The Discalced Carmelite Nuns, belonging to a religious Institute of strictly contemplative nature, first of all are clear witnesses to the absolute primacy of God in human life. Replying with a willing heart to the gift of their personal vocation, their existence is converted for Him into a type of offering, not only by renouncing family or the liberty of communicating with the world, but above all by subordinating the whole of their life, down to the least detail, to prayer and remaining always in God’s presence. In order to take part in the charism of Saint Teresa of Jesus, the Discalced Carmelite Nuns “are called to contemplation, as much in prayer as in life” (Constitutions 1991, n 10). This contemplation of the living God is the reason for their existence and their principal duty. Everything else is secondary. So, for the purpose of assuring adequate conditions of life and a specific “climate for prayer”, the Discalced Carmelite nuns choose radical separation from the work in the form of papal cloister, solitude and silence. In this way, guarding authentic freedom of spirit and body, they dedicate all their efforts to the nuptial encounter with God, through the daily Eucharist and the Liturgy of the Hours, as well as in meditation. Their deep experience of God is converted into the foundation of their ministry – while it is essentially an apostolate of spiritual commitment to the intentions of the Church and an apostolate of witness, to the exclusion of any form of active ministry.
The community plays a special role in the Teresian Carmel, since it is a space for communion between the sisters. The Discalced Carmelite nuns form a tiny college of Christ, where a strong family atmosphere is found in the valuable Teresian recreation. According to Canon Law, the community is completely autonomous and the Law gives the monastery a sui iuris status (cf. can. 613).
In daily life, the nuns join fervent prayer with manual work. This work includes not only the usual domestic duties, but also work designed to obtain funds for their maintenance: e.g. baking hosts, embroidering liturgical items or painting icons.
The Discalced Carmelite nuns, hidden in the silence of their monasteries and apparently unknown by the world, are present all over the globe. According to the latest statistics, the nuns reach the considerable number of 11,500 (thus being the most important female Cloister Order in the Catholic world). Around 750 monasteries live according to the Constitutions approved in 1991, and 140 according to the Constitutions approved in 1990. These monasteries are found in 98 countries. The great development of the Order is very remarkable in South-East Asia, Latin America, Africa and Eastern Europe. The numerous and new vocations allow them to open new foundations in Vietnam, the Philippines, Indonesia, Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, Colombia, Madagascar, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Poland, Croatia and some countries of the ex-Soviet Union. The fact is certainly reassuring that vocations still continue firmly in the west of Europe, especially in Spain, France and Italy. Unfortunately, more and more communities are suffering from the lack of new vocations, including some who cannot continue and must take the painful decision to be suppressed. Joys, just as much as sorrows, are a sign of the times, which invite us to discern God’s will and to fulfil it faithfully in a new situation.