Celebrating St. Teresa of Avila

Knoxville Carmelite Secular Community marks renowned saint’s 500th birthday with cathedral Mass celebrated by Bishop Stika

The Knoxville Carmelite Secular Community of the Transfiguration hosted a birthday party for St. Teresa on Oct. 3, beginning with Mass at Sacred Heart Cathedral celebrated by Bishop Richard F. Stika. Father John Dowling, who is spiritual assistant to the Seculars, concelebrated the Mass.

In celebration of St. Teresa of Avila’s 500th birthday (1515-2015), members of the Discalced Carmelite family around the world have been offering the following prayer for three years:

St. Teresa of Jesus, holy mother,
wholehearted servant of love,
teach us to walk with determined fidelity along the path of interior prayer, attentive to the presence
of the Blessed Trinity, the Lord,
dwelling deep within us.
At the school of Mary our Mother,
strengthen within us these foundations:
a genuine humility,
a heart free from attachment,
and an unconditional love for others.
Share with us your intense apostolic love for the Church.
May Jesus be our joy,
our hope and our energy,
an unquenchable fountain and
our most intimate Friend.
Bless our Carmelite family.
Teach us, make your prayer our own:
“I am Yours;  I was born for You;
What is Your will for me?”

A birthday luncheon and exhibit followed at the Chancery. The prayer offers a reminder to St. Teresa’s sons and daughters in Carmel of their vocation to be prayer at the heart of the Church, and good friends of Jesus, and summarizes the vocation to the Discalced Carmelite Order.

The Knoxville Secular Order of Discalced Carmelites of the Transfiguration was officially erected as a “community” Sept. 7, 2014, at St. John Neumann Church in Farragut.

The local Carmelite group had its beginnings more than 15 years ago with just a few members. Now, having received approval by the Prior General of the Discalced Brothers of the Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel in Rome, the diocesan Carmelite group has more than 20 members.

The Order of Discalced Carmelites, commonly known as Carmelites, had its origins formally in the 13th century when its rule of life was given by St. Albert of Jerusalem. Spanish saints Teresa of Jesus and John of the Cross, both Doctors of the Church and especially noted for their teaching on prayer, were reformers of the Order in the 16th century. St. Thérèse of Lisieux, proclaimed a Doctor of the Church in 1997 by St. John Paul II, 100 years after her death, is another well-known Carmelite. Friars, nuns and secular members of the Order have as their models Our Lady of Mount Carmel and the prophet Elijah, in devotion to prayer, contemplation, and service to the Church.

In 1554, before an image of Ecce Homo (the wounded Christ), St. Teresa experienced a radical conversion of spirit that led to her courageous reform. She named her first foundation for St. Joseph, whom she asked to be protector of the new Order. There were 13 nuns in that first monastery in Avila, Spain.

With St. John of the Cross, she also founded monasteries for men. Within 20 years, from 1562-1582, St. Teresa founded 17 monasteries for nuns and 15 monasteries for friars throughout Spain. Our Lord promised Teresa: “You take care of my business. I will take care of yours.” He continues to keep his promise. Today, there are more than 11,500 nuns in 98 countries, the largest cloistered contemplative community of nuns in the Catholic Church. There are more than 4,000 friars and more than 25,000 Secular Carmelite members who live their vocation “in the world.”

Teresa was canonized in 1622 by Pope Gregory XV, along with Sts. Isidore, Ignatius Loyola, Francis Xavier and Philip Neri. In 1970, Pope Paul VI declared her a Doctor of the Church, the first woman to be so recognized, for her writing and teaching on prayer.

Hers is a Marian Order whose discipleship is modeled on the Mother of Jesus depicted in Scripture: humble, obedient, and disposed to listen to the word of God, believe it, and act on that belief. Mary’s way of “pondering all these things in her heart” defines this contemplative lifestyle of prayerful intercourse with God dwelling within as members move through their days. Silence, solitude, and community are essential components of the contemplative vocation. Their call is to love God and make him loved.

