ORIGINS OF THE CARMELITE ORDER
The origins of the Carmelite Order can be traced back to thirteenth century hermits, who, desiring to dedicate their whole lives to God in silence and solitude, retreated to caves found on Mount Carmel in the Holy Land. Taking the Blessed Virgin Mary as their Mother and living in the spirit of the prophet, Saint Elijah, these hermits lived an exemplary life of prayer and contemplation in the service of the Church. Around 1206, they asked Saint Albert, Patriarch of Jerusalem, to formulate a rule of life for them. He did this after carefully observing their way of life, thereby capturing the spirit of Carmel in their legislation. At the end of the thirteenth century, the Order spread to Europe and during the fifteenth century, the first monasteries of Carmelite nuns were established. In 1562, Saint Teresa of Jesus reformed the Carmelite Order and established the first Discalced Carmelite community in Avila, Spain. She then went on to found many more houses all over Spain and the Order has now spread world-wide.
Mount Carmel in the Holy Land
Hermits Living Near the Spring of Saint Elijah on Mount Carmel
Monastery of Saint Joseph, Avila
Saint Teresa's First Foundation
The beginnings of the Order, its title of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel, and its oldest spiritual traditions show clearly the Marian and biblical character of the Carmelite vocation. By choosing the Blessed Virgin Mary as Mother and Patroness, the Order places itself under her protection; and takes the mystery of her life and of her union with Christ as its ideal model of consecration.
In looking to the venerable fathers of old, especially to the prophet Elijah, whom it regards as its inspiration, the Order becomes more fully aware of its contemplative vocation, which makes it intent on hearing God's Word, and on searching in great solitude and in total detachment from the world for the supreme treasure, the precious pearl of His Kingdom ~ Constitutions No. 2