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The Teresian Charism

FOR THE DISCALCED CARMELITE NUNS The Teresian Charism Vatican Council II, speaking about religious life,

Vatican Council II, speaking about religious life, highlighted its charismatic nature by defining the evangelical counsels as "a gift of God which the Church has received from her Lord and which by his grace she always safeguards" (LG 43). This gift, attributed to the renewing action of the Holy Spirit, finds concrete expression in those outstanding men and women (LG 45) who have given new religious families to the Church which has then officially authorized them (LG 45 and PC 1).

The Council speaks of "the spirit and aims of the founders" which characterize the particular nature of each religious family in the Church (PC 2 and 7-10) and which must be "known and observed".

The document Mutuae Relationes offers us a description of charism in these words: "The charism of the Founders is the fruit of the Holy Spirit (Cf. Ev. Test. n.11) passed on to their disciples who must put it into practice, safeguard it, deepen it and develop it constantly in harmony with the Body of Christ in perennial growth (Mut. Relat. n.11).

Following this doctrinal inspiration, the Constitutions of the Discalced Carmelite nuns have a lengthy consideration of the Teresian charism. This synthesizes the foundational process in the experience of Holy Mother, rooted in the tradition of Carmel, while highlighting the charism's essential values.

Numbers 4-11 of the Constitutions, linked with nn. 1-3 which speak of the origins of our vocation, describe in synthesis this fruit of the Spirit which our Holy Mother received, which is recorded in her autobiographical and doctrinal writings and confirmed by the testimony of the first nuns. An attentive reading of the text of the Constitutions, compared with the abundant notes to each number, enables us to evaluate the spiritual experience which gave birth to the Teresian Carmel.


1. - A providential preparation

The definition of the charism as "a fruit of the Spirit" permits us to broaden our vision of the foundational process so that we do not concentrate on events only but rather on the person who experienced them. The consideration of the charismatic process of our religious family in the Church begins with the person of Teresa of Jesus herself, who was chosen by God for this mission and who was brought by Him through her spiritual experience to the achievement of his designs. From this viewpoint, we can say that the Book of her Life as a whole, in which we are given the "story of grace" of our Holy Mother, is the spiritual nucleus from which must begin the entire description of the foundational process. Chapters 32-36, in which are described specifically the story of the foundation of St. Joseph's, are the peak expression of a grace process, the beginnings of which are to be found in Teresa's autobiography.

For all those who have received the grace of being called by God to follow Teresa, the entire book of the Life is important for an understanding of the foundational process and also for a fitting identification with the experience of our Holy Mother . In fact, the providential vision of her whole life, from her very infancy, the chapters in which she tells about her religious vocation and her experiences at the monastery of the Incarnation, the grace of her conversion and the series of mystical experiences which follow this decisive moment, the growing awareness of the mystery of

the Church and of her own present life, are all the "prologue" and the "preparation" for the foundation of St. Joseph's. The tract on prayer itself (chs.8 and 11-22) constitutes the basis of what would later be the primordial commitment of Teresa and of her daughters in St. Joseph's. The final pages of the autobiography were written in the peace of the house of St. Joseph's, among "a few holy companions" (L 40:22), and they reflect the living out of a charism in total continuity with all of the previous writing.

Carmelite religious life cannot be understood correctly as being grounded in tradition together with the charismatic freshness of St. Joseph's, Avila, without an attentive reading of all Saint Teresa has to say in the Book of her Life about her religious vocation (ch.3,5-7), her first years as a Carmelite, her experience of religious life in the Incarnation, with her critical evaluation of it and herself.(L 5-7; 13:8-9; 31:23-24). Teresa was able to experience Carmelite religious life in the Incarnation. She was nourished at the founts of the spirituality of Carmel. In the atmosphere of its liturgy and popular devotions she breathed the primitive ideal. Her keen perception and her openness of spirit enabled her to penetrate beyond what she saw and practiced, so that she was able to return to the origins of the Order to become one with the high ideals of the ancient Fathers, to the point where she felt the desire to renew the Order of our Lady. It was from these founts and these concerns that was born, as a providential preparation, her charism of Foundress.

On the other hand, her urge to communicate, her ability to enthuse others with her ideals from the

first years of her religious life (Cf. L 6:3-4), her initial leadership in teaching about prayer (Cf. L 7:13) reveal Teresa as a person qualified to create a group around her. This quality passes through

a test of solitude which makes her throw herself into the worldly dissipation of the parlour and at the

same time makes her long for a kind of religious life where mutual support in the service of the Lord would be the norm of life (Cf. L 7:20-22). In this story of the spiritual friendships of Teresa, who meets as channels of spiritual communication the friends whom God sends her ("the five of us who at present love each other in Christ", Cf. L 16:7), and in the group of nuns which has her cell for its centre within the community of the Incarnation , an ambience was created within which the idea of a new monastery germinated. It is significant that before the famous "velada" (an evening get-

together) in the Incarnation when the idea of St. Joseph's arose, the Saint recalls this fact: "since I was sharing with some of the nuns what those with whom I was consulting were teaching me, much good was being done" (L 32:9). Her confessor, Fr. Ibáñez, in the "Dictamen" which he wrote in her favour, will testify to the spiritual influence of Teresa in her monastery with these words: "So great

is the profit to her soul from these things and the great edification that she gives by her example,

that over forty nuns are enjoying lofty recollection in her house" (B.M.C. II, p.131).

