The Carmelite Order has been blessed throughout its history with men and women outstanding in zeal for God and the spread of His Word wherever they have found themselves. Some of these have been elevated by Mother Church to the ranks of the Blesseds and Saints.
SAINT TERESA OF AVILA (DOCTOR OF THE UNIVERSAL CHURCH)
Feast day : 15 October
Canonized : 1622
Founder of the Carmelite reform (Discalced Carmelite Order)
First woman founder of a community of men (Discalced Carmelite Friars)
First woman to be declared “Doctor of the Church”
Teresa de Cepeda y Ahumada was born in Avila, Spain in 1515. At the age of twenty, she entered the Carmelite Monastery of the Incarnation. During her first twenty-one years in religious life, Teresa had all but abandoned prayer. In part, she believed that as a sinner she was unworthy to approach God in such a personal way. The future saint felt unworthy to ask for favors or special graces.
During this time Teresa had a number of serious illnesses, including debilitating headaches, paralysis and a coma. Her illnesses, and a miraculous cure that she attributed to Saint Joseph, helped her to begin to see suffering in the light of the cross. At the age of 41, a priest convinced Teresa to return to prayer. Her first attempts were fraught with distractions and setbacks. While there was discouragement, Teresa persevered and eventually began to experience real progress in her journey toward God. Teresa began experiencing a profound intimacy with God as He drew her into contemplative prayer. Her life was transformed by these encounters with the Divine.
During the time of Teresa, the Carmelite Order had become worldly, focusing on comforts and material possessions. Nuns from rich families often had servants and lived better than the others. Gossip was common among the women.
In her late forties Teresa began to imagine a new foundation of Carmelites, one that focused on prayer and the eremitical life, to live as the early hermits did on Mount Carmel. Her desire became a reality when she received permission to begin a new convent. She named her first foundation after Saint Joseph. Teresa also received permission to begin a community of friars. They also followed her prayer-centered way of a simple life. Her first friar was a young Carmelite named Father John of Saint Matthias. Upon joining with Teresa, he changed his name to John of the Cross.
Over the next twenty years, Teresa personally founded sixteen monasteries of her ‘discalced’ nuns. As a means to instruct her daughters in this new way of life, she wrote The Way of Perfection. She also wrote an autobiography called The Life, as well as her greatest work on prayer, the Interior Castle. This spiritual masterpiece of mystical theology chronicled her prayer journey and experiences of God.
Teresa was a gifted organizer endowed with common sense, tact, intelligence, courage, and humor, as well as a mystic of extraordinary spiritual depth. She purified the religious life of Spain and, in a period when Protestantism gained ground elsewhere in Europe, strengthened the forces that reformed the Roman Catholic church from within.
Teresa died on October 4, 1582 at the age of sixty-seven. The Discalced Carmelite Order continued to grow and spread throughout the world. Teresa was canonized in 1622.
Teresa’s teachings on prayer are recognized by the Church as a major contribution to Catholic theology. The modern Catechism references Teresa of Avila more than any other when it comes to prayer the interior life. Because of the importance of her contribution to the theology of prayer, Teresa of Jesus was declared Doctor of the Universal Church in 1970, where she joined the company of theologians such as Augustine, Aquinas and Leo the Great. Teresa was the first woman to be given this great distinction.
SAINT THERESE OF LISIEUX (DOCTOR OF THE UNIVERSAL CHURCH)
“My mission – to make God loved – will begin after my death, I will spend my heaven doing good on earth. I will send a shower of roses.” – St. Thérèse
Feast day : 1 October
Canonized : 1925
Patroness of the Missions
Known for her “The Little Way,” which consisted of love and trust in God.
Declared “Doctor of the Church” in 1997
St. Thérèse was born in a pious Catholic family. Her parents Luigi Martin and Zelie Gueren made their name shine with many Christian virtues. In such a school of sanctity the little Thérèse learnt to live and progress in the love of God. She was the last of nine children and lost her mother when she was a small child. She tried to become a worthy daughter of Mary, our heavenly mother. On the day of her First Holy Communion she consecrated herself to Mary. When she was ten years old Thérèse became very ill. Her father had a novena of masses celebrated for her full recovery.
