The following of the praying Christ is an essential characteristic of Carmelite spirituality. Interiorly and exteriorly, Jesus lived a deep union with His Father in Heaven, in times of soli-tude and retreat, but also during the times of His public work.
For this reason, we Carmelite Sisters of the Divine Heart of Jesus cultivate an intense prayer life, in which contemplation – interior prayer – is fundamental. Teresa of Avila describes interior prayer very vividly as lingering with a Friend with whom we meet often and gladly, simply in order to be with Him, because we are certain that He loves us (Life viii 5). Con-templation has as its goal that our entire being be more seized by the love of God. In times of silence, we seek to practice this silent lingering with God, contemplating the life of Jesus and meditating on His Word. This increases our interior union with God, which then affects all our various activities.
See God in all, Serve God in all, Love God in all!
Bl. Maria Teresa of St. Joseph
Sacred Heart Devotion
God has a heart for us men. In Jesus Christ, in His pierced Heart, God shows us how much He loves us, “that He went to the extreme in order, in the voluntary death of His Son, to suf-fer the immeasurable suffering of the world, and our coldheartedness and lovelessness, and to redeem them” (Walter Kasper, Barmherzigkeit, Herder 2012, p. 119).
For Blessed Maria Teresa Tauscher, this Heart of Jesus was the source and motivation of her life and actions: “The Sacred Heart of Jesus, which God, in His infinite Fatherly love has given to men, is and always will be an inexhaustible Treasure for us. From this Heart we always want to draw love to give to our Sisters and to others.” (Autobiography, p. 199)
Our life as a Carmelite Sister of the Divine Heart of Jesus means:
- allowing ourselves to be enkindled by the burning love of the Heart of Jesus
- suffering and enduring vicariously with Jesus the indifference, ingratitude and rejec-tion of men toward this never-ending love of God
- being open to those who are suffuring next to us and around us
- fashioning our lives and actions from the certainty that nothing can “separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:39).
Contemplation in Action
From morning till evening, our work is done in such constant union with God that we fulfill the word: “Pray without ceasing.” Such a soul, united with God in her work, is a contemplative soul. The greatest Saints have labored much, and was there one of them who was not a contemplative? (Bl. Maria Teresa of St. Joseph, Letter 245, June 15, 1918)
The charism of our Foundress, Blessed Maria Teresa of St. Joseph, “was to put the contemplative spirit of Carmel into the active service of the direct apostolate. …This union of prayer and service is our life and our mission, our gift to the Church and the world.” “She wanted to serve Christ in the children, in the aged, in the poor and in the lonely. Therefore, in Carmel D.C.J., apostolic and charitable works are essential elements of religious life and expressions of the love and concern of the Church for all people.” (Consitutions 6 and 53) Our apostolate springs from the heart of the Teresian charism. Bl. Maria Teresa explains it thus, “I am firmly convinced that if our holy Mother Teresa had founded her Carmel in the nineteenth or twentieth century, instead of in the sixteenth, she would not have restricted herself to prayer and penance for the salvation of souls. Like us she would have joined to this life the work for souls.” (Autobiography pg. 172)
“In all our charitable activities we share in spreading the Kingdom of God and in leading mankind to Christ. This is our ultimate objective; this is the intention of [Blessed Maria Teresa] which she instilled into her Carmel of the Divine Heart of Jesus. …We are born out of the zeal for souls of our Mother Foundress.” (Constitutions 54)
Bl. Maria Teresa emphasized that the main purpose of the Carmel of the Divine Heart of Jesus was the home mission work for the salvation of souls, seeking out those who have fallen away from a life of faith and bringing them home to Holy Mother Church. In her letters, she spoke of this often, encouraging her Sisters and making them aware: “Mission is the most important, and it is senseless to use a Sister, who has been given a zeal for souls and the grace and gifts to do this by God, for other duties” (Letter 293).
