This Carmel (as the Convents are referred to) at Bangalore was founded by Bishop Maurice Despature of revered memory in 1932. Desiring to have in his diocese of Bangalore, a praying community entirely dedicated to the contemplative life, the Bishop introduced cloistered Carmelites from Cholet, France, into his diocese ( now the Archdiocese of Bangalore). Within a few years, thanks to the help received from many benefactors, our pioneers, under the leadership of Sr. Elizabeth of the Trinity, were able to put up the monastic structures where nineteen Sisters are now spending their days in a life that is 'hidden with Christ in God'.
The ancient Order of Carmel traces its origin from the Prophet Elias and his disciples, who made their dwellings in the caves of Mount Carmel. The coat of arms of the Order bears a hand with a flaming sword and on the scroll the words of the Prophet of fire. 'With zeal have I been zealous for the Lord God of Hosts.' Devotion to the Mother of God has been characteristic of Carmelites through the centuries. According to an age-old tradition the first oratory dedicated in her honour was built on Mount Carmel. IN the year 400, a rule was given to the hermits of Carmel by John, Patriarch of Jerusalem. Early in the thirteenth century St. Albert, Patriarch of Jerusalem gave their successors a more complete rule, which was approved by the Holy See in 1226. This is the primitive rule observed by the Discalced Carmelites of the present day. During the thirteenth century the Order spread first in the east and then through Europe. It was in England that St. Simon Stock received from Our Lady, Queen of Carmel, the sacred Scapular, with its precious privileges. At the end of the fourteenth century, after the terrible years of the great plague, known as the 'Black Death', it was deemed advisable to modify in some points, the rigour of the Carmelite Rule. In 1431 the Holy See approved these mitigations.
During the twelfth century, in the age of Crusaders, some of the crusaders and pilgrims coming from western countries, decided to stay on in the Holy Land to lead a life of deeper piety and penitence. Mount Carmel exercised a peculiar fascination on those who chose to live as hermits in a region noted for its scenic beauty, and associated with the great accomplishments of the Prophet Elias.
Finding it too difficult to live a purely eremitical life, in complete solitude and isolation, some of these hermits, desiring to form a brotherhood of hermits. requested a Rule from St. Albert, Patriarch of Jerusalem. The most important clause in this Rule prescribes that the hermits meditate day and night on the law if the Lord, and watch in prayer. Thus came into existence the Order if Carmel, which - from its infancy - cultivated devotion to Our Lady of Carmel in a very special way.
The vicissitudes of the Holy Land compelled the Carmelites to migrate to the West; and there they had to accommodate and adjust their life-style to that of the mendicant Orders. As the Franciscans and Dominicans had a branch for Sisters, so in the fifteenth century, thanks to the efforts of Blessed Jonn Soreth and several others, Carmelite Sisters could establish converts in many parts of Europe. By this time, Carmelite piety towards Our Lady was expressed and spread through the Scapular devotion.
By the 16th Centuary, the Church itself needed reform. So it is not surprising that many of the older religious Orders too were in urgent need of renewal. St. Teresa of Jesus from Avila was chosen by the Holy Spirit to reform the Order of Carmel. She founded more than fifteen Carmels in different parts of Spain. Her Carmels were characterised by a limited number of religious in each community; silence and solitude; deep prayer; devotion to Our Lady; strict enclosure; strong apostolic orientation.
Teresa wanted her daughters to be hermits-in-community. They were to live as hermits for the sake of intimate communion and constant attachment to God. This inner quest for Divine friendship was to be humanly supported by a community of faith and supernatural charity. Each Sister however has to think not only of herself but of the salvation of the world. One of the Carmelite Sisters who has reached this ideal in modern times is St. Terese of the Child Jesus from the Lisieux Carmel, who has been declared Patroness of the Missions though she was a cloistered Carmelite. Though she lived in a cloistered Carmel and died at the age of twenty-four, her heart embraced the whole world.
Today there are more than fifteen thousand Teresian cloistered Carmelites in more than 700 Carmels distributed over the five Continents. In India there are thirty two cloistered Carmels including this one at Bangalore.
