It was the wish of our Holy Mother that the Nuns and the friars form a
single family to help one another in fulfilling our role in the Church.
In number 242 of your Constitutions, concerning the Superior General, he
is requested to be «especially attentive to the faithful renewal of
the Discalced Carmelite Nuns and promote, in dialogue with them,
projects and undertakings in the fields of spiritual development and
It could not be otherwise. The Second Vatican Council, in speaking of
renewal of religious Institutes, says that this depends mainly on the
formation of their members.
Now that the long period of renewing the Constitutions has finished, we
are finally able to resume the service of formation that you have been
seeking and which the Centre of the Order has been offering to the
monasteries in recent years.
To begin with we have chosen your own Constitutions. This work was
handed over to Specialists in the Order to prepare an in-depth study of
the various chapters, in a way that was clear and instructive. To make
efficient use of the means at our disposal, we are offering this
material as a booklet, in audio cassettes and video cassettes. Each
monastery should let us know what medium they prefer.
I ask the Lord to bless these efforts and to help all of us to grow in
knowledge and love for the charism he has confided to us in the Church
to benefit humanity.
Fr Camilo Maccise, O.C.D. Superior General
OUR CARMELITE RULE IN THE THINKING
OF SAINT TERESA OF JESUS
In the legislation of the Discalced Carmelite Nuns, the
Rule has a privileged place, since it is a primordial document with a
two-fold value: spiritual and normative. It was, in fact, the first
spiritual text of our Carmelite family. And likewise its first
"formula vitae", first norm of life.
St. Teresa saw both values in it, and from the very beginning she
incorporated them into the ideal of her Reform, and she continued to
reaffirm them right up to the last years of her life.
It is this choice of the Saint that we are about to explain here. From the
experience and thinking of the Mother Foundress, it will be easy for
today's Discalced Carmelite Nun to begin to progress in meditation of the
Rule and in assimilation of its spirit. For greater clarity, we will
follow, as far as possible, the chronological unfolding of the life and
thinking of our Holy Mother.
I. Before founding St. Joseph's
1. A knowledge of the Rule would have been part of the Saint's Carmelite
initiation at the Incarnation. However, we know very little about her
novitiate and the years of her religious formation. We do not know to what
extent she had studied and assimilated the Rule before embarking on the
foundation of St. Joseph's (1560). She herself tells what a shock it was
to her shortly after (1562), on meeting Mary of Jesus, foundress of the
"de la Imagen" Carmel in Alcalá de Henares, to find that this
illiterate woman knew more about the Rule than she did.(1)
2. As one would expect, in the Incarnation the personal life of the
Carmelite nun centered on the Rule. The nuns made profession
"according to the Carmelite Rule". We do not know the exact
formula of the Saint's profession (1537), but we do have the wording used
a little earlier. According to this, the Carmelite nun in the Incarnation
professed the vow of obedience (without express mention of the other two)
according to the Carmelite Rule (without mentioning the Constitutions).
This profession formula is dated 1521, and probably is the same one that
Teresa de Ahumada would use 16 years later. This is how it reads:
"I, Sister x. x., make profession and promise obedience to God and to
the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel and to Br. Bernardine, Prior
General of the Order, and to you, Beatrice Guiera, Prioress of this
monastery of Saint Mary of the Incarnation, and to your successors,
according to the Rule of the said Order, until death".(2)
3. The Rule was not only a reference point in the
profession of each nun, it was the juridical and religious basis of
community life. The most recent historiographer of the Incarnation goes so
far as to say that in fact the Rule was the only internal law of the
monastery, which -- according to the same historiographer -- did not have
Constitutions properly so called.(3)
4. Even so, we do not know how accessible the text of the Rule was to the
nuns at the time who did not know Latin, and among them was Teresa. In the
Constitutions of the Spanish Carmelite nuns of the XVI century (cf.
previous note), there are several references to the prescriptions of the
Rule, but nothing is said about reading it or on the formation of the nuns
for a study of it. These Constitutions do not have the norm which
prescribes that the Rule "should be explained four times a year"
("quater in anno debet exponi"). The Spanish text is not given
at the side or at the beginning of the Constitutions. It will be
non-Carmelite books (the one by Osuna, for example) that will arouse in
the recently professed Teresa a hunger for personal prayer, introducing
her to the way of interior recollection; not the text of the Rule which,
however, prescribes for the Carmelite nun the ideal of unceasing prayer,
"day and night..".(4)
5. The Saint herself will tell us that in the monastery
the mitigated rule was followed: "just like in the whole Order, with
the Bull of mitigation" (Life 32,9). This was one of the reasons
which made it difficult for her to return to her community of origin:
"..to return to the monastery of the Incarnation, where the mitigated
rule is observed, which for me would have been an affliction for many
reasons -- there would be no point in going into them. One reason would be
enough: that in the Incarnation I wouldn't be able to observe the
austerity of the primitive rule..." (Foundations 2,1)(5)
To sum up, we cannot say exactly how sensitive to the Rule the Saint was
in this first half of her Carmelite life. Actually, her interest in it,
the real discovery of its value and content will come later, resulting
from the graces which, from the depths of the mystical life of the Saint,
would set in motion her work as a Foundress: the final years of her life
in the Incarnation.
II. The real discovery and the new option for the Rule
The Saint's personal encounter with the Rule was progressive. She herself
tells us so.
6. She is still feeling the effects of one of the mystical
graces which most impressed her. It was the vision of hell, which gave
rise to her vocation as Foundress. The first reaction was at a personal
level: she made up her mind that for her "the first thing was to
follow my vocation to a religious life, which His Majesty had given me, by
keeping my rule in the greatest perfection possible" (Life 32,9). The
second reaction, somewhat more remote but no less firm, was her decision
7. This was in 1560. For the two years following (1560--1562) the Saint
continued to experience the charismatic call to found. So she set about
"informing herself" thoroughly. She read the Constitutions
"so often" (Life 35,2). Much to her regret, she had to
found the new monastery outside the jurisdiction of the Order, but she
decided to establish it on the firm foundation of the Carmelite Rule. This
is what she petitioned from Rome, receiving an affirmative reply in the
foundation Brief. The petitioners (Dona Aldonza and Dona Guimor, who are
merely "fronts" for the real supplicant, Teresa of Jesus) are
given permission to establish the new house under the Carmelite Rule:
"by the present we grant you the favour of founding and building a
nuns' monastery... of the Rule and Order of Saint Mary of Mount
Carmel", and "to draw up statutes and regulations"
governing the life of the new monastery.(7)
This first Roman Brief is dated February 7, 1562. The Saint received it in
July of the same year.