Bl. Maria Teresa felt the most grief and compassion for the little children in Berlin for whom there was no Catholic Home. She wanted to impress upon them the image of the Divine Savior and to fill them with His love. For this purpose she opened the first of her Homes. She said to her Sisters, “Begin anew with burning love to pray for souls, yes, to wrestle with the Divine Heart – and seek to win your children for the Divine Savior by your gift of love” (Letter 2302). “Do not neglect to plant in the tender soul of the child an interior love for the Mother of God and for St. Joseph, because whoever is a child of these heavenly parents cannot go astray…” (Letter 1520).
Dear Mother had a special love for the elderly and founded Homes for them in which they could enjoy the evening of their life and peacefully prepare themselves for their journey to eternity. She writes in this regard: “From my heart I thank the good God for granting me the grace of establishing Homes for the Aged myself – a dream I had cherished since April, 1891. How many souls are thereby won for the Divine Heart, even in the eleventh hour! And how many prepare themselves here, where they are so near to God, so much better for the end, much better than they could have done in the world.” (Autobiography 211)
“And the Mother of Jesus was there” (Jn. 2:1).
Carmel is all Mary’s. From the beginning of the 13th century, the first hermits on Mount Carmel led a life of prayer and contemplation, modeling themselves on Mary “who pondered in her heart” the word of God. In a vision to St. Simon Stock in 1291, Our Lady acknowledged this consecration by giving the scapular as a sign of her mother protection. Today Christians everywhere wear the Carmelite brown scapular is a special sign of consecration to Mary.
Our Blessed Foundress Maria Teresa of St. Joseph writes of her love for Mary, “O what bliss to be allowed to rest in your arms, on your heart. You, however, do not deem this happiness enough for your child. You know a heart on which one rests more blissfully still. There to shelter all your children is your greatest delight. Where better can we learn to love your Son, our Lord and Redeemer, than in your arms, on your heart, O my Mother! Who has loved Him as you love Him? Who has known Him as you know Him? Who has understood Him as you do understand Him? O my wondrously beautiful Mother, — and I should not love you? Ardently do I love you!.”
Love and devotion to Mary is integral to the spiritual life of the Carmelite of the Divine Heart of Jesus. “For us, Mary is the prototype of faith and the model of the most intimate union with Christ. We venerate her as our Mother and Queen and place our religious life under her protection. Through her ECCE ANCILLA DOMINI she is the perfect model of an availability that springs from faith and a perfect example for our religious attitudes” (cf. Const. 3 and 43). Living daily with Mary, praying to her, especially the holy Rosary, contemplating with her the mysteries of Christ, we beg her intercession that the blessing of Christ may be upon us and all those we serve.
“All these devoted themselves with one accord to prayer, together with some women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers” (Acts 1:14)
St. Joseph, Spouse of Mary and Father of Carmel, Patron of our Homes
St. Joseph, true Spouse of Mary and Foster-Father of Jesus, is referred to in Sacred Scripture as the “Just Man.” The role of this saint in the plan of God and the salvation of the human race remained hidden and silent in the life of the Church for many centuries. However, Carmelites have long had a special love and devotion for this powerful saint who never ceases to provide for them. For example, in 1580, the Carmel in Brussels had the first Office in the Latin Church that was entirely dedicated to St. Joseph. Our Holy Mother, St. Teresa of Jesus, looked upon him as the father, patron and protector of the Discalced Carmelites. She considered him a master of prayer and always recommended her daughters to pray to St. Joseph as their guide in the prayer and solitude of Carmel.
Our Mother Foundress, Blessed Maria Teresa of St. Joseph, gave special emphasis to the role of St. Joseph. She experienced a fervent and trusting love for him, and even a desire to make reparation for all those who, mistaken in their beliefs, do not love and venerate him. She dedicated all her convents to his protection. For the Carmelite Sisters DCJ, St. Joseph is our father and protector who always provides for our spiritual and material needs.
