The charism of Discalced Carmelites is unique in its origins, which can be traced back to the Old Testament. The example of the prophet Elijah inspired the first Carmelites to seek God with single-minded devotion on Mount Carmel in the Holy Land. These hermits were granted a rule of life between 1206 and 1214. Historical circumstances forced them to migrate from the Holy Land to Europe for survival. The Carmelite spirit and ideals survived through the changes of the centuries in spite of laxity in many communities.
In 1562, St. Teresa of Avila established the Monastery of St. Joseph, regenerating Carmel in a renewed spirit of Elijah and Mary. Prayer, eremitic life in a community setting, meditation on God’s Word leading to contemplation, intimate relationship with the Lord, and extraordinary charity among the members constituted the life of Carmel monks and nuns. It required deep love of Jesus Christ and personal discipline to be faithful to the way of prayer, to live and grow in such charity and virtue that one’s life of prayer would be apostolic and effective for the whole Church
Saint Teresa writes, “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 I result I resolved to do the little that was in my power, that is, to follow the evangelical counsels as perfectly as I could 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.”
The Primitive Rule of the Order describes Carmelites as “meditating on the law of the Lord day and night and keeping watch in prayer.” This means liturgical prayer in the name of the Church as well as private personal prayer. It means prayer is the accompaniment for the duties of everyday. It means prayer is sparked by spiritual reading and study. Prayer carries over into a loving relationship of service with one’s sisters throughout the day. A Carmelite is a pray er; her life is a prayer, her prayer is her apostolate.