8. However, before the Brief arrived in Avila, St. Teresa meets the other
foundress, Mary of Jesus. This meeting took place at the house of Dona
Luisa de la Cerda in Toledo in the Spring of 1562. At this time the Saint
is very much taken up with the problem of poverty. It is a dramatic
experience: inner demands, opposition from learned advisers, continuing
pressure from St. Peter of Alcántara, followed by obstruction from the
Provincial and the town. She herself alternated between certainty and
doubt. It was then that Mary of Jesus arrived and told her about the type
of poverty required by the Rule of Carmel "before it was
mitigated" (Life 35,2). This was a decisive factor for the Saint: the
ideal of poverty which she had in mind was endorsed by the Rule: "I
knew that it was in the Rule and I saw that it was more perfect" (ib.2),
and henceforth no theologian could dissuade her from her resolution
9. Thus, the Rule will continue to be the basis of the new
petitions which the Saint will send to Rome to consolidate the recently
founded house: Briefs of 5.12.1562 and 17.7.1565. It is from these facts
that the house will be defined juridically as being under the Rule of
Carmel (as at the conclusion of the account in Life: 36,26), and
the nuns of Mother Teresa will be called: "the Discalced nuns of Our
Lady of Mount Carmel of the first Rule".(9)
10. By this time, the Saint had read, meditated on and
thoroughly assimilated the letter and the spirit of the Carmelite Rule. In
Toledo, besides the chance meeting with Mary of Jesus, she had good
advisers. The house of the Carmelite Fathers is nearby, and there the
Prior is Fr. Anthony of Jesus (Heredia), the future companion of St. John
of the Cross in Duruelo. All of this combines to enkindle the flame of the
Rule in the Saint's soul.
11. In St. Joseph's, the novices make their profession
according to the formula used in the Incarnation, but with some
adaptations. One of these refers to the Rule: "I make my
profession..according to the primitive Rule of Our Lady of Mount
Carmel, etc". It would seem that at first neither the Foundress nor
the other Carmelite nuns who came from the Incarnation saw any need to
repeat their profession using the new text.. This concern arose only some
years later, and then the Apostolic Visitor, Fra Pedro Fernández,
insisted that all the nuns transferring from the Incarnation to the
Teresian Carmels should formally renounce the mitigated Rule. Mary of St.
Joseph (Salazar) mentions this in her Libro de Recreaciones:
"the Father Visitor had made a law that any nun of the mitigation who
sought admission to our monasteries, undertaking the obligation of keeping
the primitive Rule, should publicly renounce the mitigated Rule, just like
a profession, and this is how our Mother began (the practice)".
12. The Saint wrote in her own hand the text of her
renunciation, in the following words:
Jesus -- I, Teresa of Jesus, a nun of Our Lady of Mount
Carmel, who made profession in the Incarnation in Avila, and who is now in
St. Joseph's, Avila, where the primitive Rule is observed, and up to now I
have observed it here with the permission of our Very Rev. Fr., Fray Juan
Bautista, and he also granted that I could observe it in the Incarnation
should the superiors command me to return there,(10)
declare that it is my intention to observe it for the rest of my life, and
thus I promise, and I renounce all the Briefs given by the Pontiffs
mitigating this Rule, which with the grace of Our Lord I hope and promise
to observe until death. In confirmation of which I sign my name. Done on
the 13th. July, 1571. -- Teresa of Jesus, Carmelite".(11)
III. The Spanish text of the Rule used by the
Saint: translation or adaptation?
Despite the attention and admiration of the Saint for her
friend Mary of Jesus, there is something on which they do not agree.
Neither of them knew Latin. They needed a practical text of the Rule, an
intelligible translation. Probably each of them got one for herself. And
the choice of the Saint is not without interest:
13. The original text of the Rule had men in mind. It was
not for nuns. In the adaptation of the laws of the so-called "First
Order" for the "Second Order", there was a determining
factor in Carmelite tradition. When the Constitutions for the nuns were
being drawn up in the second half of the XV century, the Constitutions of
the friars were adapted for them. We can see this from the prologue of the
nuns' Constitutions. Thus the first Carmelite nuns of Brittany could read
them in French, and so too the Saint would read them in the Spanish text,
dating from the end of the XV or the beginning of the XVI century, which
has come down to us: the Constitutions which she read "so often"
between 1560 and 1562. What it was, in fact, was a legislative text which
adapted from the masculine to the feminine numerous directives of the
Carmelite Constitutions. -- Would the same have been done with the Rule?(12)
14. Mary of Jesus favoured an affirmative reply. The
passages of the Rule which referred to male hermits were adapted for the
nuns. Thus, from the first subtitles we read: "Concerning the three
vows and that they should have a Prioress". "The cell of the
Mother Prioress", etc. Even the warrior's "breastplate" (=
"the breastplate of justice") is changed to the woman's
"coif": "Put on the coif of justice". Before founding
the Carmel "de la Imagen", Mary of Jesus had visited the
Carmelite nuns in Italy, in some of whose monasteries this way of adapting
the text of the Rule was already in use.(13)
15. The Saint did not follow this path. She kept to the
literal text of the Rule. It was poorly translated, but it had no feminine
adjustments. In 1568 when she gave her Constitutions of St. Joseph's to
Fray John of the Cross and Fr. Anthony so that they could draw up those of
Duruelo, she included at the beginning of them the Spanish text of the
Rule. Fr. Anthony re-wrote the Constitutions, changing the feminine in
them to the masculine, but he left the text of the Rule untouched, despite
its being an imperfect translation, because it did not need to be changed
16. This gesture is of no little importance in evaluating
the Saint's attitude to the Rule. She will keep to it when she draws up
her Constitutions or when, at last, she decides to put them in print.