According to the profile of a Secular Carmelite, he or she is:

■ A practicing member of the Catholic Church;
■ Who is under the protection of Our Lady of Mount Carmel;
■ Who is inspired by St. Teresa of Jesus and St. John of the Cross;
■ Who makes a commitment to the Discalced Carmelite Order;
■ And seeks the face of God in prayer and service for the good of the Church and the needs of the world.

The Carmelite nuns’ work is centered on communion with God in prayer and intercession for the Church, her priests and all the people of God. The Carmelite friars are mendicants who live in fraternal communion according to the Rule of St. Albert of Jerusalem, but whose apostolate is to go forth to teach and preach, help form the nuns and Seculars and others, through retreats, spiritual direction, writing and parish missions.

Their own education and formation are intended to increase their understanding of Scripture and Church teaching in light of their Teresian spirituality and charism. Most of the friars are ordained to the priesthood, though there are also brothers who serve their communities according to the needs. Some parishes are staffed by Discalced Carmelite friars, though not many.

For Carmelite Seculars, the contemplative way includes participation in daily Mass and in the Liturgy of the Hours with the universal Church morning and evening prayer, and night prayer as possible; at least 30 minutes of mental prayer each day; ongoing study of Carmelite writings, Church documents, and other spiritual writings that foster growth and development; and practice of the virtues, particularly as noted in the prayer above: “humility, detachment, and charity.”

One’s promise is to live life “in the world” and keep the evangelical counsels of chastity, poverty and obedience (according to their state in life), and the Beatitudes. St. Teresa’s Way of Perfection and Interior Castle, as well as her autobiography,  The Life, are the foundations of Discalced Carmelite formation. Her Book of Foundations enables members to realize their accountability through forming local communities faithful to the Rule, Constitutions and Provincial Statutes based on St. Teresa’s vision for the Order. The many other Carmelite saints’ works are also part of their lifelong formation, such as Story of a Soul by St. Thérèse of Lisieux, and The Spiritual Canticle and The Ascent of Mount Carmel by St. John of the Cross.

The Church has many religious orders, each with its own charism and work. The Dominican Order, for instance, has become familiar around the world to people who enjoy the Magnificat daily prayer and liturgy aid; they have Dominican Third Order members. The Franciscan Order has the greatest number of branches and members throughout the world, including Third Order Franciscans. Pope Francis is a Jesuit. People are called by God to the Discalced Carmelite vocation according to His intimate knowledge of them and his desire to have them serve in this contemplative way.

The central object of the process of formation in the Secular Order is to prepare the person to live the charism and spirituality of Carmel in the following of Christ and in service to its mission.

The local Carmelite Secular Community meets monthly at St. John Neumann Church in Farragut. For information, call Dorothy Curtis at 865-584-3307. ■

Comments 5

  1. I’m from the community of St. Therese in Lawrenceville, GA. I am trying to reach your Formation Director. I met her at the 2017 Congress in San Antonio but have lost her contact information. Please ask her to contact me. Thank you and may God bless your community.

      1. I’m actually trying to reach the Formation Director for the OCDS community in Knoxville. Can you help? I’m the Formation Director for the OCDS community in Lawrenceville, GA and we met at the 2017 OCDS Congress in San Antonio. Maybe I don’t have the correct email address to use but she is shown in the community picture here, first row, 4th from the left.


  2. Janice,
    The state of Tennessee is held within the OCD Province of St. Therese, formerly known as the Oklahoma Province. Currently there is only one OCDS community in TN, but it is in Knoxville. I belong to the OCDS community in Lawrenceville, GA and we have several members who drive from East TN and North GA. Although we only have meetings once a month, that is too great a distance since you are further west. The state of Alabama is also in our Province and there is a community in Birmingham, AL. Not sure if that’s too far or not.

    The state of Kentucky is held within the OCD Province of St. Joseph, formerly known as the Washington Province. Their website doesn’t list the location of their communities but you can contact them to ask if any are close to you. The website is ocdswashprov.org and they also give a phone number of 617-851-8584 and an email address of ocdsmainoffice@gmail.com.

    I hope this information helps in your search for a community. May Our Lady of Mount Carmel guide you to bring you closer to her son, Jesus Christ.

    Yours in Carmel,

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