St. Francis Xavier, Patron of our Apostolic Works
Francis Xavier was born in a castle in Navarre, Spain, in 1506. While studying at the University of Paris, he met St. Ignatius and joined his group of faithful men. In 1534, Francis Xavier, Ignatius of Loyola and five other companions consecrated themselves to God in the crypt of the Church of St. Peter of Montmartre on the Feast of the Assumption. Together, they made a vow of absolute poverty. When they reached Rome, they put themselves under complete obedience to the Holy Father. Thus, after St. Francis had been ordained a priest in Rome in 1537, he left for the East in 1541 at the age of 35. For ten years, he tirelessly evangelized, converting many to the faith.
St. Francis Xavier was a zealous missionary who always respected the culture of the people he evangelized. He went to great lengths to learn the native language, translate prayers and catechize in the native tongue. One of his great gifts in evangelization was to teach the truths of the Faith in song. He became the first missionary to arrive in Japan. Confronting and persevering through immense difficulties, he formed the first community of Japanese Christians. His zeal knew no rest: his eyes were set on China. He arrived in Singapore with the hope of reaching his goal. However, as he waited for a boat on the island of Shangchuan, he fell seriously ill. With his eyes resting on China, he died on December 3, 1552, at the age of 46.
Blessed Maria Teresa of St. Joseph named him Patron of the Carmelite Sisters of the Divine Heart of Jesus. She wished that all her daughters would burn with the zeal for souls of our St. “Father” Francis so that they would console the Divine Heart and quench His thirst for souls. She even placed the second year of the novitiate under his patronage, commending the apostolic experience of the novices to his intercession.
St. Teresa of Jesus, Virgin and Doctor of the Church
St. Teresa of Jesus was born in Avila, Spain, on March 28, 1515. Her family was very devout; from her youth, she demonstrated great zeal, piety and determination. Her mother died when Teresa was 13 years old. During this time of mourning, Teresa asked Our Lady to adopt her as her daughter. On November 2, 1535, Teresa entered the Carmelite Monastery of the Incarnation. Two years later, she became seriously ill and sought medical care outside of the monastery. At one point, she was unconscious for four days and presumed dead. However, she finally recovered and returned to the Monastery of the Incarnation in 1539. She suffered from weak health for the rest of her life.
The monastic life was very lax and unstructured. The 200 nuns received frequent visitors and exercised great freedom in leaving the monastery for social reasons. Teresa fell into this lukewarm lifestyle. In Lent 1554, at the age of 39 and after 19 years of religious life, she encountered the sufferings of Christ in a powerful way while passing by a statue of the wounded Christ. Truly receptive to the gifts of God, Teresa received many mystical graces, visions and supernatural experiences, alternating with periods of dryness. After a terrible vision of hell, she became convinced that Carmel needed to be reformed; it needed to be filled with the original ideals of silence and contemplation. After much interior difficulty and exterior persecution, she founded the first monastery of Discalced Carmelites in Avila under the title of St. Joseph on August 24, 1562. Years later, she assisted in founding a monastery for Carmelite friars in Duruelo. During her lifetime, she founded 17 Discalced Monasteries, manifesting great strength and determination amidst sufferings and hostility. She died in Alba de Tormes on October 4, 1582.
St. Teresa is known for her profound mystical graces and understanding of the path to perfection. She left behind many treatises on prayer which have been held as spiritual treasures by the Universal Church. On September 27, 1970, she was declared the first female Doctor of the Church.
Blessed Maria Teresa of St. Joseph found her life’s aspiration when she read the Autobiography of St. Teresa, and later said, “I would be crucified for Carmel.” She recognized herself as a daughter of our Holy Mother, St. Teresa of Jesus, and made her the Patroness of the Carmelite Sisters of the Divine Heart of Jesus.
