The Discalced Carmel acknowledges Saint Teresa as its mother and foundress. It is the only Order which has a woman as its foundress and, distinct from the other Orders which have male and female branches, the nuns were established before the friars.
We are not going into the old discussion about the charism of the reformer and the charism of the founder. Mother Teresa’s desire was “to wish to preserve the continuity of Carmel”. What is new is not the past in itself, but progress, looking to the future, which leads us to think that Saint Teresa “wanted to give birth to a new style of religious life”, and she does so always in fidelity to the Church.
What we have just said is an affirmation that was to pass into the Constitutions where we define ourselves as “a renewed form of an ancient Order which entails both fidelity to the spirit and traditions of Carmel and a continual striving after renewal.” Tradition and desire for renewal are two attitudes bequeathed to the Discalced Carmel by its mother and foundress, Saint Teresa.
In 1599, Saint Teresa had a vision of hell which moved her to live in greater perfection. In the seven years from then until Fr Rubeo, the General of the Order, paid a visit in 1566, the Teresian ideal was developing. The notion of founding began to predominate over that of reforming. There remained in her a connection with the past, a search for the primitive rule, a desire to go to the sources of what it meant to be Carmelite, “our parents from whom we come”. What was new in her was the “personal desire to choose” something, which when lived interiorly by her, would be transmitted to the group or family begun by her.
In Saint Teresa there was a growth which ranged from her desire to be reformed in herself or reforming her Order, which motivated the foundation of St Joseph’s in Avila in 1562, to an ecclesial preoccupation: unity in the Church, the old Christianity and finally an apostolic preoccupation to discover their mission, the new areas opening for the Church in America, the New World.
The end result of this whole process was to be the development of the idea of foundation that occupies and fills the rest of her life, 1567-1582, and the birth of the discalced friars, which happened through St. John of the Cross and Fr Antonio of Jesus in Duruelo, 28 November 1568. This event carried on not only her style of life, but also her passion or concern for the Church and for the salvation of souls, her apostolic and missionary ideal.