A CARMELITE is called to live in radical openness to God and in solidarity with our world, so that her life becomes a place where the outpouring love of God and the longings of humanity meet.
We will spend this week under the patronage of St Teresa of Jesus, the great reformer of Carmel and teacher of the ways of prayer.
When St Teresa founded the Carmel of St Joseph in Avila she was seeking, first of all, the quiet and seclusion that would protect and nourish the life of prayer and growing union with God to which she felt drawn. Then, in her concern for the Church, torn apart in the early decades of the Reformation, she came to understand that a committed life of prayer and of intimacy with God had the power to strengthen the Church from within, as it were, and to aid those more actively engaged in defending the faith.
These are the two essential elements of every Carmelite vocation: a call to live in close relationship with God and, flowing from that, perhaps in a more gradual development as was the case with St Teresa, a desire to be at the service of the Church and of all God’s people through a life of prayer and self-offering to God.
Read and Reflect: 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… (St Teresa. Way of Perfection. 1:2)
For mental prayer in my opinion is nothing else than an intimate sharing between friends; it means taking time frequently to be alone with him who we know loves us. (St Teresa. Life. 8:5)
Since we would all be occupied in prayer for those who are the defenders of the church and for preachers and for learned men who protect her from attack, we could help as much as possible this Lord of mine who is so roughly treated by those for whom he has done so much good. (St Teresa. Way of Perfection 1:2)
To raise the hands in prayer is to start an uprising against the disorder in the world. (Karl Barth)
Questions: Write down your answers, however incomplete or inadequate they may seem to you to be.
Are you looking for a way of life in which you can give yourself totally to God?
Do you believe that a life of prayer can be of benefit to others?
Do you feel drawn to be part of a community of contemplative women?
St Teresa found it important to establish strict cloister as part of her reform. Why do you think this is an important aspect of Carmelite life?
Are you aware that some apostolic congregations combine an external ministry with a contemplative spirituality? Is that an option that appeals to you?
Lectio: John 4: 1-26 (a favourite passage of St Teresa) Use this passage every day this week, reading it over again, pausing whenever a phrase or word holds your attention. You may find that different aspects become meaningful for you as the days pass, or the same word or phrase may remain significant for you.
Find out (if you do not already know) where you nearest Carmelite monastery is and check out their website if they have one. (For the UK you will find them listed here, http://carmelitenuns.uk and most other countries will have their own list)
Listen to the podcasts of St Teresa’s teaching on prayer:
I am Yours and born for You,
What do You want of me?
Yours, You made me,
Yours, You saved me,
Yours, You endured me,
Yours, You called me,
Yours, You awaited me,
Yours, I did not stray.
What do You want of me?