5. The Reform of St. Teresa of Avila

hen St. Teresa of Avila entered the Carmelites at the Monastery of the Incarnation in Avila, Spain at the age of twenty-one (21), the original fervor of the nuns had unfortunately declined significantly. This was the case across Spain and throughout the Order. The parlors at the Monastery of the Incarnation had become a gathering place for the ladies and gentlemen of the city. The nuns would talk for hours on end daily with them. Chatter was incessant. The nuns could leave the enclosure with the slightest excuse. The nuns were numerous (140 religious in the convent in Avila at the time) and this became a cause and effect of relaxation. Carmel had become the ideal place for those who wanted an easy life without problems.
imageOn February 9, 1562, Saint Teresa started the reform of the nuns, leaving the Incarnation to found the monastery of St. Joseph in Avila and live the primitive rule unmitigated. St. Teresa and the reformers sought to return to the Holy Customs and Traditions of the original Carmelite hermits and thus return to a God-centered life with simplicity and  poverty.                                                         ST. TERESA OF AVILA            
A strict enclosure was re-established along with almost perpetual silence, broken only by the cheerful recreations twice a day. The nuns lived in small communities of thirteen (13) per monastery. The convent had no income and, joyfully to the nuns, reigned in great poverty. They wore coarse habits made of wool throughout the entire year, and they also replaced their shoes with simple sandals. Then, as well, they bound themselves once more, as the Rule of St. Albert calls for, to a perpetual abstinence from meat and a stricter fast. The Carmelites of the reform became differentiated. They were known as Discalced Carmelites, while those not of the reform of Teresa later became called the Carmelites of the Ancient Observance.
The Discalced Carmelites lived by the Holy Rule of St. Albert and the Constitutions of 1581 (enacted in the Chapter of Alcalá), which were from then on scrupulously observed in Carmel for four centuries. In 1926 these Constitutions were revised to fit the new 1917 Code of Canon Law, but even then the review and revising was done with extreme care "for fear they would upset the revered text that the Holy Mother, inspired by Heaven, had so precisely composed and observed" (Fr. William of St. Albert, Superior General).