Mental prayer in my opinion is nothing else than an intimate sharing between friends; it means taking time frequently to be with Him who we know loves us. In order that love be true and friendship endure, the wills of the friends must be in accord.
— St. Teresa of Jesus
This definition of prayer by St. Teresa of Jesus contains within it the nucleus of Carmelite Spirituality.
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Prayer as friendship with God
Friendship with God as a Conformity to God's Will
Centrality of Scripture
Centrality of the Humanity of Christ
Whoever lives in the presence of so good a friend and excellent a leader as is Jesus Christ can endure all things. Christ helps us and strengthens us and never fails; he is a true friend. And I see clearly that God desires that if we are going to please him and receive his great favors this must come about through the most sacred humanity of Christ, in whom he takes his delight. Many, many times I perceived this through experience.
St. John of the Cross offers the following counsel to those who seek holiness:
First, have a habitual desire to imitate Christ in all your deeds by bringing your life into conformity with His. You must then study His life in order to know how to imitate Him and behave in all events as He would.
Carmelites also honor Mary as the Mother of God, the one from whom Jesus received his human nature.
The Practice of Virtue as a Foundation of a Life of Prayer
St. John of the Cross emphasizes the centrality of the theological virtues of faith, hope and love in our relationship with God. He states: Faith is comparable to the feet by which one journeys to God, and love is like one’s guide.
The purpose of prayer is the birth of good works
Similarly, St. John of the Cross emphasizes the virtue of charity as the fruit of prayer and the sign of the authenticity of one’s relationship with Christ. He states: In the evening, you will be examined in love. Therefore, learn to love God as He desires to be loved, and forget your own way of acting.
These, then, are a few central characteristics of the Carmelite approach to spirituality. For more articles on Carmelite spirituality, especially as interpreted by St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus, visit the website of The Apostolate of the Little Flower, the bi-monthly magazine of spirituality published by the Discalced Carmelite Friars of the Oklahoma Province of St. Thérèse.