Certainly, in them she will have no problem about adapting some directives
of the Carmelite Rule to the communitarian life-style of St. Joseph's. But
she will leave the text of the Rule intact.(15)
IV. The return to the "primitive" Rule
In recounting the foundation of St. Joseph's in Life
36,26, the Saint tells in meticulous detail about the Rule that is
observed in the community.. It is "the Rule of Our Lady of Mount
Carmel", and it is "observed without mitigation", "as
was decreed by fray Hugo, Cardinal of Santa Sabina", "given in
the year 1248, in the fifth year of the pontificate of Pope Innocent
IV".(16) Although not all her facts
are correct, the detailed account shows that the Saint was anxious to be
informed and specific. Almost immediately (Life 36,27), having
given some more details about the content of the Rule, she expressly calls
it "first" ("as can be seen in the first Rule
itself"). In fact, "first or primitive" and "without
mitigation" are the two marks which, for the Saint, characterize the
text of the Rule adopted by the new family. We shall explain both of those
17. "Primitive"? Nowadays it is usual to
distinguish three stages in the history of the Carmelite Rule. They are
designated by the name of the persons connected with the text: the first,
the Rule of Albert ("Albertina"); the second, the Rule of
Innocent ("Innocentiana"); the third the Rule of Eugene
("Eugeniana"). The Rule of "Albert" is the one drawn
up by St. Albert of Jerusalem at the beginning of the XIII century; the
Rule of "Innocent" is the one remodelled and approved by Pope
Innocent IV in 1247; the Rule of "Eugene" is this same Rule but
with the addition of the mitigations granted by Pope Eugene IV in 1432.
18. From these "three Rules", St. Teresa chose the second: the
Rule of Innocent. But why speak to her nuns of the "first or
primitive Rule"? Recently, the Saint has been accused of ignorance
and of creating confusion. But this is not so. At that time, the name
"first" or "primitive" was commonly used to describe
the Carmelite Rule in its juridical stage prior to that then in force in
the Order. Even in official circles it was so described. Not only was this
so in the pontifical documents which the Saint received from Rome, but it
was also verified in those written by the Superior General of the Order,
Juan Bautista Rubeo. For him the Rule adopted by Mother Teresa and her
nuns in St. Joseph's is "the first", "the primitive",
the "prior Regula", "priorem et arctiorem Regulam",
and even sometimes the "Rule of St. Basil". - The Saint's choice
is very concrete: she renounces the Rule professed and observed in the
Incarnation, in which penitential austerity and the practice of poverty
had been mitigated, and she adopted the Rule as it previously was. It is
not a question of rejecting one "text" of the Rule to return to
another text of it. The text is the same: the same in the Incarnation (the
Rule of Eugene) and in St. Joseph's (the Rule of Innocent). But in the
Incarnation it is professed and observed according to a conglomerate of
dispensations and adaptations -- pontifical and customary -- which in St.
Joseph's were discarded. Historically, this text is not the first
"formula vitae" given by St. Albert to the hermits on Mount
Carmel. In fact, however, it was called the "first or primitive
Rule". And this is the terminology which the Saint adopts.(17)
19. On one point the Saint was mistaken: when she states that the Rule
adopted by her was the Carmelite one "without mitigation".
Canonically this was not so. The Rule "decreed by Fray Hugo" --
as she writes -- and approved by Innocent IV on October 1, 1247,
"clarified, corrected and mitigated" the Rule ("formula
vitae") of St. Albert.(18)
20. Possibly this error of the Mother Foundress was due to the form in
which she came to know the text; in the imperfect Spanish translation
mentioned above. Not only did the translator omit the passage of the
Apostolic Letter "Quae honorem Conditoris" which mentioned the
correction and mitigation of the Rule, but he gave this Letter the exact
opposite sense, and for good measure he prefaced the Rule and
Constitutions with the heading: "The following are the Rule and
Constitutions of the Discalced religious of the Order of Our Lady of Mount
Carmel, of the primitive Rule without any mitigation.."(19)
21. For the Saint, the historical and canonical error was marginal. What
concerned her above all was to establish a well-defined Carmelite
life-style, born of her two-fold personal experience: her experience of
God and that of fraternal community. In returning to the Rule and seeking
there a norm for Carmelite living, it was this two-fold charismatic
experience that guided her choice, and made her opt for a particular text
of the Rule. Let us now consider this point.(20)
V. The Saint's reasons for choosing this Rule
We want to specify two points: why did the Saint choose the version of
Innocent? and when did she make this choice?
22. First of all, let us recall some elementary facts, even though these
are generally known:
Firstly, the three stages of the Rule, prior to the
Saint. We will call them by the already mentioned conventional names, and
a] the Rule of "Albert": written by St. Albert.
This was for the Latin hermits on Mount Carmel. It was drawn up at the
beginning of the XIII century (between 1206 and 1214). It was approved by
Honorius III and Gregory IX (1226 and 1229).
b] the Rule of "Innocent": this is the Rule of
St. Albert, but revised, corrected and mitigated by Cardinal Hugo of Santa
Sabina and Bishop William, Bishop of Antarada, under Innocent IV (1247),
for the Carmelites who were now living in Europe, and who were obliged to
adopt new life-styles, while retaining the primitive eremitical
inspiration. The text was approved by Pope Innocent IV: Lyons 1247.
c] the Rule of "Eugene": this is the same Rule,
but mitigated in its penitential austerity by a series of pontifical
concessions, especially from Eugene IV, with the Bull of mitigation
"Romani Pontificis providentia" (1432).
23. Secondly, let us note the more important differences
between these three stages, as far as possible from the Saint's viewpoint:
a] In the first stage, the Rule is clearly eremitical, although not
without some elements of common life. Separate cells, dining alone,
private recitation of the Divine Office, etc. But daily Eucharist in
b] In the second stage, without renouncing the original
eremitical inspiration, new coenobitical elements are introduced:
foundations are allowed not just in desert places; the recitation of the
Divine Office in common is suggested; meals in common are prescribed and
allowance is made for common ownership of some animals for sustenance; the
law enjoining abstinence from meat is modified; the times of strict
silence are abbreviated (no longer from Vespers but from after Compline),
c] The third stage is characterized by the pontifical
dispensations which are added to the text of the Rule and modify its
observance. But there are no textual alterations.
