Discalced Carmelite Nuns: The Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel
St. Teresa of Avila turned to the Primitive Rule and the life of the early hermits on Mt. Carmel as her inspiration and ideal in founding the Discalced Carmelite Order. Her intent was to create a style of life where the atmosphere would help preserve silence and solitude and foster the balance of solitude and community she desired. In contrast to her experience at the Monastery of the Incarnation where she originally entered religious life and where there were many religious, Teresa felt that smaller numbers would support a family-like spirit among the sisters, where all would be respected and treated as equals. For this reason, our communities do not ordinarily exceed 21 in number.
We are praying communities, where friendship with Christ is the glue that binds us together as sisters and friends in community. “Since prayer must be the foundation of this house, it is necessary that we devote ourselves to what most helps us in prayer’ (Way Ch.4-9). To encourage this solitude, our monasteries include spaces for withdrawal, oftentimes hermitages, where we can be alone with God for days of recollection or times of retreat. Our life of prayer embraces “the joys and hopes, the grief and anguish of the people of our time.” “Let us desire to be occupied in prayer not for the sake of our enjoyment but so as to have this strength to serve.” (Interior castle VII :4 11)
Through her own experience and understanding, St. Teresa became a gifted teacher and guide in the spiritual life, first of all, to her own sisters. She left us The Way of Perfection, the autobiography of her Life, the Book of Foundations, the Interior Castle, her Spiritual Testimonies, and poetry, as well as hundreds of letters with advice on everything from medicine to finance to the spiritual life. In her writings we experience a dialogue between herself, the reader and God, in which she frequently breaks off from conversation with the reader to speak to “His Majesty.” Today, Teresa’s writings continue to guide and encourage us on our own journey toward the hidden center of our being where God dwells in sacred silence.
Is God calling you to the life of a Discalced Carmelite nun? Here are the websites for the Associations of Discalced Carmelite Nuns in the United States. Just click on the association name. Although they do not comprise a complete list of the Carmels in the United States, as there are monasteries that do not belong to an association, they can help at the beginning of your discernment.
St. Teresa Association
Mary, Queen of Carmel Association
Carmelite Communities Associated
The St. Joseph Association