By Fr. Alexander Ezechukwu, OCD
Do you find it difficult to pray?
Would you like to pray better, or be more regular in your daily prayers?
Some of the greatest saints struggled in this way, and yet they reached a high degree of prayer – one that lifted their spirits to a close union with God.
One of them was St. Teresa of Avila, a Carmelite nun who lived in the 1500s in Spain. When she entered the convent at about age 20, she tried with all her effort to achieve perfect contemplation. But her efforts were met with frustration, and what today we would call burnout.
She also suffered various physical ailments and was so sick she was sent home for her recovery. Three years later she returned to the convent. Then at the age of forty, she experienced a personal conversion after reading the life of St. Augustine.
St. John of the Cross
Conversion of a Nun?
Now, you may be surprised that a nun could have a religious conversion after living for nearly twenty years in a convent!
I’m pointing this out to show you that even consecrated persons struggle with their fallen human natures. Many of them face the same problems in life and in prayer that you do.
St. John of the Cross
The other saint who has added to the mainstay of Carmelite spirituality is St. John of the Cross, a contemporary and friend of St. Teresa. When St. Teresa was beginning to reform the Carmelite convents, she begged St. John to join her. The two were kindred spirits, since both yearned for the original contemplative and austere Carmelite lifestyle and charism.
Together they formed the Discalced Carmelites, a reform that has lasted to this day.
Why Carmelite Spirituality?
There are other methods of prayer and devotion that are good, you might say. The rosary, Scripture-based prayer, and the Jesus prayer are very popular. However, Carmelite prayer does not dictate any one method, but is more about fostering a relationship of friendship with God.
You might say that Carmelite spirituality in one’s life is like the mortar between the bricks. St. Teresa said, “Prayer, in my view, is nothing else than a friendly and frequent conversation, with Him Who we know loves us.”
God is the trusted friend. Having a friendship that we can be confident in is what we all seek; but perhaps you never thought it as a path towards God?
Has God Spoken to You?
Do you feel that God has spoken to you at some point in your life, but you are finding it hard to adequately respond to his voice? Why not look into Carmelite spirituality and see if it’s for you?
Men, why not Test Your Call as a Carmelite Friar of the Anglo-Irish Province?
Check out the Carmelite Friar Vocations page
Our Order of Discalced Carmelites UK offer various classes, conferences and retreats, both in person and online. Check these out:
Courses and Programmes
Books and Publications
Young Adults – Encounter Festival