24. Mother Teresa, coming from the difficult community situation in the
Incarnation, had two concerns: solitude and community. Both should be
happily interwoven. Solitude for the community, which she will effectually
enshrine in enclosure. And solitude for the Sisters, but within the
community, that is to say, solidly based on community life: prayer in
common, shared recreation, but working alone, etc. A balance between these
two elements will characterize from the beginning the life-style that she
wishes for St. Joseph's.
25. This is exactly what she finds in the Rule of "Innocent",
and that is why she chooses it. When in her writings she says that here we
are a "college of Christ", "a house of the Virgin",
"dovecotes of the Virgin", or the directive to "live as a
community", she is stressing the cenobitical aspect of the Rule which
she will develop and nuance abundantly. When she says that "we are
hermits", that "solitude is her comfort", or that the ideal
of those gathered in St. Joseph's in to live "alone with the
Alone", "not to be together except at the appointed times",
etc., she is reaffirming the primitive eremitical inspiration of the Rule.
-- She will achieve the harmonization of this two-fold component by her
presence and her creative ability with a new life-style. But faced with
the text of the Rule, she finds it much better formulated and integrated
in the text of Innocent than in that of Albert.(21)
26. When did the Saint make this choice? How much did she know about these
differences? -- It would be an anachronism to expect that the Holy
Foundress would have an historical or critical knowledge of the Rule,
something which was altogether beyond her scope. Nor would this have
formed part of the cultural concerns of her time. There are some
indications that she knew the text of the Rule in its original formulation
(Albertine). Above all, however, there was a definite moment when she
grasped the drift of the Rule independently of the dispensations and
privileges which modified its practical interpretation and religious
observance. We can specify approximately when this occurred.(22)
27. In the Spring of 1562, Mary of Jesus draws the attention of the Saint
to the authentic text of the Rule. By this time Mother Teresa had already
sent to Rome her petition for permission to make a foundation. At that
time, "to found a monastery" normally meant doing so under one
of the Rules approved by the Church. She, obviously, wished to place her
monastery under the Carmelite Rule, and an affirmative reply was already
on its way from Rome. Both the "petition" of the Saint and the
text of the Roman Brief (February 7, 1562) expressly refer to the
"Rule of Carmel". There is no mention whatsoever of "the
first Rule". This was precisely because both the petition and the
Brief were prior to the flame enkindled in the Saint by the meeting with
Mary of Jesus, and her interest in knowing in greater depth the Rule of
28. Immediately on her return to Avila from Toledo, the Saint sends a new
petition to Rome, requesting a second Brief which would counteract the
deficiencies of the former in the question of poverty. And now the
correction is based on "the first Rule". The Mother "Abbess
of St. Joseph's" and her nuns wish "not to have or possess in
common or individually any goods, in accordance with the norm of the first
Rule of the said Order...". This formula was repeated in the
concession granted in the Roman rescript of December 5, 1562. Even three
years later (July 17, 1565), the Bull of Pius IV, requested by the Saint
to confirm the preceding Brief, will repeat and endorse this motivation
based on "the first Rule".(24)
To sum up: the origin of the Teresian charism was due, firstly, to the
influence of the interior graces of the Foundress. The discovery of
"the primitive Rule" is slightly later. It happened along the
way, about the same time as the establishment of St. Joseph's, and it
notably influenced the first steps of the foundation. In turn, it
indicates a very definite stance, not only with regard to poverty, but
also and particularly in the "life-style" which the Saint
introduces in her Carmels.
VI. The Rule in the Saint's principal writings
It would be impossible to analyze here -- or even indicate -- all the
passages in which the Saint in her writings returns to the theme of the
Rule. But we might get some idea of its importance from a simple perusal
of her more important works: Life, Constitutions, Way, Foundations.
A] The Rule in the "Book of her Life"
29. The Life is principally an account of her personal vocation
and the awakening of her charism as foundress. It also relates the history
of the first foundation and of the group that began it. At the same time,
it shows the thinking of the Saint at the very outset of her foundational
initiative. The text of the Life that has come down to us was
written in 1565, three years after she had begun her reform.
30. With regard to the Rule, two facts must be emphasized: that the
Carmelite Rule entered into the very first decision of the Saint (32,9),
and that the house of St. Joseph's was set up for it (36, 26). Hence she
refers to it in great detail (36, 26--27). Judging by her account, it
seems likely that at this time the Rule is the Carmelite legislation for
the house. As well as the Rule, the community observes "other things
which seemed necessary to us to in order to observe it (the Rule) with
greater perfection" (36,27). However, it seems probable that these
"other things" would not have merited the title of
"Constitutions". Neither does it appear that the Foundress
brought with her and put into practice the Constitutions of the
Incarnation, if there were any, which we believe there were.(25)
31. The Saint's zeal for the Rule was born of a gospel maxim: the call to
practise the poverty of Jesus. "But when I saw what the Rule
required, and that poverty was the more perfect way, I could not persuade
myself to allow an endowment. And though they did persuade me now and then
that they were right (the learned men who opposed her view), yet, when I
returned to my prayer and saw Christ on the Cross, so poor and destitute,
I could not bear to be rich" (35, 2--3). A happy Christological
dovetailing of Rule and Gospel.
32. And so, in the chapters of the "Life" devoted to the history
of the foundation, the dramatic struggle for poverty continues right to
the end, and we even get the final episode: the arrival of the pontifical
Bull which would settle the problem definitively, and gives her the
opportunity of weighing up her own contribution to what has been achieved
B] The Rule in the Constitutions
For the moment we shall leave aside the question of the relationship
between the two texts, Rule and Constitutions. This will be dealt with in
the essay on the latter. Here it is sufficient to assemble the passages
which show the Saint's attitude to the Rule.
33. Firstly, in the collection of laws observed by the Discalced Carmelite
Nuns, the Rule precedes the Constitutions. This, in fact, was how it
appeared in the first official edition of the Teresian Constitutions drawn
up after the Chapter of Alcalá (1581), and inspired by the Mother
Foundress. And without doubt, this must have been the case when she drew
them up for the first time for her community of St. Joseph's, before the
foundation of Medina and Duruelo.