Without any doubt, a place of honour must be given in the charismatic preparation to the mystical graces which mark her supernatural ascent after her conversion. Indeed, the grace of personal "new life" which gives her conversion the character of an inner renewal, (Cf. L 23:1) is followed by affective freedom (Cf. L 24:5-7), the first words of Christ (Cf. L 25), Christ's promise to be a living book for Teresa (Cf. L 26:5), the vision of the Resurrected (Cf. L 27-28), the experience of the infusion of love purifying and enlarging the ability to love (Cf. L 29: 13-14), an awareness of the mystery of evil (Cf. L 31). We are, then, in the presence of a fullness of spiritual life and mystical experience. The birth of the Teresian charism comes from this spiritual abundance and from this spousal maturity.

These references to the providential preparation are intended to show how correct is the compact synthesis with which n.4 of the Constitutions begins: "The beginning of the Teresian family within Carmel, and the meaning of its vocation in the Church, are bound up closely with the development of the spiritual life of Saint Teresa".

2. - The charismatic origin (Const. n.4)

The account of the beginning of the monastery of St. Joseph is inset in a flow of mystical graces. A careful reading of the Teresian text of the five long chapters she gives to this event (L 32-36) will yield pleasant surprises for us. The backdrop of this account is remarkable for the same conviction:

it was all God's doing; it is He who was the protagonist; the foundation of St. Joseph's was a work of God, a story of divine graces in the midst of human opposition. She is convinced that the whole thing has the characteristics of an authentic charism. Everything came from God. It is he who

wanted it and it is he who accomplished it. Teresa is conscious of a divine intervention

our attention on this moment, in the subsequent steps and in the primordial elements which characterize the charism in its origin.

Let us fix

a) Teresa's concern and response

Chapter 32 of the Life recounts a series of events which, in a very effective and proximate way, prepare in the heart of Teresa the inspiration to found St. Joseph's in Avila, before the Lord explicitly commanded it.

- The vision of hell (L 32:1-5) rekindles apostolic longings and desires to please God in Teresa's

heart: "From this experience also flow the great impulses to help souls and the extraordinary pain that is caused me by the many that are condemned (especially the Lutherans, for they were through

baptism members of the Church). It seems certain to me that in order to free one alone from such appalling torments I would suffer many deaths very willingly" (ib.6).

- There arises a personal disquiet which wavers between the desire to respond to God with all her

being, to do penance or to flee far away: "I was desiring to flee people and withdraw completely from the world" (ib.7-8).

- There is a glimmer of a first response: "I was thinking about what I could do for God, and I

thought that the first thing was to follow the call to religious life, which His Majesty had given me, by keeping my rule as perfectly as I could" (ib.9). Disquiet leads to realism: to be a perfect Carmelite religious. But the circumstances of the monastery and her own personal situation led her to see that she could not respond to God perfectly in this place.

- The idea which is born of spiritual communion opens up a new channel: "It happened once while I

was with someone that she mentioned to me and to others in the group that if we couldn't be nuns like the Discalced, it would still be possible to found a monastery" (ib.10). The idea arises as a sequence to what was already being practiced in draft form around Teresa, in her cell at the Incarnation. The idea came from the young María de Ocampo, the future María Bautista, who thus recalls the decisive moment: "One day in the cell of Holy Mother Teresa of Jesus while we were considering, jokingly, how to reform the Rule which was observed in that monastery, which was that of our Lady of Mount Carmel, mitigated, and to set up some monasteries like the hermits, just like the primitive one founded by our ancient Holy Fathers where this Rule was observed first, I joined in, enjoying the discussion, since it was a matter of importance, and I said to the Holy Mother that I would help with a thousand ducats so that it could begin" (Cf. Tomás de la Cruz - Simeón de la S. Familia, O.C.D., La Reforma Teresiana, Teresianum, Rome 1962, pp.210-211; we will cite this book with the abbrev. RT).

- However, the indecision continued for Teresa who wavered between desire, fear, attachment to

her community her personal situation: "Since I was having these desires, I began to discuss the


it was very much to my liking and the cell in which I lived was just what I wanted, I was still delaying. Nevertheless, we agreed to pray fervently to God over the matter" (ib.10).

Yet since, on the other hand, I was perfectly content in the house in which I was because

b) God's desire

In the account of the origin of the foundation of St. Joseph's it is striking to note God's interventions, his words, his indications, the apparitions of Christ. This supernatural origin, strongly stressed by Teresa, shows us that we have here a charism, a grace for the Church. It is worth recalling some of these interventions, which underline God's interest in the foundation of the Teresian Carmel and demand fidelity to something which he himself planned

- The first words and promises. A central moment of the charism is the event narrated by the Saint:

"One day after Communion, His Majesty earnestly commanded me to strive for this new monastery with all my powers, and He made great promises that it would be founded and that He would be

highly served in it. He said it would be called St. Joseph

orders the foundation, assures his protection and illuminates with his promises a future of grace. In the words of the Lord, transmitted by the Saint, there is the revelation of a project cherished by him, thought out in all its details, even the title: "And that this saint would keep watch over us at

one door, and our Lady at the other, that Christ would remain with us, and that it would be a star "

shining with great splendour

Lady and St. Joseph; especially the promise "Christ would remain with us", which gives to the foundation of St. Joseph's the savour of an experience of the presence of Christ amidst his disciples,

according to the evangelical promise: "Where two or three meet in my name, I shall be there with them" (Matt. 18:20). Christ gives assurance that the new monastery will have a bright future in the Church. Against any appearance of reformist reaction, the words of the Lord are a defence of religious life, even with the shortcomings of which St. Teresa was aware: "He said that even though religious Orders were mitigated one shouldn't think He was little served in them: he asked what would become of the world were it not for religious" (L 32:11).


