The Carmelite life contains elements which determine the rhythm of the day and shape the Carmelite spirit. Prayer, community, apostolate and love for Mary – these are the characteristics of a Discalced Carmelite.
In the primitive rule of the Order we read,
Everybody is to stay alone in their cells or close to them, day and night giving themselves to the contemplation of God’s Law and to prayer vigil, unless a different just cause falls to be addressed.
As can be seen in the quoted passage of the Carmelite Rule, the essential feature of Carmelite life is contemplation. It should pervade and animate the nature of every Discalced Carmelite. Each Discalced Carmelite is called to prayer. It is through prayer that he achieves a friendly relation with God. In order to better understand this important element of the Carmelite charism it is necessary to take a look at the issue of contemplation.
Without prayer one cannot experience God and therefore in ‘The Way of Perfection’ St. Teresa strongly encourages to practise contemplation. Contemplation is the primary responsibility of every Christian, especially a Discalced Carmelite, who – guided by the teachings of St. Teresa – wants to bear witness to prayer
The religious community is called by God Himself. It is there that a Discalced Carmelite, giving himself completely to contemplation, becomes the visible witness to the action and presence of Christ in the world for all the faithful.
The Holy Spirit, who introduces everybody into the communion with God and His Son Jesus, is the Giver of the gift of love, unites the community life and enables us to love each other. St. Teresa of Jesus was convinced that very much depended on the mutual love that should reign among the religious. It was obvious for her that there was nothing worse for a community life than failing to keep the community of hearts. Keeping the community of hearts, the community will become the place where people seek God together in fraternal communion.
It is in a fraternal community that you meet another person who is given by God so that you would love Jesus in him/her. The purpose of common recreation and work is to gather strength to live in solitude and silence.
The Discalced Carmelites pursue their apostolic mission on various planes. The mission is connected with promoting spiritual life. Brothers undertake apostolic activity in the fields which serve this purpose in a particular way: spiritual direction and hearing confessions. In the first place the apostolate includes ministry to Discalced Carmelite Sisters and members of Secular Carmel. The apostolate of promoting spiritual life also includes keeping by the Discalced Carmelites houses of prayer and retreat houses.
The pastoral activity of the teresian Carmel covers also the promotion of Marian devotion. This is done especially through promoting the scapular devotion. As an expression of concern for the local Church the Discalced Carmelites undertake parish work. They also run a scientific apostolate which makes it possible to introduce all members of the Church to the rich spiritual legacy of the Carmel’s saints through its publishing activity. Finally, the Discalced Carmelites give themselves to a missionary activity which is an element of the teresian charism.