34. Within the Teresian Constitutions there are some
temperate but fundamental regulations taken from the Rule itself:
a] -- with regard to solitude, "the Rule orders that
each one is to remain alone" (n.8).
b] -- regarding penitential practices, "meat is never
to be eaten, except in case of necessity as the Rule ordains" (n.11).
c] -- "It is the duty of the Mother prioress to take
great care that the Rule and Constitutions be observed in all things"
(n.34. -- Cf. Manner of Visiting the Monasteries 22 and Foundations
d] -- "(Those having these offices) should do no more
for the Prioress and the older nuns than for all the rest, as the Rule
prescribes, but should be attentive to needs and age, and more to
e] -- Regarding the work of the Sisters, "they should
take into careful account what the Rule ordains: that whoever wants to eat
must work, and what St. Paul did" (n.24).
f] -- Concerning fraternal correction in the chapter of
faults, "the faults of the Sisters must be corrected with charity,
according to the Rule" (n.43).
g] -- And in summing up the content of the Constitutions:
in these "almost everything is set up in conformity with our
Rule" (n.31. -- The "almost" will be omitted in the Alcalá
35. In accord with this last statement, in the Saint's
thinking the Constitutions are a prolongation and application of the Rule
to the life of the Carmelite nun. The one should not be read independently
of the other.
C] The Way of Perfection and the Rule
36. We know that when she was writing the Way of Perfection, the
Saint at first intending following closely the Rule and the Constitutions,
providing, as it were, a commentary on them. Thus, when she begins to
discuss the indispensable virtues as a basis of the prayer life in the
community, the heading she puts to the chapter is: "Urges the
observance of the Rule and discusses three things that are important for
the spiritual life" (ch.4). And in the first redaction of the book,
she began the theme: "Do not think, my friends and my daughters, that
I will require many things of you, because may it please the Lord that we
fulfil perfectly all that our Fathers ordered in the Rule and
Constitutions, which are, after all, the fullness of virtue" (Way
E,c.6,1). -- And then, in fact, the exposition of the theme continues
absolutely independently of the juridical code of the house. The Way
of Perfection was to be a kind of spiritual code for the community: a
pedagogical and formative manual for the Carmelite nun. In this sense it
forms a composite with the legislative texts, which should be read in the
light of these pedagogical pages of the Saint.(26)
37. However, in the book the Rule is always there, beginning with the
title, where she twice reminds her readers of its connection with the
Rule: the book contains "the advice and counsel Teresa of Jesus"
gives to the Sisters of the monasteries "that, with the help of our
Lord and the glorious Virgin Mother of God, our Lady, she founded. These
monasteries follow the primitive Rule of our Lady of Mount Carmel..".
And again, over the page, we read: "it is intended for the Discalced
nuns who observe the primitive Rule of our Lady of Mount Carmel".
a] It was the Rule that she had in view when founding:
"I would consider well worthwhile the trials I have suffered in order
to found this little corner, where I have also sought that this Rule of
our Lady and Empress be observed with the perfection with which it was
observed when initiated" (3,5).
b] The Rule affirms the primacy of prayer in the life of
the Carmelite nun: "Our primitive Rule states that we must pray
without ceasing. If we do this with all the care possible -- for unceasing
prayer is the most important aspect of the Rule -- the fasts, the
disciplines, and the silence the Order commands will not be wanting"
(4,2). And she appeals to this directive of the Rule in the polemical
intent of the book against the adversaries of personal prayer: "Leave
aside your fears where there is no cause for fear; if someone should stir
up these fears in you, humbly explain the way to him. Tell him you have a
Rule that commands you to pray unceasingly -- for that is what it commands
-- and that you have to keep it" (21,10).
c] Side by side with prayer, there is the manner of
working: "..it is a great thing not to be together except at the
designated times....as is the custom which we now follow...as the Rule
commands, but each one is alone in her cell. At St. Joseph's the nuns
should be excused from having a common workroom..": this precept of
the Rule helps "silence.. solitude.. and prayer": "this
must be the foundation of this house" (4,9).
D] In the Book of the Foundations
38. "While I was praying to the Lord, He told me not to fail to
go....and that I should bring the Rule and Constitutions" (F.17,3).
In fact, the Rule and Constitutions accompanied the Saint to every
foundation. The Rule is a bond of spiritual and juridical union between
all the houses: nuns and friars of the same Rule (2,5), houses which are
under the jurisdiction of the Order or that of the bishop (3,18), houses
founded in absolute poverty and those with an income (ch.9). To all of
them could be applied what was written about the second foundation:
"In all matters they lived the same way as at St. Joseph's in Avila,
since the Rule and the Constitutions were the same" (3,18).
39. However, the Saint can distinguish between the essential and the
secondary (18,9). Two things of such importance to her as absolute poverty
("without income") and abstinence from meat, could be dispensed
in exceptional cases for the whole community, without on that account
failing in fidelity to the spirit of the Rule. This will be exactly the
case in the third foundation (Malagón), referred to in a generic way in
her book (9,3-4), but expressly laid down in the foundational documents
signed by the Saint. In this house they "will observe the mitigated
Rule of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, and so they can eat meat and have an
income in common. But despite this, in all other matters they are obliged
to observe the Constitutions of the first Rule of Our Lady of Mount
Carmel, in conformity with what is professed and observed in the monastery
of St. Joseph in Avila, and in that of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Medina
del Campo, and in all the other monasteries of the first Rule.."(27)
Never, in her copious correspondence about the Carmel of Malagón, does
she consider the house to be second class. Intentionally, in concluding
the brief account of the foundation, she affirms the contrary: "I
stayed there for some days. On one of those days, while in prayer after
having received Communion, I understood from Our Lord that He would be
served in that house" (9,5). And even more incisively in one of her
Relations: "After Communion, the second day of Lent, in St. Joseph of
Malagón....., the Lord said to me that I must hasten to make these
foundations, for He would take his rest with the souls which entered the
monasteries; that I should take all (the houses) they gave me, because
there were many souls that had no place in which to serve Him, and that
those set up in small places were like this one (of Malagón), which could
have great merit if only they desired to do what was done in other houses,
and that they should all be subject to a superior.."(28)
VII. The spirit of the Rule
40. Already in the Book of the Foundations, in a passage written about
1575/1576, the Saint remarks to her Prioresses that careful instruction
would be required so that the Sisters "may come to understand
perfection and the spirit of our Rule" (18,8).