Thérèse was a young girl of fifteen when she joined the Carmelite order of nuns in Lisieux.Initially given menial tasks of washing, ironing and cleaning, Therese eventually became the mistress of the novices in the convent. A quiet and unremarkable nun, Thérèse suffered severe bouts of depression. Deathly ill with tuberculosis, Thérèse promised upon her death to loose a shower of roses in the form of favours and miracles from heaven. At the moment of her departure at age 23, a fellow sister ran outside to gaze up at what was an overcast sky. Before her eyes, the clouds parted and revealed a hood of twinkling stars. Her Carmelite mother superior and sister, Agnes, edited and published Saint Thérèse’s autobiography, The Story of a Soul, which tells of the sweetness and simplicity with which Thérèse approached her duties.
Her life was a song of love to Jesus and Mary. She wrote a hymn: “I want to suffer for love and I will sing always even if I have to gather my roses from among thorns.” Her roses were the sacrifices she offered to Jesus through Mary. St. Thérèse is one of the most popular saints in modern times.
SAINT TERESA BENEDICTA OF THE CROSS ( EDITH STEIN )
“O my God, fill my soul with holy joy, courage and strength to serve You. Enkindle Your love in me and then walk with me along the next stretch of road before me. I do not see very far ahead, but when I have arrived where the horizon now closes down, a new prospect will prospect will open before me, and I shall meet it with peace. ”
– St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross
Feast day : 9 August
Canonized : 1998
Co-Patroness of Europe
Edith Stein was born to a Jewish family at Breslau on October 12, 1891. Through her passionate study of philosophy she searched after truth and found it in reading the autobiography of St. Teresa of Jesus. In 1922 she was baptized a Catholic and in 1933 she entered the Carmel of Cologne where she took the name Teresa Benedicta of the Cross. She was gassed and cremated at Auschwitz on August 9, 1942, during the Nazi persecution and died a martyr for the Christian faith after having offered her holocaust for the people of Israel. A woman of singular intelligence and learning, she left behind a body of writing notable for its doctrinal richness and profound spirituality. She was beatified by Pope John Paul II at Cologne on May 1, 1987 and canonized on October 11, 1998. Her feast is celebrated by the Church on August 9 of each year.
SAINT TERESA OF JESUS OF LOS ANDES
“A Carmelite sanctifies herself in order to make all the Church’s members holy … Let’s live intimately united with Him, since one who loves tends to be united with the one loved. The fusing of two souls is done through love.”
– St. Teresa of Jesus of Los Andes
Feast day : 13 July
Canonized : 1993
First Chilean and the first member of the Teresian Carmel in Latin America to be beatified.
Juanita Fernandez Solar was born at Santiago, Chile on July 13, 1900. From her adolescence she was devoted to Christ. She entered the monastery of the Discalced Carmelite Nuns at Los Andes on May 7, 1919, where she was given the name Teresa of Jesus. She died on April 12 of the following year after having made her religious profession. She was beatified by John Paul II on April 3, 1987, at Santiago, Chile, and proposed as a model for young people. She is the first Chilean and the first member of the Teresian Carmel in Latin America to be beatified. [St. Teresa of the Andes was canonized on March 21, 1993 in St. Peter’s Basilica.]
SAINT ELIJAH - PROPHET AND FATHER OF THE CARMELITE ORDER
“With zeal I am zealous for the Lord God of Hosts.” (1st Kings 19:10).
Feast day : 20 July
Earliest patriarch of the Order of Carmel
Pre-Christian founder of Carmel
The prophet Elijah appears in Scripture as a man of God who lived always in his presence and fought zealously for the worship of the one true God. He defended God’s law in a solemn contest on Mount Carmel, and afterwards was given on Mount Horeb an intimate experience of the living God. The inspiration that was found in him from the very beginnings of the Order so pervades its whole history that the prophet may deservedly be called the founder of the Carmelite ideal.
