What Is A Cloistered Monastery For?

St. Teresa and her small community founded more than 450 years ago invite us to feel with the Church and to commit ourselves to it by tirelessly dedicating ourselves to apostolic tasks.

Newsroom (16/08/2022 12:30 PM, Gaudium Press) What is the use of a cloistered convent in Avila? Many who approach the locutorium of the Convent of St. Joseph, or another cloistered convent, make this superficial comment:

“Wouldn’t it be better if these women served the poor in humble neighborhoods or in the missions? Wouldn’t they do much more by healing the sick and elderly? What are they doing in here, when there is so much to do outside, in the world? Does this closed life make sense today? Can they be happy between the bars, without ever leaving?”.

Certainly they can be happy, even very happy, according to what St. Teresa herself says: “Only those who go through it can understand the pleasure we take in those foundations when at last we can enclose ourselves; one does not truly live except by being there again.” […]

Testimony that leads us to fall in love with our vocation

For 450 years, our diocese has benefited from the graces bestowed on it through this convent. St. Teresa, in founding it in strict enclosure, created an ideal model in the Church so that the people called by God to the Discalced Carmel could live a passionate history of silence, prayer and intense love for God. Certainly the Convent of St. Joseph is needed, as all contemplative convents are needed.

St. Joseph’s Convent after all this time reminds us from within its walls, through the hidden life of its nuns, of the purpose for which St. Teresa founded it: to remain faithful to our vocation, each one to which God has called us, in all times, but especially in our intensely secularized present time; to live the authentic mission of the Church through prayer and the sacrifice of their lives.

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For Discalced Carmelites of the male and female branches, for priests, for people in consecrated life, the way of life inaugurated by St. Teresa leads us to fall in love with our vocation. Her silent witness, her spiritual depth, her sanctity of life, lead us to the conviction of the value of this way of choosing to follow Christ, seeking greater perfection as she lived in this house: “Since God has so many enemies and so few friends, all my desire was, and still is, that these should be good. I decided then to do what little I could: to follow the evangelical counsels with all perfection.” […]

Prayer is not something destined for the few

Christian life is a vocation to prayer. The ideal of the consecrated life and of Christian life, which appears in the Way of Perfection and became concrete in the foundation of the Convent of St. Joseph, is prayer.

Prayer is not something destined for the privileged few, but for all those who want to be friends of God. Teresa, in writing The Way, in the Convent of St. Joseph, became the first Carmelite teacher of prayer. One need of man today is interiority, to withdraw into the center of his soul and meet with himself so as not to be swept away by any wind of ideology or interest. But a sure way to find ourselves is to find ourselves with God. […]

It is urgent to listen to the questioning voice of St. Teresa

St. Joseph’s foundation reminds us of the need to be apostles in a world in crisis. The Discalced Carmelites of Saint Joseph are apostles in the silence of their cell, of their cloister.

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The sad events in the Church of St. Teresa’s time, those difficult times, the various currents of spirituality that were not always orthodox: the new Christians, the enlightened, visionaries and prophets, the division of Christians, all this caused her to respond with great effectiveness and to work to restore to the holy Church her beautiful face. […]

Teresa always remained in absolute fidelity and love for the Church, for which she suffers and within which she points her way to holiness and perfection. She was conscious of the need to open herself to the missionary expansion of the Church.

Here, in the new convent, began this original apostolate of Saint Teresa with her few nuns to serve the Church. Today, immersed in a world in crisis economically and in spiritual and moral values, St. Teresa reminds us that the historical moment of the 16th century was no less convulsive than ours, and that she was very decisive in adversity.

In the present circumstances, enveloped in a culture opposed to evangelical principles, in these equally adverse times in which, in St. Teresa’s expression, they want to throw the Church to the ground, the apostolic spirit seems necessary; it is urgent to listen to her questioning voice:

“Oh, my sisters in Christ! Help me to supplicate this to the Lord, for it is for this purpose that He has gathered you here! This is your vocation; these must be your cares and your desires; employ your tears here, and to this end direct your requests. [The world is being overtaken by fire; they want to condemn Christ again, as they say, for they are raising a thousand false witnesses against Him, intending to overthrow His Church. […] No, my sisters, this is not the time to deal with God about unimportant things.

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The Church needs us as apostles

May St. Teresa infect us with her ardor: this is no time to be distracted by trivial matters. According to the teaching of the Second Vatican Council, every Christian is called to be an apostle: “the Catholic who does not carry out an apostolate to the best of his ability must consider himself useless to the Church and useless to himself.

The Church needs us as apostles in our parish, in the apostolic movements and in our family, at work, with our friendships. We often feel the temptation to live Christianity at the margin of the Church: Christ yes, the Church no.

Now, St. Teresa’s message is clear: “I consider how great is all that the Church commands. She invites us to live within her and to serve her through the Reformation, until we die in her: “Blessed be God, for I am a daughter of the Church. I am a daughter of the Church!”.

This reminds us that we cannot live the Gospel according to our own criteria, but according to the faith of the Church: “Believe firmly in what Holy Mother Church believes, and be sure to go the right way.

St. Teresa and her small community founded more than 450 years ago invite us to feel with the Church and to commit ourselves to her, dedicating ourselves without respite to apostolic tasks. “Happy are those who serve the Church in such great need as she has now, and so end their lives!”[1]

Bishop Jesús García Burillo

Text taken from the magazine Heralds of the Gospel n. 128, August 21012.

[1] Excerpts from the Pastoral Letter on the occasion of the 450th anniversary of the foundation of the Convent of Saint Joseph and the reform of Carmel.

Compiled by Teresa Joseph

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