41. For her, the Rule of Carmel is the Rule of the Blessed Virgin Mary. It
is the Rule which unites us with the origins of Carmel, with the spirit of
the first Saints -- those of the Bible who inspire us, and those holy
fathers of ours of Mount Carmel who received the Rule and observed it.
Hence the Rule is a source: it contains the essence of our spirit; it is a
bond of union with the various types of holiness in which the Carmelite
charism has been embodied.(29)
42. Among the many directives for religious life contained in the Rule,
the Saint stresses poverty. But she highlighted above all the
contemplative spirit: the injunction to pray unceasingly, listening to the
biblical word, in silence and solitude.
43. The Saint prized the Rule in its totality rather than
in its details and particular directives.(30)
With its injunction to live in allegiance to Jesus Christ. With its
eremitical inspiration and its nucleus of contemplative life. With its
strong pauline stimulus, its esteem for work, and its frame of theological
and ascetical virtues. Nothing could be more expressive than the Saint's
May it please His Majesty to give us abundant grace..... and may He
protect and favour all of us so that this excellent beginning, which He
was pleased to initiate in women as miserable as we, may not be lost
through our weakness. In His name I beg you, my daughters and Sisters,
that you always ask Our Lord for this and that each one of you who enters
in the future bear in mind that with her the observance of the primitive
Rule of the Order of the Virgin, Our Lady, begins again and that she must
in no way consent to its mitigation" (F.27,11).
VIII. Towards a text of the Rule in the spoken
44. After what was said in the previous pages, a question
remains: what text of the Rule did St. Teresa read during the first years
of her Carmelite life: 1535--1562? Did she read it in handwritten form or
did she have a printed version? There was no question of her reading it in
the original Latin, which was available to the male branch of the Order,
but ruled out for Dona Teresa, given her limited knowledge of Latin.
45. Unfortunately, it is not easy to answer these questions. We do not
have serious studies of the Spanish versions of the Rule prior to 1562. We
do know of some handwritten translations prior to this date. But we do not
know if there were printed Spanish editions. This was an uncertain
situation, which not only conditioned, but also made the personal reading
of the Rule problematic in communities as large as that of the Incarnation
46. We can get to know a little more about the
"community" situation in this Avila monastery. We mentioned
already that the so-called "Constitutions of the Incarnation"
did not have the text of the Rule. However, recently an important text
from the end of the XV century has been discovered, which probably
belonged to the monastery, and it contains copious documentation on the
Rule, as well as the Spanish translation. If, in fact, -- as is thought --
it belonged to the Incarnation at the time of the Saint, it could be her
source of information for the years when the future Foundress was eagerly
studying the Rule. -- Let us see what this arsenal of data contains.(31)
47. The bulky manuscript contains not only a series of old Carmelite
texts, but it reproduces them in two languages: first Latin and then
Spanish. Among those texts, it gives us the Rule no less than three times:
twice the text we have called that of "Innocent" (which the
Saint calls the "first Rule"), and once the one we have called
that of "Albert", that is, the original, given by St. Albert to
the hermits of Mount Carmel at the beginning of the XIII century. And all
three times the amanuensis followed the principle of writing the original
Latin first, and then the corresponding Spanish translation.(32)
48. Moreover, one of the sections of the manuscript explains in detail the
differences between these two texts of the Rule, and the reasons for the
changes introduced to the redaction of Innocent.(33)
49. The only regret among so many merits is in the quality of the Spanish
version of the texts of the Rule. Not only are they defective; they are
disastrous. They are full of errors and serious defects, so much so that
it is unlikely that these texts were read in community or used by an
educator or Mistress of novices (who also did not know Latin), without
being corrected or rejected. None of these Spanish translations was
suitable for public reading. And for a possible private reading, any of
the three versions was a poor medium of information.(34)
50. We have already referred to the thirst for information which was
kindled in the Saint during her years of Carmelite life at the Incarnation
(1560/1562). Without excluding the hypothesis that at that time she came
across the important manuscript and its translations of the Rule, it does
not seem that she kept the text, or that she took it with her or used it
in St. Joseph's, where -- as we know -- the Rule was the norm of life from
the very beginning.
The original Latin was not available to the little pioneering group. For
this reason, the Saint had to get a Spanish version, and the one she got
was totally different from the three translations in the bilingual code.
The one she seems to have handled was a none too perfect translation, but
in clear Spanish. A twin sister of the one Mary of Jesus was using at the
same time in the Carmel "de la Imagen" in Alcalá, but better.
It was a version of the Rule that would accompany the primitive Teresian
Constitutions until the time that Gracián intervened.(35)
51. The definitive version of the Rule for use by the Teresian Carmels
would be obtained by the Saint almost on the eve of her death. It would
accompany the official redaction of her Constitutions, promulgated at the
Chapter of Alcalá (1581). These were redrafted by Gracián, and it is
from his hand, too, that very probably the final translation of the Rule
When the Chapter of Alcalá ended, the Saint will press the Provincial
Gracián to have the new legislation of the nuns printed as soon as
possible. And Gracián hastened to please her. This same year, 1581, a
pocket edition was published in Salamanca containing "the primitive
Rule of Patriarch Albert of Jerusalem, confirmed, corrected and emended by
our Holy Father Pope Innocent IV".(36)
This book bore the title "The Primitive Rule and Constitutions of the
Discalced Nuns of the Order of Our Lady, the Virgin Mary of Mt
Carmel".(37) Gracián had the happy
idea of printing under this title, on the cover of the book, a precious
xylograph of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin into heaven, crowned as
queen and lady.