The Carmelites honour Elijah as their inspirer and father; they draw from him their ardent love for the living and true God to whose presence, working in a secularized, they want to render full witness.
SAINT JOHN OF THE CROSS - PRIEST AND DOCTOR OF THE UNIVERSAL CHURCH
“Live in the world, as if God and your soul only were in it; so shall your heart be never made captive by any earthly thing.”
– St. John of the Cross
Feast day : 14 December
Canonized : 1726
Co-Founder of the Carmelite reform (Discalced Carmelite Order)
St. John of the Cross stands as one of the most important mystical philosophers in Christian history. The son of a rich merchant, John was born Juan de Yepes y Alvarez in Fontiveros, Spain in 1542. The father of St. John was discarded by his kindred for marrying a poor orphan, and the Saint, thus born and nurtured in poverty, chose it also for his portion. John’s father died when the boy was quite young, leaving his mother to raise him alone.
Unable to learn a trade, he became the servant of the poor in the hospital of Medina. After gaining employment in a plague hospital, John, at age 18, began to study with the Jesuits. In 1563, being then twenty-one, he humbly offered himself as a lay-brother to the Carmelite friars, who, however, knowing his talents, had him ordained priest. He continued his studies at the University of Salamanca, where he began to teach while still a student. After being ordained in 1567, John met St. Teresa of Avila, another of the great mystics of the Christian tradition.
He would now have exchanged to the severe Carthusian Order, had not St. Teresa, with the instinct of a Saint, persuaded him to remain and help her in the reform of his own Order. Thus he became the first prior of the Barefooted Carmelites. These monks went so far as to go barefoot, indicating their commitment to poverty, lending to them the appellation of “Discalced” or “shoeless.” Over time, a rift arose between the traditional Carmelites and John’s Discalced Carmelites. His reform, though approved by the general, was rejected by the elder friars, who condemned the Saint as a fugitive and apostate, and cast him into prison, whence he only escaped, after nine months’ suffering, at the risk of his life. During this period of imprisonment, John wrote much of the poetry that would provide his greatest contribution to later generations. Twice again, before his death, he was shamefully persecuted by his brethren, and publicly disgraced. But his complete abandonment by creatures only deepened his interior peace and devout longing for heaven.
Eventually, the rights of the Discalceds were recognized, and John took on various roles of leadership within the Order. After some fifteen years of leadership, he died in 1591, leaving behind a number of remarkable works of Christian mysticism: Ascent of Mount Carmel, Dark Night of the Soul, and the Spiritual Canticle of the Soul.
SAINT SIMON STOCK
” Carmel’s Flower – Vine ever blossoming – Heaven’s splendor! Virgin who bore a child – No one is like thee – Mother gentle and kind – Yet never touched by man! To Carmelites give thou the privilege – Help us Star of the Sea. ” (Flos Carmeli by St. Simon Stock)
Feast day : 16 May
Never formally canonized; venerated by the Carmelites since at least 1564; the Vatican has approved Carmelite celebration of his feast
Father General of the Carmelite Order
His vision of the Virgin Mary with the Scapular caused the widespread “Scapular devotion.”
He was descended of a good family in Kent. From his infancy he turned all his thoughts and affections to attain to the most perfect love of God, and studied to devote all his moments to this glorious pursuit. In this earnest desire, in the twelfth year of his age, he retired into a wilderness, and chose for his dwelling a great hollow oak tree; whence the surname of Stock wee given him. While he here mortified his flesh with fasting and other severities, he nourished his soul with spiritual dainties in continual prayer. His drink was only water; and he never touched any other food but herbs, roots and wild apples.
While he led this course of life, he was invited by a divine revelation to embrace the rule of the early Carmelite monks who were coming from Palestine into England. Albert, the holy patriarch of Jerusalem, had given a written rule to these friars about the year 1205. They settled at Aylesford in Kent and in 1254 Simon was elected Superior-general of the now mendicant Carmelites.
