Carmelite life is a radical response to the call of Jesus to leave everything and follow him. It is a simple but demanding life, which asks us to give all that we have and all that we are in response to God’s call, in a life of unceasing prayer for the Church and for the whole world. Our way of life has ancient roots both in the lives of the desert mothers and fathers who braved the harsh conditions of the desert to live for God alone, and in the early monasteries where men and women began to gather in communities under a superior to live out this call to discipleship.
Carmelites trace our origins back to a group of hermits living on Mount Carmel. This ‘life of allegiance to Jesus Christ’ was formalised under the Rule of St Albert in 1209. They took the Prophet Elijah as a model, and his words ‘with zeal I have been zealous for the Lord God of Hosts’ (1 Kings 19.10) still surround the Carmelite crest. These early hermits placed themselves under the care of Mary, and Our Lady of Mount Carmel remains a focus of devotion and inspiration for the whole Carmelite family and beyond.
Our particular way of life as Discalced Carmelite Nuns was instituted by St Teresa of Avila in sixteenth century. She sought to restore some of the original fervour and simplicity of the Carmelite life and undertook a work of reform that spread through Spain, Europe and eventually across the world. There are now about 11,500 Discalced Carmelite nuns, in over 800 communities in 98 countries.
Today, we continue to live out our vocation as hermits in community. In an atmosphere of silence we seek to give ourselves entirely to God through a simple life of solitary and communal prayer, daily Mass, spiritual reading and manual work, supported by our Sisters. Alongside scripture, we draw from the Rule of St Albert, our Constitutions and the rich tradition of our many Carmelite saints to form and teach us. We make vows of poverty, chastity and obedience under a Prioress, who is elected from among ourselves. St Teresa teaches us to live in love, detachment and humility, uniting ourselves with Jesus in times of sorrow and of joy. Under the mantle of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, we seek to make Mary’s yes our own in all the circumstances of daily life.