The word "Carmelite" takes its origin from Mount Carmel, the mountain of the Prophet Elijah, which in the biblical and patristic traditions means fertility, beauty, generosity and wealth of grace. All this, adapted to the spiritual life, is realised in those who embrace the Carmelite contemplative life.
From 1400, under the guidance of the friars, pious women who sought a deeper spirituality, have wanted to adapt the spirit of Carmel and the Rule to their condition as women. Thus were born the cloistered Carmelite nuns - officially in 1452 in Florence (Italy) - known as praying communities, completely dedicated to meditation, prayer, work and penance. In France, they spread quickly through the efforts of Blessed Frances D'Amboise, assisted by Blessed John Soreth.
In 1562, Teresa of Jesus began her famous "Teresian" reform with the aim of re-establishing a true Carmelite life for religious women as proposed in the Council of Trent. This was a reform which was meant to remain within the larger family, as it happened to be with previous and successive reforms. But after the death of Teresa of Jesus, the group of "Discalced Carmelite nuns" followed the "Discalced Carmelite friars", cutting themselves off from the original trunk and constituting a separate group.
The Carmelite cloistered nuns are women who have discovered the absolute value of the Kingdom of God, and wish to realise this in their monasteries, as a praying sisterhood at the service of the Church. They commit themselves to live in intimate union with Jesus, God and man, in order to make present today the plan of God for humankind. They wish to be a visible sign of the union of God with the world.
They practice this value in the spirit of Carmel, fertilising the world with the presence of God, constantly praising him, proclaiming his eternal beauty, his limitless wealth of grace and the fruits of good works to all who serve him generously. The Carmelite nuns show the joy of serving the Lord and of living in his loving presence all their days. In brief, they make real the certainty that God loves us and they commit their lives and their complete love to Him. They wish to live like the Virgin Mary, open to the will of God and proclaiming his love.
The Carmelite nuns, together with the Church and other religious Orders, suffered from the changes in history, but they remained faithful to the charism of Carmel. They renewed their Constitutions in accordance with the spirit of the Second Vatican Council, and today they number almost a thousand in about 80 monasteries around the world.
Following the recommendations of the Church in recent times various monasteries have joined into a Federation of monasteries, with their own statutes. The Federation is an important step towards better communication, establishing initial and on-going formation programmes and is a great help in all the needs that may arise in the fulfillment of their mission and in achieving a better sisterly life. At present there are four Federations: one in the Philippines, which includes all the monasteries in that country, and three in the Iberian Peninsula which include almost all the monasteries of the region.