32:11). It is the Lord himself who

(ib.). We stress this type of "living together" and protection by our

- Other interventions. From this moment on, the Lord takes a hand in the matter with continuous interventions: "But often the Lord returned to speak to me about this new monastery, presenting

me with so many clear reasons and arguments that I saw it was His will." (L 32:12). On another occasion, when the first problems arose, he spoke words which were very significant for Teresa: "His Majesty began to console and encourage me. He told me that in this I would see what the saints

who had founded religious Orders had suffered

Frequently God reminded her that "I will fulfil what I have promised" (L 26:2). The chain of interventions lengthens (Cf. L 32:18; 33:3,8,10 and 12); it is the Lord who tells Teresa not to give obedience to the Order for the moment, and he suggests to her the way she can get permission from Rome. He insists on a foundation in absolute poverty (L 35:6 and 36:20). In the midst of the storm blown up by the foundation he assures her: "Don't you know that I am mighty? What do you fear?" (L 36:16).


Teresa also, then, was to be a Foundress.

c) A work of the Virgin Mary

Teresa's charism is also a gift of the Virgin, Mother and Patroness of Carmel. Together with the Lord, Mary takes part in the foundation of the new monastery. This is clear from the Marian grace received by St. Teresa (probably on August 15, 1561). From that beautiful vision, where St. Joseph also appeared and which can be considered a kind of Marian investiture enabling St. Teresa to serve the Church and Carmel (Cf. L 33:14-16), we recall the words of the Virgin which are an echo of those of Christ: "She told me I made her very happy in serving the glorious St. Joseph, that I should believe that what I was striving for in regard to the monastery would be accomplished, that the Lord and those two would be greatly served by it, that I shouldn't fear there would ever be any failure in this matter even though the obedience which was to be given was not to my liking, because they would watch over us, and that her Son had already promised us He would be with us, that as a sign that this was true she was giving me a jewel" (ib.14).

d) The approval of the Church

When the problems of the future jurisdiction of the monastery had been solved, from Rome the Church approved with its authority, by means of several successive documents, the foundation of St. Joseph's in Avila thus giving the Church recognition which guarantees every charism as a service to ecclesial sanctity. On February 7, 1562, the Apostolic Penitentiary signed the Brief of Foundation "Ex parte vestra" (Doc. in RT, pp.139-146), and this arrived in Avila at the beginning of July when the Saint returned from Toledo at the Lord's command (Cf. L 35:8 and 12; 36:1). The acceptance of the monastery by the bishop guaranteed the protection of the local Church; the intervention of St. Peter Alcántara was providential (Cf. L 36:2). This first roman Brief was followed by the one on absolute poverty to the "beloved daughters in Christ, abbess and nuns of the monastery of St.

Joseph in Avila, of the Order of our Lady of Mount Carmel" (Doc. of 5-XII-1562 in RT, pp.150-151). Then comes permission from the Nuncio for Teresa de Ahumada to reside in St. Joseph's (Doc. 21- VIII-1564), and finally a Bull of Pius IV "Cum a nobis" confirming all the previous Briefs, where the Saint for the first time is called "Teresa of Jesus", and granting her the right to draw up "statutes and ordinances" (Doc. 17-VII-1565 in RT, pp. 181-186). Teresa refers with devotion and trust to this approval of the Roman Pontiff which includes the option for absolute poverty in these words:

"For it had cost me no small amount of trouble that this observance of poverty would have all the backing and authority of the Holy Father behind it so that no one could change it that there never be any income" (L 33:13). (All the primitive official documents are in Mon. Hist. Carm. Ter., Documenta primigenia, I (1560-1577) pp. 22-23.31-32.43-47.48-53).

e) First ideal project

Of special importance in the story of the Teresian charism, is a letter Holy Mother sent to Quito, at the end of 1561, addressed to her brother Lorenzo de Cepeda. He was a providential benefactor who

sent from America the first financial resources for the new monastery. In this letter, Teresa traces her ideal with vigorous flourishes; these are the first strokes of an ideal which is taking shape in the heart and the mind of the Saint. Here we have some of the first intuitions: "I have been unable to

avoid doing this because the inspiration came from God

is the foundation of a monastery, where there will be only fifteen nuns, and this number is never to be added to; they will live in the strictest enclosure, never going out, and seeing no one without having veils over their faces, and the foundation of their lives will be prayer and mortification" (Letter, 23-XII,1561,2). The title of the house will be "St. Joseph" ("this is the name it must bear") and its state: "Poor and small though the house is, it has lovely views and grounds" (ib.3). A touch

of poverty, beauty, simplicity and recollection, in the external framework of the prayer life!

