A celebration of the life and times of Saint Teresa of Avila is a remembrance of the reforms brought about by the first woman to have been bestowed the title “Doctor of the Church.”
Also known as Teresa of Jesus, she began her Teresian reforms in 1562 as a way of re-establishing the Carmelite life of religious women, back to its truest sense and as prescribed by the Council of Trent. Carmelite Reforms initiated by St. Teresa had emphasized and restored the life of austerity and contemplation; core traits of the Carmelite way of life as it first started in Mt. Carmel, the mountain of the Prophet Elijah in Palestine during the 12th century.
The Council of Trent on the other hand, referred to pronouncements and clarifications of the Catholic church’s doctrine, in order to counter the Protestant Reformation movement that transpired between 1545 and 1563.
The Primitive Carmelites
The Carmelite movement was started during the 12th century by a group of hermits who desired to live a life of prayer, similar to the life lived in Mt. Carmel by the Prophet Elijah. They represented the primitive Carmelites who had followed the formula of a simple life outlined by St. Albert of Jerusalem. The formula later became known as the Rule of St. Albert, by which Carmelites and Discalced Carmelites throughout the world, still abide as way of life.
The Discalced Carmelite Nuns
A reformed Carmelite nun became a Discalced Carmelite, a barefoot nun living a cloistered life totally devoted to contemplative life spent in prayers,mediation and penance. True Carmelite life is free from distractions and trivialities, as had been the original way of life adapted by pious women who became members of praying communities officially established in 1452 in Florence, Italy.
The Discalced Friars
Saint Teresa’s reforms were not only for the Carmelite nuns but also for Carmelite friars who also wanted to live their spiritual lives in intense prayers, and at the same time able to administer pastoral care of people, particularly those whom the church had neglected.
In 1567, St. Teresa was quite concerned when she learned that there were millions of Latin Americans who have not yet heard the Gospel of Christ’s teachings. Thereafter she asked and received permission from the catholic church to establish a community of Carmelite friars. Her goal was to have a group of friars living contemplative lives like the Carmelite nuns, whilst keeping such life in balance in carrying out missionary and apostolic work outside of their cloister.