St. John of the Cross, Priest and Doctor of the Church
St. John of the Cross was born in Fontiveros, Spain, in 1542. His father died when John was still a child, and as a result he grew up in poverty. However, thanks to the generosity of benefactors, he was able to obtain an education while working in a hospital. At the age of 21, he entered the Carmel of Medina, where he manifested a great affinity for aestheticism and contemplation. He recognized that the Carmelite Order was demonstrating instability and laxity and even considered entering a more aesthetic Order. However, when he was ordained a priest in the spring of 1567, he returned to Medina to celebrate his First Mass. There, he met St. Teresa of Jesus. She convinced him that he had a Carmelite vocation and that a return to the founding ideal was possible. She encouraged and helped him to found the first friary of Discalced Carmelites, following the primitive, unmitigated Rule of Carmel. He is considered the Father and Spiritual Master of the Reformed Carmel. When St. Teresa became Prioress of the Monastery of the Incarnation in 1572, she asked St. John to be the nuns’ confessor. This he did gently and faithfully. On account of his work of reform, he suffered many persecutions from other Carmelite Friars who were hostile towards reform. On December 3, 1577, he was taken captive by the friars in Toledo. He spent eight months in a state of solitary confinement, allowed only the bare necessities. There, he wrote the first 31 stanzas of his Spiritual Canticle. When he finally escaped from his captivity, he recovered in a hospital for one and a half months. He held several offices in the Carmelite Order: Prior, Vicar and Master of Novices. At the end of his life, he underwent extreme sufferings inflicted by his Superior. Finally, after three months of physical suffering, he died on December 13, 1591.
Through his many writings, he continues to be a spiritual guide for countless souls, especially in his understanding of the journey of the soul to contemplation and Christian perfection. His doctrine can be cohesively expressed as a love of suffering and the complete abandonment of the soul to God. He was declared a Doctor of the Church on August 24, 1926.
Blessed Mother Maria Teresa of St. Joseph followed in the footsteps of St. John through her great love for souls. She recognized suffering as a means of bringing many souls to God. In her autobiography, we find what she asks from God: “’My dearest Savior, heaven has all things, but it has no sufferings; therefore, let me suffer and suffer, only suffer on this earth.’ To save souls was the one desire of my heart.” (Autobiography, p. 105 digital version)
St. Teresa of the Child Jesus, Virgin and Doctor of the Church
St. Therese was born in Alençon, France, on January 2, 1873. In 1877, when Therese was only 4 years old, her mother died. The family then moved to Lisieux. Her religious education took place under the care of her sister Pauline. However, when Therese was 9 years old, Pauline entered the Carmelite Monastery. Later, her older sister Marie also entered the monastery. On Christmas Eve, 1886, Therese received a very special spiritual grace and became very strong and courageous. This grace enabled her to begin a deep and authentic path to holiness.
At the age of 15, after numerous objections from Church authorities, she received permission to enter Carmel. On April 9, 1888, she joined her two sisters in the Carmelite Monastery. Life in Carmel was not easy, but Therese demonstrated a great capacity for fraternal love. This flame of love helped her to overcome all obstacles. She recognized the value of the littlest act of charity and wished to bear great fruit for the salvation of souls and for missionaries.
On June 9, 1895, she offered herself as a victim to Merciful Love. She began a new period of fruitfulness by teaching her path of “Spiritual Childhood.” Diagnosed with tuberculosis, she accompanied her Divine Spouse on the way to Calvary and bore her sufferings with authentic joy. Although she experienced intense physical sufferings, her trial of faith at the end of her life was the most painful for the young Carmelite nun. The veil was removed from her eyes, when, on September 30, 1887, St. Therese left this world to see the Holy Face of her Spouse.
Thankfully, at the request of her Superiors, Therese wrote autobiographical manuscripts which have been published under the title Story of a Soul. This work continues to benefit souls and illustrates the degree of holiness she had reached through a childlike confidence. She was canonized on May 17, 1925. On December 14, 1927, she was proclaimed Universal Patroness of the Missions, and, on October 19, 1997, she was proclaimed a Doctor of the Church.