I must put all I can into this task, which

With regard to the future inhabitants, she writes: "I hope in the Lord that, if He allows the work to be finished, it will be to His great glory; and I think it undoubtedly will, for those who are to enter the monastery are the choicest souls, and such as will give the best of examples in humility, penitence and prayer" (ib.4).

f) The foundation

The Saint has described for us in great detail the story of the foundation of St. Joseph's, her joy at seeing the Blessed Sacrament reserved and the taking of the habit of the first four Discalced nuns:

"Well, with me it was like being in glory to see the Blessed Sacrament reserved and that four poor

orphans (for they didn't bring any dowry) and four great servants of God

accomplished that I knew was for the service of the Lord and to the honour of the habit of His glorious Mother - for these were my concerns. It also consoled me to have done what the Lord had so often given me the command to do; that there was another church in this city, dedicated to my glorious father St. Joseph, in whose honour none was yet built" (L 36:6). Here we have in synthesis the various reasons which had prompted her to found St. Joseph's.

and to see a work

Teresa wishes to show in her minute account of the events the paradox of the human opposition, even of good people, which could not obstruct God's work (Cf. the entire ch.36 of the Life).

g) Beginnings of the life

The picture of the origins of the charism is ideally completed with the testimonies which the Saint has left us about the first moments of the life in St. Joseph's, bereft of grace and experiences of God.

- Significant is the account of the return to the monastery of St. Joseph, after the events which had separated temporarily the first Discalced nuns: "Before entering the new monastery, while in prayer outside in the church, being almost in rapture, I saw Christ who seemed to be receiving me with great love and placing a crown on my head and thanking me for what I did for His Mother" (L

36:24). The Lord, who had promised to remain with the Discalced nuns, again receives Teresa on her return. The Marian note of the foundation is also expressed in this grace of the first days:

"Another time while all were at prayer in choir after compline, I saw our Lady in the greatest glory clothed in a white mantle; it seemed she was sheltering us all under it. I understood how high a degree of glory the Lord would give to those living in this house" (ib.).

- The supernatural environment is reflected thus: the house of St. Joseph is "a little dwelling corner

for God. I believe this is what it is; it is an abode in which His Majesty delights, for He once said to

me while I was in prayer that this house was a paradise of delight for Him" (L 35:12). The words of the Lord to Teresa evoke well-known biblical expressions going back to the choice of the People of God and the promise to make his abode in it and to dwell with it permanently (Cf. Lev. 26:11, Ex.37:27). Peace, joy and sweetness are the spiritual atmosphere of the new monastery (Cf. L 36:

25, 29): "everything is borne with ease", "it is very clearly seen to be bearable and can be carried out calmly. The main disposition required for always living in this calm is the desire to rejoice solely in Christ, one's Spouse. This is what they must always have as their aim: to be alone with Him "

alone. And there should be no more than thirteen in the house

(L 36:29).

- In this poor house where Teresa wrote the final redaction of the book of her Life (Cf. L 10:7 and

14:8), she found a "haven" after the storms of the previous years. For her it is a "little corner so

enclosed", a "safe refuge", where she is among "a few holy companions". In these phrases we have

a kind of eschatological anticipation: "I observe as though from on high", "it seems to me that I am

dreaming what I see", and of course the apostolic desire is strong: "Moreover, I would like some soul to profit a little by all that can be said about me. Since I have been living in this house, the Lord

has been pleased that all my desires converge upon this one desire"; and therefore she ends the

book of her Life with these sentiments, addressed to Fr. García de Toledo: "This is the way in which

I now live, my Lord and Father. May your Reverence beg God that He either take me to Himself or show me how to serve Him" (L 40:21-23).

- This is the same atmosphere described by the Saint in ch. 1 of the Foundations and nicely summed

up in the well-known remark of the Way of Perfection 13, 7: "This house is a heaven, if one can be

had on earth. Here we have a very happy life if one is pleased only with pleasing God and pays no attention to her own satisfaction". Two outside testimonies confirm the Teresian description. The

first comes to us through St. John of the Cross, speaking about María de Cristo, one of the first

Discalced nuns of St. Joseph's: "Our Lord communicated with her a good deal in prayer

told our Mother Teresa of Jesus that those twelve religious were twelve very pleasing flowers in his sight; that His Majesty held them in his hand" (Cf. B.M.C. V, p.7 or in RT, p.208). The second is that of Isabel de Santo Domingo who in an unpublished account writes about the beginnings: "One observed the presence of our Lord in the consolation and contentment which everyone enjoyed and this made it easy to bear the poverty".


our Lord

h) A look back

When the Bull of Pius IV "Dilectis in Christo" arrived on July 17, 1565, Teresa looked back to see how all the Lord's promises were duly accomplished and she praises him for his fidelity and for having remedied her imperfections (Cf. L39:14). The account of the foundation of St. Joseph's ends on a characteristic note which reflects the fulfillment of God's promises and the establishment of the new life now beginning:

- ecclesial resonance: "Once the liturgical Offices were initiated the people began to grow very devoted to this house" (L 36:25);

- abundance of vocations: "More nuns were accepted" (ib.);

- hostilities cease: "The Lord started to inspire our most vigorous persecutors to show us much

favour; and they gave us alms"

- evidence that it was God's work: "They said that now they knew the house was a work of God

since in spite of so much opposition His Majesty desired the foundation to go forward. And there

isn't anyone at present who doesn't think it was right to let the house be founded



stability of the Carmelite ideal: "We observe the rule of our Lady of Mount Carmel and keep it "


without mitigation

- the atmosphere of evangelical perfection: "Their conversation is about how they can make

progress in the service of God. Solitude is their comfort

of God




(ib. 26 and 29);

language allows them to speak only

- God's promises for the spiritual prosperity and fecundity of the monastery: "I hope in the Lord that what has been begun will prosper, as His Majesty has told me it would" (ib.27). Thus Teresa saw a grace of God for the Church of which she was a witness and of which she also wished to be an "evangelist", telling of the wonders worked by God.

