Center for Carmelite Studies


Our Carmelite heritage is a vibrant spiritual and intellectual tradition that has contributed to the life of the Church and the world for over 800 years, and whose message speaks to contemporary people of all faiths and walks of life and continues to address the deep hungers and longings of the human heart.

Creating opportunities for further studies, especially doctoral studies in the Carmelite tradition, is exciting and we are giving it our closest attention.

As we continue to develop the Certificate in Carmelite Studies, we are also looking at other ways of making available courses, lectures, prayer experiences, spiritual direction and publications.

We are also reaching out to the wider Carmelite family, and to anyone interested in knowing more about the riches of our contemplative, mystical tradition.

Certificate in Carmelite Studies


The Center for Carmelite Studies at the Catholic University of America currently offers a variety of courses and programs to make the resources of the rich Carmelite heritage more available to the contemporary church and world. This new program provides two options for a more in-depth study of the Carmelite tradition. Non-degree graduate students may obtain the “Graduate Certificate in Carmelite Studies” by successfully completing four courses (12 credits) authorized for the program. Graduate degree students may obtain this additional academic qualification as a “subplan” of their degree program, by successfully completing four courses (12 credits) approved for the subplan. 

At present this program is offered on campus, in person, during the fall and spring semesters, so that students may take advantage of the wide range of additional resources available at Catholic University of America and its environs, including lectures, colloquia, and workshops, with access to the outstanding Carmelitana Collection nearby at Whitefriars Hall as well as other specialized theological libraries, museum collections, and events in the Washington, DC area.

Enrollment and Admission Requirements

Non-degree graduate students who meet CUA’s requirements for enrolling in Master’s level courses may apply at any time through CUA’s Graduate Admissions; only the application fee and official transcript are required. Study may be full-time or part-time.

Graduate degree students interested in the subplan in Carmelite Studies may apply at any time using the form available from the Center for Carmelite Studies.

In either case, students are expected to achieve a minimum grade point average of 3.0 in the qualifying course in order to satisfy the certificate or subplan requirements.

Learning Objectives

Upon completion of the program, students should be able to:

  • Demonstrate a graduate studies level knowledge of the Carmelite tradition as a whole;
  • Display relevant knowledge of the major Carmelite theological, spiritual, and philosophical texts, including the writings of Carmel’s principal saints, scholars, and doctors of the church.
  • Draw upon this knowledge in addressing contemporary pastoral and social needs.

Graduate Degree Description


Qualifying Courses

This course offers an overview of the main movements, representatives, and spiritualities of the medieval Carmelite tradition from its beginnings to the eve of the Teresian Reform (approximately 1200 to 1500). Topics include the tradition’s biblical roots, its historical origins on Mount Carmel near the beginning of the 13th century, its Marian and Elijan heritage, Albert of Jerusalem and the enduring impact of the Carmelite Rule, the move to Europe and assimilation to the ranks of the mendicants, important medieval texts such as The Fiery Arrow and The Book of the Institution of the First Monks, the inclusion of women and laity, early reform movements, the development of devotion to Our Lady of Mount Carmel and the brown scapular, and the Carmelite saints, scholars, heroes, and artists of this period, including Angelus of Jerusalem, John Baconthorpe, Andrew Corsini, Peter-Thomas, Nuno Pereira, Frances D’Amboise, Filippo Lippi, Thomas Netter, Baptist of Mantua, John Soreth, and many others.Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Ut elit tellus, luctus nec ullamcorper mattis, pulvinar dapibus leo.

This course offers an overview of the main movements and representatives of the Carmelite tradition from the beginnings of the Teresian Reform to the present. Topics include the evolution of Carmel’s traditional Marian and Elijan spirituality in modern times, along with the enduring influence of Teresa of Avila, John of the Cross, Mary Magdalene de’ Pazzi, the Reform of Touraine (John of St. Samson, Michael of St. Augustine, Maria Petyt), Lawrence of the Resurrection, the Martyrs of the French Revolution, Thérèse of Lisieux, Elizabeth of the Trinity, Edith Stein, Titus Brandsma, and many others. Attention will also be given to the development of new expressions of the Carmelite charism (e.g., in “active” Carmelite congregations and ecclesial movements) as well as the growth of Carmel in North America and throughout the world.

This course offers an overview of the life, doctrine, and enduring influence of St. Teresa of Avila, first woman declared a “doctor of the church,” through her major writings: Life, Way of Perfection, Interior Castle. Topics covered include her historical context, as well as her contributions in the areas of mysticism and spiritual theology. Attention will also be given to her contemporary importance in women’s studies and ecumenical/interfaith dialogue.

