The Rule of St Albert has a privileged place in the story of Carmel, both as a spiritual document and as a juridical one. It is an inspirational text and expression of a commitment to an ideal. It is about a spirituality that is experienced and a way of life that is lived. Carmelite spirituality as such is impossible to define.
Not only is the precise date of the Rule unclear (c 1207) but there is no one historical person or persons that can be named as founder of the Order. The Rule itself is basic and concise. It has a beauty and simplicity about it that gives it a quality of poetry more than of legislation, humble, almost domestic expression of a family spirit and charism, that captures the inward character focus of our life rather than any outward expression. The Rule of Carmel is the shortest of the great classical rules approved by the Church – shorter than that of Augustine, Benedict or Francis – yet today, eight centuries later, it is still a way of life and a vehicle of religious experience for thousands of women and men all over the world. It is amazing that such a large tree should have so simple a root’.
The Rule of Carmel greatly influenced Teresa of Avila and found concrete expression in her writings and in the spirituality of the many convents founded and shaped by her. As she was dying she said to those around her, with warmth and maternal love: for the love of God, Sisters, take care to observe the Rule and Constitutions. These were not just the words of a dying nun, not even of a dying saint; they were an expression of Teresa’s constant advice and admonition to all her communities, words that still echo down the centuries and are a constant invitation to all every Carmelite to refresh our spirits continually in the spring of Carmel so that, in Teresa’s own words, we can begin always anew.