3. - Ecclesial development (Const. 5)

Open to the fruit of the Spirit, the Teresian charism goes on to receive fresh impulses: "The

progressive experience by which the Saint fathoms and, as it were, interiorizes the life of the Church

- its sorrows, the fresh sundering of its unity and, above all, the profanation of the Eucharist and the priesthood - contributed to the development and clarification of the original project" (Const. 5).

a) Original apostolic orientation

The apostolic ideal and ecclesial service are not foreign to the beginnings of the charism (Cf. L 32:6). The book of her Life reflects her ecclesial awareness and her knowledge of the disunity which

separated the Lutherans from the ecclesial trunk. There are references to the evils in the Church (Cf.

L 7:5; 13:10,21) and an openness to the desire to serve the Lord in the Church of God by prayer

(Cf. L 15:7; 40:12). Ecclesial service is seen as Teresa's ardent desire in the final pages of the book (Cf. L 40:15: "Happy the lives lost for such a purpose", that is, in serving God "in the extreme need the Church is now in").

In the first Spiritual Testimonies the apostolic ideal of service to the Church is taking shape: "I feel in me the greatest desire, more than usual, that God have persons, especially learned men, who

serve Him with complete detachment

afflict me so much that it seems to me silly to feel sorrow about anything else - I don't do anything but pray to God for these persons" (ST. 3:7). "It seems to me I would stand up alone against all Lutherans in order to make them understand their error. I greatly grieve over the perdition of so many souls" (ib.8; Cf. ST. 4:6,10).

Since I'm aware of the great needs of the Church - for these

However, we must come to the redaction of the pages of the Way of Perfection to get the full impact of the ecclesial experience of the Saint in face of the great evils of the Church, the reference to the "harm being done in France" and to the "havoc the Lutherans have caused" (W 1:2). The deep emotion aroused by these events translates into a response of radical fidelity to the Gospel and to an apostolic orientation for the nascent Carmel.

b) An intense experience of Church

When Teresa begins to write the Way of Perfection her experience of the Church was in full flood. The words she writes, the emotion with which she expresses her pain, the fervour with which she proposes to the nuns of St. Joseph's her ecclesial and apostolic ideal, all reveal the intensity of her sorrow; there is a great spiritual stirring in the Mother Foundress, as if her heart were the sounding- box of these happenings; she conveys these same sentiments to her daughters as if the future of the Church were in the hands of a few nuns. The primitive ideal grows and its ecclesial orientation is clarified.

A careful reading of chs. 1 and 3 of the Way of Perfection gives us an exact measure of this

charismatic development which creates in the Church the originality of a contemplative life totally given to the service of the Church, through prayer and consistency of life. We can note some of its features in the Teresian exposition:

- "In the beginning

her life from the first moment when the idea of founding St. Joseph's was born and the subsequent ecclesial experience. It is not easy to determine the exact moment when Teresa began to experience so intensely the evils of the Church. In 1562 the religious wars between Catholics and Huguenots began again. The alarming news reached the Council of Trent, and Philip II conveyed it to the monasteries of Castile. Teresa must have participated deeply in all of this consciencization, since her words reecho the descriptions of the events contained in the documents of the time.

At this time". The Saint clearly indicates the development brought about in

- "The harm being done in France and the havoc the Lutherans had caused". The words used by the

Saint show that she sees these events as a tragedy for the Church, with all the severity of her words: she calls the Lutherans of that time "this miserable sect" (W 1:2); she looks at the tragic

they want to

ravage His Church

now present on earth; above all, this identification becomes more real when she looks at the Eucharist and the profanations of it: for "nowadays these heretics have so little regard for the Blessed Sacrament that they take away its dwelling places by destroying churches" (W 3:8). In another passage Teresa sums up her information with this description: "the very great evil and disrespect committed and shown in places where this most Blessed Sacrament is present among those Lutherans, where churches are destroyed, so many priests lost, and the sacraments taken away" (W 35:3). Added to this is her intense inner participation with all her emotions: "The news distressed me greatly" (W 1:2); "I cried to the Lord and begged Him that I might remedy so much evil" (ib.); "My heart breaks to see how many souls are lost" (ib.4).

state of the Church: "The world is all in flames; they want to sentence Christ again "

(ib.5). Teresa identifies Christ and the Church, because the Church is Christ

- St. Teresa's response. Inner emotion and intense prayer are not enough. Teresa looks for ways in

which to serve the Church. Her desires are limitless: "It seemed to me that I would have given a thousand lives to save one soul out of the many that are being lost there" (W 1:2); just as on other occasions Teresa's call to martyrdom in the service of God and the Church for the good of souls comes to the fore (Cf. L 32:6; 33:5; ST 4:6). Her possibilities are limited: "I realized I was a woman and wretched and incapable of doing any of the useful things I desired to do in the service of the Lord" (W 1:2). The fact that she was a woman and a nun made it impossible for her to give God the response that she wished to give. And so her providential resolve similar to what she had already referred to in principle, but this time in the company of her nuns : "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" (W 1:2). Teresa and her daughters.

