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About Cloistered Carmels

The Carmelite Order, throughout its long history spanning more than 8 centuries has given to the Church great and numerous saints: monks, missionaries and mystics. Carmel sprang up in the Church as God's gift to a society that was more concerned for external wealth, pomp and glory while the true inner worth of human person, individually and collectively, as image and likeness of God and His preferred dialogue partner, was lost sight of. Human greatness was seen in the concentration in an individual of a nation, of brute power, economical and social, rather than the blossoming of inner life, in response to communion with God in prayer.

Hence the Carmelite Order embarked on the mission of giving back soul to the society and the individual, enmeshed in worldly power by affirming radically the Gospel values of inner worth of human person in communion with God, and as a sign thereof living together as community of prayer and fraternity: elements fundamental to the N. Testament Christian faith.

The Prophet Elias on Mt. Carmel who lived always in God's presence, and courageously stood for social justice and against every form of idolatry; and Mary Mother of Jesus who kept pondering the marvels of God's design and surrendered herself, have been the two fundamental inspirations of Carmelite life of contemplation. No doubt, true to the socio-political mentality of the time serious commitment to religious life was reserved for men. Women were not to appear in public life. The credit goes to Bl. John Soreth. He, as the supreme moderator of the Carmelite Order in 1452 broke this false monopoly and proposed for courageous women a form of strict cloistered life of contemplation and sisterly communion, without external apostolate.

St. Teresa of Avila 1515-1582 appearing in the renaissance period prompted by the inner voice took upon herself the task of reviving the pristine spirit among the Carmelites: men and women. Her 'Tabor experience' gave her all the strength she required to swim as a spiritual luminary in a sea dominated by men. She restored among the nuns the 'spiritual desert' of silence, solitude, poverty and prayer of the early Carmelite tradition. With the help of St. John of the Cross she brought about a similar renewal among the Carmelite friars as well. When St. Teresa died in 1582 there were 17 monasteries of Nuns and 15 of Friars. Down the years the Church has recognized the eminent teaching on spiritual life and heroic witness of Christian virtues among many Carmelites. There are as of now, three doctors of the Church and many a great mystic who have shown by their life the rich spiritual wealth of the Christian faith.

This spiritual revolution ignited the imagination and faith in the western Church within a short time. Her spiritual sons marched out of Europe in hoards, to distant lands, not to conquer the lands along the colonizers, but to offer the spiritual wealth of Christian faith. If friars reached the shores of India the land of sadhus and sages, within three decades after the death of St. Teresa, the cloistered nuns had to wait for the call from the Carmelite bishop to make their first foundation in Mangalore in 1870. The first novice of the cloistered nuns in India is a Blessed Mystic of the Church: Bl. Mary of Jesus Crucified (Miriam Bouardy), known better as the little Arab, a daughter of Palestine and of the East.



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