The contemplative and apostolic charism of the Teresian Carmel
Holy Mother Teresa was filled with zeal for the glory of God. Christ gradually led her to an understanding of the Church of her time in which she interiorly experienced the labors of its reform, the wounds that tore at its unity, and its concern for evangelizing new lands (Life 32:6-9; Way of Perfection 1:1-6; Foundations 1:6-8).
She wanted to help her Lord and to contribute to the welfare of souls. She expressed, with undoubted charismatic originality, the value of gospel holiness and of prayer in building up the Body of Christ and helping it to grow. She founded for this purpose the monastery of St. Joseph, in order to live out, together with her daughters, a strong commitment to Christian perfection. They wanted to “be the kind of people” who obtain from God everything they asked for in their fervent intercession for the Church (Way of Perfection 3:1,7-10; 1:2,5; 35:5).
Holy Mother transmitted to her daughters her own apostolic spirit. She longed to see them take the good of souls and the increase of the Church to heart, for she considered that an evident sign of true perfection (Foundations 1:6; Interior Castle 4:1,7). For this reason, she designated prayer and immolation as their service to the Church. It was the reason why the Lord Himself brought them together in Carmel (Way of Perfection 1 & 3).
Every community is a living cell of the Mystical Body, and it should have that faithful feeling for the Church which animates Teresian contemplative life. In that way, renewed by the Holy Spirit, it can become love in the heart of the Church (St. Therese of the Child Jesus, Story of a Soul; Foundations 18:5).
The Discalced Carmelite Nuns’ own apostolate
The vocation of the Discalced Carmelite Nun is essentially ecclesial and apostolic. The apostolate to which Saint Teresa wished to dedicate her daughters is the purely contemplative one. It consists in prayer and immolation with the Church and for the Church, and it excludes every form of active apostolate (Way of Perfection 3:5,10).
The Discalced Carmelite Nuns are united with Christ Who intercedes for us and offers Himself for us. With Him, they offer themselves to God (Interior Castle 7:4,15; Life 39:10), and complete what is lacking in the Passion of the Lord in favor of His Mystical Body (cf. Col. 1:24). In this way, they open themselves to the action of the Holy Spirit Who guides the Church and gives it life; and they move toward achieving that pure and solitary love which is more precious in God’s sight and of greater profit for the Church than a great many other works taken together (Canticle B 29:2,3).
Missionary dimension of the contemplative life
Taught by the shining example of St. Therese of the Child Jesus, Patroness of the Missions, all the Carmels will carefully foster a missionary spirit which should animate their contemplative life. They will pray, in particular, for those who spread the Gospel, for an increase of vocations, for the unity of Christians, and for the evangelization of peoples, so that all may be open to the message of Christ (Interior Castle 7:2,7; Foundations 1:7,8).
The monasteries which are present in the young churches have the vocation of planting in new soil the purely contemplative life which belongs to the very fullness of the Church, and of giving witness among non-Christians to the mystery of God, to God’s love for them, and to the vocation of everyone to unity in Christ.
Becoming part of the local churches
Every monastery will seek to belong fully to its own local church.
They will show their communion with the local church, first of all, by their esteem and filial obedience toward their bishop, by their concern for the problems of the diocese and its undertakings, and by their prayer for all its members, especially for its priests (Way of Perfection Esc. 5:1; Way of Perfection 1:2; 3:2-3).
Informed awareness of the Church and its needs
The Prioress must keep the community vividly aware of the Church and in communion with the intentions of the Supreme Pontiff and Bishops. For that reason, she is to keep the nuns adequately informed about the Magisterium of the Pope and of the Apostolic See, about the teaching of the Bishops, and about everything that has to do with the life of the Church and with the great problems of society, especially questions touching on justice and peace.
In that way the religious will embrace in Christ the heavens and the earth (See John of the Cross, “Prayer of a soul taken with love” in “Sayings of Light and Love,” 25), and will be involved in the universal mission of the Church. They will present to the Father in prayer, the joys and hopes, the sorrows and anguish of the human family in their times, especially those of the poor and the suffering.
(from the Carmelite “Rule & Constitutions,” approved by the Apostolic See in 1991)