52. By way of preface, Gracián himself placed before the text of the Rule
a dedicatory letter "To the very religious Mother Teresa of Jesus,
foundress of the monasteries of the Discalced Carmelite nuns". In it
The principal and most usual counsel which I always heard
her giving them (St. Teresa to her nuns) is that they never leave out of
their hands the law of God, the Rule and the Constitutions of the Order,
and to read them daily, nor do they lack intelligence to understand them,
memory to meditate on them, nor courage to obey them and observe them
perfectly. Indeed there is no way more clear, complete, safe and certain
for perfection, than keeping the law of God, and obedience to the Rule and
Constitutions and the commands of the superiors. And this is why I had
them printed, so that all might have them, and in this compact form
(referring to the format of the book), so that they can carry them around
The Rule comes first, which is that of St. Albert,
Patriarch of Jerusalem, of which the great Basil wrote the first, drawn
from the customs which the ancient monks of the desert lived by.
And so, Mother Teresa, in collaboration with Gracián, was the author of
the first Spanish edition of the Rule of Carmel.(38)
In future, every Discalced Carmelite nun would have for her private use a
perfectly legible and intelligible copy of the Rule. A little personal
treasure which "should never be out of her hands", as Gracián
had heard from the mouth of the Holy Foundress.
1. Cf. Life 35, 1-2.
2. The Sister making profession pronounced the formula "three
times one after the other", in Latin, in the hands of the Visitator,
the Provincial or the Prioress of the monastery. The original text may be
seen in: Nicolás González y González, El Monasterio de la
Encarnacion de Avila (Avila 1976), tome I, p.129 - In the profession
only one vow was expressly taken. This is how is was in the original
Albertine redaction. And this is what was done in the Order for many years
(cf. Analecta O. Carm. 15, 1950, 229). In 1564 (?) the formula
used by St. John of the Cross in his profession has the three vows (cf. Biblioteca
Mística Carmelitana, 14, 365).
3. Cf. Nicolás González, op. cit. in note 2, t. II, p. 76.
- Actually we know nothing of a text of Constitutions in use in the
Incarnation during the Saint's lifetime. However, references to it are not
lacking. We do have the Spanish text of the Constitutions in use in other
Spanish monasteries of Carmelite nuns and we will refer to them later.
4. The Rule "quater in anno debet exponi fratribus" was
already prescribed in the 1281 Constitutions of the Carmelite friars. Cf. Analecta
O.Carm. 15, 1950, p. 231. -- The text of the Rule in Spanish was at
the beginning of the Constitutions of the Incarnation a century later:
1662. This edition reproduces the Constitutions drawn up in 1595, when the
Saint was already dead, and the version of the Rule contained in them is
later than 1581. -- Neither in the so-called "Constitutions of the
Incarnation" (the codex is preserved in the monastery of the
Discalced Carmelite nuns in Seville), nor in that of Osuna is the text of
the Rule transcribed. Cf. below, note 12.
5. This is when she first met the Superior General, Juan Bautista
6. We must remember that these resolutions of "the greatest
perfection" (Way 1,2) are connected with the vow of doing
what was most perfect, made at that time and commuted some years later
(2.3.1565): cf. BMC. tome II, pp.128-129.
7. Cf. Life 35,2:"often as I had read the
Constitutions.." -- The text of the Roman Brief of 7.2.1562 can be
seen in: Tomás de la Cruz - Simeón de la S.F., La Reforma Teresiana (Roma
1962), pp. 139-145: the text of the "petition" ib. pp.
8. This sensitivity of the Saint with regard to poverty was brought
about by a combination of the text of the Rule, her experience of
community life in the Incarnation, a monastery loaded with revenues and
the resulting paper-work, and above all, her interior experience: She
says: "I have a longing for poverty, though not free from
imperfection. However, I believe that if I had much wealth, I would not
keep any revenue, nor money for myself, nor do I care for it: I wish to
have only what is necessary" (Rel. 1,9). And a little later,
regarding the same things: "With regard to poverty I think that God
has been very good to me, because I do not wish to have even what is
necessary..." (Rel. 2,3). It is from this time too that the
letter of St. Peter of Alcántara dates (14.4.1562), which made such a
deep impression on the Saint (cf. BMC, t. II, p. 127-128).
9. This is the title of the Way of Perfection in the
Valladolid codex. - The text of the pontifical documents (of 1562 and
1565) can be seen in La Reforma Teresiana (cf. note 7), pp.
150-151 and 181-186.
10. Although her return as Prioress to the Incarnation was several
months later (October 1571), when she wrote this (July 13) she had already
accepted the command of the Visitator to "return to the
Incarnation" (cf. Rel. 20).
11. Cf. the text in BMC, t. II, pp. 214-215, followed by the
signature of four witnesses and the confirmation of the Apostolic
Commissioner. That same day and with a very similar formula Inés of Jesus
made her renunciation. Cf. a study on the subject in the review Monte
Carmelo (Burgos) 99(1991), pp. 85-98. - The tenor of the formula of
profession used by the first novices in St. Joseph's can be seen in Monumenta
Historica Carmeli Teresiani, I, (Rome 1973), pp. 33-34. - About the
decision of Fr. Fernández, the account of Mary of St. Joseph can be found
in the Libro de Recreaciones, Recr. 8.
12. The Constitutions of the Spanish Carmelite nuns began thus:
"Although it is scarcely possible that the monastic legislation of
any approved religious Institute, meant for the friars, could be formally
observed by the women religious of that Order.... for valid and religious
reasons it was decided and prescribed that the Constitutions of the said
sisters of the sacred and approved Order of the glorious Virgin Mary of
Mount Carmel be taken from the sacred legislation of the friars of the
said Order and applied to the said religious sisters...". (BMC,
tome 9, p.481). There is an identical text in the Osuna manuscript: cf. Carmelus
38 (1991) p.162. - The Constitutions of Vannes begin with the same
Prologue: cf. V. Wilderink, Les Constitutions des premieres
carmélites en France (Rome, 1966) p. 195.
13. The text of the Rule used in the community of "la
Imagen" (Alcalá) preceded the text of the Constitutions of St.
Teresa(!), which Mary of Jesus adopted. It was published by Vicente de la
Fuente (Escritos de Santa Teresa, t. I - Madrid 1877 -, pp.
269-272), and previously in: Regla y Constitutiones de las Carmelitas
Descalzas de la Purísima Conceptión, que llaman de la Imagen, de la
Villa de Alcalá de Enares..." in Alcalá, 1672, pp. 3-29.
