As time went on, problems caused laxity among many religious Orders and reforms were needed. Carmel was no exception and many tried to bring about reform among different houses. It belonged to the unique genius of St. Teresa of Jesus (of Avila), our 16th century Spanish Carmelite reformer, to recapture the spirit of the original Rule of Carmel. Inspired by a deep love for Jesus and a strong desire to help His Church which was undergoing turbulent changes in that era, she began to establish new communities within Carmel with a vision to live Carmelite life in the spirit that the first hermits of Mount Carmel lived it.
In 1562, she established the monastery of St. Joseph, the first monastery of her reform in Avila, Spain. She continued to form small communities of nuns (originally, not more than 13 in each house) who were totally dedicated to prayer and sacrifice for the Church.
Her communities became known as Discalced Carmelites. Discalced means barefoot, a sign of reform at that time. With the collaboration of St. John of the Cross, her reform later extended to founding communities of men. Between 1567 and 1582, St. Teresa founded 17 monasteries for nuns and 15 monasteries for friars. She died in her convent in Alba de Tormes in 1582 and was canonized in 1622 by Gregory XV. On September 27, 1970, Pope Paul VI declared her a Doctor of the Church.
In the beginning… Carmel’s history continues to be written by its members today because, as St. Teresa encouragingly reminds her followers in every era, you are beginning now.