St. Elijah, Prophet and Father of Carmel
Elijah appears in Holy Scripture as the prophet who always stands in the presence of God and who, with burning zeal, fights in defense of the worship of the One True God. He was born in Thisbe around 900 B.C., after Israel had become a divided kingdom. He is venerated by the Fathers of the Church as the model of every prophet and the father of monastic life. For this reason, because of its role in the life and mission of St. Elijah, Mount Carmel is recognized as a place for the eremitic life. For example, in 1 Kings 18:42-46, Elijah stands on the top of Mount Carmel during a time of drought and witnesses a small cloud like a human hand or foot rise from the sea. This cloud quickly produces an abundant rain. Mystics and exegetes interpret the cloud to be an image of the Virgin Mary who has given the world an abundant shower of grace through her Fiat.
Once Elijah fulfilled his mission of witnessing to the One God for the sake of many souls, he disappeared by ascending to Heaven in a chariot of fire. However, he gave his mantle to his successor, Elisha. Therefore, Elisha received his double-portion, his inheritance, his spirit. According to the Fathers of the Church, the double-portion of Elijah is the spirit of preaching and the spirit of contemplation.
In the Coat of Arms of the Carmelite Sisters of the Divine Heart of Jesus, the sword above the shield is held by the hand of the Holy Prophet Elijah. He is the Father of all Carmelites and his fiery sword expresses his great zeal: “With zeal have I been zealous for the Lord God of Hosts.” The Carmelite Sisters of the Divine Heart of Jesus strive to live in the presence of God like the prophet Elijah, and we commit ourselves to promote His greater glory: “The Lord lives, the God of Israel, before whose face I stand” (1 Kings 17:1).
St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein), Virgin and Martyr
St. Teresa Benedicta was born into a Jewish family on October 12, 1891, in Breslau, present-day Poland. She was the youngest of 11 children, 9 of whom died in Nazi concentration camps. Her father died when she was 2 years old. Her mother, an energetic and religious woman, provided for the family. Edith’s Jewish faith progressively weakened, causing her to begin to identify as an atheist during her adolescence.
In 1911, she began to study German and history at the University of Breslau. In her pursuit for truth and the purpose of life, she came across the works of her admired philosopher Edmund Husserl, the father of phenomenology. In 1913, she transferred to the University of Göttingen to attend Husserl’s classes, becoming his student and assistant. This new philosophical current gave her a new concept of truth and planted seeds for her eventual conversion to Catholicism.
During World War I, she enlisted as a nurse after taking a nursing course. At this time, she was confronted with the mystery of pain and death. In 1917, her doctoral thesis, “The Problem of Empathy,” was accepted with the highest grade “summa cum laude.” Two events deeply marked her life. First, the serene and hopeful attitude of Adolf Reinach’s wife (Husserl’s assistant) in the face of her husband’s death. Second, her introduction to St. Teresa of Jesus through reading her Autobiography in the house of one of Edmund Husserl’s students. After completing the book in one night, she expressed its impact on her life, which was a constant pursuit of the truth: “This is truth!” On January 22, 1922, she was baptized into the Catholic faith; she was confirmed on February 2. She taught German and history at the Dominican Sisters’ School in Speyer. During this time, she frequently travelled to give lectures, mainly on the role of women. She also translated letters of Newmann and works of St. Thomas Aquinas.
In 1933, when the Nazis forbade the Jews from any teaching activity, she left her teaching career and finally entered the Carmelite Convent in Cologne on October 14. Her Superiors assigned her to continue her philosophical work. This is where she wrote “The Science of the Cross.” On December 31, 1938, due to the persecution of Jews and Catholics in Germany, she moved to the Carmel in Echt, Netherlands. On August 2, 1942, the Gestapo arrived to arrest and deport her and her blood sister, Rosa, to Auschwitz.
She died in the gas chambers on August 8, 1942, having offered her life as a holocaust for her Jewish people. She was canonized on October 11, 1998, and is venerated as a Christian martyr for her example of heroic charity. She was proclaimed co-patroness of Europe on October 1, 1999.
