Our own branch of the Carmelites, the Discalced or Teresian Carmelites, sprang from the 16th century Reform of St Teresa of Avila, who also founded the Discalced Carmelite friars with the help of St John of the Cross. In their life and writings we discover the rich and abundant resource of Carmelite Spirituality. The patron of our monastery at Dysart is St Thérèse of Lisieux, a French Carmelite nun who died in 1897 at the age of twenty-four and was canonised less than 30 years later. She became the most widely known and loved of all the saints of modern times. Her witness to God's merciful love is at the heart of our charism as we live it today.
The Carmelite Order is made up of nuns, friars and lay people. The 15 monasteries of our nuns in Britain are autonomous but have very similar structures and lifestyle. However, the monastery at Dysart has the further dimension of being an Infirmary Carmel, ready to welcome sick and infirm Sisters from other communities when they are in need of special nursing care. In our present Community at Dysart we have a full complement of twenty-four Sisters, some fully active and some not quite so able, but living gladly together in all our individual diversity. God's grace supports and nourishes us in faith, hope, and love, filling our lives of prayer and work with great joy and thanksgiving.
O love that loves me more than I can love myself or understand! -St. Teresa of Avila
Dysart Carmel was founded on June 17, 1931, ‘in poverty, with no temporal aid’ as our Annals record. During the great Depression of those times, our district of Kirkcaldy was classed by the government as a particularly depressed area. Nevertheless as time went on, postulants came, as well as Sisters from other Carmels, and the community was gradually built up over the following years, while improvements were made to the house and garden.
In Carmels throughout Britain by the mid-80s, many Sisters were growing older and needing care, while on the other hand few young people were joining the Order. The Dysart Community decided to enlarge their Infirmary to enable them to care not only for their own invalids but also for Sisters from other Carmels who did not have the necessary resources. Then in 1994 we investigated the possibility of making Dysart Carmel a ‘House of Welcome’ for any elderly Sisters who wished to become integrated with us while still able to take part in community activities, knowing that they would be able to remain and be cared for if they later became incapacitated. After making some necessary adaptations to the house we began to receive such Sisters. At the same time some younger Sisters came to assist us in the work, some of these remaining to become permanent members of the Community. Meanwhile as the years went on, Carmels no longer viable were having to close, and quite a few of the Sisters from these communities chose to transfer to Dysart. As a result, our own community gradually increased in number so that today we have a full house.
During all these comings and goings there have been, throughout both good and bad times, many blessings and overflowing grace which certainly accounts for the deep harmony among us all, in spite of the differences in our individual Carmelite beginnings and our varying ages and states of health. The Sisters are sensitive to each other’s vulnerability, and a loving concern marks our community relationships in the spirit of Hopkins’ poem for a wedding –
Each be other’s comfort kind,19
Deep, deeper than divined;
Divine charity, dear charity
Fast you ever, fast bind.