- "To be of such a kind": prayer and life. Teresa of Jesus creates a new formula of religious life in

the service of the Church: a praying community at the service of the Mystical Body of Christ, for priests and learned men "the defenders of the Church", but supported by an authentic life-style, for a totalitarian ideal which Teresa calls in various places "to be of such a kind" (Cf. W 1:2; 3:1,2,5; 4:1). This is the "task", at once vital and prayerful, of the Teresian Carmel. Hence the call to prayer is peremptory: "Help me beg these things of the Lord. This is why He has gathered you together here. This is your vocation. These must be the business matters you're engaged in. These must be the things you desire, the things you weep about; these must be the objects of your petitions" (W "

1:5); "all occupied in prayer for those who are the defenders of the Church

exhortation to prayer and way of living that Teresa repeats throughout ch.3 when she is developing the theme of the "chosen group", committed fully to God and to the evangelical life, constantly interceding for the Church and its greatest servants. In this text, after the previous exhortations, Teresa herself becomes a petitioner and intercessor for the Church (Cf. W 3:7-8), and she ends with the well-known defense of Carmelite life in its ecclesial orientation, writing in fiery terms: "And when your prayers, disciplines, and fasts are not directed towards obtaining these things I have mentioned, reflect on how you are not accomplishing or fulfilling the purpose for which the Lord brought you here together" (ib.10).

(ib.2). This is the

- "The great task": The ideal traced out in the first chapters is realized in the internal structure of the life and pedagogy of the Teresian Carmel outlined by the Saint throughout the Way of Perfection. This is how chapter 4 begins: "Now, daughters, you have seen the great task we have

undertaken. What do you think we must be like if we are not to be considered very bold by God and the world?". Prayer and life are the key words in the Teresian ideal: a life of silence, austerity, communion, detachment, poverty and humility, as indicated by the virtues proposed by the Saint in the first chapters of the Way of Perfection (chs. 4-15). A life which is the measure of "being contemplative", according to the Teresian concept (W 16-18), and which determines the vocation to prayer and contemplation, with its practical pedagogy and its vital demands, as set out by Holy Mother in the Way of Perfection (chs. 19-42).

c) The testimony of the first Discalced nuns

We can record here how the first Discalced nuns perceived the Teresian inheritance, especially in the Processes of Beatification and Canonization. From the lengthy series of testimonies we select just a few (Cf. in RT, pp. 268-326).

- Isabel de Santo Domingo stated: "She knows, also, that this was the principal purpose and motive

which Holy Mother had in this foundation: because in the counsels and talks which the Saint gave to her religious she told them that they were not fulfilling their vocation and way of life if they did not take great care with the practice of prayer, and to commend in it to our Lord all the needs of the Church. And she also knows that with the outbreak of many heresies in Flanders, Germany, England and in other kingdoms, in which the heretics destroyed the churches and monasteries, that she heard Holy Mother saying frequently that she was very concerned that in such calamitous times that

our Lord should be served, and she wished to contribute to the building, in many towns and kingdoms, of other houses and churches where the Blessed Sacrament would be reserved, respected and reverenced" (B.M.C. 19, p.470).

- Ana de los Angeles said: "She knows that the Holy Mother had as her principal purpose in this

foundation, as in the others, to help the Catholic Church with her prayers. She knows this because she heard Mother Ana de San Bartolomé saying that when a religious does not show great love for the good of the Church and the conversion of souls, even though she be very penitential or given to the practice of other virtues, all of this she considered of little importance but rather she was considered suspect and not very dependable" (B.M.C. 19, p.557).

- María de San José explains: "This witness knows that the motive by which our Lord prompted

Mother Teresa to found these monasteries in the severity of the first rule of Carmel was especially to counteract the heretics in France, since she could not, being a woman, oppose them with


place of those which the heretics had destroyed in France

(Lobera) recalls: she wanted "people who would serve God with perfection and petition a remedy for His Church, because she was very saddened to see how the heretics were persecuting it at that time and the many churches they destroyed; and so it was very easy for her to bear many labours for the foundation of these monasteries" (ib. 463-464).


Teresa set herself with all her might to found and reform these monasteries in "

(B.M.C. 18, p.489). - Ana de Jesús

All these testimonies confirm the great Teresian intuition: the task of renewal in the service of the Church which in her language sometimes is tinged with terms of "spiritual struggle": "If we can

obtain some answers from God to these requests, we shall be fighting for Him even though we are very cloistered" (W 3:5). In fact, what is in question here is an inner violence calling for evangelical perfection, and this is manifested in the way of life, as well as the entire prayer-life being dedicated

to the service of the Church. It is a beautiful perception of Teresa that her nuns, as contemplatives,

carry the flag of perfection in this struggle; they hold aloft in the Church the ideal of Christian living


stimulate everyone to be faithful to the Gospel. They are the standard-bearers of the Church (Cf.


2:8; 18:5).

4. - Missionary fullness (Const. 6)

"The full measure of the vocation of the Teresian Carmel is the fruit of the experience by which Holy Mother was gradually enlightened about the mystery of the members still waiting to be united to the

Mystical Body of Christ. This experience led her to turn her gaze on the immense field of the missions" (Const. 6). A new experience expands even more the Saint's ecclesial horizon. The ecclesial dynamism which also involves the nuns of St. Joseph's is shown in this brief extract from ch. 1 of the Foundations:

"I tried to please the Lord with my poor prayers and always endeavored that the Sisters would do the same and dedicate themselves to the good of souls and the increase of His Church. Whoever conversed with them was always edified. And these were the things with which my great desires were fully taken up" (F 1:6). God's response comes with the visit of the Franciscan, Alonso Maldonado, a missionary who arrived from Mexico, the new Spain, to advocate the cause of the American Indians with the King and the Pope. This visit took place in the Summer of 1566. Not only

did the fiery missionary explain "about the many millions of souls that were being lost there for want of Christian instruction"; he was also bitterly critical of the conquistadors. The effect of his words on Saint Teresa was similar to what she had previously experienced at the spectacle of the division of Christians in Europe: "I was so grief-stricken over the loss of so many souls that I couldn't contain "

significant that she retired to a hermitage to alleviate her pain in prayer, with cries and entreaties of

(F 1:7). It is

myself. I went to a hermitage with many tears. I cried out to the Lord, begging Him

supplication for the salvation of souls.