St. Teresa of Jesus (of the Andes), Virgin
Juana Fernández Solar, was born in Santiago, Chile, on July 13, 1900. As a young child, she attended Holy Mass daily. She had a great devotion to the Blessed Virgin; she would confide in her and be comforted by the Blessed Mother’s presence. When she received her First Communion on September 11, 1910, she felt very united to Jesus, as if Jesus had embraced her and taken her for Himself. Daily Communion and periods of long prayer became great joys for the young woman. She took great efforts to train her character and achieved great self-control. People easily recognized Juana’s gifts and considered her very cheerful, affectionate with her family, athletic, helpful, studious and responsible. When she became a catechist, she showed special concern for the poor children. Her motivation for teaching doctrine was always to increase love of Jesus and his Mother.
Juana exhibited a great intelligence and was almost always first in her class. At the same time, she was naturally social and very much loved by her classmates. She tried to do everything right, because she did everything for Jesus. When she was 14 years old, our Lord spoke to her saying that He wanted her heart in a special and total way. In that moment, she received her vocation to Carmel. On December 8, 1915, she made a vow of chastity with the permission of her confessor. At the age of 17, she discovered her Carmelite ideal of “suffering and praying.” On May 7, 1919, she entered the Carmelite Monastery in the Andes and took the name of Teresa of Jesus. She lived only 11 months in the convent. Through her letters, she left behind a wealth of spiritual wisdom, sharing her joy and love for Jesus, Mary and the Eucharist. She became infected with typhus and made her religious profession on her deathbed. After a 14-day agony, she died on April 12, 1920. Her religious sisters believed that she had entered as a saint and that her life in the monastery had consummated her sainthood. She was beatified on April 3, 1987, and canonized on March 21, 1993. The Universal Church recognizes her as a patron saint of young people.
St. Elizabeth of the Trinity, Virgin
Elizabeth Catez was born on July 18, 1880, into a military family in Avord, France. When she was 7 years old, her father died. Her mother, who was an energetic and upright woman, raised Elizabeth and her sister as a single mother.
Elizabeth had a willful and impetuous character. When she received her First Communion on April 19, 1891, she began to make great strides in overcoming the weakness of her character and controlling her temper. On the afternoon of her First Communion, she visited Carmel for the first time and discovered that her name was derived from a Hebrew word that meant “house of God.” This delighted the young girl; from that moment, she strove to be God’s dwelling place. This was the beginning of her distinctive Trinitarian spirituality.
Elizabeth’s education was rather poor, but her mother recognized that the young 7-year-old had a great musical gift, so she enrolled her in the Conservatory. At the age of 13, Elizabeth won the first prize for her piano performance. She was a very happy and active person in the parish. She had a lively social life, participating in dances and evenings with friends. She continued to grow in her love for Jesus Christ, and, in 1845, she took a vow of virginity. She expressed to her mother her desire to enter the Carmel of Dijon, but her mother opposed her vocation and would not give her permission until Elizabeth was 21. Elizabeth obediently complied with her mother’s wishes. During this time of preparation, she was able to balance a deep interior life with her active social life.
On August 2, 1901, she finally entered Carmel and received the name of Elizabeth of the Trinity. She soon became noted for her dedication and faithfulness. She was very attracted to the letters of St. Paul and the spiritual works of St. John of the Cross. When she made her First Profession on January 11, 1903, she felt pervaded by God and his abundant grace. One of the most important days of Elizabeth’s life was November 21, 1904. She spent the day in front of the Blessed Sacrament, and in the evening she wrote her now famous prayer to the Holy Trinity. From that point on, she considered it her vocation to be “a praise of glory” for God. Months after her religious profession, the first symptoms of Addison’s disease appeared. She accepted the illness and sufferings as a way to conform herself to her Crucified Spouse, embracing severe pain with peace and trust. Finally, on November 9, 1906, she went to her eternal rest at the age of 26. She was beatified on November 25, 1984, and canonized on October 16, 2016.