History of the Carmelite Order
The Carmelite way of life began in Palestine in the 12th Century on Mount Carmel.
Our spiritual father St. Elijah lived a life of solitude on the mountain of Carmel which is revered as a holy place. The Carmelite Order began with a group of hermits who wished to lead a life like that of Elijah, the solitary one and the prototype of all hermits called to live a life of prayer. Early on, these hermits asked St. Albert of Jerusalem to give them a simple formula of life which became known as the Rule of St. Albert. Carmelites throughout the world still retain and live this rule.
These first Carmelites were forced from Mount Carmel by the advancing Saracens. Their departure was a spiritual challenge which forced the friars to ask, “How can one remain a Carmelite apart from Mount Carmel?” Their answer was, “In whatever place you live, draw away from the finite and enter into the infinite space which is God. Turn every place into a Mount Carmel.” Every monastery, then, becomes a holy place, insofar as those living there consecrate themselves to a fervent desire for God and for holiness. With Elijah, the hope is to live the Carmelite motto: “With zeal have I been zealous for the Lord God of Hosts.”
So it is today in the 21st century the Discalced Carmelite friars and nuns continue to live this way of life begun on Mount Carmel and reformed by Saint Teresa of Ávila in the 16th century. Called to be contemplatives, absorbed in God alone, Carmelites are also called to be at the service of the Church and of all people. The ascent of Mount Carmel is a call to face the challenge of prophecy and contemplation. Drinking from the spring of Elijah means following Christ and demands keeping one’s feet on the ground while reaching for the heights of the mountain often hidden from view.
We walk in faith, hope, and love of God as did Mary and all the saints who have gone before us.