Simon founded other houses as the Order began to grow but he faced many problems as the original ‘solitary’ ideal of the hermits changed towards the more communal approach of the mendicants. These weren’t just internal problems, as older orders also resented the arrival of these newcomers with their own particular devotion to Mary.
Simon withdrew to his monastic room or ‘cell’ to try and gain some relief from the problems faced both by himself and his Carmelite order, and in order to pray to Mary; it was then that he had his famous vision of her bringing the Brown Scapular to him with the following words, which are preserved in a fourteenth century narrative: “This will be for you and for all Carmelites the privilege, that he who dies in this will not suffer eternal fire.”
He died at Bordeaux in the mid-thirteenth century. He is venerated in the Carmelite Order for his personal holiness and his devotion to Our Lady. A liturgical celebration in his honor was observed locally in the fifteenth century, and later extended to the whole Order.
BLESSED ELIZABETH OF THE TRINITY
“The weakest soul, even the one that is most blameworthy, is the one that has the best grounds for hope.”
– Bl. Elizabeth of the Trinity
Memorial : 8 November
Daughter of Captain Joseph Catez and Marie Catez. Elizabeth Catez was born on 18th July 1880 in Campo d’Avor near Bourges, France, and she was baptized four days later. In 1887, her family moved to Dijon. Her father died when she was seven, leaving her mother to raise Elizabeth and her sister Marguerite. Noted as a lively, popular girl, extremely stubborn, given to fits of rage, with great reverence for God, and an early attraction to a life of prayer and reflection. Gifted pianist. Visited the sick and taught catechism to children.
Much against her mother’s wishes, she entered the Discalced Carmelite monastery in Dijon, France on 2 August 1901. Though noted for great spiritual growth, she was also plagued with periods of powerful darkness, and her spiritual director expressed doubts over Elizabeth’s vocation. She completed her noviate, and took her final vows on 11 January 1903, the same year she was given the monastic veil. She became a spiritual director for many, and left a legacy of letters and retreat guides.
The five years that she spent in religious life brought her ever closer to God although the Lord tested her with many spiritual trials and severe physical suffering due to Addison’s disease which finally brought about her death on 19th November 1906.
BLESSED MARY OF JESUS CRUCIFIED
“I thirst, I thirst for Jesus alone! Happy the souls who suffer in secret, known to God alone! How I love a soul suffering with patience, hidden with God alone! Once you have given God something, you must never take it back.”
– Bl. Mary of Jesus Crucified
Memorial : 25 August
Born to Giries Baouardy and Mariam Shahine, a poor Greek Melchite Catholic family. Twelve of her thirteen brothers died in infancy, and Mary’s birth was an answered prayer to Our Lady. Her parents died when Mary was only two, and she was raised by a paternal uncle. Moved to Alexandria, Egypt at age eight.
Betrothed in an arranged marriage at age 13, she refused to go along with it, insisting on a religious life. As punishment for her disobedience, her uncle hired her out as a domestic servant, making sure she had the lowest and most menial of jobs. A Muslim servant with whom she worked began to act as her friend with an eye to converting her from Christianity. On 8 September 1858, Mary convinced him she would never abandon her faith; he cut her throat and dumped her in an alley. Mary lived, an apparition of the Virgin Mary treated her wound, and she left her uncle’s house forever.
She supported herself as a domestic, working for a Christian family and praying. In 1860 she moved in with the Sisters of Saint Joseph. Supernatural events began to occur around her, and the Sisters would not let her join their house. She was taken to the Carmel at Pau by a Sister in 1867, and became a lay sister. Later that year she entered the cloister, taking the name Mary of Jesus Crucified, and making her final profession on 21 November 1871.
She continued to experience supernatural events. She fought off a demonic possession for 40 days, received the stigmata, was seen to levitate, had the gift of prophecy and knowledge of consciences, and permitted her Guardian Angel to speak through her. Helped found the missionary Carmel of Mangalore, India. Returned to France in 1872. Built a Carmelite monastery in Bethlehem in 1875. Supernatural gifts aside, she was known for her devotion to the Holy Spirit, even sending word to Pope Pius IX that the Spirit was not emphasized enough in seminaries.