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Reform

By 1238 the advance of the Saracens into the Holy Land was making it difficult to maintain the community on Mount Carmel which lived on alms from Christian pilgrims. Gradually the brothers returned to Europe and made foundations there. While they tried to remain faithful to their hermit way of life, it was inevitable that changes were made according to the differing circumstances of life in medieval Europe. In the fifteenth century communities of women were first admitted to the Order, primarily in Spain and Italy. A century later in Spain St. Teresa of Avila was moved by the Spirit to found a small convent with a few nuns, where the Carmelite Rule could be kept in its original form. For inspiration she looked to "those holy Fathers of ours from Mount Carmel." The life Teresa established for her nuns was a community life infused with an eremitical spirit. She specified that each of her monasteries build hermitages to which the nuns could go for prayer in solitude. St. Teresa, with the collaboration of St. John of the Cross, also founded reformed houses of Carmelite friars. Eventually the Discalced ("shoeless", signifying reform) Carmelites became an Order separate from the Carmelites of the Ancient Observance, as the original Carmelite Order is known.

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