This course offers an overview of the life, teaching, and enduring influence of John of the Cross, “doctor of the church,” through the study of his poetry and major prose works: The Ascent of Mount Carmel / Dark Night, The Spiritual Canticle, and The Living Flame of Love.Topics covered include his biography and historical context, as well as his contributions in the areas of mysticism and spiritual theology. Attention will be given to his theological anthropology and epistemology; his treatment of desire, the “dark night,” and human transformation; and the creative application of his insights by contemporary authors dealing with such issues as ecumenism and interfaith dialogue, the contemporary decline in religious affiliation, and the struggle for social justice.

This course examines the life, spiritual teachings, and enduring impact of the youngest “doctor of the church” and co-patron of the missions, Thérèse of Lisieux, and her younger “sister in the spirit” Elizabeth of the Trinity. Attention will be given to Thérèse’s Story of a Soul and the development of her “little way” of confidence and love, the significance of her “trial of faith,” her “missiology,” and her enormous influence on the contemporary church. The course will also explore Elizabeth’s influential letters and retreat notes on the indwelling of the Trinity, noting the similarities and differences between these two great spiritual masters.

This course offers an introduction to the life, writings, and thought of Edith Stein, Sr. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, philosopher, educator, martyr, and co-patron of Europe. Themes will include her promotion of women’s education, her spiritual teachings, and her importance for the Jewish-Christian dialogue.

From the decision of the original Carmelite hermits to found near the spring of Elijah on Mt. Carmel, and to choose Mary as the “lady of the place” by building a chapel in her honor, Elijah and Mary have played a key role in the Order’s charism and self-identity. This course will study the development of Marian and Elijan traditions and devotions in the Carmelite family, and situate them within contemporary theological perspectives. Attention will be given to the way in which shifts in Carmelite narratives about their great contemplative and prophetic models correspond to shifts in Carmelite self-understanding.

Selected contemporary meditative and contemplative prayer practices (such as “centering” and lectio divina) will be compared with traditional Carmelite teaching on prayer, as expressed in the writings of Teresa of Avila, John of the Cross, Thérèse of Lisieux, and other representatives of the Carmelite tradition.

This course reviews the spiritual journey to union with God as presented by Carmelite authors, especially John of the Cross and Teresa of Avila. It emphasizes the important role of spiritual guidance through this journey, with special attention given to the questions that arise from today’s spiritual travelers.

With the permission of the Center for Carmelite Studies and consultation of a particular faculty member, the student draws up a list of reading materials on a Carmelite topic to read throughout the semester. The faculty member will agree with the student on the manner in which the student’s appropriation of the reading list should be assessed and graded. (This option is intended especially for those who want to explore in greater depth other Carmelite figures and movements such as Br. Lawrence of the Resurrection, the Touraine Reform, Titus Brandsma, Teresa of the Andes, etc.)

With the permission of the Center for Carmelite Studies and consultation of a particular faculty member, the student designs and implements a research project on a Carmelite topic resulting in a research paper of the same scope and quality of a paper produced in a masters seminar.

Additional Courses at CUA may be counted towards the Certificate with permission of the Chair of Carmelite Studies

Concentrates on the works of Santa Teresa de Avila and San Juan de la Cruz, devoted to the study of asceticism and the Christian implications of mysticism.

Interdisciplinary and Transatlantic study of early modern female conventual culture in the Hispanic world. This course examines the cultural production of convents (poetry, drama, autobiographies, spiritual writings, visual arts, and music) in its historical and religious contexts. Readings will include texts by Spanish nuns St. Teresa of Avila, María de Ágreda, María de San Alberto, and María de San José Salazar, and Spanish American nuns Inés de la Cruz, Úrsula Suárez, María de San José, and Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, among others. Course will be taught in English.

This course considers the basic theories and methods of the practice of spiritual direction. It moves from an examination of the theological foundations of this ministry to a retrieval from the Christian tradition of principles and methods for the practice of discernment and spiritual direction today. Various models of spiritual direction articulated in different schools of spirituality will provide a resource for participation as they develop a sense of their own approach to this ministry. The course will include discussion and exercises to introduce participants to spiritual issues addressed in this ministry and the skills needed.

An introduction to the study of mysticism. Issues include the relationship of mystical experience and doctrine, the cross-cultural study of mysticism, and an analysis of various philosophical, theological, natural, and social scientific methods employed in the study of mysticism.