What is Carmelite Spirituality?
Discalced Carmelite spirituality is a spirituality of living the presence and experience of God in our lives, because as temples of the Spirit, God is within us always. We must seek God’s presence within ourselves and others through prayer..
In the Discalced Carmelite community, the model for this is Mary, Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, who was the first person who lived fully with the presence of Jesus within her and lived out her life through a deep experience of Him, taking on His image and likeness and experiencing and pondering His words and suffering in great simplicity, faith and love.
St Elijah, the father of the Carmelites, on the Mount of God, looked for God in the world, but did not find Him. Instead he found God in the gentle breeze, the simplicity of which shows how gentle the presence of God and the experience of Him really is. (1 Kings 19:12)
This is the relationship with God that is the Discalced Carmelite charism. God is present within us all and we have only to live our lives through the experience of Him and His love. Each one of us is different, and because of this, we all have unique experiences of God in our lives. This is exactly what He calls us to do, to live and experience Him according to our individual makeup.
The Discalced Carmelite saints, St Teresa of Jesus (Avila), St John of the Cross, St Therese of Lisieux, St Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein), Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity, St. Teresa of the Andes, amongst others, were profoundly aware of the presence of God within them, and this is what they describe to us in their writings.
Their writings exhibit their individual experiences of God in their lives. They each choose their own unique forms of expression to describe their experiences of God. Sometimes the experience of God is so profound it is unspeakable, and it is through the gifts of the Holy Spirit dwelling within them that they have the ability to put into words the indescribable.
St Teresa of Jesus uses the symbols of the soul as a crystal castle and a garden to describe the processes of transformation the soul goes through, in order to describe her experience of God’s presence in her life.
St John of the Cross uses poetry, following the model of the lover and the beloved in the Song of Songs to describe his experience of God’s presence.
St Therese uses her simple language of love, speaking as a child would, without affectation, expressing directly in her unique way the beauty of her experience of God. St Edith Stein, the philosopher, uses her philosophic reasoning skills to describe a profound experience of God’s truth & presence in her life.
Blessed Elisabeth of the Trinity speaks of the simplicity of making the ordinary a sacrament that will bring us to God, and of how life and spirituality are one.
Each of these saints without loosing their individual identity describes to us a loving experience of God in their lives, through good times and through bad times, but always knowing that God is present through it all.
Like Mary, they accept the presence of God into their being, and live out the experience of Him in the deepest possible way. Living the presence of God deeply means living the life of His son in all aspects of our lives.
We cannot expect just to experience the glories of His presence. We must also embrace the suffering too. Jesus is our model, as He was the model of Mary and of the Carmelite saints in order to come to fullness of union with God. The saints show us, through their unique experiences of joy and suffering in their lives, how to suffer creatively for God. They show us how to see God in all aspects of life. They show us how to come into a deeper knowing of God. They do this only out of love of God, because He loves us and it is the calling of the saints and of all Christians to lead others to God out of Christian charity.
The charism of the Discalced Carmel is to embrace each person’s individual path to God, providing spiritual direction and guidance along the way, shedding light on the darkness that can often accompany the experience of God in our lives. Because when we are looking for the light of truth, at times we must search in darkness, as did all the Carmelite saints.
Mary, our mother was unique amongst all the women of Israel. She was born without sin. She, because she was so unlike the others, was chosen as the first tabernacle of Christ. We too, as unique children of God are chosen to be His tabernacles, we are His temples. He dwells within all of us, regardless of whether we can acknowledge this presence or not. When His presence is awakened in us, then we begin to experience the presence and live it fully. Then we can become more like Christ.
We each follow our own path, drawing on the experiences of the saints and Mary to help us along the way.
St Teresa of Jesus gives us practical womanly advice that is as relevant today as it was in the 16th century. St John of the Cross describes the intricate workings of our hearts and minds, so much so that you feel you are reading a description of your own soul. St Therese shows us her little way knowing that it is a sure way of coming to God.
St Edith Stein gives us a beautiful philosophy of how she experiences God in an intelligent, pragmatic and informed manner, which is necessary in this present world which is so quick to doubt the presence of God. Blessed Elisabeth of the Trinity tells us of the in-dwelling presence of the Trinity of Love amidst the trials of the world, giving us a model of everyday mysticism where the presence of God is in all.
The Carmelite Saints and Mary teach us through their own valuable experiences of the presence of God, helping us to form our own personal experience of God. We have received the gift of God’s presence deep within us, so we cannot keep it to ourselves. We must share our experience of the living presence of God with others. This is truly the best way of loving God, by bringing others to know Him too.
Writings of the Carmelite Saints
Throughout history, the Carmelite Order has been blessed with men and women outstanding in zeal for God & the spread of His Word wherever they have found themselves. Some of these have been elevated by the Church to the ranks of the Blesseds & Saints. The Church has been enriched by the writings of the Saints. Their lessons in prayer and the spiritual life are well respected as they always point us towards our Lord in heaven and the acquisition of holiness.
The Saints speak about the Cross
The Saints speak about the Blessed Virgin Mary
Prayers of St Therese of Lisieux
St Teresa of Avila speaks of the Holy Souls in Purgatory
Words of Wisdom- Bl Elizabeth of the Trinity
Words of Wisdom – Bl Mary of Jesus Crucified
Words of Wisdom – StTeresa Benedicta of the Cross – Edith Stein
Words of Wisdom – St John of the Cross
Words of Wisdom – St Therese of Lisieux
Words of Wisdom – St Teresa of Avila
The Interior Castle – St Teresa of Avila
The Foundations – St Teresa of Avila
Trinitarian Prayer – Bl Elizabeth of the Trinity