Discalced Carmelite Friars

Province of St. Thérèse

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Teresian Charism

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St. Teresa of Jesus (also known as St. Teresa of Avila) lived in Sixteenth Century Spain. At this time, the Church in Spain was experiencing a time both of renewal and of challenge. The directives of the Church's Council of Trent were being implemented to strengthen and restore unity to a Church that was experiencing division in many parts of Europe. Religious life was experiencing a renewal, with the founding of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) by St. Ignatius of Loyola, and the renewal of Orders such as the Franciscans and Dominicans.

During these times, St. Teresa, who entered the Carmelite Order in 1536, received mystical graces from the Lord, who led her to undertake the renewal of the Order of Carmel and to make prayer and contemplation its total commit­ment. The renewed Carmel - like the "little flock" in the Gospel - was to be made up of a chosen few, totally pledged to living the Gospel and keeping the "primitive Rule" of St. Albert in solitude, and strict poverty.

As St. Teresa was mystically led to a deeper knowledge and, as it were, "experience" of the life of the Church, its trials and sufferings, the recent break-up of its unity and especially the profanation of the Eucharist and the Priesthood, she stressed more and more the apostolic spirit of the renewal of Carmel that she was leading. Its prayer, its withdrawal from the world, indeed the whole life of the first group of St. Teresa's associates, were to be dedicated to the service of the Church.

Finally the renewed Carmel's vocation was fully and clearly defined when the saint's growing experience of the Church focused her attention on those who had not yet had the Gospel preached to them, especially the indigenous peoples of the Americas. Then the immense prospects of the missions dawned on her. As a result, her apostolic spirit fully evolved, and she made up her mind not only to have the first group of her fellow nuns spread out into other foundations, but to include in her project a group of friars who would share in the same evangelical spirit.

St. Teresa's aim in founding a family of friars was to foster the fidelity and spiritual growth of her nuns through the assistance of brothers of the same spirit, and to provide the Church with a manifold service of prayer and apos­tolic activity.

The way of life St. Teresa proposed was marked with a distinctive style and character. She wanted social virtues and human values to be duly fostered. She incul­cated a joyous family spirit, affability in community life, nobility of soul and mutual respect. Our young religious were to be carefully trained; study and culture were to be encouraged. The ascetical practices of our com­munities were to be at the service of a deeper theological life, and geared to the demands of the apostolic ministry. There was to be a bond of unity between our communities and of evangelical friendship between our religious.

To achieve this, Providence gave St. Teresa an associate, St. John of the Cross. When she first became acquainted with him and found that the Holy Spirit had already given him the same aspirations as herself, she told him of her plan for spiritual renewal within the Order of our Lady. She led him to share in her spirit and put before him the pattern of life she had introduced for her nuns. The first foundation of the Discalced Carmelite Friars was made in the small village of Duruelo, Spain, during Advent of 1568.

Together, St. Teresa of Jesus and St. John of the Cross introduced a renewed lifestyle into Car­mel, both among the friars and the nuns, and as it were, laid anew the foundations of the Order.