Their daily routine centers around prayer - personal and liturgical. Teresian prayer is not just recitation of prayers but a way of life including the practice of virtue. Teresian prayer is an attitude of faith and love that is cultivated through an atmosphere of solitude, silence and detachment. Daily participation in the Eucharist Sacrifice renews them constantly in their desire to sacrifice themselves for the salvation of humanity. Along with their brother priests, they are obliged to the daily official prayer of the Church - the Divine Office which they recite seven times a day. Their Rule mentions the injunction of St. Paul, that those who do not work, should not eat. And in most of their communities, all the house-work is done by the Sisters themselves. Here in Bangalore, it is they who supply the hosts to many of the Parishes in the City. They also do needle work and gardening. Their daily community schedule included also meals and recreation in common.
All in all, the life of a Carmelite Sister is a prayerful, simple, quiet existence, filled with the Love of God and Neighbour.
Carmel is thought to be the first Order to establish a convent of Indian Nuns. A son of St. Ignatius, so dear to St. Teresa was instrumental in this work. In the early part of the eighteen century Fr. Coeurdoux, S.J., arriving off the coast of Coromandel was caught in a terrible storm. Seeing the peril he vowed that if he landed safely he would strive to found there a Carmelite Monastery. The difficulties were immense. The few Christian families were reluctant to break with centuries-old customs of child marriages. At last Fr. Coeurdoux persuaded a family with one unmarried daughter and two infant widows, both under the age of nine, to agree that their daughters should be consecrated to God. After many troubles and disappointments, in 1748 the first five postulants (2 little Hindu widows having joined the first 3) were translated into an establishment erected in the name of St. Teresa. One can imagine the difficulties Fr. Coeurdoux and his successors had to overcome for the instruction and training of these young girls at a time when most women were illiterate even in their own language. But the seed was sown and God blessed such a generous enterprise. After nearly two centuries the Convent of Pondicherry opened two new houses, one in Karikal and the other in Kumbakonam, the latter opened a house in Yercaud.
The next group of Carmelite monasteries to be established in India were the fruits of missionary efforts on the part of Carmels in Europe. The first to be founded was the Carmel of Mangalore. Sr. Mary of Jesus Crucified of the Carmel of Pau (France) ardently desired this foundation but the means were lacking. One day a young girl appeared to her and told her to ask help from her father. Sr. Mary replied she did not know who was her father. The girl said it is he from whom you will receive a letter tomorrow. Therefore they wrote to him and he wrote back that he would gladly provide the money. Sr. Mary and four other nuns set out for India, and the Carmel of Mangalore was begun in 1870. It was 62 years later that the next Indian foundation was made in Bangalore, also by French Carmelites. The following year (1934) Spanish Sisters from Mandrid established a Carmel in Kottayam and Belgain Sisters founded the Calcutta Carmel. In 1943 a Carmel was founded from Bangalore in Coimbatore and one from Mangalore in Shembaganur. In 1947 again the Convent of Bangalore sent a batch of Sisters to Goa and Kottayam Carmel one to Tiruvalla. In 1957 Mangalore opened a house in Trichinopoly. Bombay (Mumbai today) received some Sisters from Bangalore at the time of the Eucharistic Congress (1964) and in 1969 Kottayam open a Convent in Quilon. This is the way the Carmelites were scattered through India, from time to time more Carmels were started, and there are around thirty two today.
14, Ali Askar Road,
Bangalore 560 052, India
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During a visit to the Convent with my wife, I took a few external photographs which would give you a gist of the atmosphere one can expect. If one has to talk to any of the sisters within the convent, (except two sisters who meet visitors, Sr. Alice and another sister whose name I forgot), one has to do so through a grilled and curtained window. The main Chapel is really beautiful, and the nuns are either in the choir loft or behind a fully grilled and curtained wall, which forms part of the Chapel.Communion is given through a small opening in the wall at the side of the grill.
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Thought for the Day:" Blessed are you poor, For yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are you who hunger now, For you shall be filled. Blessed are you who weep now, For you shall laugh. Blessed are you when men hate you, And when they exclude you, And revile you, and cast out your name as evil, For the Son of Man's sake. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy! For indeed your reward is great in heaven, Fon in the manner their fathers did to the prophets. But woe to you who are rich, For you have received your consolation. Woe to you who are full, For you shall hunger. Woe to you who laugh now, For you shall mourn and weep. Woe to you when all men speak well of you, For so did they fathers to the false prophets." Holy Bible: Luke 6:20-26