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Carmelite saints and spirituality Minimize

mosaic-type design blue and brownSt Teresa of Avila 1515-1582, St John of the Cross 1542-1591, Theresa of Lisieux 1873-1897  and the Carmelites

Words of Carmelite Saints

Teresa of Avila

Described prayer as “nothing else than an intimate sharing between friends”

John of the Cross

“Ignoring the created and inferior; remembering above all the Creator;

Attention to the life that is interior; for the Beloved love that's always greater”

Therese of Lisieux

“What pleases God is to see me love my littleness, my poverty: it is the blind trust which I have in His mercy…...There is my sole treasure.”

Lives of Sts. Teresa of Avila, John of the Cross and Therese of Lisieux 

The Carmelites grew out of the tradition of the desert fathers and Mothers and by the 13th century had established a community at the Well of Elijah at Mount Carmel in Israel, dedicated to Our Lady and following the rule of St Albert.    

Teresa of Avila in Spain saw a need to reform the Order in the mid 16th century. Like her compatriot John of the Cross, she found that through rejection and persecution of those around her, there was a dynamic relationship with God to fire her action. Through solitude, silence and prayer the Carmelite saints lead us to an intimate encounter with God in the midst of ordinary life and service.    

Teresa of Avila skilfully and succinctly writes in her book “The Interior Castle” of the journey of the soul through seven stages (or "rooms") to union with God.  

Whilst John of the Cross draws on times of deprivation, and imprisonment by members of his own order who resisted reform, to write poetry from the very depth of his soul, the 19th-century Therese of Lisieux gives us a glimpse of the spirituality of littleness and utter dependence on God in a short enclosed life.

Prayers of the Carmelite Saints 

St Teresa of Avila 

"Let nothing disturb you, Let nothing frighten you, 

All things are passing; God only is changeless. 

Patience gains all things. Who has God lacks for nothing. 

God alone suffices".

St John of the Cross

"Let Your divinity shine on my intellect by giving it divine knowledge,and on my will by imparting to it the divine love,and on my memory with the divine possession of glory. "

St Therese of Lisieux

"O my God ! I ask you, for myself and for those dear to me, the grace to fulfil perfectly your holy will and to accept for love of you the joys and sorrows of this passing life, so that one day we may be reunited in heaven for all eternity."

Carmelite Communities

There is one community of the Order of Discalced Carmelites in our Diocese at St Joseph's, Gerrards Cross. There are Carmelite Nuns at Quidenham in Norfolk, see www.quidenham.org.uk  or www.carmelnuns.org.uk and at: Aylesford Priory (first founded 1242) in Kent - see www.thefriars.org.uk  or www.carmelite.org . Even closer for the south of our Diocese, there is the Carmelite Priory at Boars Hill, on the edge of Oxford. 

Recommended reading

bok cover statue on blueTeresa of Avila by Shirley Du Boulay

Written by an experienced and competent biographer who manages to draw a clear picture of the reforming Teresa within her cultural background and an insight into Teresa's spirituality. A sound book and worth the effort in reading.

book cover heart and flame in orange

Saint Teresa of Avila: Passionate Mystic by Mirabai Starr

A delightful pocket size book. Starr weaves her own reflections on the inspiration she draws from the writings and prayers of St Teresa with examples of Teresa's own writing. An insightful little book to return to again and again. 

book cover praying monkPoems of John of the Cross translated by Roy Campbell

This book may now be out of publication but a search online through second-hand books could reward the effort. Campbell introduces us to some remarkable poems that become very accessible to those who are familiar with reading poetry and those new to it. John of The Cross wrote from a place of desolation where he met God in his empty darkness and remarkably found words to echo the glory and praise he caught there. Always relevant in any age.

book cover photo of St ThereseThe Hidden Face: A Study of St Therese of Lisieux by Ida Friederike Gorres

Many books on St Therese of Lisieux come over as sugary and unrealistically idealised and put people off exploring Therese's spirituality. This book is not one of them. It is not a quick read but very well worth slowly reflecting on and digesting. A grounded Therese comes alive and her Little Way can be seen as real gift and grace from God.

Copyright 2019 by the Catholic Diocese of Northampton, Registered Charity No. 234091