14. This edition of the Rule may be consulted in La Reforma
Teresiana (Rome 1962), pp. 110ff. With regard to the defects of this
improvised version, see pp. 93-96 of the same book. Despite the
divergences between this text and that of Mary of Jesus (Alcalá), both
can be traced to the same Spanish source.
15. One has only to recall the innovations of the Teresian
Constitutions, both the first ones and those drawn up in 1581: the
introduction of recreation into community life; the postponement of
silence until after Compline.
16. Not in 1248, but in 1247.
17. For the texts of Fr. Rubeo, cf. Regesta Ioannis Baptistae
Rubei (Rome 1936) pp.36, 132-133,139,142,146. Cf. BMC, t.5,
p. 341 and 355. -- Some would justify the title of "first Rule"
for that of Innocent, saying that the Rule of Albert was a simple
"formula vitae" and would not qualify as a "Rule".
18. The Apostolic Letter Quae honorem Conditoris
said:".... nos vestris piis desideriis annuentes, declarationem et
correctionem ac mitigationem huiusmodi auctoritate apostolica
confirmamus.." (cf. M.H. Laurent, La Lettre "Quae honorem
Conditoris" in Ephemerides Carmeliticae 2  p.
19. The Spanish translator rendered the papal text, cited in the
previous note, as follows:"...ahora Nos, condescendiendo a vuestros
piadosos deseos, confirmamos con autoridad apostólica la dicha
declaración" ("..now, in deference to your pious wishes, We
confirm with apostolic authority the said declaration"). And a little
further on: "Las cuales cosas (modificadas en la Regla) sin
la tal mitigación (!) son éstas que se siguen"
("which things (modified in the Rule) without such mitigation
(!) are as follows"). This is an interpolation, totally at
variance with the pontifical document. (Cf. La Reforma Teresiana
(Rome 1962) p.110-111). -- The same defects, with slight variations, are
found in the version of the Rule used by the Carmelite nuns of "la
Imagen" (cf. de la Fuente, Escritos de Santa Teresa, t. I
[Madrid 1877] p.269). These defects were still there in the edition which
the same community of "la Imagen" published a century after its
foundation (Alcalá 1678) pp. 6-9. Nor were these deficiencies fully
corrected within the Teresian Reform in the official edition of the Rule
got out by Gracián in 1581 (pp. 2-3).
20. Recall the meaning of the account in Life, 32-36.
21. Cf. Way (1st redaction) 20,1; Found. 4,5 and
7,8: Cons. 8; Way 13,6; Life 36,26.29.
22. Perhaps one can discern a trace of the "Albertine" Rule
in the primitive Constitutions of the Saint. In n.10 of that Rule there is
a passage which was not retained in that of Innocent. We give the passage
in italics: "Nullus fratrum dicat sibi aliquid esse proprium, sed
sint vobis omnia communia, et ex iis quae Dominus vobis dederit,
distribuantur unicuique per manum prioris.." ("None of the
brothers must lay claim to anything as his own, but you are to possess
everything in common, and from what the Lord will have given to you,
each one is to receive from the Prior..."). This passage is found in
the Teresian Constitutions, n.26: "En la hora del comer no puede
haber concierto, que es conforme a como lo da el Senor. Cuando lo
ubiere...". ("The time for dinner cannot be fixed, since
this depends on how the Lord gives.....").
23. A bilingual text of the "petition" and of the Brief
(Latin and Spanish) can be found in La Reforma Teresiana,
pp.139ff. -- For a critical edition of both, cf. Monumenta Historica
Carmeli Teresiani, tome I (Rome 1973, pp. 4 and ff.
24. The respective texts can be seen in the two works cited (note 23)
pp. 150-186 and 22, 48 respectively.
25. Cf. above, note 3.
26. See the Introduction to the facsimile edition of the Way
of Perfection (Rome, Poliglotta Vaticana, 1965) pp. 37-42.
27. Cf. BMC, t.5, p.377.
28. Relation 9, probably written on February 9, 1570.
29. Cf. Way, 11,3; 13,5; Mansions 5,1,2; Found 14,
4-5; Cons. 32.
30. Generally, references to the Rule in the works of the Saint are
generic, but they are abundant. The Bible apart, no other book has been
quoted by her so often. Cf. Concordancias (Burgos 1965), where
approximately 55 references to the Rule are given.
31. The manuscript called The Avila Codex is now in the
O.Carm. General Archives in Rome (reference number II.C.O.II.35). It was
found in the monastery of the Carmelite nuns at Jerez de la Frontera by
Otto Steggink. There is an ample description of it by Gracian of St.
Teresa in Ephemerides Carmeliticae 9 (1958) pp. 442-452.
32. There are two transcriptions of the text of Innocent, the first in
Tractatus de Origine by Pedro Riera (p. 105-106); The second in De
Institutione et peculiaribus..gestis religiosorum carmelitarum by F.
Ribot (pp. 253-254). The text of Albert is also in this work by F. Ribot
33. This explanation is given in book 8 of De Institutione,
chapter six of which can be summarized thus:"why and in which
passages the said Rule was, with the authority of the Apostolic See,
declared, corrected or mitigated by Fray William, Bishop of Antarada"
34. In the same manuscript there are some insignificant emendations by
another hand. There is no trace of the Saint's hand. Cf. the study by
Tomás Alvarez: Santa Teresa y la Regla del Carmelo -- Texts of
the Rule before the Saint -- In Monte Carmelo (Burgos) 93 (1985)
35. A comparative study of the two versions -- that of the Saint and
that of "la Imagen" -- can be found in La Reforma Teresiana,
pp. 93-96. There, too, is the parallel transcription of both texts, ib.
36. This is the title of the Rule: ib. p. 1.
37. A modern facsimile edition of this venerable booklet was got out
by Tomás Alvarez (Burgos 1978), and a second facsimile edition by the
same editor: Burgos 1985.
38. Up to now, at least, this is the first known printing of the
Carmelite Rule in Spanish. -- Fr. Gracián also published at this time
another book called. Primitive Rule and Constitutions of the Province
of the Discalced Carmelite friars of the Order of Our Lady the Virgin Mary
of Mount Carmel (published in Salamanca in 1581 according to the
colophon date, or in 1582 according to the date on the cover). However,
despite the promise in the title, the text of the Rule was omitted from