This event enfleshes once again her apostolic concerns and desires to serve the Lord: "I was very envious of those who for love of our Lord were able to be engaged in winning souls, though they

might suffer a thousand deaths

the good of her neighbour: "This is the inclination the Lord has given me, for it seems to me that He

prizes a soul that through our diligence and prayer we gain for Him, through His mercy, more than all the services we can render Him" (F 1:7).


and she reveals her natural inclination, given by God, towards

The Lord's response was not long in coming. Once again, just as at the beginning of the foundation of St. Joseph's, we have his intervention with words of promise and hope: "Our Lord represented

Himself to me

little, daughter, and you will see great things'" (ib.8).

He showed me much love, manifesting His desire to comfort me, and said: 'Wait a

The visit of Fr. Rubeo, the General of the Order, in the Spring of 1567 gave Teresa the opportunity of opening her soul and revealing her apostolic concerns and her desires to found monasteries of Discalced Carmelite nuns (Cf. F 2:4-7). The concerns of St. Teresa would soon find in St. John of the Cross their exact fulfillment (F 3:17).

The Constitutions summarize this fact as follows: "In the light of these new prospects for the Church, the apostolic spirit of the Saint came to full flower, and her heart conceived the purpose of spreading the family of the first Discalced Carmelite nuns and of extending her work by founding the Discalced Carmelite Friars. The friars were to be partakers in the same spirit so that they might help the nuns to live their common vocation and themselves serve the Church through prayer and their apostolic action" (Const. 6).

These words show the unity of the charism of the Order and the common fount whence was born the Teresian Reform. Isabel de Santo Domingo, with her usual fidelity, gives us St. Teresa's thinking as follows: "She very much wanted that there should be Discalced Carmelite friars who would carefully engage in the practice of prayer and contemplation, and in preaching and confessions, because with both of these activities they would be very helpful to the Church of God" (B.M.C. 19, p.



The foundational process, the stages of which we have attempted to described by following the Constitutions, contributed to the enrichment of the Teresian charism by a series of spiritual values around which the ideal of life of the Discalced Carmelite nuns centered. These values have for their juridical stamp the primitive rule and the Teresian Constitutions, but they find more detailed

expression and richness in the writings of the Mother Foundress, in her practical counsels, and in the testimonies and memoirs of the first Discalced nuns.

1. - The juridical stamp

On completion of the account of the foundation of St. Joseph's, Teresa of Jesus cries out with pride:

"we observe the rule of our Lady of Mt. Carmel and keep it without mitigation as ordained by the Friar Cardinal Hugo of Saint Sabina and given in 1248, in the fifth year of the pontificate of Pope Innocent IV" (L 36:26). In the next article she refers to the complementary legislation: "they have other observances which seemed to us necessary in order to observe the rule with greater perfection" (L 36:27). What is in question are the Teresian Constitutions which, in line with the legislation of the Order and the new characteristics which Mother Teresa stamped on Carmel, very soon formed the juridical basis for life in St. Joseph's. She had received permission to do so in the foundation Brief, and it would seem that it is to these Constitutions that she is referring in the first chapters of the Way of Perfection (WE. 5:1; W 6:1; 4:1,4).

2. - The essential values

Numbers 7 to 11 of the Constitutions compactly synthesize the values or nucleus of the spiritual values which constituted the Teresian charism in its first formulation. This is a first synthesis of the elements of the charism which then are dealt with in the following chapters.

a. - The values of the Carmelite tradition

"As she carried out her work, the Saint intended faithfully to secure the continuity of Carmel" (Const. 7). This simple expression helps us to understand how the Teresian Carmel is based on the essential values of the Order which Teresa takes, renews and enriches from her personal experience. These values are:

- the principle of the rule and its spirit, especially the fundamental principle of prayer, solitude and the eremitical ideal, manual work, austerity and penance, the principle of absolute poverty (Cf. L 35:2-3; 36:26-27; W 4:2,9; 21:10).

- the Marian character of the Order is later expressed in a life devoted to the service of our Lady, in

tender and filial devotion, in imitation of the virtues of Mary (Cf. L 36:6,28; W 3:5,8;13:3; IC III. 1:3, etc.). It is a devotion which Teresa enriches from her experience.

- spiritual communion and continuity with the race of the holy Fathers of Carmel, seen as a model of

solitude, poverty and contemplation (W 2:7;11:4; IC V, 1:2; F, 14:4,5; Cons 32). Teresa frequently repeats the word which refers to the "memory" of the events and persons at the beginning of the Order: "Let us remember our holy Fathers of the past" and she considers herself a "descendant" of this spiritual "race" of Carmel.

b. - The contemplative orientation

Number 10 of the Constitutions points out the contemplative and theological character of the Carmelite vocation. Although prayer is the basis of the rule and insistence on the theological virtues are also characteristic of this valuable primitive text, Teresa of Jesus gave prayer all the meaning of her own contemplative and mystical experience. Therefore as the central nucleus of the values one must highlight:

- prayer as friendship with God, open, therefore, to all the possibilities and demands of communion with God; this is the way of prayer traced by Saint Teresa in the Way of Perfection and in the Interior Castle as an expression of her own spiritual life (Cf. L 8:5; Way and Interior Castle, passim);

