and still is that since He has so many enemies and so few friends that these few friends be good ones. As a result I resolved to do the little that was in my power; that is, to follow the evangelical counsels as perfectly as I could and to strive that these few persons who live here do the same. I did this trusting in the great goodness of God, who never fails to help anyone who is determined to give up everything for Him. My trust was that these Sisters match the ideal my desires had set for them... Since we would all be occupied in prayer for the Church, we could help as much as possible this Lord of mine.... O my Sisters in Christ, help me to beg these things of the Lord. This is why He has gathered you together here. This is your vocation.” (St. Teresa; cf. Way of Perfection 1: 2 & 4)
“True to the ideal of their Holy Mother, the Discalced Carmelite Nuns live their contemplative ecclesial life in an atmosphere that integrates, on the one hand, solitude and silence, with a sisterly communion of life, on the other. This is lived in a family which is set up like the little College of Christ, centered on love for the Lord” (1991 Constitutions #11).
“All must be loved, all must be friends, all must be loved, all must be held dear, all must be helped” (St. Teresa; Way of Perfection 4: 7).
“It was a great delight for me to consider my soul as a garden and reflect that the Lord was taking His walk in it” (St. Teresa; Life 14: 9).
“Prayer must permeate your entire existence. . . . In that way you walk in the presence of the living God, put faith, hope and love unceasingly into practice and make your entire life a prayerful quest for union with God” (1991 Constitutions #61).
“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 pervades the entire Carmelite vocation” (1991 Constitutions #53).
“My daughters, trust in the merits of God’s Son and of the Virgin, His glorious Mother, whose habit both you and I unworthily wear.... What a good thing it is that we have her for our Patroness” (St. Teresa; Interior Castle 3M: 1 #3).
“At the heart of community life is the abiding presence of Christ, whom Holy Mother Teresa calls ‘our Companion in the Most Blessed Sacrament’ ” (1991 Constitutions #67).
“We have Him so near in the Blessed Sacrament. . . . Behold Him, our Companion in the most Blessed Sacrament; it doesn’t seem it was in His power to leave us even for a moment” (St. Teresa; Life 22: #6).
“Prayer is an intimate sharing between friends, a frequent lingering in solitude with Him who we know loves us” (St. Teresa; Life 8 #5).
“Consider that our soul is like a castle made entirely out of a diamond or of very clear crystal, in which there are many rooms, just as in heaven there are many dwelling places. For in reflecting upon it carefully, Sisters, we realize that the soul of the just person is nothing else but a paradise where the Lord says He finds His delight. . . . In the center and middle of this castle is the main dwelling place where the very secret exchanges between God and the soul take place” (St. Teresa; cf. Interior Castle 1M: 1 #1 & 3).
“All one need do is go into solitude and look at Him within oneself” (St. Teresa; Way of Perfection 28: 2).
“The soul can place itself in the presence of Christ and grow accustomed to being inflamed with love for His sacred humanity. It can keep Him present and speak with Him” (St. Teresa; Life 12 #2).
“Whoever lives in the presence of so good a friend and excellent a leader, who went ahead of us to be the first to suffer, can endure all things. The Lord helps us, strengthens us and never fails; He is a true friend.... What more do we desire than to have such a good friend at our side?” (St. Teresa; Life 22 #6).
“ ‘Earn your own bread by silent toil (2 Thes. 3: 7-12).’ This is the way to foster holiness and goodness: see that you follow it” (Rule #17).
“Know that if you are in the kitchen the Lord walks among the pots and the pans...helping you interiorly as well as exteriorly” (St. Teresa; Foundations).
“The ceaseless quest for God in solitude is like an exodus into the desert. God draws and guides us there in order to speak to our heart. . . . Holy Mother Teresa from the beginning of her reform, chose the enclosed life as both an expression and a means of following Christ according to the evangelical counsels, in the original contemplative vocation of Carmel.” (1991 Constitutions #105 & 107)
“ The Prioress is placed at the head of the Teresian Community. . . . By serving in the Sisters the design of love of the Father she is a bond of union and of charity among them; she leads them, guides them and accompanies them in the path of their vocation” (1991 Constitutions #210).
“Hold your Prior in humble reverence, your minds not on him but on Christ who has placed him over you. . . ” (Rule #20).
“I know that there is no lack of love in me and of the desire that the souls of my Sisters may advance in the service of the Lord” (St. Teresa; Way of Perfection - Prologue #3).
“In His name I beg you, my daughters and Sisters, that each one who enters in the future bear in mind that with her the observance of the primitive rule of the Virgin, our Lady, begins again.” (St. Teresa; Foundations 2 #11)
Discalced Carmelite Nuns, Lafayette, Louisiana