- commitment to the practice of prayer as the high point of personal and community life and the

supreme value which gives hierarchy and order to all the other aspects of the life (W 17:1-2; 18:4;

21:10; Cons 2 and 7);

- the apostolic meaning of the life and practice of prayer as a special form of contemplative service in the Church (W 1 and 3).

c. - The following of Christ

The Teresian response to God's inspirations was expressed from the beginning in a sturdy evangelism: "to follow the evangelical counsels as perfectly as I could" (W 1:2). The following of Christ is a forceful requirement of the charism:

- the meaning of contemplative religious life as an experience similar to that of the apostles, living

with Christ, hence the strongly communitarian expression: "little college of Christ" (WE 20:1), or the evangelical identification with the house of Bethany where one lives with the Lord (W 17:5-6);

- openness to the fundamental evangelical values in religious life: poverty, mutual love, detachment

as evangelical self-denial, humility, the way of the cross; these are the props of Teresian asceticism as the norm for the following of Christ (Way, passim);

- imitation of Christ in his fundamental role as model and teacher of prayer (Cf. W 24:4) in solitude and the call to pray with Him, as a master who must be listened to and followed, since He teaches without noise of words (Cf. W 24:5; 26:10; 27ff.).

d. A sense of Church

A sense of Church is one of the more vigorous and original marks of the charism, the very purpose of the existence and prayer of the Teresian Carmel. This ecclesiality is expressed in practice in some attitudes of life:

- to be Church, above all, as the best way of serving the Church; Teresa sees her monasteries as

"little castles of good Christians" (W 3: 1-2), as praying communities around the Eucharist (F 18:4-


- to be of one mind with the Church; a Teresian counsel which includes an awareness of being and

living in the local Church, knowing its needs and bringing to an authentic prayer experience all the

happenings of ecclesial life. Hence the ecclesial sense which Teresa inculcated in the formation of her daughters (F 1:6);

- to serve the Church, by prayer and life in fervent intercession and in a silent outreach through the witness of a committed Christian life (Cf. W 1:5; 3:5,10).

e. - A new style of community life

Number 8 of the Constitutions highlights the new style of community life: "She proposed a magnanimous observance and a cordial sisterly lifestyle that made it a joy to live together as the family of God. She promoted the dignity of the person, friendship among the sisters, and communion among the various monasteries". These are touches of the Teresian charism, of the new lifestyle of the community. In this new style we can underline:

- the sense of profound spiritual communion in Christ, who is present amidst the community (Cf. L

32:11; W 7:10; 17:5-6; WE 20:1); Christ is the Spouse, the Master, the Lord of the house and the

Captain of love; the relationship of communion among the members of the group arises from this supernatural sense of His presence;

- the demands of authentic love; the Saint develops a whole delicate pedagogy of love in the

community based on evangelical love (Cf. W 4:11 and Cons 28), after the example and counsel of

Christ, with its demands of affective and effective love (Cf. W 6 and 7; IC V: 3, 6-12);

- the humanism of joy and simplicity: This gives the Teresian community, in accordance with the

character and style stamped on it by Teresa, a sense of humanistic openness and evangelical simplicity, equality, sincerity, joy, affability and delicacy which the Saint herself recommends (Cf. for example W 41: 7-8).


In number 11 of the Constitutions there is reference, as a final synthesis, to a whole series of elements of the charism which must be put into practice in a balanced way, thus forming an authentic ecclesial community: contemplative life which harmonizes solitude and silence with fraternal communion; this is built on the presence of Christ and on love for him above all, expressed in charity and in evangelical self-denial. In fact, it must be said that the Teresian charism has a wealth of aspects in a balanced synthesis. This is the root of the composition of the harmonious ensemble of essential values, coherent and concrete, in its aspects of life. Thus the personal is harmonized with the communitarian; the supernatural character and the openness to human values are fused into one, put into practice as love of Christ and of the brethren. Asceticism is placed at the service of mystical life; cohesion and internal unity are stressed, but open to the ecclesial outreach of prayer and witness of life. There is perfect continuity with the primitive tradition of Carmel together with an enrichment given to these fundamental values.

To the charism, "the fruit of the Spirit" and bearer of an authentic renewing burden, Saint Teresa gave an exact definition as fidelity to the grace of the beginnings in a dynamism of renewal:

"Now we are beginning, and let them strive to advance always from good to better" (F 29:32). Remembering the birth, progress and fullness of the Teresian charism, together with its essential values is thus transformed into a concern for fidelity and continual renovation.


1. Describe briefly the three progressive moments of the charismatic process of the Saint.

2. How did the Saint react to the news she received of the disunity of Christians in the XVI century?

3. Pick out the essential values which go to make up the Teresian charism.

4. Which evangelical values does the Saint highlight in the Way of Perfection?

5. Explain the ecclesial meaning of the contemplative vocation of the Teresian Carmel.

6. What are the aspects of continuity and novelty of the vocation of Carmel in the experience of

Saint Teresa?


L: The Book of her Life IC: Interior Castle W: Way of Perfection WE: Way of Perfection (Escorial) ST: Spiritual Testimonies (Relations) Cons: Constitutions of St. Teresa Const: 1991 Constitutions B.M.C.: Biblioteca Mística Carmelitana (Burgos)

The English translation of the works of St. Teresa is that of Kavanaugh-Rodriguez. The quotation from her Letters is taken from Allison Peers. The English version of the 1991 Constitutions was used for quotations from the Constitutions.